What excites me in life is the act of downsizing. All the stuff we accumulate makes me itchy, uncomfortable, and on edge. In my heart, I’m a minimalist to the extreme. I don’t like clutter or a lot of color, I don’t like to own too many things, I like to make sure that most of what I own could fit into the back of a van at any given time. I prefer to travel light.
Unless, of course, you refer to books.
Back in 2014, I gave up buying anything I didn’t need, and I ended up going 15 months without purchasing a single item of clothing, a single piece of artwork, a single knick-knack. It was a fantastic year, truly. My one exception that year was books.
You see, books and I go way back. Reading is one of my favorite pastimes: I loved it as a kid, in college, and now in the two decades post-college. Books are my friends. They’re where I have figured out life, and love, and how to grasp this big ball that we all live on. They are me, and I am them, and it’s difficult to see where one starts and the other stops, quite frankly. Words fill my life.
Up until last weekend.
You see, we were in the middle of a kitchen renovation. This is the last big renovation that this house will go through, at least during my lifetime here in Fort Worth. Something about a renovation makes me want to declutter. My friend Ashley renovated her home a few years back and I remember her saying how important it was to her that nothing came back in that she didn’t truly love, or that she didn’t find useful. That’s pretty much how I’ve lived my life, and how I’ve decided to make all purchases I’ve ever made. I love that way of living a life, and planning a home.
Except, for books.
I read about a book a week. I read digital books too, but I prefer the real thing. The problem with aging is those little words on the pages have become so hard for me to read (I’m only in my 40s so what the hell is to come), that I tend to purchase digital formats more and more these days. Yet I still have hundreds upon hundreds of books.
Well, I did… until last weekend.
At the end of my neighborhood is a book deposit center. What a sweet idea, the perfect place to donate what’s no longer of use, for someone else to discover.
That depository received over 800 of my books last weekend.
I don’t know what happened, really, but I went to town. I started out with about 200, put them in my car, drove about 5 minutes away, and deposited them. I came back feeling lighter and better than I’ve felt in a long time. So I did it again, and then again, and then again. 4 trips and at least 800 books later, here I am with about 200 books left. The ones that I can’t quite get rid of. The little pieces of me.
I started out with the ones that I knew I’d never read again and knew that someone else should read. Then I got rid of all the ones I’ve bought and never opened. If I’ve had it more than a month and never opened it, I’m never going to open it. Then all the ones I started and couldn’t quite get through: they either bored me or reiterated what I’ve already learned, or were way too over my head.
After the 4th trip, I decided I should just keep 10 of each subject that I love: 10 of yoga, 10 of Buddhism, 10 of the Enneagram, 10 of self-help, 10 of marriage and family relationships, 10 of writing, 10 of fiction, 10 of business, 10 of design, 10 cookbooks, and 10 miscellaneous.
I couldn’t quite narrow it down to only 10 of each, but I’m close…closer than I’ve ever been. And that feels enriching, enlightening, peaceful….it feels all the things that I try to feel by reading the books.
Isn’t that funny, how that works?
Oh, and if you’re wondering….that year that I gave up buying things? I’m going at it again (aside from, you know, kitchen cabinets, of course). That year was one of the best years of my life. I was healthy, a good weight, didn’t drink, happy, excited, practicing yoga, meditating, hiking, road tripping… simply experiencing life to the fullest – without all the extra “stuff”. I’m thrilled to be going at it again. What makes this time different is: I’m not going to let myself buy any book imaginable. Maybe I’ll cap this year at 10; that’s healthy, right?