Getting rid of books that don’t spark joy: chatty corner 🛋

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???

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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…

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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???

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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…

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What did you think of this whole confusion? Do you agree with the points I brought up, or do you still think Kondo is defending a bad purge of books?

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30 thoughts on “Getting rid of books that don’t spark joy: chatty corner 🛋

    • Bookish Rita says:

      Ah that’s a fair point, I hadn’t even thought of it! Maybe you’d be surprised by how many people want to read the books you didn’t really like. Seriously, post a thread on Twitter or drop yours at a charity store! I’m a firm believer that there are a **few** bad books out there — the majority of books I don’t like are just a case of them not being right for me!

      Like

    • Bookish Rita says:

      Hurrah!! We need more people donating to charity shops, really 😅 Right before I finished high school I gave a BUNCH of YA books I didn’t really like to the school library. They were running a campaign and so they donated it to a children’s hospital in my city. I’d like to think someone has read one of those books and loved it…

      Like

  1. thepaperbackpiano says:

    Great post! 🙂 I think you’re exactly right, why should we keep books that have bad memories associated with them? I’ve been watching the Netflix show and I’m planning to try Marie’s method later this month when I have some time off work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anushka Anand says:

    Such an insightful post! That sounds like a good Netflix show and I’ll probably be watching it soon! Decluttering is so important, I feel really stressed for no reason when I see everything in a mess. Cleaning out is really helpful in improving mental health as well ( for me atleast 😅) and keeping books that make you happy and giving away books with a negative energy is SUCH a good idea. And haha, don’t worry. I don’t own a lot of books either. And its absolutely okay ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ruby's Books says:

    This is such a great post! I never before heard of this (for some reason this discussion never popped up on my timeline OR I wasn’t online when it happened) but just looking at your post, her idea makes a lot of sense to me. I have a hard time parting with books, and I did a unhaul for books I had DNFed and that I knew I wasn’t going to try reading again a while back and I felt bad, but ultimately I realized that I made space for books I actually wanted to own and read. Namecalling over such a small matter though…that is…pointless and just mean. I agree with you that you should only keep stuff around the house that are useful and that mean something to you. I wouldn’t keep a broken plate or vase, or a piece of clothing that is shredded, so why would I keep a book I don’t want to read or that doesn’t have any type of memory or value attached to it?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. whatthelog says:

    Absolutely agree with you! I tend to keep most of my books (unless they’re ridiculously bad) because they remind me of the people who got them for me/I recommend them to, and where I was in my life whilst I was reading them. But I totally get why some people wouldn’t want to keep all of their books!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. emaschapter says:

    I think this is a really good method when things get out of hand and you have too many things cluttering your home (or in this case too many books) that actually influences your happiness.
    I don’t think I will be using this method because I don’t buy books if I am not sure I will like it because I borrow a lot books from the library and the ones that I find myself wanting to reread I buy.
    But there are other areas of life where I could use this method for sure (like clothes… 😅).
    Lovely post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. tasya @ the literary huntress says:

    This is a great post! I don’t think I’ve seen any outrage against her, but then again I’m not on twitter often 😅 But, I totally agree with your point! I try to declutter often too, but I never (verrry rarely) touch my bookshelves. And the meaning of “bring joy” doesn’t always mean the book has to have plot that makes you happy, I think. It could be because you bought the books during a trip that made you happy and the book represented the memory for you. Or it could be because someone you cherished gave it to you 😀 Either way, it’s still your books and tbh, people don’t really have to do it. It’s not like Marie barge into their house and force them to giving up their books… It’s sad that people are saying rude things about her because of her advice though :/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bookish Rita says:

      Exactly! The whole discourse makes me very sad, to be honest. Seeing people rip her apart because she has her way of doing things that, once you study her culture, makes a lot of sense for her. I think it boils down to people feeling attacked that their intellect is being challenged (even though it isn’t). For some people, sadly, owning a lot of books *is* their grounds for personality…

      Like

  7. Elley says:

    What a wonderful post. I think you’re so right – people have been so quick to take offense and be super defensive about her advice. I like that she lets her clients choose what is important to them and sparks joy for them, and if they want to keep something there is zero judgement. Not like some of those makeover reality shows where they shame the person about the things they love and bully them into getting rid of the things that person truly enjoys and forces them to replace their entire style and wardrobe just because it’s not the “in” thing.

    I also love what you have to say about giving books away giving them new life. I’m in the process of doing a big book reorganization (I literally own over a thousand books… like a LOT over a thousand… heh…) and a big part of that is weeding out books. Some of them are easier than others (old textbooks!) but some are a lot harder (romance novels I really enjoyed, but I typically don’t reread romance novels). And then there are some I know I’ll keep (sci-fi/fantasy that I think my husband will like to read, or that I know I’ll lean to friends/coworkers, or think my kids will like when they’re older). Sometimes it can help if you know a specific person to give books to – like with my romance novels, I pass them all on to my mom first, and she reads what she likes before passing the lot on to Goodwill (or wherever) so I don’t need to do that part. That way I’m giving them a good home with a friend (as far as my brain is concerned) rather than “getting rid of them”, and it’s a little easier, haha. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bookish Rita says:

      Thank you so much for your kind comment — it’s made my day 💖 It’s so lovely seeing people share their love of books in this physical way. I’m sure everyone around you who has gotten to keep your books is very very happy to have new stories to dive into ☺️

      Like

  8. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says:

    Marie Kondo has completely inspired me to declutter, and I 100% agree that the people who complain are taking her advice all wrong. Most of my books DO spark joy, so I would have no reason to get rid of them. But the ones that don’t? Why hold onto them out of guilt or a sense of obligation or something? I think this way of thinking about your things (including your books) can be so freeing!

    Like

  9. Liliana says:

    I saw the outrage on Twitter and it surprised me! I read Marie Kondo’s book a year or two ago and it *was* actually life changing! I loved her tips! (I have yet to watch the show, though.) I’m gonna be honest though, I totally skipped over the book part. I could not bring myself to get rid of any of my books. Lol. A good percentage of my books are unread, so I do want to get to them eventually. As for the books I have read and have decided to keep, well, I’m like you! I decide to keep them based on rereadability! If after I have read a book I decide I don’t want to keep it, I move it to my “giveaway list” where I give them away on my blog or to my friends and family when they come over. It’s seriously no big deal, so I was shocked at the outrage over this. If you don’t want to get rid of your books, then don’t! People nowadays… lol.

    Like

  10. Samantha says:

    Excellent post! I kind of live under a rock so I only recently found out about the outrage, but it really surprises me! It goes to show how things can be misunderstood and then spread like a wildfire on the internet!

    I used to always hold on to every book myself, but after graduating I realized I was getting really overwhelmed by the amount of books I had. I decided to unhaul, and I’ve been periodically decluttering my book collection ever since. Of course, I keep my favourites, but I unhaul the ones that do not bring me any joy. I really like the idea of giving them a second life to give someone else value, rather than have them collect dust on my shelves, never to be read (again).

    Liked by 1 person

  11. lalafulton says:

    Yaaaaay fantastic post! That backlash against Marie was RIDICULOUS because if you love your books they spark joy…and she’d never tell you to get rid of them!
    I def have books that I won’t read/didn’t like and have no reason to keep! It has to be okay to get rid of books!
    It’s all about what works for YOU. 🖤

    Liked by 1 person

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