Are your books keeping you from getting organized?

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I’ve organized enough spaces in my career to channel the art of organization into a science, but the thing that always seems to put my clients into a frenzy is when we get to books.

Even my clients that aren’t big readers are ready to throw darts when I suggest downsizing their collection. I’m often faced with opposition presented with the likes of “I’m going to read it eventually”, “I’ve only read it once but it’s really good” or “I’m working on my library.”

To be completely honest, I sometimes face the same issues. I love the idea of a vast personal library to lend out the people and ideas I’ve fallen in love with, and it’s hard to come by comfort as warm as curling up with To Kill A Mockingbird or The Devil Wears Prada on a rainy day.

So why do we have such a hard time saying goodbye to books?

I’ve noticed a few patterns, but for the sake of short attention spans, I’ll address two.

We get attached to the characters.
Getting rid of things we don’t need may take a push, but usually, we come around. When we get rid of books, our emotions mirror those when we’re cutting people out of our lives. So often we feel a personal connection to people we’ve never met because we’ve been taken through a journey with them. We’ve seen them through highs and lows and felt the excitements and heartbreaks that accompanied them. Purging a book is reminiscent of saying goodbye to someone you love. We’ve learned from the authors and characters and we feel as though we will lose those lessons if the book leaves our lives.


Getting rid of things we don’t need may take a push, but usually, we come around. When we get rid of books, our emotions mirror those when we’re cutting people out of our lives. So often we feel a personal connection to people we’ve never met because we’ve been taken through a journey with them. We’ve seen them through highs and lows and felt the excitements and heartbreaks that accompanied them. Purging a book is reminiscent of saying goodbye to someone you love. We’ve learned from the authors and characters and we feel as though we will lose those lessons if the book leaves our lives.

Listen to me. Those friendships and life lessons will always be with you. A tangible book is a representation of what you feel, but it does not dictate your right to feel.

We like the persona books create for us.
Your book collection does not define you. Your book collection does not define you, and for the people in the back, your book collection does not define you.

I’ve sorted through enough book collections to realize that the library a person creates for themselves usually reflects who they want you to think they are, but not who they actually are. Yes, we have massive amounts of knowledge from the books we’ve actually read, but we have our own backgrounds and experiences that have shaped us into who we are. I’ve had clients admit to me that they have no interest in reading books on their shelf, but they like how displaying the book presents them.

The things you’ve learned will not leave you just because you’ve re-homed the book you learned them from.

Now, I’m not telling you to throw away every book you’ve ever loved, but I am saying that one a book has completed its purpose in your life, let it impact someone else’s.

If you have five books in your life that you love, and you read regularly, this post is not for you, but if you find yourself with so many books they won’t fit on your shelves, it’s time to say goodbye. My favorite ways to get rid of books are gifting them to friends, “pre-loved”. If you really believe yourself when you say you’re going to read it eventually (you won’t), donate it to your local library.

But the best thing you can do for your personal library is *GASP* invest in a Kindle.

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