Advice for clearing literary clutter
February 10, 2006 11:27 AM Subscribe
Suggest practical and creative systems for reducing the number of books I own (rather long exposition inside).
posted by matildaben to Writing & Language (28 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Hopefully this is part 1 of an ongoing decluttering and stuff-organizing project. I am really feeling more motivated to get rid of more stuff nowadays. I've read a lot of the decluttering threads and my issue is very specific and practical, and hopefully does not require therapy.
The vast majority of my possessions by weight and volume consists of books. I would like to develop a system for getting rid of them that will have a very practical, behavioral, methodical approach to the emotions that compel me to keep them.
One category of books is the ones I haven't read yet. This is pretty large. One thought that I had for dealing with them in a mostly scientific way was to arrange them in piles according to a 1-5 assessment of how likely I would be to read them (forcing myself to answer honestly for each one), and keep only the 5's. If there's still too many 5's left, I might break it down further by asking myself what my reasoning is for why I might want to read it (e.g., would I learn something valuable, keep up with a favorite author, be entertained, etc.). For partially read books, the question would be similar, "how likely am I to finish this?" So, I pretty much have a system for this category, and mainly am interested in hearing about similar strategies that have worked for you, or refinements or gotchas to this system. For instance, how does one estimate likeliness to read? What sort of questions does one ask oneself about motivation to read a yet unread book?
Books that I have read break down into several categories. The first is books that I have kept just because I enjoyed them when I read them, will probably never read them again, but they gave me pleasure so I keep the book around to honor that. Again, here, I think reason and logic can prevail if I just put them in a pile and say "I honor how much I enjoyed you when I read you" and then let them go. But that will probably be more painful than it sounds. For this category, advice, strategies, tales of similar efforts, and gotchas are welcome.
Books that I have read and may read again are a much smaller category, and once I have determined which ones those are, I can probably use a similar system as with the unread books to weed them out.
Then there is the large, amorphous category of books I hold on to for some sentimental reason - I read them in a great college class, I know the author, etc. I don't want to be too brutal here and rule them out completely merely because they are sentimental tokens - I want some kind of clarity on what questions to ask myself to determine which ones have a meaningful enough sentiment to hold onto and which ones are just emotional baggage. This is probably the toughest category, and the one where I'd probably benefit the most from hearing about "hacks" that have worked successfully for other people who operate in a similar fashion.