Sunday, February 8, 2009

You Can Love Books Without Owning a Huge Collection

box of books

Cookbooks aren't the only books that sometimes need decluttering! A big thank you to Alan Levin, who wrote the following on the Getting Things Done Yahoo group, and gave me permission to quote him.

"About 10 years ago, I moved from a place where I had fairly unlimited bookshelf space and I had to figure out what to do about my library. As we packed up, I cataloged each book in an excel spreadsheet with nothing more than title, author, and which numbered box it was in. After I moved, and before I unpacked, I went through the list and sorted it into three piles.

"The first pile was those books that were must keeps because I used them so often, because they had great sentimental value of some sort, or because they were irreplaceable. The second pile was books that if I wanted to read I could always find in a library or repurchase. The third pile was books that I was unlikely to use again. Not surprisingly, the third pile was small and the second pile was huge. I was actually surprised at how small the first pile turned out to be.

"It is a bit like a desert island exercise, but not quite as extreme. Anyway, I only took the first pile of books out and put them on the shelves at the new place, and I kept the rest in boxes in storage for several years to see how it worked out. With a few exceptions, I did not do that much digging through the storage books, and that only in the first year or so. After three years I donated almost everything in the boxes except for a few arcane technical books that my wife sold on back before it was eBay.

"It has also really influenced how I collect since the down sizing. I use the library much more, because I do not want to crowd my shelves with anything I don't need regularly for reference unless it is in the hard to replace category. I also tend to recycle gift books much more than I used to."

Jeri's note: What Alan did reminds me of Judith Kolberg's strategy of dividing things you own - in any category, from books to clothes to plastic storage containers - into friends, acquaintances, and strangers. You keep the friends, part with the strangers - and probably don't need many of those acquaintances, either!

[photo by Caro's Lines / Caroline, licensed via Creative Commons]

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