I dreamed of owning a house with a library like the one in Beauty and the Beast. A ladder that slides along impossibly tall shelves filled with more books than you could read in 10 lifetimes. That was before I realized that the idea that you would have a house you could live in for many years (and God forbid, add shelves) would itself be a fairy tale. Packing up those books, disassembling their flat, inferior bookcases, hauling them across town and the highway, and trying to reestablish that fledgling bookcase over and over again made me fall completely in love with my old dream.
I don’t want to get rid of all the books, but I don’t want to keep all the books anymore. At some point I crossed the line from reader to hoarder and need to go back. These are the books that do not pass the Marie Kondo test. These books cause no joy. If anything, the many bookmarks still stuck to less than half of them evoke embarrassment. I know I will never come back to finish them. They know I’ll never come back to finish them. It’s time to end this charade.
But accepting this psychologically is only part of the battle. Now there is a larger and much more practical question: what do you do with the books you no longer want?
No one prepared me for this. There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer. The traditional response seems to be to dump them at a charity shop, but that sounds gross. Why should they be burdened with my problem? I already know that these are not good books! All I would do is hope someone else will be cheated like I was cheated. The same goes for the boxes in the high street library, an utterly lovely idea that seems to have become a dumping ground for the third copy of Billy Connolly’s biography, the surplus mystery novels and, oddly, still the Twilight book. NewMoon.
If I don’t want to pass my burden on to someone else, my options become much more limited. Simply throwing them in the trash is unthinkable, even if I use the recycling bin. Winter is coming, but using them to keep the fire going seems a little too German.
Am I doomed to become one of those horrible do-it-yourselfers who turn a pile of books into a knife block and consider it aesthetic? Do I just lean into the problem and start stacking them to build a pyramid that I will one day be buried in?
I want to have one of those cute little bookcases like you see in a magazine, with flower pots, ceramics, and a few particularly meaningful books with off-white covers that say “I can read but I’m still beautiful.” What I have is a fire hazard. A cemetery overflowing with paper that says ‘he was found dead but not for a few days’.
So far I’ve only found one technique to reduce the collection that actually works. It’s a good one, so I’ll tell you about it in case you’re in the same situation as me. The absolute best way to get rid of a book you no longer want is to give it to your friend and tell them to borrow it, that you like the book and want it. recover as soon as it is finished. This will guarantee you never see him again.