Sunday, April 4, 2021

Whittling the book pile

When the pandemic first hit last year, my local library shut down for a few months. While I missed it, and I am very glad it has since resumed online reservations and curbside pickup, I knew I wouldn't lack for reading material in the meantime.

Aside from being a re-reader, one who's happy to dip into my collection of shelved books over and over, I also had That Pile. You may know the one; you may have your own version of it. The pile of books picked up here and there--at sales, book swaps, and so forth, or maybe received as gifts. For me, they're books I want to read, or at least wanted to when I first got them, but wasn't in the mood for right then. Or at any time since, though I believed the right mood would eventually arrive. That pile's existence never stopped me from acquiring new books, most of which I read before dipping into the older pile.

Over the past few years, as I've made a conscious effort to declutter, I finally faced the pile. I was even able to slowly dent it. But 2020 would be my chance to make real progress, I thought.

I'm not sure how many books were in that pile when I first started decluttering--maybe 50? Definitely more than 30. It wasn't even really "a" pile, but a few stacks. 

I'm happy to report that the pile is now down to eight books.

I made progress in three ways. One was by facing the fact that I was just never going to read some of them, and I let them go to better homes. For book cherishers, this action can seem impossible at first, but it got easier the more I did it. For the remaining books, I decided that their reading time had come! It was easier to pick up one of these long-unread books if I reminded myself that I could always put it down if I didn't like it after all. (After years of compulsively finishing books whether I wanted to or not, I've reached the point of allowing myself to abandon a book that isn't working for me. Life is short, and there are plenty of books out there.)

The other way I shrunk this pile was by making an effort not to add to it. To bring home only books that I wanted to read soon. Part of my decluttering involves keeping a list of new items that I bring into the house. I don't track perishables like groceries and toiletries, but only things that are meant to hang around for a long time, and that includes books (though not library books, which of course rotate in and out quickly). I don't have any special rules about numbers of items I want to acquire or get rid of. I don't have a one-in, one-out rule. The only reason I made the list was to be more mindful of what I get, to be more aware of what I acquire, to make sure I really want or need it. And that has been happening. I'm not reading fewer books; I'm just storing fewer unread ones.

Happy reading, whether you're tackling a new book or a not-so-new one!