De-Cluttering the Marie Kondo Way. Lesson 2: Books.
If you read last week’s post, you’ll know that I’ve become obsessed with Marie Kondo and her KonMari method of getting organised. I tackled my clothes for Lesson 1 which you can read about HERE. However, this week I’m venturing into the stormy seas of Lesson 2: BOOKS.
How does anyone expect an avid book worm and author to de-clutter her LARGE collection of books? Well, you might be amazed to learn that by the end of the day I had donated two large buckets and five carrier bags full of books to my local Women’s Aid store.
Yes, even this book lover was able to part with a substantial number of well-loved titles (over 100). If I’ve learned anything from this exercise, it’s that we cling to ‘stuff’ because we think we should. Deep down we all long for a clutter free home, a clear desk, tidy living space, easily accessible pans, shoes, and garden equipment, but we fall into the materialistic trap.
I understand, I do. My parents were born in 1947 to my grandparents who lived through WWII. They were brought up understanding ‘less’ and fixing things rather than simply throwing it away and replacing it. Thrifty spending, saving things for best, keeping a million buttons ‘just in case’ are all phrases and terms we know well. Even my kids have heard me say ‘don’t throw that away it might come in handy one day’ even though, if I were honest, one day would never come.
Marie Kondo explains all of this in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying and I was nodding to myself as I read each out-dated phrase I’ve heard my parents say, or I’ve said myself. If you want to keep a million buttons, fifty-two wine glasses, and seventeen vases then go for it, perhaps you’re not yet ready for the KonMari method?
I knew that something had to be done and after watching Marie’s Netflix show I also knew I was willing and able to give it a go.
Having survived Lesson 1: CLOTHES, I was determined to tackle Lesson 2: BOOKS.
As with the clothes, Marie advises you to pull all the books you own off your shelves, night stand, cupboards, and secret storage spaces and pile them up together in the middle of the floor or on your dining room table. It’s quite an unnerving sight to see them all in one place. I thought seeing my clothes piled high was tough, but this was beyond scary.
Marie has a lovely way of tapping the piles of books to wake them up. I happily skimmed my fingers over the piles as I admired some of the beautiful covers from my favourite authors. Oh, this was going to be hard!
In the same way I held each piece of clothing, I also held every book in my hand one at a time. Once I got started the process became easier. Marie advises you to split your books into categories, but I didn’t do this as I found it relatively painless to pick up a book and instantly know if I wanted it in my life.
I worked through my non-fiction books quickly and only kept those books that are relevant to the job I do today (coaching books, self-help titles, therapy manuals, etc.) and put anything else in the donation bucket. I was amazed at how many manuals and how-to books I had on topics I’ve always wanted to learn but never started. Things like jewellery making, crafts, calligraphy, palmistry, etc. I’ve had these titles on my shelves for over ten years and never looked at them. I’m clearly never going to read a palm, craft an inked letter, or recreate the crown jewels, so they went in the donation bucket.
As a young adult author, I thought I’d struggle the most with my YA books, but I found this the easiest category to sort through. Picking each book up I was able to remember the story and keep a small part of it in my heart. Some of them I remember being ‘meh’ and yet I’d put them up on my shelf displaying to myself and the world that a mediocre book was acceptable. I only kept my absolute favourite authors (Sarah J Maas, Cassandra Clare, and Leigh Bardugo) as I have re-read their novels over and over like a comfort blanket. There were a few titles I haven’t read yet, so they stayed with me, but the rest of it went in the bucket.
There was one pile that contained all my James Herbert and Stephen King books, and when I got to this I felt incredibly torn. I picked them up and put them down over and over trying to sort out my emotions. My horror phase had been when I was sixteen/seventeen, and I’d devoured everything James Herbert wrote. I’d kept them all for thirty years, moving them from house to house, but realised I barely remembered each story. I had to have a break and make myself a coffee as I worked through these feelings. Eventually, I dropped them all in the donation bucket except for Rats, Lair, Domain and Pet Semetary.
I was surprised how quickly I filled up the two big plastic buckets but as I was only half way through I ended up filling carrier bags next. The rest was fairly simple. I donated books I’d bought but never read because I’d had them for years – if I hadn’t been bothered to read them the moment I got them home then I doubted I’d start now!
I kept any signed copies as meeting these authors has been a highlight. I also couldn’t part with a few original copies of my childhood books (Folk of the Faraway Tree, The Borrowers, Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾).
In total, I got rid of over 100 books – 100! I’ve still got about 250 books left on my shelves, but each one sparks joy for me. Interestingly, I kept a YA series (The Vampire Diaries) as I thoroughly enjoyed these books, but during the night I woke up and decided that first thing in the morning I would add them to the donation bucket. It was so odd. I loved the books, but I realised they’d done their job for me. If I wanted a Damon Salvatore fix, then I’d watch my Vampire Diaries box set. I had become ruthless in my de-cluttering but not once did I feel bad about the books I donated. If these stories could reach a new audience, then they can bring joy to a whole new generation.
Lesson 2: BOOKS ended up being a cathartic exercise that has left me with a newfound love for the books I have in my collection. Next step is to clear out my kindle library and only save the titles I’ll read again. I have too many books that were either free or 99p that I downloaded but never read, and never will.
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve attempted the KonMari method. Share your story in the comments below.
Pop back next week and see how I handle Lesson 3: PAPERS. Until then, happy de-cluttering.