My older daughter and I did something today that has always been a gut-wrenching exercise for me; we sorted my books and (gasp! choke!) put three boxes worth into the “Get Rid Of” pile.
It was a lot easier this time.
I’m relieved that it was. Every other time that I’ve pared my library down, I’ve felt like each book we tossed was being yanked from my very soul. With hot pliers.
This time, I was reasonably able to decide which books should go and which books should stay without worrying over-much about the choice. Any book that I felt a genuine affection for, and which would be difficult to get again from a library or online, I kept. If any of us loved the book enough to read it to tatters, I kept it, too . . . so Harry Potter and the Harry Dresden books and other similar books all stayed with us, as well.
With a lot of the books in my collection, though, I just realized one or more of the following things: 1) I would never bother re-reading this book. 2) My to-read list is too long to re-read anything but the best, anyway, and this is just genre fiction. 3) None of my kids would probably ever read this book. 4) The information in this book is now easily available on the Internet. 5) The information in this book is outdated or unimportant. 6) If anyone ever does want to read this book, we can just check it out from the library.
There is some subtlety there– we kept 3 of the Little House on the Prairie books, one because my daughter loved the edition and two because we’re using them in the little boys’s homeschooling and need a copy that can get folded, spindled, and mutilated. The other Little House books? In the discard box. We can always check them out if the boys express a desire to finish the series. In the meantime, that’s half a dozen books that would be taking up space, time, and energy in storing and moving them. They were library discards anyway– we’re not talking valuable first editions, here.
One of the fun things about the unpacking, sorting, and repacking process was finding books that I hadn’t yet read, or books that I needed for the school year, or books I just wanted to have close to hand. We moved two boxes of books back into the household that way. At least a dozen of them were Top 100 novels I wanted to read for my list. I gave a half dozen of the universally acclaimed fantasy genre “greatest” books to my oldest son, since he’s just discovering the genre. I’ll never re-read them, but they’ll be all new to him.
I even sacrificed National Geographic magazines . . . I’m going to let the little boys use them to make collages this year. They’re too mutilated from being lugged across the country a dozen times to be fit for any other use– the covers are long gone and so are many of the pages.
I still have a lot of books, of course. There’s a dozen boxes left downstairs, plus the two boxes I moved into the household book collection, plus two bookshelves still set up in the house and mostly full of books. Three boxes of discards is a significant percentage of the whole, though. The books probably weigh well over a hundred pounds.
And getting rid of them has done nothing but lighten my load, mentally and physically and spiritually.
I’m glad that I finally figured out how to let things go.