I need to start off my explaining quickly a bit about how I grew up. My mom was someone who kept everything. E V E R Y T H I N G. Ya know, just in case. I have grown to hate that phrase, “just in case.” Those words have had me hold on to things I never ever used again. I just guiltily moved them from home to home, just in case. It turns out that very rarely does a situation arise where I’m glad I had something “just in case.”
In those rare occasions, less than 5 times in the last two decades that I can recall, where I needed something that I held onto just in case I usually couldn’t even find the thing – so I had to repurchase it anyway. I usually only find the thing I already replaced once we move to a new place. Who knows where it was hiding before.
For the most part, I stopped keeping Just In Case things over a decade ago. It is so freeing! There is less clutter and I rarely have to repurchase one those items – because I never usually need those things again.
The way I lived as a child combined with my disdain for keeping things I theoretically could need later, has made me a bit ruthless in getting rid of things. But for this blog post, we will focus on books only.
For books I have few main tests a book has to pass now :
1. Is this an absolute favorite that I have re-read or will re-read within the next 6 months? Almost a spark joy kind of thing. A few book examples that fall in this category for me are : The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash [classic], my Bibles, two poetry books – A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year and A Nature Poem for Every Night of the Year.
2. Will I read this book within the next 6 months if I haven’t within the last 6 months?
3. A handful of reference books that are easier to use in printed book format like this one we have for painting – Color Mixing Bible : All You’ll Ever Need to Know About Mixing Pigments in Oil, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Soft Pastel, Pencil and Ink. I don’t want too many reference books on hand or duplicates [any books that both cover the same topic]. I might purchase two different reference books if I have no other way to compare them and then I return one of them. Amazon makes it easy to return the book I don’t need.
I’m not talking about chapter books, just picture books. I think they are a wonderful part of childhood and important to instill a love of reading in young children. My three eldest will have kindles, but our toddler and babies will have books until they’re old enough for kindles. Probably around age 8/9 when chapter books become a staple reading material for them. I can tell which books my toddler favors the most, so it’s not too hard to decide what to keep. Then I just add in some of my favorite picture books until I feel like we have a good variety without going overboard.
There are also books that I use for work and as soon as I am done with those, I donate them. In the very recent past, I couldn’t fathom transitioning to 90% digital books. I’m one of those smell the books, feel the books, turn the pages, kind of people. I always will be, which will make me love and appreciate more the books that I have decided to keep.
I have already seen that come to fruition! I got rid of all but two poetry books for myself (the kids have a few but they might go digital with those). I don’t feel overwhelmed with my poetry books and have been easily remembering that I want to read them daily and I actually have been! I take in each prose with delight knowing these are my only two printed poetry books. They aren’t just sitting pretty on my shelf, they’re being appreciated in the best way by being read.
By weeding out the “meh” books, I’m leaving room only for the “omigosh-this-is-my-favorite” books. The first pass is the easiest, but I keep going until there are only a few shelves of books for the whole family. As the kids finish off their printed books for this school year, they go in the donate/giveaway pile. They have their favs as well but my girls LOVE minimalism so they are totally self-motivated to have less. They will likely end up with less than 10 books shared that they’ll keep after we finish book purging.
Another thing : I love journaling quotes that I highlight in my books or making notes about a passage that struck me. But I do not always have time to transfer that quote to my journal right away. I do have five children with another on the way. I don’t want to forget about the quote, especially if it was very motivating, inspirational or moving! Often, I never even pick up the book again, unless I am packing it for a move. Insert grimace. I feel like I do a much better job of actually writing those quotes down when they’re kept in a quote bank on my kindle app or iBooks. That way when I sit down to journal, I have a ton of inspiration right at my fingertips.
How Many Books Are The Perfect Amount?
I don’t believe that there are a set number that means you have reached book minimalism perfection. I never strive for perfection in most things in life. We have several small bookshelves that we don’t use for only books. I’m thinking 1-2 will be for the books we keep. We will need to sell the bookshelves we will no longer be needing. And I am super excited about that. Ideally, for me, I would like there to be just one bookshelf remaining, but we shall see!
Benefits For Us Going 90% Digital
1. Our kids are reading 1-3 chapter books per week. PER. WEEK. We are heavily Charlotte Mason influenced in our mostly unschooling homeschool. This makes our print book buying habit expensive. I’m not a library person. I’m just not, I like to own books to read at our leisure without the pressure of return dates or late fees.
2. Buy once, share on each device. We have been doing this a bit more this year – experimenting with digital – and we love that I can purchase a book once, for cheaper than print [!!!] – and we can ALL read the same book simultaneously. For history we can read along together which helps my kids to see the text without having to crowd around one print book. We can listen to audible while we all look at the digital book on our own device [right now that’s our phones, but for our eyes-sake, we will use kindles once we have them.]
3. I feel like I need to reiterate the financial savings aspect. As I was purging books, I found that soooooo many of the books that had been purchased for $10-$30 each, are available through amazon [by our prime membership or kindle unlimited] for ZERO dollars. Facepalm. Several more we own could have been purchased for a $1-$4 and all read it on our own devices. This is driving me insane especially as we work so hard to get out of debt. I think if i calculate it up with the rate of the kids’ reading, we could have saved thousands per year. I can’t even bring myself to add it up though, so I’ll keep the speculation and move on. The thought that I wouldn’t also have to store and transport these books every time we move sounds like a great relief.
Our last move was pretty minimalist as everything we owned fit in a pull behind trailer and in the truck bed….but there were still 30 boxes of books. I just went back and counted. THIRTY. HEAVY. BOXES. of books. I’m over it and can easily keep my favorites and donate the rest. My irritation of moving them so much has certainly fueled my ruthless book purging of 2020.
I used to sell our books about 15 years ago, but I do not have the patience to do that at all now. It would be so overwhelming to sell hundreds of books and either ship or meet people to get them their books. I just look at it that I am donating to bless others instead of trying to recoup from my own book hoarding habit. But totally sell your books for money if you need to do that!
When we are done with this book purge, I will do a new blog post showing what we kept and what we did with the space [hopefully it’s just open space!]