Books Almost Devoured My House: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Books You Want To Read One Day = Books You Never Will Read.

So goes the harsh philosophy of Marie Kondo who declares that we should only keep those objects that bring us joy.

Joy is a pretty high bar, but as I was reading her book THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING-UP before Xmas and I found myself a convert of her simple aesthetic.  Though in the past I took great joy in our books arrayed on our two floor-to-ceiling book shelves, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt that joy. Books are packed and stacked in the shelves, under them, around them–and on every other surface in the house.  Let’s face it: I’ve got a ton of books I’ve yet to read.

I was curious to find out how many there actually were, so I attacked them.  I put every book I haven’t read together.


It’s like I’ve just discovered a hidden book store lurking in my house.  Seriously.

Well.  Something had to be done.  The first part, I told myself, was just sorting. No need to panic, because I wasn’t giving anything away yet. Just sorting.  Easy-peasy.  Meanwhile, it really is like a book store.

Sections in which I have at least fifteen or more unread books:

  • mystery
  • literature
  • non-fiction
  • literary
  • literary short stories collections
  • speculative fiction short story collections
  • genre (SFF)
  • romance
  • a very, very large speculative fiction section

Other topics in our home library include:

  • running
  • home-repair
  • manners
  • children’s books
  • YA
  • art
  • philosophy
  • plays
  • how-to
  • cooking/baking

I blame our local library sale for this abundance where I turn into a hoarder at least once a year.

THREE BAGS FULL:  I’m still just sorting. Still no need to panic. Those three bags of books sitting by the door almost happened by themselves. But we’ve reached the tricky part.  Within each category I’m sorting all the books into what you might call Joy Piles:

  • Those I got in the last few months that I’m *most* excited to read
  • Those I’m kinda excited to read…even though they’ve been around for a bit
  • Those that (sigh) I guess I really should read or might possibly want to read some day.

And then there are the two chairs full of book I set aside that radiate guilty feelings when I’m around them.  Books friends gave me. Books someone recommended but I never finished it.  “Important” books I’d never finished.  Books with handsome covers that looked brand new–but I just couldn’t get into them. Books like PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN that I didn’t really care for in high school, but I’m older now–so maybe I should give it another shot?  Anyway, I’m girding myself up to give all the guilty books away and all the rest of the joy-less books as well.

UPDATE: Even sorting books has turned out to be a perilous undertaking.  There is so much dust on these books, that this morning I’m having a kind of mini-asthma attack and need to take an antihistamine.  This afternoon I’ll go back to the stacks, this time armed with the vacuum cleaner.  I think once I put all the unread books that give me joy together I’ll see that it’ll take me at least a year or more to chew through them. Then I’ll be able to let the rest go.  I’m not there yet, but I’m hoping…and Portrait of an Artist will always be in the library if I need it.

FINAL UPDATE: Books are tamed! There’s are five waist high stacks of books sitting under the mantlepiece that I’ve been drawing off of for a few years–but they’re going off to the library soon.  I figure anything I haven’t read in those two years I’m not going to…

ABOUT ORGANIZING: I am a big believer in being organized.  Call me slightly OCD, but it feels good to be organized.  I feel light and happy when everything is in it’s place. I can think more clearly, too. I’d rather use the end of the old year to prepare for the new one by getting organized that I would partying through the night.

Though tackling my books has been a mighty struggle–and it’s not over yet–overall I highly affirm the principles in THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP. I’ll never fold in the same way again.

Another book that I’ve found useful is ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT, by Julie Morgenstern. Julie advocates for organizing your space like a great kindergarten classroom: everything has a home, and it fits in that space in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing and makes handling that item–taking it out-and putting it away–a joy.  Julie Morgenstern also has a book called TIME MANAGEMENT FROM THE INSIDE OUT where she posits that if we think of time as space we can more clearly define its limit and create a regular ‘home’ for important activities–like writing–in our schedules.

Being organized keeps me relaxed and unencumbered.  The only downside I’ve found to being so tidy and organized is that now if I lose something it’s like it disappeared into a parallel universe.  I have no idea where it could be.  It doesn’t happen often, of course, but when it does it’s quite perplexing.

Are you one of those believers who subscribes to the belief that you can never have too many books and it’s close to sacrilegious to ever give them away? Do you organize your books, or is part of the fun in owning them that they are higgledy-piggledy everywhere though your living space?

Next blog: My Awesome Speculative Fiction Group


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