Many of us have a really intimate relationship with our books which makes them hard to let go of. We buy books to improve ourselves, to reflect the type of person we used to be, we want to be, or the type of person we want other people to think we are! They can tell a story about what is important to us, and so letting go of them can feel like we're giving away parts of our identity.
But keeping all of the books with all of the aspirations and goals ("I'm going to be an amazing cook / runner / crafter / linguist") doesn't only limit your physical space to fulfil these goals, but they often just provide negative reminders of the goals you haven't achieved (or stories you haven't got round to reading), and so can impact your self-esteem.
Letting go of literary clutter
- Get really clear on what you want out of life: Which of your life goals do you still actually want to achieve? Which will you realistically be able to focus on for the next year or so? And so which books will support you with this?
- Think about what kind of person is the real you? If you are keeping a load of 19th Century French literature because you want to present yourself in a certain way, but actually you really love anime graphic novels, then ditch what isn't authentically you and just keep the stuff that reflects who you really are. Who wants to live in a home that is making them pretend to be someone they're not?!
- As for fiction, these can be just as difficult to move on as the reference books that linger on your shelves with the promise of an exciting new you (spoiler: there’s nothing wrong with the current you). We can get so emotionally invested in these stories that it can feel brutal just to get rid of them, so why not transfer that emotional investment into the real world? Pop a note in the front cover about why you enjoyed that book and gift it to a friend. Then when you see them next you can chat about the book and suddenly the book becomes a means of connection and community instead of just words on a page.
- And if you have a pile of novels you haven't read yet, be realistic - when will you have time to read them? Will you be able to read them all? Do you even want to read them all? Are there other things you would rather be doing with your time? And as appealing as these stories are, it's ok to not know them all, just as we don't know every person's story.