I’ll hold my hands up: I’m a little bit of a hoarder. I own WAY too much stuff. Clothes, particularly, but honestly it’s everything. So when I recently moved back to my parents house after four and a half years of independence (I quit my job: long story), I found myself with two fairly cluttered rooms worth of stuff and just the one bedroom to fit it all in, and had to have a fairly significant clear out.
I also have pretty minimal shelving space in this room, and as I really hate not being able to look at my books, I’ve had to get rid of a fair few. Which is a wrench for me. But I have done it: I have bags on bags of books to take to the charity shop, some of which I’ve read and liked but won’t ever read again, some of which I just didn’t like, and some of which I bought with good intentions and have now accepted I’ll never read.
As far as books that I have read go, I have two basic questions. Do I like it and will I read it again? The two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.
I’ve realised that there are books I love which I probably won’t reread, but I do still want to own. Jaroslav Kalfar’s Spaceman of Bohemia is an example of this. I think it’s a great book, and I’ll definitely read anything he has published in the future, but I won’t be reading this particular one. Mostly because the spider creature makes my skin crawl. However, I do still want to have it on my shelf, because it was a book which really made me think, and seeing the spine reminds me of all the moral questions it contains, and also that I want to recommend it to various people.
On the other hand, I have books which I don’t necessarily think are great works, but that I probably will go back to and reread. I have two examples here. First, John Green. I have read all of John Green’s books, and honestly, I don’t think they’re great. But I also know that they’re compelling, quick reads which I will probably come back to when I’m in a reading slump. Except An Abundance of Katherines. That’s going straight to Oxfam. The other is the Divide trilogy by Elizabeth Kay, which I read as a kid and LOVED. I don’t think it has much literary merit to speak of, but I loved it so much that I’ll reread it anyway.
The other thing I’m doing to try to keep my book collection under control is to keep my unread books separate from my read books. (Mostly – for the sake of tidy looking bookshelves, a few of my unread books have made it onto the shelves to stop the others from all falling over.) The plan is that I’ll decide whether or not to keep a book once I’ve finished it. So last week I read Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star and I’m honestly pretty meh about it, so it’s probably going to the charity shop immediately.
There are three reasons for doing this. One, not putting things on the shelf until I’ve decided that I like them should mean my shelves don’t become just a pile of higgledy piggledy madness, which stresses me out. And two, being able to see at a glance just how many books I haven’t read will hopefully (and this is a vague, potentially delusional hope) stop me from continually buying books at a rate which has literally no relation to how many books I’m actually reading. Finally, it gives me a kind of visual TBR and reminds me of all the things I want to read, particularly as I have a separate stack of books I’m really keen to get to immediately.
At the end of the day, I love owning books and buying books only a little less than I love actually reading books, but culling has to be a part of that. It’s about “curating” a collection of books that brings me happiness every time I look at my shelves.