Karen L. Kehler, MA,  MSHA - Private- Professional- Affordable Counseling Services
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Kehler Counseling Blog

Category #2 -Books -Tidying -the Kondo Way

Are you a book hoarder?  Love the presence of books around you?
I keep referring to this Tidying (Marie Kondo: the life changing magic of tidying)  process as similar to losing a lot of weight.  I knew that this category was going to my personally most challenging as books and reading books have played such a significant role in my life.  They very easily have been my personal therapy, vacation, stress manager, mentor, teacher, friend, adventurer, lover, coach and kept me sane through so many ups and downs they can't be counted.   I really have no idea how someone can get through life without the power and knowledge of reading. 

I initially resisted, as a physical book loyalist,  getting a Kindle/Nook/ Ebook but once I had one in my hand, discovered that they are light, can be read on the beach, and travel incredibly easy - I was hooked.  The fact that I could download 3500 onto one device that weighed ounces was my 'sealed deal'.  The first book I downloaded was "Life" by Keith Richards - I didn't even realize its more than 500 pages.  It downloaded in seconds in the airport and I laughed when I saw the $32 book in the store realizing I just got it for $8.99 and didn't have to lug it around!  
Very few days go by when I haven't added a new 'free' or very inexpensive book to my collection along with countless work related texts, journals and reference volumes.  I would probably need a warehouse and forklift to lift them all. 

So for the last 5 years all of my books have been electronically shelved.  Taking up no space. No dusting.  But I got what reading is really about - as Marie Kondo writes - its truly about the EXPERIENCE or the information gained.  You don't need the binding staring at you once you have read it - it will resonate for decades in your soul. Reference material that you were tested on or used is in your memory bank - preserved.  With understanding those facts I shifted to the thinking that if  it is sitting on my shelf for decades it doesn't FREE it to someone else. 

That is how I was about to 'discard' my books.  Not only did I consider the true joy of the book itself - but for those I didn't read - I thought about the 'crime' of hoarding the physical book -left unread by anyone - that if I freed them - allowing just one person the opportunity to read it - learn from it - be moved by it -gain from it - how awesome that truth would be.   Realizing that if only 10 other people would have a chance to read a sentence, paragraph or entire novel or even textbook and change their life, attitude, perception or reality - how incredible that would be. 

I also want to add that I thought about the privilege I have had of being able to AFFORD to buy books...   its something I took for granted for decades.  My budget always allowed for the purchase of books.  I  would buy books like my peers would spend on their children.  I would seek out shows, sales, clearance and share them with friends and clients.  I often passed books on to others without any concern of seeing them again  As I said - if just one book changed one life this process is so worth it.   Hoarding them on my shelves felt more and more selfish as I progressed through this experience. 

If you want some tips and suggestions for this category here are mine:
  • I dressed for comfort -rather than appearance - knowing I would be lugging, climbing, crawling and dealing with dust.  Good shoes are a must if you expect to spend several hours - I took 8 hours - most standing.  I have discovered Sketchers - slip ons - with 'memory foam' -the best investment in shoes I have made in 10 years.
  • Plan ahead - I bought 'Bankers Boxes' from Staples first - knowing that I would be discarding.  Their uniform size, place to label and lids made filling, moving, stacking and sorting made process go smoother.
  • Sort as you discard.  I set up a row of boxes wrote the category on the inside of the lip of the lid and sorted accordingly.  When I moved I didn't do this and had to go through them a second time - I am assuming this makes it easier for the charity or next recipient to determine what box to sell, buy, or pass on.   Doing this also highlights what kind of books  you either loved or hated.  It highlights the phases you lived through, the classes taken, information gathered, interests and obsessions.  Some you will be glad to let go of. Others you will feel sad for.  Many will make you laugh or wonder why you wanted them in the first place.  Those are the easy ones.  Thank each one you shift to your discard boxes - they really did serve a purpose - now free them to a new purpose or person. . . 
  • I kept many work related reference books, field 'bests', and nonfiction that have served my career.  I let go of the dated, duplicated and dust covered that I knew I would never use again.  Viewing my extensive collection of books that I have read over the last 30 years is visible evidence that I am well -read, educated, and competent without having to say a word.  They quietly convey I know what I'm doing. When my clients are spending their hard earned money I want them confident in my ability from the minute they walk in the door.
  • I hope that college students find them.  Many of my texts contain volumes of information that is crucial to the foundation of my field.  Many are replaced by Ebooks but for many struggling students 'real books' are serving them well.  The cost of obtaining my Master's Degree is now astronomical -the books are hundreds of dollars each and the reality is you never open them again after being tested.  It is the testing that confirms it into memory, application seals the deal for a career.  As she shares -you do forget what you don't use.  I guess our brains would explode if we remembered everything!
  • Since I haven't posted this yet - I have to add that today a college student -just starting her Master's in Counseling came to my office today - she left with a case of textbooks that she will need . . . serendipity!!  
  • Go through every room in your home for your books, I had them in several - most in obvious places but scattered.   She is also right about taking them ALL of the shelves - it really is the way to do it properly.  Handling each book separately allows you to discard quickly but with conviction.  I'm still hesitating on the books that are on shelves I didn't complete.  When I emptied the shelves - I allowed the shelves to breathe overnight - giving them a deserved rest!  Like my socks (!).  . . I also was able to complete the project with a fresh slate, re-energized and with a renewed vigor to free myself up.  If I had stuck to the entire process in one day I would have been physically and emotionally exhausted - I was even with breaking it into 2 /4 hour segments!  Thank goodness for air conditioning and comfortable shoes! 
  • Place the books that give you JOY to their respective newly 'assigned' places so finding them again will be simple and stress free.   Stay within the 'one place' rule where possible.  I completely separated my 'pleasure' reading from 'work' books.  They had gotten mixed up as I attempted to make room for all  of my past collection in limited shelving space.  Now my work related books have breathing room, arranged by category and easy to find again. 
  • I will not be filling up  the extra space with more books - I will probably think more  carefully about what objects I will place on them since I view them more than 8 hours a day!   I will however be focusing more on the experience of joy when I read -then the physical book itself.  
  • I now have 40 cases of books in my waiting room.  As much as I would think that my local library would benefit from them - I had to think it through.  My local library is not a high volume, high traffic location.  They are very limited in space.  The bi-annual book sale presented by the local newspaper is held at the local shopping mall that is at death's door - and has extremely limited traffic.  The book sale lasts 2 days - then they sit.   I wanted to 'release' them to a charity that had volume - where many would be able to see them, take them, use them.  I didn't want them just gathering dust somewhere else.  So they will be going to my local Goodwill Store.   They take books and even if they don't sell them easily - they recycle them.  I'm okay with that.    I will be giving the local library some of the collection - just not all. . . same for several of the other cases.  
  • You will under-estimate how many books you have!  The 40 cases of books fit on a total of 4 -7 ft tall cases!  If you saw what I kept - you might not think I gave up any!   
  • I kept many of the 'Photograph' books or 'Coffee Table' books - their subjects and content 'speak' to me and give me visual joy - I will be letting go of the Antique Volumes as my residences no longer support that interest.   For me that is a closed chapter - I'm onto a new interest. . . 

So for those of you wading through the process of tidying. . . give your self time, understand it is a process and savor the JOY when you can look at your prized collection -that is now edited and all about your personal moments of the joy of reading.   If you are a book lover - you know the language I'm speaking. . . 


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