The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, Week 2: Books

Less Clutter, More Joy

We’re a family of book lovers and book hoarders. My daughter never wanted a blanket or stuffed animal in her crib as a baby. She wanted me to line the inside of her crib with board books. I’m an English teacher and writer. My partner is a writer and editor. We eat, sleep, and breathe books.

We dreaded week two of our family project inspired by home organization consultant Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. Kondo suggests stripping your book collection down to 30 books. That wasn’t going to happen in our home.

My partner and I both dream of a home library with books stacked from floor to ceiling, complete with a sliding ladder. The reality is we live in a small home and don’t have the room right now. We reasoned for the amount of money we pay for storage, we could buy books when we have the space down the road.

Kondo recommends taking every book in the home and placing them in a large pile on the floor. It’s an arduous task hauling heavy books to one spot, but it’s part of the process. Sort books into four categories: general (books read for pleasure), practical (reference, cookbooks), visual (photography, art), and magazines.

Pick up one book at a time. If you get a thrill of joy just by touching the book, keep it. If you don’t, donate it.

It’s difficult for Kondo’s clients to get rid of books they think they might read one day or books that once gave them great joy. “Sometime” means “never”, says Kondo. If you want to read a book in the future, you will go through the effort to borrow or buy it.

She argues we rarely read old books that once brought us joy again. “Books you have read have already been experienced and their content inside you, even if you don’t remember.” Only keep books that move you or bring you joy.

Not every book in our home brings us joy. There are some books we have to keep for work. We removed them from our home and brought them to work.

We all flat out refused to whittle our book collection down to 30 books, and here are three reasons why:

  1. There’s a direct correlation between books in the home and childhood literacy.
  2. Seeing a wall full of books brings us immense joy.

  3. We all use books for inspiration on multiple creative projects on a regular basis.

We did manage to remove 50% of the books from our home for other readers to discover and enjoy. Our daughter has a small bookshelf in her bedroom, and my partner and I placed our books on one wall of shelves in the living room.

We smile every time we look up at our bookshelves. Every book brings us joy. Books now have breathing room, and our library has room to grow.

We’ve rediscovered and revisited past loves and said goodbye to others. As designer Nicholas Burroughs says, “Minimalism is not a lack of something. It’s simply the perfect amount of something.”

You can read about week one (clothes) here.