Culling books

piles of books
piles of books

Both clients and friends ask me why it’s so hard and exhausting to sort through books and stuff. 

A psychologist explained to Martin Copenhaver, who wrote It’s time for me to let go of some books, that “from all outward appearances, someone sorting through stacks of papers or shelves of books can seem languorous compared to someone who is chopping wood. At the end of the day, however, the person who has been sorting will likely be more drained of energy. The difference is that when you are sorting, every item you pick up requires a decision. In sorting there is no familiar rhythm to fall back on, no chance to find a mindless groove.”(Christian Century 10/24/18 page 10)

The author shared his struggle with letting go of books when he moved into a smaller office. He explained how easy it was to let go of books related to church growth or pastoral care when he was no longer a pastor of a church. After that first round, it got more challenging. Sorting through the next round is complex because he was keeping books for different reasons. Some were from his father and other books are like old friends that he likes having around.

I see this a lot in my line of work working with religious leaders, educators and clients who read a lot. We all have books we want to read or already read, autographed books, books given as gifts, professional development books and so on. Some books represent a reminder of the good or bad time. Who doesn’t want to show off their collection or knowledge? Yet books weigh a lot to move and take up a lot of space.

Knowing how many bookshelves you can fit into a new place can help determine how many books to take. Knowing the space limitations may help you do the hard work of choosing to let go. Start with several categories: books you have had for a long time but never read;books you’ve read but probably won’t read again; books that you are sentimentally attached to because they belonged to someone important in your life (you might want to make several smaller piles within this category); Books relating to previous work or study; self-help or technical books. With books you haven’t read, ask yourself if you are really going to read them, if not,let them go. I had an autographed book from an author that I know personally and still couldn’t bring myself to read it. I know someone else will gladly read it so I let that one go. With self-help and technical books, ask yourself if the information in them is still relevant and is up-to-date, if not, let it go. If you have more than one book from a treasured family or friend, think about reducing the pile by one or two. Sometimes it helps to have another person in the room.

Need a hand in lightening up the load or speeding up the process? I’m a call/email away.

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