Books to keep - Tidying by category works like magic

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing - Marie Kondo 2014

Books to keep
Tidying by category works like magic

Those that belong in the hall of fame

I now keep my collection of books to about thirty volumes at any one time, but in the past, I found it very hard to discard books because I love them. The first time I sorted through my library using the yardstick of whether or not they gave me joy, I had about a hundred volumes left in my bookcase. Although this is not excessive compared to the average, I felt that I could still reduce. One day I decided to take a closer look at what I had. I started with books that I considered taboo to discard. In my case, first on the list was Alice in Wonderland, which I have read repeatedly since grade one. Books like this, which fall into one’s personal Book Hall of Fame, are simple to identify. Next, I looked at books that inspired pleasure but didn’t quite make it into the Hall of Fame. As time passes the content of this category naturally changes, but these books are the ones I definitely want to keep right now. At that time, one of these was The Art of Discarding, which first opened my eyes to tidying, although I no longer have it. Books that provide this degree of pleasure are also fine to keep.

The most difficult ones are those that give you moderate pleasure—those with words and phrases that moved your heart and that you might want to read again. These are the hardest to discard. Although I felt no pressure to get rid of them, I could not overlook the fact that they only gave me moderate pleasure, particularly not when I was pursuing perfection in the field of tidying. I began to search for a way to let them go without regret and eventually hit upon what I called the “bulk reduction method.” Realizing that what I really wanted to keep was not the book but certain information or specific words it contained, I decided that if I kept only what was necessary, I should be able to part with the rest.

My idea was to copy the sentences that inspired me into a notebook. Over time, I thought, this would become a personal collection of my favorite words of wisdom. It might be fun to read it over in the future and trace the path my interests had led me. With great excitement, I pulled out a notebook I liked and launched my project. I began by underlining the places I wanted to copy. Then I wrote the title in my notebook and began transcribing. Once I started, however, I realized that this process was far too much work. It takes time to transcribe and if I was going to be able to read those words in the future, my handwriting had to be neat. To copy ten quotations from a single book would take at least half an hour, and that was a low estimate. The thought of doing this for forty books made me dizzy.

My next plan was to use a copy machine. I would copy the sections I wanted to keep and cut and paste them into the notebook. This, I thought, should be much quicker and easier. But when I tried it, it was even more work. I finally decided to rip the relevant page out of the book. Pasting pages into a notebook was also a pain, so I simplified the process by slipping them into a file instead. This only took five minutes per book and I managed to get rid of forty books and keep the words that I liked. I was extremely pleased with the results. Two years after launching this “bulk reduction method,” I had a sudden flash of realization. I had never once looked at the file I created. All that effort had just been to ease my own conscience.

Recently, I have noticed that having fewer books actually increases the impact of the information I read. I recognize necessary information much more easily. Many of my clients, particularly those who have disposed of a substantial number of books and papers, have also mentioned this. For books, timing is everything. The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it. To avoid missing that moment, I recommend that you keep your collection small.