Since the show on Netflix has debuted, decluttering has been the only thing people will talk about (well, besides our current state of reality in politics of course). I kind of get it – it’s something simple to grasp onto besides the growing sense of unease with current events. Just about anything can become a straw for people to grasp onto to avoid discussing certain upsetting topics ad nauseam. And this is something simple, something visible! And it brings Marie Kondo such joy to help people out in this manner. Just seeing someone enjoying something so purely feel cathartic. It is not something I have decided to view personally at this point, but I really do get the appeal.
But there is one topic that is apparently quite divisive that is annoying me to no end. I’m sure you’ve seen the quote shared about (a quote that for one, isn’t quite what she said, and two, is very much stripped of context). I am not equipped to take on the cultural milieu that her world view has grown and adapted in; but believe me when I say it exists and to please try and seek out authorities on that aspect of the issue. It’s important. But what I am equipped to discuss, is the quote if we take it as is – that one should not try to own more than 30 books. (It’s a misquote – she’s discussing how for herself, she prefers to keep less than 30 books. But like I said, we’re going to take the quote people are bandying about at face value). Why is this idea so offensive? Why have some deemed it such a moralistic judgement to get rid of books you’ve collected over the years? Why does it matter so much to you? Look, it is great to love books. I adore them. I’ve fantasized for decades about someday owning the library from Beauty and the Beast, like so many of my generation. The make me feel safe, they make me feel cozy, some of them feel like old friends.
But they also stressed me out. I have issues with depression, among other things, and I could never keep up with cleaning them. The chronically dusty shelves, with their tumbleweeds of cat and dog hair, became a source of incredible stress in my life. I’d walk by and run my hands down their spines, only to see how much I’d neglected them. Most of them, I’d never read again. They were tokens or trophies, proof I could parade about that screamed LOOK I READ THIS. I READ ALL OF THESE! And one day several years ago, I decided I couldn’t handle the weight anymore. I couldn’t deal with the upkeep of my collection when I could barely care for myself through the weight of my sadness. I couldn’t bear watching them slowly suffer from the years without being read and loved as they should. So I donated them. I kept perhaps half a dozen treasured ones, ones that if you are familiar with Marie Kondo, I could hug to me and sparked joy and made me smile. It was around three hundred all told I just packed into boxes and donated. My life felt lighter. I missed my friends, but it also brought me a lot of joy to think about them back in circulation again. Many of them are contained in other’s collections at this point, I’m sure, hopefully better cared for than they were with me. Many I hope ended up in local libraries, where they hopefully bring moments of joy to many.
I’m not here to advocate getting rid of all your books, though. Look, all self-help gurus and advice are more or less the same – someone has looked at their own life, seen that they are happier or more content than those around them, and offered up what they have done in the hopes others can get something they need from it. (there is also often a somewhat or more upfront predatory capitalistic side to those, but you don’t need me to tell you about those. Most still start from a place of just wanting to help others, no matter what it morphs into later.) And people that seek out various sets of life improving advice are unhappy with their life in someway, and desperate to fix it in some manner. I’m here to advocate an approach to this advice, that dare I say, is to apply something Marie Kondo-esque to advice itself. When you read self help, think about what is offered up to you to perhaps improve or certainly change your life. Really roll it around, think about what it entails. And if it resonates with you, then take that bit and apply it and ignore the bits you don’t like. Everyone is different. Everyone’s life is different. Where we are each trying to take our life is different. So why would every piece of advice be applicable to everyone? Take what you think sounds helpful to your individual life, and run with that. And ignore the bits that make you upset and angry – they either don’t apply to you or aren’t helpful to you.
Books are not a moralistic thing, that is to say that owning all the books or giving away books after you’ve read them is not. I love people that love books. I love the feel of libraries with all their expansive shelves of things to learn and adventures to take. I also fully understand why someone would choose to decultter their collection. Maybe you have simply outgrown some. Or they weren’t ones you necessarily appreciated but you hung onto because you spent the cash on them. Or like me, a combination of being distressed that your collection was neglected and is better served elsewhere at this point in your life. It’s ok. I promise. Just because the path someone else chose isn’t the path you would have chosen doesn’t make it bad. ❤