Emily M. DeArdo

writer

How I Kondoed My Books

Tidying UpEmily DeArdo3 Comments

This is one of the most common questions I get when I tell people I've "kondoed" my house--that is, used the principles in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. "What did you do with your books?!" DID YOU GET RID OF BOOKS, EMILY?!?!?!?!

Yes, I did. 

(Deep breath, guys)

It took me awhile to get up the nerve to do that. If you're not a book lover, you don't understand that statement. I had no problem doing my closet--I went through it like a tornado. It was easy. Books, not so much. 

The first time I read Marie Kondo's book, I thought getting rid of books was crazy. What if I NEEDED IT LATER? So I ignored that advice. 

Then I read the book a few more times, and it became clear that books were really something I needed to pare down. If I wanted to move again, I didn't want to move a bunch of books I didn't want. I really didn't need all the books I had. (Although "need" isn't a word I use when talking about books.) Some of them I never opened again after the initial read. I kept them because they "looked good" on my shelves, or I thought I'd need the entire works of Dickens at some point. (I don't really like Dickens.) 

I was too involved with being "the girl with the big library." It was time to pare down. 

To put this in perspective--I've taken almost 15 bags (tote bag sizes) of books, board games, DVDs, and CDs to Half Price Books since my Kondo project began. I've gotten about $120 (if not more) from selling these items. My house is much cleaner. I have books I really want on my shelves. It's true--I love really every book I own. And that makes me really happy. 

In Kondo's methodology, books are second, after clothes, in the Purgeathon. So this is how I did it. 

First: I did it very slowly

I knew this was going to take time. So I started methodically. I have my books arranged very stringently. I went through each shelf, looking, first, for the low hanging fruit--the books I was keeping, but I didn't really like. Out went a lot of Dickens, and a lot of "classics", like Les Liaisons Dangereuse and a lot of Evelyn Waugh (I kept Brideshead, but nothing else). Out went books I thought I "needed" to have--ta ta, War and Peace! Goodbye, most of my Russians! (I did keep Brothers K, because that's really good, guys. But I read The Idiot once, and never again.)  

I went through each shelf, pulling the books I hadn't opened in years, and didn't like. This was the first wave. 

I did NOT put all the books on the floor like Marie Kondo suggests. If I did that, I'd have had no space to do anything in my house, and I doubt I'd have moved as efficiently and as drastically if I'd done what she suggested. I probably would've been much more slipshod in my decisions. By doing it slowly, shelf by shelf, I was much better able to see what I had, and deal with things in my own way. 

It's also important to look at where your books are. In my house, they're everywhere; I have them on end tables, coffee tables, my nightstand, etc. They can easily become part of the landscape. A great part of Kondo's method is that she insists you see things in categories, as opposed to tidying by room (a la the Fly Lady Method--start with your kitchen, etc). Be sure to really look and notice where your books are. 

Second: I let my decision "sit" for a few days

In my living room is a constant "give away" pile. I let it grow until it's four or five bags worth of items, and then I sell them. (Or give them away, as the case may be.) This allowed me to make sure I didn't change my mind about any of them, or discard anything that I was going to want later. The books sat, sometimes for weeks, in the pile, and I saw them every day. If I felt an urge to read Jude the Obscure, I could do it. (I didn't, by the way) This kept me from selling any books I really wanted to keep. 

The other important thing to remember is that most books can be bought again, if you change your mind. (Obviously, this doesn't apply to rare books! So if you have heirloom books that you don't want, really think about those because you probably can't replace them!) 

Third: I did a second pass

And a third. And a forth. As I write this, the "fourth pass" is a big pile of books and a few DVDs in the "giveaway corner".  Kondo suggests doing this all at one time, and I did--initially. But I have so many books that it really did take time for me to see and process what I really had. (I probably had, at the beginning of this, 2,000 books. That's a conservative estimate.) This played out by removing books that really didn't sing to me; things like some of Jodi Picoult's books, YA series I'd liked but hadn't touched in years, theology books that I'd "outgrown" or didn't need anymore. A lot of my art books went (books from art museums detailing their catalogues)--pretty, but they took up a lot of space, and I never really opened them. 

I also let go of any "guilt" surrounding books. I get a lot of books as gifts. Sometimes people give me books I just don't like. I do read everything I get, however. But I had limited space, and someone else might like the book better. So off it went. Or, if it was a book I "wanted" to read, like War and Peace, but I knew I was never going to read, it went. (I've tried W&P three times. I even broke down and bought SparkNotes. No go. Out it went.) 

When Kondo talks about an object "sparking joy", that's important with books. If it didn't Spark Joy, or "sing" to me, as I term it,  it was out. 

Fourth: I rearranged my shelves

Into the void created by the Great Purging, I moved books. Books that had been on the floor now had a place on a window ledge or shelf. So while my book numbers were reduced, it looks like I had the same amount, because there weren't gaping spaces on my shelves. And this also gave me room for new books. Because, really, there is always an influx of new books coming in. I got three new books for Christmas, and I'm sure I'll buy more with my Christmas money. So I need that extra shelf space. 

Fifth: I sold the books!

Books that I had bought at Half Price I didn't sell back to them--those I donated to various places. But books that weren't from there, along with DVDs, CDs, and Board games, went to Half Price Books. For awhile, I was going twice a month, and getting quite a bit of money along the way. There is a way to sell there that allows you to get decent money--I didn't sell things that were in bad shape; I didn't sell kids' books (You get very little money for those, unless they're really nice hardback editions), and I usually sold books and DVDs together, to get more per transaction. 

 

A few notes/caveats: 

Now, I'm a single woman. All my books are mine, obviously. I don't share my library with anyone else. If you have a a spouse (and kids on top of that), you obviously cannot just go through and sell all their books. Focus on your own, first. 

I also didn't hold off on the rest of "Kondoing" while I did my books. I moved through the other categories while I made third and fourth passes, and now I'm at the point where I can move on to part II of the book  (for the rest of my Tidying Up posts, search "Tidying Up" in the search bar at the top right of this page--the posts will pop up). 

For a true book lover, the very IDEA of getting rid of books is appalling. Remember--you have to be ready to do it. I decided that it was worth it to me to have fewer books in my house, but to have more order, and feel better about the ones I did have.  I can safely say that I haven't regretted any of the books I've gotten rid of, and I'm much happier to have the extra space. 

That doesn't mean that I'll never have to purge again. Hopefully it won't take as long as this has! But I'm sure that eventually I'll be removing a few more books that I just don't love anymore. But the biggest and hardest part is done. 

I hope this helps you in your own Tidying Up Process! If you have any questions, leave them in the combox. :)