While lying on the couch and recovering from the flu, I noticed all the clutter in my living room. There’s a lot of it. Then Pinterest showed me an obnoxious amount of “how to declutter” pins, almost like it’s looking into my home now. So many before and after pictures, showing how neat and tidy a home can be. Yes, even this home! Geesh. I get the hint: It’s time to do something about the clutter.
I have never given away a book. I haven’t thrown away, donated or sold a used book, ever. In fact, I’ve taken in homeless books all too often. Who would leave a book to rot in some dank, windowless basement when you still have at least half an inch of shelf space to spare, somewhere? There has to be some space left for the poor, lonely book! Of course, books never come alone. There’s never just one homeless book where this one came from.
Do I read all those books? Of course not. Who does?
There are Teen series from the seventies and eighties (about girls and their horse-friends), countless Enid Blytons, and novelizations of the Disney Jungle Book (yes, the animated one) that I have dragged from my childhood home to every apartment after, but never read. Some of them are inherited from my mother’s childhood stash, or from the time my parents split and Mom searched a home for the books she couldn’t take with her.
I should have said no.
Then there are hundreds of romance novels with brittle pages, falling apart at the spine because I’ve read them so often, over and over. Craft books on anything from knitting and felting to doing mosaics, painting and keeping sheep (does this count as a craft book?). Books in five languages, some books in more than one language or edition. Fantasy. YA. (And countless horror books belonging to the ogre).
I can say without a doubt that I have a book hoarding problem. I’ve long run out of shelf-space, and any new book gets crammed and squeezed in between, leaving my shelves ever on the brink of collapsing.
All those books gather dust and clutter up my living space. There is no room to arrange them prettily, or even in just one row per shelf. They all sit in second rows and on top of each other.
It’s time to create some breathing room. It’s time to get rid of all the books I don’t need and won’t ever read again. Or for the first time. I’m plucking them out of the spaces they inhabited for so long the dust on them is nearly black. I sort out the ones I’ll throw away (and yes that includes all the romance novels stained with cat urine from back when I lived at my parent’s house. I haven’t had a cat in 15 years).
I looked up places where I can donate them and found a second-hand-book market held to support a women’s shelter close by, which is right up my alley; getting rid of stuff AND supporting women! Additionally, I picked a few books to donate to my kids’ school. They have a library and also a bookshelf for books to give away. Someone will take the Twilight series from me, right? Please?
Anything not finding a home has to go. It’s time to be ruthless.
And I have to admit, it’s incredibly satisfying to weed out all the books from authors I no longer like because of their attitudes towards fandom, or because I learned something about them that makes it impossible for me to enjoy their writing any longer. Goodbye, friends of the past, it’s time to let you go. You weren’t so cool after all.
Some time ago, Scalzi wrote about creators and boycott. Maybe it is possible to divorce a creator from his work even after he crossed that one line making you balk. I once read those books and watched those movies, before becoming a tolerably internet-savvy person and learning about the people behind the work. Yes, I even enjoyed some of them.
However, the mental gymnastics of splitting a creator from their work isn’t necessary. Getting rid of books or movies or any work created by someone I can no longer respect does not only free up space on my shelves: it declutters my soul as well. There’s emotional baggage tied to these works. Every time I have to pick it up, every time my eyes sweep over it accidentally when searching for something else, I’m reminded of the dust bunnies of negative emotions in the corners of my mind.
So, I’m making the personal decision of purging them from my home.
(Side note: The above is NOT the reason I’m giving away the Twilight series. Nothing of this has to do with them.)
(Side note No. 2: I’m aware that it can happen to me as an author as well, and that’s okay. I only want to be in consensual relationships with my readers.)
Maybe I shouldn’t start this decluttering mission with the books though… Maybe I should start with the empty jars. There no way I’ll ever cook so much jam as to fill all of the jars I’ve been hoarding over the years.