Kelly’s summary of the methods of Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo seems to have struck a nerve both on our blog and in Facebook. Some people find Kondo’s techniques liberating and in others they instill an existential dread. More than a few expressed a desire to drag a reluctant partner into a Kondo cleansing.
One of the first steps on Kondosans’ path to a tidy house is to go through one’s books. We managed to accumulate more books than our shelves could hold. An untidy and anxiety producing book pile had developed in the living room. It was time for a book cleansing.
But let me first state our rule about buying books. My gym is mere steps from the Los Angeles Central Library from which I can easily access over 6.2 million books, movies, CDs and downloadable media. I don’t buy books that I can check out at the library unless I need it as a reference book or if the library doesn’t have it. Even with this rule we still managed to accumulate a library’s worth of volumes, some never touched.
The triage I went through:
The book was released to the universe if:
- I had read it and absorbed the information
- The library has a copy
- It does not give me joy
- I don’t think I’ll ever read it
- My interests have changed
- I read part but don’t think I’ll read the rest
I kept the book if:
- It’s a volume I refer to for reference on a regular basis
- It gives me joy
- It’s especially beautiful as an object (only one or two books actually ended up in this category–I’m not a book collector)
- I really intend to read it
- I want to re-read it
Both Kelly and I got rid of I came to much the same conclusion as Nassim Taleb does in this tweet:
Cleaning my library facing Lindy effect. Lit, philosophy & mathematics don’t age/ age slowly. Nonfiction, “science” books died.~All of them.
— Nassim NicholنTaleb (@nntaleb) January 5, 2015
If time passes and a book get more relevant it’s likely to stay relevant (this is the Lindy effect Taleb is referring to). Just like Taleb, the books on philosophy and theology stayed in addition to most of the appropriate technology and gardening manuals. We have no math books (not our subject to put it mildly) and popular science and non-fiction books I get at the library. Everything else “died” and went to our local library’s book sale.
What can make it difficult to let go of books, even ones we never really intend to read, is that our personal libraries are an external manifestation of our souls. And, in my case that external manifestation is so distinctive and crazy that our friend and neighbor Doug Harvey, when perusing the weekly library book sale, instantly recognized that I had purged my books. He actually bought at least eight of them. And he noted that I had gotten rid of The Food Journal of Lewis & Clark that he had gifted to me over the holidays. A lot of the books that I purged can only be described as 90s geek-boy paranoia. If you’d like some of those 90s books plus a few outdated poultry care books, get thee to the Edendale library book sale on Wednesday. That’s assuming our local hipsters haven’t scooped up all my books in a fit of 90s nostalgia.
Have you done or are you considering a book purge? What will stay and what will go?