Event A: Netflix comes out with a new series on how to declutter your home featuring Marie Kondo.
Event B: A lot of backlash happens when she advises her audience to cut down on the number of books they own.
Event C: A post appears on my Facebook Newsfeed about how the trend of “decluttering” your living space is very much geared toward people with money, because it assumes one’s ability to simply go out and buy a replacement for whatever gets lost or damaged at the drop of a hat (e.g. pens and highlighters)
Event D: I see this post shared on my Facebook Newsfeed: Going Against the Decluttering Craze: The Book Hoarders Who Defy Marie Kondo.
Event D is the one which inspired this post. I wanted to share that article because it includes some beautiful stories from book lovers (not hoarders, because it’s not hoarding if it’s books!). I also wanted to share my story and add it to the pile because books are something I take very personally, and not only because I’m a writer.
Growing up in the old country, my family lived in a 2-bedroom flat at the heart of a good-sized town. Our living room also doubled as a dining room for our Christmas dinner when my relatives came over. We had an obscured view of the town center, and an L-shaped wall-to-wall-to-(almost)wall storage unit with open bookshelves filled with books. All of them were my mother’s and all of them were meticulously arranged by series, their covers in chronological order, perfectly uniform.
My mother inherited her love of books from her father. My grandpa didn’t have a big library wall like we did; he didn’t have the space. Instead, he borrowed from his brother, who bought books like they were about to go extinct. My great uncle was the collector, acquiring books so he could have them. My grandpa was the reader. He would borrow a book, finish it, then take it back to exchange for another one. I have never seen that man without some form of reading material, whether it was a book, a newspaper, or a crossword puzzle.
My uncle on my mother’s side, his wife, and their daughter are also huge bookworms and they always share books among them. If one reads a book they like, the next person picks it up after them, then passes it on to the next. They share not only the stories, but a deep love of the written word. Like my grandpa, none of them have much room for books in their flats, but they make room for them, and often give finished books to another family member.
My family has taught me a lot about books and reading. They have taught me that there are different ways to read books, and own books. Some people, like most of my family, read a book for the momentary enjoyment and then move on to the next. Others, like myself, fall in love with books and treasure them forever, re-reading them often, the same way one would visit with an old friend. And still others never really catch the reading bug–until the right book comes along. For those people, that one book will forever hold a place of honor in their lives and memories, whether or not they cultivate their newfound enjoyment and expand it to other books.
When we immigrated to the United States, books became cheaper, more accessible. I didn’t have to go to a library or bookstore, I could just grab one at the grocery store checkout counter. That convenience changed everything for me. I became voracious and read up to 4 books a week sometimes (which to this day my mother blames for my nearsightedness). When we went to the mall, I’d make a beeline for the bookstore and come out with 7+ books and not a penny left of my pocket money.
This led to boxes and boxes of paperbacks stored all over the house because they wouldn’t fit on the bookshelves anymore. I developed a system. If I didn’t pick a book out of the box in 6 months, the whole box went to Goodwill. I donated 2-3 boxes of books every single year, but my favorites I kept and re-read so often they began to fall apart. I’ll tell you, it broke my heart every time I had to give up a book because it became a stack of loosely arranged dogeared pages.
When I got my Kindle, I thought I would never buy a paper book again. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves… After re-buying all my favorites in digital form and donating the paperbacks, I now find myself hating the impersonal experience of reading eBooks. Where is the smell? How can I fan through the pages and open the book at random to seek out a beloved passage? What am I supposed to put on my bookshelves now, knick knacks??
So I’ve started re-buying all my favorite paperbacks right back again (and being much more careful with the spines). As a result, my bookshelves are now overflowing (and I have a few extra copies of the same books because I got a little over eager #IregretNOTHING). I have stacks all over the house and I’m losing track of my TBR list order.
This makes me incredibly happy. Except it also makes me yearn for more bookshelves… That’ll be my next home improvement project, I suppose.
One day, when I’m all growed up, I’ll have my own library with walls of built-in bookshelves and one of those ladders on wheels. But I think when that happens, I’ll still end up with stacks of books all over the house.
Because books are not clutter.
Books are magic. With the turn of a page, they transport you to a different universe where you can live a magnificent, exciting life without ever leaving the room.
Books are passion. They make your heart pound just thinking about them. You know them by their smell and it’s such a visceral thing I honestly don’t understand how I could have given it up in favor of a flat piece of plastic with buttons and a screen.
Books are love. They introduce you to people you never knew you needed in your love. People who are always there for you, no matter how long you go between seeing each other. You get the privilege of an unguarded glimpse into their lives, with all the defenses stripped away and you can fall in love with their souls again and again.
Books are the best and the worst of us, and I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without them.
So read on, my friends, and don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad about your library. Books are far too important to be treated like an extra throw pillow.
Until next time! <3