Hey, friends! I’m so late to this discussion party, but I couldn’t help myself and knew I had to post about this. As many of you may be aware of, the bookish community (at least on Twitter) has been going crazy over getting rid of books. Most opinion pieces and tweets I’ve read have grilled Marie Kondo (author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and of a newly released Netflix show). But I am completely on board with her suggestion of saying goodbye to books.
I wanted to leave my two cents here. Why do I think Marie Kondo was right in telling people to get rid of some books? What does she even mean by “books that don’t spark joy”? And why do I think this is actually really helpful and a great way to support other bookworms???
Welcome to my chatty corner! Get a blanket, a cup of tea, a pillow and come talk to me! I created this new segment on my blog to motivate me to write discussion posts more often. I have so many opinions and I’d love to write them all down and then look back on these posts I’ve made…
Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, now has a Netflix show that recently premiered. In it, she goes to people’s houses and helps them declutter. Now, if you’re anything like me or these people, you will agree that having a cluttered house is awful. Whenever I see my house cluttered and messy my mental health just takes a nose dive. I have literally no energy to do any work, to study, or to clean up really.
So, whenever I have the time and motivation, I always try to declutter my home. Since I’ve moved out of my parents’ home, this usually involves throwing out old receipts, making the bed, putting away clothes, displaying my pillows nicely on the couch, and sweeping. But, surprisingly, I never touch my bookshelves.
🌿 my own bookshelves… 🌿
I don’t own a lot of books. I will be writing a post about this soon, but for some reason, I just tend not to buy a lot of books. Does this surprise you, knowing I’m a book blogger? I only realized that I don’t own nearly as many books as other people in December of 2018. Since I take out books from the library and borrow a lot of ebooks, my bookshelves look relatively neat.
Most books I own are actually classics and adult fiction novels. I know I will always love these books and that I’ll end up rereading them in the future. Taking all this into consideration, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to purge the books I own. They’re not a lot and I love owning them!
Which brings me to Marie Kondo’s advice… In her book and show, she tells people in the sweetest and least judgemental way possible to pick up each item they own and ask themselves: “does this item spark joy in me?” If it does, keep it. If not, give it away.
I think this is terrific advice! We end up collecting so many things “just in case we need them,” but never end up using them. As a result, we collect so many items because they have memories associated with them — even when the memories are not the best… So the concept of only keeping things that make us happy feels so refreshing. I’m definitely going to put it into practice as soon as I start cleaning out my apartment!
🌿 a misunderstanding… 🌿
But moving on to the topic at hand… I think applying this happiness rule is just as helpful when you’re cleaning up your shelves. Look at your shelf and ask yourself, does this specific book bring me joy?
A looooot of people misunderstood this as Kondo saying we can only keep books that have plots that make us happy. This would, logically, mean getting rid of challenging books — right? Wellll… Not at all. Marie Kondo is not advocating for you to only keep dumbed-down books on your shelves. Instead, ask yourself: “does owning this book bring me joy?”
Not every book that brings me joy is an easy read. You may cherish your copies of To Kill a Mockingbird or 1984 not because they are happy books (like, at all), but because you cherish their message. The values the Harper Lee and George Orwell convey in these novels might be extremely important to you, and so owning these books makes you happy.
Here is a short list of reasons why I keep the books I do own on my shelves:
🌻 I want to reread this book. Reading it brought me so much joy (because it was a happy/challenging/valuable/diverse novel…), and so I want to experience it again.
🌻 I want my kids to one day read this copy. There’s nothing I love more than sharing the books I love. Letting my future children read these novels that had such an impact on me is something that will bring me joy. Just the thought of doing it brings me joy!
🌻 It’s a beautiful book! Looking at it makes me happy and brings me joy — hence why I keep them and often put them on display.
As you can gather, most of the reasons why I want to keep a book is because the thought of owning said book brings me joy. You might say that this is a silly thing to do and just promotes hoarding habits. But I think there’s a huge difference here. Having your house full of spare buttons and spare covers you don’t even find pretty is definitely not the same as keeping a hundred books at home because you want others to read them or you want to reread them.
🌿 books and memories 🌿
Another reason why I think this advice is great is its push for you to stop hoarding bad memories. When I saw all the Twitter discussions unfold, I kept thinking of how I associate memories with objects. And books are no exception!
Imagine that a loved one gave you a book before they passed but that you don’t plan on reading it. This is entirely possible, especially for people who (like me) come from families that breathe books. Pick that imaginary book up and ask yourself “does it spark joy in me?” You might hate the author or have heard very bad things about the novel itself, but you will probably not give it away. Every time you look at that book, you will be reminded of your loved one, which can bring you a lot of comfort and joy. Happy/joyful memory = keep it!
But what if every time you look at a book you loved on your shelf you are reminded of something sad? You might have adored the story, but while you were reading it, you might have lost someone you loved. Or you might have been gifted that particular book by someone you don’t like anymore (an ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend, for example). So what should you do if owning that book reminds you of something bad? Well, Marie Kondo will tell you sad memory = give it away!
There is so much beauty in this line of thinking! And, in the end, the concept of sparkling joy sometimes has nothing to do with the novel itself. Not to mention that, in the long run, getting rid of books that bring you down would do wonders to your mental health and mood! Who wants to be stuck in a house with stuffy bad memories? Surely not me…
🌿 giving books away is giving them a new life! 🌿
Judging by how offended some people were by Marie Kondo’s advice, you’d think she told people to burn all their books. But that’s not at all what she’s promoting — at all!
If you have books in your shelf you don’t plan to reread and that don’t spark joy in your life, why not give them away? Every time you give a book away (to a thrift shop, a library, a women’s shelter, a prison, a school…), you are passing that book on to someone who will love it more than you ever could.
Don’t you love that feeling when you find a really interesting book at your local library? Or at a very discounted price at your local thrift shop? As a book lover whose five-year plan is to save, save, save, this makes me immensely happy. Not everyone has the economic privilege to own hundreds of books, so giving books you don’t like away will most definitely better someone else’s day.
When everything has been said and done, why do we love and champion books so much? Why do we, bloggers, write long reviews about books we’ve loved; create lists of upcoming releases, and obsess over amazing authors? Isn’t it all because we love literacy and what it stands for? Then why wouldn’t we want to share this love of reading with people who may not have the means to be avid readers? Giving these books away would help solve this problem.
🌿 your books, your decision 🌿
What I love the most about Marie Kondo’s method is that she is never judgemental and always helpful. You won’t see the Japanese master of decluttering being snarky and shame the people who seek her help. She genuinely wants to help, and that is amazing! She seems like such a nice person, I would love to be friends with her.
As a result, she never forces anyone to give away anything. She doesn’t judge her clients for deciding to keep/give away a certain item, either. The KonMari method is all about you. You are the one who decides what goes and what stays, and you don’t need to justify your choice to anyone but yourself.
Most people who I saw write bad things about Marie Kondo (from name calling to straight up sexist and xenophobic remarks) seem to be pretty defensive. However, no one is coming for your books. Marie Kondo doesn’t have a secret plan to get you to throw out all your books. If all your books spark joy in you, keep all your books! If they make you happy — why not???
I think that, in the end, this whole thing has been a massive misunderstanding. People took what she said out of context and then proceeded to crucify her for her view of the world. However, if you take a little time to think about which books actually spark joy in you, you might find that you do agree with Marie…