Friday, September 19, 2014

Why I Gave Away My Books

Queen Composter reflects upon efforts to simplify her life. 

Before I begin, please let me unload my baggage.

I love my stuff. I am constantly fighting my ego's urge to own more things. One of the things that makes me deliriously happy is books. Not only do I love reading (I often stay awake into the wee hours of the morning to finish a book), I also love the physical being of books and I have a visceral connection to them. I am the type of person who, upon purchasing a new book, likes to open it up and smell the pages. Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this.

Back in the day when good, local book stores actually existed, my idea of a good Saturday night out was to spend hours browsing the aisles for books. I have even been asked to leave a book store because I sat down on the floor and started reading some books (before book stores became a destination with coffee shop and couches). It doesn't help that I am a teacher, and we are famous for spending a great deal of our disposable income on books.

My obsession with owning books received a turbo boost when my future husband became a manager of a big box book store for a time. Hello employee discount! Every available space in our home had stacks of books, some beloved books, some perpetually on the "to read" list. 

When we moved to a larger home and had to go through the effort of packing up and transporting the dozens of book boxes, we realized we had a problem. We made the difficult decision to deal with our problem and sorted our books into approximately seven piles as we unpacked: favourite books we reread, books we are positive we will read in the near future, resource/information books that we use on a regular basis, books we want to save for our children to read, books we have read but will not read again, books we have never read and do not see reading in the near future, and university textbooks. We promptly loaded the books in the latter three piles back into the moving boxes to give away. 

Some thoughts on giving away our books:
  • The internet has done away with the need for insane amounts of How-To books and information books. We kept some pretty and informative coffee table books, but otherwise we borrow from the library or look it up online. 
  • Our home is less cluttered with books everywhere. Now to tackle the other areas, like craft supplies, toys, and DVDs. 
  • I visit the library more now. I can always buy a book later if I fall in love with an author or book. This has encouraged my daughters to read more too. Win-win!
  • Many organizations are happy to have donated books. We discovered that our local food bank accepts books and we even received a tax deductible receipt. 
  • Used book stores are another way to reduce the amount of books you have, but I have found that they are quite picky about what they will accept, and they generally do not like to take donations, for space issues. But if you have good quality, popular books it is always nice to get a bit of money for your efforts. 
  • We have now made a commitment to avoid big box stores as much as we can, partially because of the impact upon diminishing local, independent book stores. As a result, we are not as tempted to spend money, and we put more thought into our book purchases. 
  • Another idea my daughters would like to try, which is becoming more popular, is to make a  free library for the end of our driveway for books they would like to pass on to someone else. 

Now that we have dealt with our book fetish it is much easier to keep new books from entering our home. I like to buy books for my kids for Christmas presents (something they want, something they need, something they'll wear, something they'll read), and I buy books by my favourite authors, but otherwise I try to borrow from the library or a friend now.

Have you simplified any aspect of your life? I'd love some more thoughts and tips. 


Chris said...

In France if you have unwanted books you are encouraged to leave them on a bench or public area with a note saying please take enjoy and then pass on the book to somebody else. It works a treat and gets everbody reading.

DramaMama said...

Here in the US - (not sure where you are) - we have Little Free Libraries. ( People will build what looks like a big bird house w/a door on it and put in books to share. You are encouraged to not only take from but add to the collection! In my town, there are many...there's one at the YMCA, one at the nature preserve, one at the home for the elderly, not to mention many in various neighborhoods. On their website, there is a databases of locations so you can always look one up =) The trend of LFLs seems to be growing! My kids now recognize the LFLs (some are adorably decorated!) and they often ask to stop and peruse the selection...I love that their love for reading is fostered by this trend. Thanks for sharing your tips!

Eco Yogini said...

oh I LOVE LOVE LOVE my books. so much. I have given away books (I try to bring them to local women's shelters), but it's so difficult. I even hate lending them to other people.... lol.

I think part of this is that I grew up in a home with parents who weren't really readers- any books we had were mine. My dream is to have a whole room dedicated to books- like a little library study. It's awful......

Green Bean said...

I go back and forth on this. For me personally, I have given away many of my books with the exception of garden reference books. Fiction books I usually get on my iPad. My kids though are a different story. We hit the library often, especially for junk-type books that they'll read in a few days or How To art/craft type books. Big fiction books though I will almost always invest in. My youngest is just finishing the Harry Potter series (for the second time) after my husband and I read them separately as they came out and then once to the kids.

Betsy Escandon said...

I like your categories of keep/ discard. When we moved 5 times in 4 years I got rid of A LOT of aspirational books (e.g., latin texts I found at the used bookstore in my old college's town). I still struggle with owning too many books. But, hey, I figure it's not the worst vice in the world.


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