What happened when I threw my books out

(If you haven’t already, read this post first.)

Welp, the book purging was a massive success. It took me most of a day, but I did it (and cleared out the rest of my room in about two days).

I decided I needed to ease myself into the Marie Kondo method of only keeping things you love, so I just started by eliminating what I positively knew I didn’t love. I took the books off the shelves one by one. Any book I felt the least bit obligated to keep and didn’t think I was ever going to read/read again, I put aside. The pile of books to donate rapidly increased. I mean, RAPIDLY.

THIS rapidly.

THIS rapidly.


The above photo also shows the books from my boxes of books for future children in the family that I decided not to keep. You’ll notice a fair amount of Saddle Club and Enid Blyton books. I highly doubt they’ll be out of print in the next ten to fifteen years, and this also helped me to let go. I did keep a few of each, the ones I thought I might read again if I wanted to go down memory lane. But most are now gone.

All in all, 110 books previously in my possession were taken to the Salvos or donated to my sisters (the picture shows about 104 of them, but I added a few in the following days). I purged so many I decided I didn’t need to do anything more radical. Maybe next time.

Family ties

My sisters wanted to comb through them, and I said yes—but with the provision that they could only have 10 books each.

They thought it was a little arbitrary.

I told them it was because otherwise they’d never leave the house and I wanted to get rid of most of them, and surely they had a heap of books they were meaning to read anyway, and they’d have to be content with that.

But it was also quite handy when they showed what they’d gotten from me to our mother, and she said with a knowing laugh, “oh, so most of your books aren’t actually leaving for good, you’re just redistributing them.” I may have been guilty of this in the past, but this time I was able to come back with, “Oh no, I’m still sending 80-something to the op shop. They had a ten-book limit.”

She was pretty proud of me after that. My ability to hoard books and other paraphernalia has been built up to an overly mythical status among my family, long after I stopped. I’m pretty sure they think I was hiding a rhinoceros in there somewhere.

How I feel now

And excitingly, my collection of books is down to a hundred and sixty two, all of which I love, and can now fit on four long-ish shelves, including my old kids’ books! I’m very excited. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of them before I left, so I can’t share one here.

162 is a lot for some people, and not quite enough for others. For me, I think it’s just right, and I look forward to adding to and taking away from the collection in the years to come. I haven’t had such a low amount of books in at least a decade.

It is a seriously great feeling. Not only do I have less anxiety about trying to move all my things inter-city someday soon, but it truly is less space being taken up in the back of my mind. One less thing to do, and a hundred and eight fewer books taking up space in my family’s house. Not exactly fair to them, and I wish I’d been more considerate, sooner.

Being recognised

Hilariously, when I took my books to the Salvation Army, the lady working there recognised me purely because of the massive load of books I’d brought in a few years ago. I told her this time wasn’t going to be any different—perhaps even bigger. It took me three or four trips to bring them all in to the building, and, polite and hardy New Zealander that she was, she kept thanking me for the books and telling me to have a nice day, and I had to keep telling her I hadn’t finished bringing them in yet. In the hands of the right person, it’d make a really good farce.

Once I’d dumped them all at her feet, she said, “Having a cleanout?”

I nodded, and said proudly, “Yep, I’ve only got a hundred and sixty two now!” I kind of wanted to see her reaction to me calling that number ‘only’.

She goes, completely seriously, “Well, you’ll have to start stocking up again!”

After all the effort I’d made, and the amount of time it had taken to work myself up to a serious cull… well, the only appropriate response I could find to that was something like, “Not on your life!”

I hadn’t even read a quarter of them. Twenty-five of the 106 were unperused. Since I buy mostly from second-hand shops, I wasn’t too out of pocket on them, but it was still pretty serious to stand there and realise I was probably looking at $200-350 worth of books, many of which I’d never gotten my money’s worth out of. It’s definitely a contraceptive against buying too many more books when I know my track record is not so great.

In contrast, I’d read all but sixteen of the books I kept, which is about ten percent.

People who just don’t get it

My grandmother called a day after I’d dropped all my books off at the op shop (US translation: thrift/charity store). She said, “How are you?”

“Well, pretty good! I just donated a hundred-ish books!”

She sounded faintly disapproving and judgemental when she said, “Well, I like my bookshelves, that’s what makes me feel good.”

My immediate reaction was to think, “So these people DO exist! I wasn’t just imagining it!”

I’m not always good on the spot in the face of judgement, but I had a fit of inspiration and came out with exactly the right thing to say. “Well, I thought that was what made me feel good for quite a while too, but then I realised that it wasn’t. And now I feel great!”

I wonder if she felt a little threatened by my actions with my collection. I wonder if other people would react the same way. I think it’s likely, but I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the same as when you and your friend are both equally chubby, and then one of you starts to lose weight. Maybe it’s a change in values that the other person has always thought were iron-clad. Maybe they feel destabilised.

Either way, if you do this and tell people about it, many people, like my grandmother and, to an extent, my sisters, probably won’t understand. Other people, like my mother, will be extremely proud of you. (These people may also be under the impression that you had a problem.)

But I can promise that if you do do it, you will feel good.

Final thoughts

In the interests of full disclosure, I did have one moment of panic when I thought I’d given away my Anne of Green Gables book set. Turned out I hadn’t, so crisis averted. To be honest, if I had, I probably would have gotten over it. It’s a public domain series online for free, after all.

But for the most part, I don’t miss any of these books that I gave away. I can barely remember any of them, except that some were Saddle Club books and some were by Enid Blyton. The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. Wally, by Judy Somebody. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta. A couple of classics. About ten Christian books. And… I seriously don’t know what else. That leaves about fifty books that I gave away, unaccounted for and unremembered. Incredible.

I think the only way to end this post appropriately is to tell you that that…

…was all she read.

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