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Ask MeFi on sane solutions for book clutter

Advice for clearing literary clutter | Ask MetaFilter

There's a thread on Ask Metafilter about book-centric clutter that's getting lots of good comments right now. It started when matildaben asked for "practical and creative systems for reducing the number of books I own," saying:

The vast majority of my possessions by weight and volume consists of books. I would like to develop a system for getting rid of them that will have a very practical, behavioral, methodical approach to the emotions that compel me to keep them...

The solutions people offer are thoughtful and suggest that many of the better ideas are coming from fellow bibliophiles who've struggled with The Book Problem.

Like several folks in the thread, I think this comment from occhiblu gets to the heart of what makes clutter such an emotionally complex problem:


On kind of a meta note: To some extent, I think de-cluttering involves recognizing that regret is part of life, and being OK with that. Yes, I've given away books that I now often wish I still owned. But I've also screwed up relationships, made iffy career choices, etc. -- you suck it up and move on. If you try to cling to every single thing (material, spiritual, or emotional) that you might need one day in the totally hypothetical future, you're going to end up bogged down in a lot of stuff.

Yep, that pretty much nails the problem and the cause for me.

Recap: Merlin's "War on Clutter"

As it happens, I'm about to begin the next phase of My War on Clutter. If you're in the same boat, here's links to my articles from that series.

leibman's picture

Overcoming the regrets...

I think he's spot-on. I do think there's a cure for this though--and that's to get rid of some and see how you feel.

I think we overestimate how much grief and regret we'll feel over getting rid of stuff, and underestimate the good feelings of being free of the clutter and being able to find and enjoy the few things we really want to keep. In the summer of 2004, I had something like 250 books, 200 CDs (and a like-number of rotting cassettes), and God only knows how many comic books and magazines. Since then, I've downsized the physical collection by 90% (and replaced less than a quarter of them with digital media).

Yes, as occhiblu points out, there are times I regret not having this book or that, but they are actually pretty few and far between. There are always newer and better books coming out, and I can often find the information from one again if I need it. The freedom of not being so tied down to so much stuff is more than worth the occasional pang of regret (and they are V-E-R-Y occasional).

The trouble is, I had to start getting rid of things before I could figure this out; it's taken three-and-a-half years of going in waves and integrating the feedback from each subsequent reduction. Now, though, my rule is "When in doubt, throw it out." (Or recycle it, or sell it, or give it away--but that would ruin the clever rhyme.)




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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