Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Sparking Joy: Books

                                                        I love books. You do too, that's why we get along :)


Following on my other blog post about decluttering my clothes (see it here) I moved on today to my books. Just my books, mind you, not my husband's or my kids. I will help my kids go through theirs soon, but Marie Kondo says you have to start with your own first. Makes sense.

We have lovely bookshelves in our dining room, custom-made to fit an alcove (thanks hun!) which I always wanted to look like this:
image c/o myofficeideas.com
I love the idea of having lighting and ornaments and free space on them. But they ended up being jammed with everything from bills to photos to scrap paper as well as a myriad of books and magazines. See the first photo, the 5 middle cubes are the "after" and the rest is the "before". It has got to the stage where for the last year we haven't removed or added anything to the shelves for fear of causing an avalanche. What a waste of space, money and resources.

So today I decided at 1.30pm that I would feed the baby, play 10 minutes with each kid in the game of their choice (while sitting feeding the baby) and get to work at 2pm on my books. And I did! With a 10 week old, a 4 year old and a 7 year old, I still got ALL my books done in 2 hours. Following KonMari's advice of working by category not location, I gathered up all my books from various places in the house and dumped them all in a big pile in the dining room. Notebooks and sketchbooks, cookery books and herbal references, fiction and library books. Books I've borrowed and yet to return. Music books. I was so excited I forgot to take a photo of the pile. I collected them from every room in the house, from under beds, inside drawers, some were dusty, bearing cup rings, some unread, some were duplicates (!). Old favourites I've reread 5 times, new ones bought on a whim, gifts and bargains, you name it.

Gathering them was surprisingly quick. I pulled them out from between other's books on the bookshelves, and didn't let myself get sucked into looking at photos I found or leafing through any of the books. I did have to repeat "Just my books" to myself when I found myself picking up kid's ones. I also gathered magazines, though I stopped buying them years ago I had been given some as gifts recently. So with the pile now in front of me, I stopped for breath, got a drink, fed the baby to sleep and put her in her chair beside me. Then I started picking each one up and seeing did it "spark joy". This was actually easy. Easier than the clothes. I knew instantly about almost every book. The only one I was unsure of was a sketchbook which I had made notes and a few pictures in some years back. I initially wanted to tear out the pages I'd used, and began to do so, then I wondered when I'd actually want to look at them again, and how I'd store them, realised my folly, and put the whole thing on the recycling pile.

I made a pile of books to keep and put the donation books straight into sturdy bags (shopping bags of thick textile), here they are waiting to go to new homes:


I photographed 3 cookery books and offered them for sale on a couple of Facebook groups. They were sold in minutes. I got rid of every single fiction book, bar three. I kept all my birthing, breastfeeding, herbal and beauty/style books. As Kondo says, clearing out your books really shows you where your interests lie when you see what's left. I have breathing space around my books now, and I'm actually excited at the thoughts of sitting down to enjoy them again this winter.

What took the longest was clearing the 5 cubes in the bookshelf of my family's books and memorabilia to make space for my books. I cleaned the shelves down and had fun arranging the books by theme. Of course you can arrange the books by colour, size, alphabetical etc, but I like to do it by theme so if I want a recipe I have all my books at hand.

image c/o telegraph.co.uk  This guy takes his book organising pretty seriously

My criteria for keeping or discarding a book was obviously "does it spark joy" i.e. do I want to read/refer to this again? But in the back of my mind was the thought "could I easily pick this up in a charity shop or online if I wanted to read it again?" and the answer was usually yes, so I could happily let the book go. The music books belong to my past career, and my kids have no interest in them, so even though they were expensive to buy, they served their purpose and can move on to new homes.

A well-stocked library is impressive, decorative and a sign of a culture-lover, right? Well, hoarding every book you ever came across can get overwhelming, as I found out. So I'd now argue a well-curated book shelf says more than a cluttered one. Thank you KonMari, what's next? Documents... better fire up my paper shredder...

Nee x

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