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“No matter how much stuff you may own, the amount is always finite.”
Marie Kondo, Spark Joy, p. 35.
I started my KonMari tidying journey about three months ago (read about Part 1 here). I was eager to see the life-changing magic this decluttering method promised. I was not disappointed when we went through our piles of clothes and discarded most of them. To this day, our closets and drawers are tidy—in some ways they look even better than they did at first because we’ve mastered how to store everything.
And then I look at the rest of my house. We have so far to go.
In her second book, Spark Joy, Kondo addresses some of the apprehension you can encounter when you realize the amount of sheer work that it takes to completely tidy your whole house. And she says to keep pressing on. Because someday, it will be done.
Our busy lives got even busier in the last couple of months. Step 2 in the KonMari method of tidying up is books. I didn’t think this leg of the journey would be difficult—and it wasn’t really—but the rest of life got in the way. I’m about a month behind where I thought I would be at this point.
But you know what? That’s okay because at least I’m not endlessly going through stuff, with no goal in mind. We have made progress, and now we have a collection of books for the whole family that is pleasant to the eye and easy to navigate.
10 Lessons Decluttering Books the KonMari Way
If you haven’t read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, one of the most shocking sections is when Kondo tells you to go through your books. You are supposed to pile them up on the floor, pick them up one at a time and assess your feelings about them. If they “spark joy” you should keep them, and if they don’t you should toss them. DO NOT open the books.
Naturally, this gives book-lovers a bit of a heart attack.
At some point in my young adulthood, I recall saying that one of my life goals was to have a massive library. It would be a way to showcase my love of learning, right?
And then along comes KonMari, who says toss all the books.
Nonetheless, I decided to put some trust in my favorite new Japanese friend and follow her advice. Does it spark joy?
With a busy schedule it took me several weeks to complete this. I did the adult books in one session, the homeschool books in another, the baby books in another and the older kid books in another. I also quickly went through cookbooks and sheet music.
Here’s what our family (well, mostly I) learned from the process:
We have a lot of garbage books.
You know, the ones you pick up but never finish, the ones that are water-damaged, the ones that you keep after college because you think they have valuable information—but ten years later you can’t remember a thing about them (and have no interest in relearning).
These are easy to get rid of.
It’s okay to throw away old books.
We have a lot of books that have been well-loved but are falling apart, particularly those supposedly indestructible baby board books. As Kondo says, thank them for their service and say goodbye. They can go to the garbage can—it’s okay! No one will be offended.
Keep the books you’d want to lend.
This might go against KonMari’s advice because I wouldn’t necessarily read these books again myself. But one of the reason I love to have books is because I love to lend them. Ask my friends; whenever someone is trying to solve a problem I will often say, “Oh, have you read this book…?” And then I go grab it.
But then again it might not go against the KonMari method after all. It gives me joy to lend books. So I keep them.
I’ve been inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy lately, who regularly displays her gorgeous book collections on Instagram. Her books are often color coordinated! This goes against my intuition because I want logical order but dang, her bookshelves look pretty. Thus, it’s okay to keep a book just because it looks nice.
My bookshelves aren’t magazine pretty, but they’re no longer a disorganized mess of books I have no interest in. And they’re not bad, right?
Ditch the educational stuff you don’t use.
I’ve only been homeschooling for about two years, and already we have stockpiles of educational material. Most of it is junk that I acquired at used book sales or has been given to me. At one time I thought that it would be handy to have a deep pile of resources, but it’s not handy if you don’t use them! It’s a relief to know what we like and what we don’t—and it’s okay to pass along the stuff we don’t.
Double-check with the spouse.
This decluttering project is mostly my thing. My husband is supportive, but I’m doing the bulk of the work. The challenge with books is that many of them are shared. When I went through our shelves, I took everything off as per the KonMari instructions. First I kept the books I knew I wanted as well as the books I knew Marc liked. Then I left a pile of books for him that I wasn’t sure about. At his convenience he went through them and pulled out the ones he wanted to keep. It was no-drama.
About those books you “might” read.
Kondo says to trash them, but I couldn’t pull the trigger on all of them. I have a handful of adoption books and a few others that were given to me as gifts. I’ll hold onto them for now. I now am not afraid to get rid of books, so I can revisit them later (she does say that you can do this to a certain extent while you hone your tidying skills).
Kids do better with less.
Prior to decluttering, we had a ton of kids’ books and I was afraid that I would be harming my children by getting rid of any of them. But the truth was, they couldn’t find half of them anyway! In addition to the falling-apart books, I discarded the ones that they had outgrown or were just not good reads. You know, like the free paperbacks you get with a kids meal.
Now their fewer books are much more neatly organized, and—shocking—my kids are reading more! They are much more likely to pull a high-quality book off the shelf when they can see it. Here is the bookshelf in my boys’ room (ages 5 and 6). My daughter (3) has most of the toddler books in her room. I plan on getting a small shelf for her soon, but in the meantime they are lined up against the wall. It works for now!
Do you really need all those cookbooks?
Um, no. Especially these days. I kept my favorite Betty Crocker as well as a couple more that I refer to regularly.
Sheet music—ditch the mess.
I have been playing the piano since I was seven years old and I have carried around all of my old music with me for a couple of decades. It was time to say goodbye, especially since I don’t play a lot anymore anyway. I kept hymns and Christmas music, which I occasionally play at church, as well as my favorite classic and fun music to play. I had a huge basket full of music that I hadn’t looked at in years. Now there is small magazine holder that contains all of the music I love as well as my kids’ lesson books.
Moving forward: All said and done, I think we got rid of about a third of our books. Volumes that had been buried in drawers are now on display. It’s fulfilling to look at our shelves and know that we enjoy everything on them. Kondo says that after you declutter your book collection, you have a snapshot of your personality and values. For the adults, we have a lot of Christian books and some classic literature, as well as a few practical living books (oh and Marc’s fantasy collection in the basement 😉 ).
As I said, we still have a loooooong way to go in our decluttering journey. While I threw out the books in poor condition, I still have a handful that I am trying to decide what to do with. My current thought is to list the most valuable ones on Amazon and put the rest out at a garage sale I will hypothetically have this summer. I suppose if I can’t get rid of them by next fall I will probably donate them.
Up next is papers! Yawn. After that is miscellaneous items. I will report as I find interesting and appropriate.
Have you tried KonMari decluttering? Where are you in your journey? I could certainly use the encouragement if you have any tips! Leave me a comment here or on social media.
Update: check out my post on decluttering toys.
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