After a really engaging chat in our #tidy_time channel at work, I was inspired for the bajillionth time to sort through my books and discard even further. I'm donating another bag full and giving 2 other bags to friends of mine after messaging them my wares. At one point in our work conversation I raised a concern I've felt for a while: If I'm giving my discarded belongings to someone else, what if I'm just perpetuating the cycle of accumulation for someone else? My coworker responded by saying, basically, nah. "One man's trash" and all that. It was a reassuring thing to hear and actually helped me see clearer that some of the books I own could be better enjoyed by good friends of mine.
At this point in the book discarding process, I notice the tugging guilt in my body is getting especially strong. It was much easier at first, when the books I threw out were no-brainers that I knew I'd never read. NOW, I'm down to the books I had convinced myself were worth keeping somehow, and with the help of appraising their worth and kindle availability on Amazon, I'm down to the lowest number of books I've owned in over 10 years, if not more. I asked myself: Am I going too far? Am I forcing myself to throw out things I treasure? After sitting with these feelings and holding these books in my hand last night, I think the discomfort is coming from somewhere else.
When I hold a book (especially an artbook) in my hands that I have bought, flipped through when it arrived, and promptly never looked at again, I feel annoyed with my past self. I feel like an idiot for chasing the high of the New Thing in the Mail, the New Thing to Post on Instagram. The Newness completely blinded me from its lack of preciousness. A new, more strict check I'll be doing for myself in the future is: Am I excited to own this because it'll be new? Hopefully this kind of check will keep me from buying things for this reason. Another rule I've developed for myself is to avoid buying artbooks if at all possible. No matter their value or beauty, I am terribly bad about reading or studying them and I don't think that will change in the future.
Another tug I noticed in the war of evaluating my books is the feeling of defeat I'd get if I decided to keep a book that I considered discarding. Perhaps this goes back to the very simple notion of sparking joy -- I was keeping this book because the utility or rareness of it overruled my gut action. Perhaps I saw a 25th anniversary edition cover, or a book that is hard to get on Amazon, and that was my justification in keeping it. As I set it in the pile, I felt like I failed my own test. And this, in itself, made my notice something more: The price and the rareness and the sentimental value mean nothing if it doesn't spark joy.
I mention sentiment because I found a poem book I bought while I was still with an ex. The book itself is beautiful, but I'd had a connection with the Kindle version long before I met this person. The signed physical book, however, instantly makes me think of the poetry reading where I bought it, which makes me think of that ex. Even though nothing bad happened at the reading or at that point in the relationship, it brought back a memory that didn't bring me joy. The extent of my distress amazed me as I was reluctant even to hold the book for too long. A belonging can bind itself to a memory. If you don't like that memory, you don't have to keep it. Seriously, I mean it. "Ah, this brings back memories" is not always a positive exclamation. I find I even get this discomfort with some of my older clothing. If you don't like that memory, discard that item.
It's easy to look back at my past self and be annoyed that I purchased carelessly. I'm trying not to beat myself up about it. Somewhere in the I really should have read this by now is a deeper voice saying You bought this on a whim, and it hasn't interested you enough to give it any time. And somewhere in there is a voice saying, You're keeping this because you bought it, not because you love it.
I'm going to try to elaborate on this idea of sentiment and usefulness much more in a future post. I think books are especially hard because of how equally each side can pull. Until next time!