Marie Kondo isn't Telling You to Get Rid Of Your Books - But Maybe You Should
So people are in a tizzy with the new Marie Kondo Netflix series in which Marie Kondo allegedly says “keep fewer than 30 books”.
*Cue bibliophiles screaming in rage*
Okay, put down the book you’re currently reading for a moment and let’s talk about this rationally.
I would like to point out that this is an unfortunate misunderstanding of the actual decluttering process in “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”.
Nowhere does KonMari actually say that you have to get rid of books. In fact, the only thing she says is that you have to use her process with your books, ensuring you only keep the ones that bring you joy.
She herself may have less than thirty books, but that doesn’t mean you have to.
As a fellow bibliophile and avid reader, I have gotten rid of a lot of books. As a fellow book-lover I urge you to reconsider your extensive book collection. Here are a few reasons why.
Books are an emotional (or sentimental item) for some people
The KonMari method inevitably elicits a very emotional response in everyone at some point. There’s no way that you can make it through the method without finding something that runs very deep within you - whether the joy that you find from your grandmother’s silverware set or the deep shame you feel from the collection of vases you’ve hoarded over the years, or the bitterness you feel from the friend who hasn’t talked to you in years but you still have memories from when you were friends together.
It’s not surprising that self-professed bibliophiles are having a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of eliminating books from their lives. Yet, it’s important to delve into these emotions and understand why it is emotional for you.
2. Owning (or not owning) books doesn’t make you less of a person (or professional)
It’s kind of funny actually, not because I’m trying to mock them for their love of books, but because I’ve been through the same thing.
For example, I thought that I needed to hang onto all of my plant books and horticultural books from school.
Up until I started realizing that I never reference them.
And I started realizing that some of them were outdated, or weren’t related directly to what I was doing, and that some were frankly poorly written and boring.
And then I realized something.
Owning horticultural books doesn’t make me any better or any worse of a gardener or plantsman. Having those books in my home doesn’t serve any purpose.
Rather, the most important thing is that I have knowledge paired with real-life experience of working with plants and gardening and landscaping. That I have a body of experience and knowledge I can draw on stored in my brain.
My husband is the same way. As a doctor, he doesn’t have a library full of books for him to reference - he has it in his head. It’s not like he can be flipping open a book during surgery for reference - he already knows the majority of what he is doing having practiced for a longer period of time. (The new information or reviews of information are what continuing education lectures are for).
3. We change and grow over time - and so should our books
The same thing applies to fiction as well. I remember growing up that I had a hard time making friends at school - being different was and still is very difficult as a young child - and that books were my retreat, my consolation. I made friends with the characters in those books, identifying with their struggles and going on them with adventures.
Things are different now however. And while I do wish that I could go back in time to tell the younger version of me that things will be okay, that things get better, there isn’t a real reason to hang onto those books now.
Many of those books that I read are meant for young adults. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t depth and heart and other value to be experienced by reading them, but there are other books to read, other stories to enjoy.
I would like to think that I don’t have to keep reading Harry Potter for the rest of my life - that there are other books and genres that would intrigue me just the same.
4. Actually physical books are kind of gross
I’d like to point out that there are a lot of people out there that keep a lot of cheap books around.
Cheap books are printed on cheap paper with cheap covers and bindings. Which mean that over a relatively short period of time, they will start to degrade.
Have you seen a paperback start to disintegrate? I have, and it’s not pretty.
Best to get rid of those books, especially because you won’t be reading them. Gertrude Warner is dead, and you don’t need to have a full collection of the Boxcar Children at all times.
But what do you do with those books?
5. Donate books you don’t want to keep to your local library
What if there were a place that you could donate your gently used books so that other people could enjoy them? For free?
Or that even you could use if you ever needed to reference them at some point or enjoy re-reading them?
There are probably a lot of books in your own collection that are just sitting there, collecting dust.
As Marie Kondo mentions in her book, they aren’t doing you any good.
Thank them for their service, the happy memories and enjoyment that they have brought you, then take them to your local library for someone else to enjoy.
In a way, holding onto those books might be very selfish - you’re trapping that literary experience and that knowledge in your hands. Wouldn’t you rather let someone else enjoy it that may not be inclined to purchase the book, but would love to check it out at your local library? Or a child just starting to learn about the joy of reading?
6. If all else fails - just buy eBooks
I know this isn’t for everybody, but you can also have an almost infinite library stored on your phone that you can take with you wherever you go.
While I’m not the biggest fan of this (it hurts my eyes and I prefer being able to read the physical version of books), my husband has a massive library on his phone. He’s subscribed to Kindle Unlimited and blows through most books in a day or two. He honestly reads more than most people I know, but the only books he keeps are ones that are visual in nature or very special.
While I personally don’t prefer this method, I do have to admit it’s nice not to have to dust and clean and move around that amount of books!
I hope this helped you, fellow bibliophiles!
If you’re interested in learning more about decluttering and Marie Kondo, you can find her book on Amazon (or borrow it from your local library, ha!)