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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.

Merlin's picture

I don’t think anyone is

I don't think anyone is encouraging wholesale elimination of the books that one finds valuable and has the room to responsibly store.

In my estimation, the problem arises when that attitude of "Oh, God, no! Not my books!" starts getting applied to everything else too. That's a center that can't hold, and if you've ever had the mixed fortune to love someone who hoards, you know we're not talking about the careful contents of Bruce Wayne's fancy-lad library here.

One of my favorite points in Walsh's "It's All Too Much" book is that idea that the real problem arises when those things you keep (or "collect") start habitually impeding the life you want to lead. If that's books, you're no better off than if we're talking about banana peels or cat poop.

If anything is allowed to get in your way in that fashion, then I'd say it's entirely reasonable to conduct a frank review of how much mania for any beloved collection you can realistically tolerate.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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