25 diciembre 2012

Getting rid of Long-Kept Books... Still Sitting On The Fence?

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This obra by www.dearticulosyrevisiones.blogspot.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

When was the last time you got/bought a new book?

WHEN was the LAST TIME you… 
                       …read it?!

by D. Morgan.-

December feels just about the perfect time for checking whatsoever papers, mags, &c. you've kept locked in your wardrobe, over the stereo, on your own desk for a year (or more!) and still haven't laid hands on, and probably never will. At a time when the 'piling up syndrome' is in fashion, why not clean up a bit and get rid of what you'll never again need, never ever read? 

It is often the case with us lit-lovers that books outnumber every other possible item at home—sometimes we spend more on books than on clothes! So, what we do is, we hopelessly keep books everywhere and anywhere in the house, not just on bookshelves, oh no. That would be far too conventional for us, and by the way, shelves are never enough: somehow, they seem to shorten with the passing of time, and space within a bookshelf will never prove wide enough for our ever-growing home library. Problem is, while we're ceaselessly amassing tons and tons of books, the more we buy, the less room do we come to find for them. How come? Wherever you look, your eyes meet with the oddly disturbing picture of a home library (that is, your own) which seems to be reproducing by itself! 

Question is, "Where do I begin?" 

Fortunately for us, with books, just as with kiddos & clothes, one can always come strict and stern. In other words, there simply comes a point when you have no choice: either you go smaller or else you dig your own grave—in the premises of a paperback! 

So... How to prevent a clutter or, if late for that already, how to make it not be too late?

STEP 1: Look around and take your time to come to terms with reality. You can't go on living in a flood of books and papers! It harms your lungs, attracts several Animal Planet-like insects and, of course, dust.

STEP 2: Wear the painful, worried frown that will pose over your forehead when you've come to terms with your room's looks... After that you'll know you have to go for decluttering.

The process of tidying up and cleaning while, at the same time, doing away with all the unnecessary, many times useless items is called 'decluttering.' In spite of the word's associate meaning with clothes, it seems just as fair to bind it with bookshelves. Now, you've probably heard of the the philosophy behind decluttering, which is part of the latest in hip, as known worldwide as 'minimalism' (or, between you and me, 'small can get beautiful.' Wink.) 

Long story short, when it comes to books, you may find you've been keeping certain volumes for years, books which you've never read and, most likely, never will read. Take myself, for instance. I still haven't got rid of some very old books a class-mate generously gave me when she decluttered his own shelves. From this experience I've learnt two things: first, that I took those books because I took pity on them (books need safe shelter!), and secondly, that the trick behind decluttering is, in fact, that things never actually stop existing or disappear. That is, whatever it is that you get rid of, it somehow travels a distance towards other desks, other homes, other hands. You can't just smack your fingers and expect things to disappear from view, 'cause they won't. The whole point of decluttering is, actually, strategically dodging some stuff—there's always someone else to assume the responsibility of possession, of owning, of keeping; of, in short, cluttering their own place so that you feel you've decluttered yours. Consequently, what feels like a relief to yourself is, more often than not, likely to become someone else's burden. 

But, never mind. Decluttering is like a pay-it-forward round: when I declutter I am likely to donate stuff, or throw it in the bin (except for books!), and others are likely to come and rescue those things, become their new owners, give them names, even, wear them, use them.

To prove my theory on the principle behind decluttering, here's a don't for anyone who's about to fall prey to other declutterers' cunning ways. I remember my brother once decluttered his desk—by shifting 90% of his books to mine! He had casually told me, "Here, have a look at these, you might want them. I don't need them any more." Midn you, I was going through my "before" phase then and, shame on me, I took them all! The thing is, I just couldn't give them up. The temptation was too strong and I guess I must have felt sorry for them, as though those books could have been aware of their former owner's heartless thoughts. 

Another example. I've got this aunt who's just like Sophie Kinsella's Becky Bloomwood in The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic. She buys herself new items of clothes every week, and every once in a while, comes with two or three huge bags full of her 'old' stuff. Of course, my mum has her arms open wide to welcome those designer wear, particularly because my mother and me are not really into buying that much, or that often. But, turns out, I'll often accept keeping things which, a year or two later, I find I've never worn yet! So, as from this year onwards, I'll only take what I feel like wearing or necessary. Otherwise, I keep it in the bag, and then give it to someone who'll give it a better use than myself.

DECISION A: Aim low, never be disappointed
Back to decluttering bookshelves, now. The first choice you have to make is, simple though it may sound, that of realising you need to dispose of those books you no longer wish to keep. 

Perhaps the hardest part of creating a clutter-free shelf out of one packed with unread (-able) titles is coming to terms with the down-to-earth universal that not everything we've once believed possible is likely to come true. So, if you've bought a book years ago and still haven't gathered the will to read it, or if you were given one as a gift and have always abhorred the idea of it, then you're one of those readers who needs to declutter asap!

In 9 cases out of 10*, readers will keep books which they have never read and/or never will  read for the following reasons: a) they got them as a birthday present, b) they got them in the sales bucket, c) they welcomed them from another declutterer (a friend, a closing library, a non-reading aunt, or whoever). In any case, those books are not the sort of books you want to have. So, why insist on keeping them?

After all this reasoning, it just occurred to me that we keep books out of a) pity, it seems rather cruel of a reader to dispose of a book, b) it's a gift, and you know what they say about gifts, "never look a gift horse...", c) X recommended it, surely it can't be that bad? And yet, I can't bring myself to, erm, well... read it, actually.

DECISION B: Ties that bind?
Once you break up your relationship with your book and forget all about whatever once tied you to it, you are ready to undergo the decluttering process proper. 

So, what kind of books will you get rid of? Whether it be old college students' books and workbooks or even best-selling novels, decluttering will consist of piling up whatever you no longer read, have no interest in reading again or very little hopes of ever doing so. 

In my case, I've got a book I'll never read, something about a tale of Leonardo Da Vinci. My granddad gave it to me once, he was, well, decluttering, and he's my granddad, so... But I'll never read it! 

Then, I've got Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert which, no offence meant, I couldn't keep it up even if I tried. The book's too long for anyone who's already seen the film starring Julia Roberts, and I happen to have seen the movie before purchasing the book. I could go on with those books I have but I don't read, for I'm sure I've got as long a list of decluttering books as one of "to be read", but I don't mean to bore you.

DECISION C: Do good without looking at whom!
Once you've piled or packed the books you no longer wish to keep, this last stage of decluttering may turn into the easiest or the hardest part of the whole process, depending on your own good will and patience. 

It's easy to carry it out if you've planned where to put the decluttered items beforehand; it's hard to keep up with decluttering if you still don't know what to do about those books and they end up cluttering another area at home—this is usually my case, bad, very bad example.

Where to place them, then, is the question. Since we're talking about books here, I think it's important to consider they can be somehow given to other plausible readers who might find them useful or be in need of them. 

Never ever throw a book in the bin! 
If you consider books as something other than a simple consumer item or entertainment piece, then you'll agree with me that the most sensible thing to do is one of the following: either you donate your surplus of volumes to a local library (or a turstworthy mate in need/want of them), 
or else you can sell them to a bookstore buying used or out-of-print books. 

Whatever you do, never, NEveR, NEVER... get rid of a book the way you get rid of trash.

I've decluttered, now what?
Decluttering can be a real challenge for some people (for me, it certainly is!), so if you've succeeded in doing so, congratulations! Now, what do next? What about that empty bookshelf, or half-empty shelf?

Well, bookshelves are obviously designed for keeping books, so placing new purchases or borrowed items on your newly acquired clutter-free area wouldn't be wrong as long as the books you place there are really the kind you wish to keep at hand. If you still haven't bought any new books and you didn't have others in the waiting list for room, then you can put other stuff on that shelf, stuff you know you need or use daily. Or, if you're really into enjoying the benefits of decluttering, then you're the ideal declutterer: you'll probably like to keep that shelf book-free for a while, perhaps a month or two. That empty space might take long to be filled for some, and only a minute for others (I'm the second time, of course!), but whatever you do, and whatever becomes of your new clutter-free bit, you're bound to feel both relieved and unburdened after you've done some decluttering. The latter is quite a personally fulfilling task, it saves you the trouble of keeping large amounts of useless things and, by the end of the day, you'll feel you've done something that couldn't wait, the result of which can be positive for you and for the next person: whether you donate or sell, books won't disappear, they won't be homeless—there's always someone ready to take your no-longer-want books!

*Statistics are mine.

featuring Cher's Strong enough lyrics

I don't read your stupid words

There's nothing you can say or do for me

And I don't want to keep you on
The bookshelves I want free

I hear your reasons why
You wish to stay with me
But you're not worth it, worth it...

'Cos I'm strong enough
To live without you
Strong enough and I quit reading
your old stuff, now I'm strong enough
To know you gotta go

There's no more to say
So save your words
And move elsewhere
No matter what your characters
may have to say, I know you gotta go

So you feel misunderstood
Baby-book, have I got news for you
On keeping trash, I could write you a bro'
But my shelves must go decluttered!

I've been losing sleep
Trying to read your shi#*%
Find shelter somewhere else, not here
I need my shelves free!

Now I'm strong enough to live without you
Strong enough and I quit crying
Long enough now I'm strong enough
To know you gotta go 

Come hell or waters high
You'll never see me cry
This is our last goodbye, it's true

I'm telling you
That I'm strong enough to live without you
Stron enough and I quit trying 
to eat your plots, I'm strong enough
To know you gotta go

There's no more to say
So save your chapters
Walk away!
No matter who has written you
I'm strong enough to know you gotta move!

SING ALONG the new lyrics with Cher!

5 comentarios:

  1. I felt SO identified with the article!! The initial description suits my own situation so absolutely well!!

    There are quite a few at home asking me to "make room, find a different site for your books!" But the problem is that I can't, I simply can't because there isn't such room.

    Now the question is: What to do when you can't get rid of any of them? There are some school textbooks which could definitely be given away or whatever, but they are so few that decluttering them would prove inconsequential.

    But as for the rest, and I'm thinking particularly of my fiction pieces, I wouldn't be able to get rid of anyone. Each of them is special in their own way and I couldn't just break my polygamous relationship.

    Maybe the solution could be to become a Microsoft-like CEO and buy a house with a Beauty-and-the-beast library. How cool does that sound?

    For the time being, cheers to our lovers, those who inspire and amaze us, provoke our thoughts and make us fall in love. Merry Christmas to our books! (If this doesn't apply, well... Merry Christmas anyway!)

  2. pOLYGAMOUS RELATIONSHIPS, wow! I can only accept such terms when it comes to becoming engaged to BOOks, hehe (sheepish laugh!). I'm sad to hear this article hasn't proved moving enough for you to declutter in spite of everything you comment, though. Perhaps I should star a TV show on these issues? TV could be more effective than reading, there's image to compensate for words... On the other hand, I completely forgot about e-books and keeping them in a CD or sth. I believe that people won't get rid of their manual books ever, and if we could dig our own grave and take our books with us, then facing death would be just as John Donne puts it, a mere close-and-open-eyes journey to Heaven!

  3. Oh don't be sad!! My non-decluttering policy is temporary. Surely there'll come a (dreadful) time when I'll have no choice but to declutter. Then your article shall prove absolutely useful. But not yet. I keep my books right by me, next to my bed, in my private little space. (Less than half) a room of my own, as it were... If that annoys anyone, well... They have a huge house to run around neatly putting things away.

    Besides, I don't feel like decluttering right now because I have books I like. The declutterable ones have already been so, and I only keep the read-and-loved or to-read ones.

    And, finally, it's just ME that will presently cling to my books like a mother to her babies. Many others, you have proof, have already taken your advice.

    So, cheerup my friend!! Texts are meant to be written, the effect depends only on the reader - the writer can never imagine how many different opinions a text will arise.

  4. I KNOOOOOOOOOW what effect depends upon, you!!!! LOL Now, on the other hand, "like a mother to her children" sounded just like the right sort of comparison when it comes to books. However, I am proud to say I've grown a much more disdainful, much less attached *mummy* now—due to the present circumstances, i.e., I happen to be decluttering. Right. Now. Phewwww!!!

  5. Well, when I first got my Kindle Touch I thought to myself "Problem solved! Now I will only get what I read and I will not fall behind"
    Reality check? A year later I have 100 unread books in my Kindle. It seems like I will keep "cluttering" no matter what. :)


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