On Being a Book-Hoarding Minimalist
Two months before my college graduation, I realized I had too much stuff. I’d dragged clothes I’d outgrown (thanks to the freshman fifteen--er, forty) from one matchbox-sized dorm closet to another. I’d stuffed long ago graded essays and homework assignments into almost all the drawers. And I had piles of books (in addition to the overstuffed bookshelf that traveled to each new minuscule college living space) that I’d planned to read in the leisure time that college never seemed to afford me.
I had been reading articles and blog posts about the merits of the minimalist existence and I decided to try it for myself. Something about a life without the burden of excessive belongings was appealing to me. Maybe it was my inner hippie nomad. Plus, the more possessions I rid myself of, the less junk I had to move over the weekend of graduation, which loomed near.
I consigned what clothes and electronics were worth consigning, had a yard sale for what the consigners didn’t want, and donated what the yard sale-goers didn’t buy. The more things I cleaned out, the more I wanted to clean out. However, my bookshelf posed a problem to my newfound minimalism.
I couldn’t bear to part with my books, including the ones I had already read and the ones I hadn’t read that I was no longer interested in. I felt that extricating a book from my ownership was to perpetuate some literary injustice. I feared that the moment I’d given a book away, I’d yearn after it; my reading tastes having suddenly changed to accommodate its subject matter.
Between the books on my dorm room bookshelf, the books I still had in my room at my parents’ house, and the books I had stashed in secret in my closet at my parents’ house (They tried to limit me to a single bookshelf! What’s a book-loving girl to do?), I had hundreds of books, none of which I intended to part with.
Against all odds, minimalism continued to call to me. While purging other belongings had been painless, I had to bargain with myself to pare down my books. Like any good bookworm, there were a number of books I wanted to buy, so I told myself that if I cleaned off my bookshelves, I could consign the books I wasn’t as interested in and use that money to buy books I really wanted. Luckily for me, I live in a city with a 2nd & Charles, so I could consign books there and use my store credit to buy more.
As with any consignment store, it’s not a one-to-one ratio of items traded in to items taken home. I traded in an entire plastic tub full of books and brought home two armloads. But more than that, I had traded in many books I didn’t want for a few that I did want. A perfect example of quality over quantity. I was still paring down my collection of books, but I was rewarding myself for it, too.
When I returned to my dorm after visiting 2nd & Charles, I reveled in what a great summer of reading I was going to have thanks to the new books. And the books I’d brought back didn’t even fill a quarter of the empty space left by the ones I had consigned.
While I thought I would regret my decision to consign so many books that I’d had for so long, I surprised myself by filling the tub again with more books to consign. There were still more books I wanted to buy and I’d found a way to fund my habit. It felt like the non-destructive version of paying off one credit card with another.
Though I’m sure this isn’t quite what the minimalist blog writers had in mind, I feel like my unconventional approach aligns with general minimalist principles. As I understand it, part of the value of minimalism is that when you own less stuff, you can focus more on the things that are really important to you. Because you own less stuff, then, proportionally, the things that are still in your life take on greater value. Therefore, since I still own more books compared to my other worldly possessions, I’m demonstrating the importance of books in my life without them overpowering my living space.
Sure, there’s a certain paradoxical quality to being a book-hoarding minimalist, but now the only books on my shelf begging for my readerly attention are the ones that I truly can’t wait to read.
Are you a book hoarder or do you ditch books right after you've read them? Tell me in the comments!