Are Books Clutter?

Spring is coming. Wait, no really, it is. I believe this.
We've
never been ones for spring cleaning, or, to be honest, any cleaning,
but we're in the process of altering our house so Diana and Chestnut
will have different rooms, which involves lots of people moving all
over the place, and in doing so we are going through a whole bunch of
our stuff and winnowing it down. Or trying to.
It's so hard to know when it's the right thing to move a book along to
its next owner. Many of Diana's books seem like they might be just
right for Chestnut. Or will they? Tastes are emerging for sure. Diana's
love for fantasy is strengthening and evolving all the time, while
Chestnut seems to be heading more toward a 'real girl' kind of fiction,
and it's hard to know what will change in the future. Here are the
books Diana was ready to let go of:
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Here are some of the remaining books in Diana's collection:

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And these

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And these too

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Then there are the ones that she is passing down to her sister:

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Pretty classy having the hand in there like that, isn't it?

Anyway, we're sorting and assessing. The most painful of all are those books that no one wants: Hop on Pop, One Fish, Two Fish, In the Night Kitchen.

Everyone
I know has these books already in their libraries, and our copies are
too tattered and loved to give to anyone we don't know well. The girls
are done done DONE with them; they don't want them in their rooms. But
how can we toss them?
I am trying to live by the whole idea that less clutter is somehow
good because I feel like that's what everyone seems to say to me and believe in with a really almost convincing fervor, but I don't know that deep down I believe it. I think of the
people I know and love, and the more cluttered ones are no worse off
than those leading streamlined lives. And yes, I've read Clear Your
Clutter With Feng Shui (to the so-far-eternal mockery of my husband), and while to him I will sort of defend it, inside I can't shake the feeling that it's all
bullshit.

I know that tossing things is supposed to engender an exhilarating feeling of freedom. But  with the books, I tend to get a bit melancholy. I mourn the lost possibility of being holed up somewhere in a house
and finding a book that has no right to be there and then it's all
yours. Not a carefully selected and curated book, but a random and
silly (and definitely not impressive) book. It's those weird leftover,
cluttered serendipitous (there, I've used my friend Hanna's most pet
peevish word) things that don't seem so possible in a cleared and
uncluttered space. Or then again, maybe it's just that I'm lazy and I don't want to clear them out. We did end up getting rid of eight crates of books, which is really something, sort of. But already I miss them.

A note to all Brooklyn locals: we are giving away all our books to the
most excellent book sale at Park Slope's United Methodist Church,
which
is this coming weekend. It appears to be a really worthy church, out there doing good works all the time. They're taking donations Thursday and Friday,
then selling a whole bunch of other books back to you Saturday and
Sunday.

13 thoughts on “Are Books Clutter?

  1. Ditto the Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui experience, right down to the mocking husband.
    I kept a box of my early childhood books–not as many as I wish I could have but a boxful. SO glad I did. They may not want them now but if you have a small child visit, etc., it’s nice to have a small selection to pull out for them.

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  2. I generally believe that books get a free pass in the clutter clearing. But there does come a point. A point where you can see yourself on an episode of Hoarders, surrounded by nothing but books. I must say, though, that I have only thrown away one book in my entire life. I dropped it in the tub and could not salvage it in the least.

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  3. You’re a braver soul than I. I can’t ever part with books, unless I actually despise them or they are frightfully commercial. And while I aspire to less clutter, I also have been known to bid on ebay for the entire set of tiny golden books that I had as a child and won! My parents still have many of our childhood books, piled in various places that the grandchildren now ransack. I live in a tiny house, though, and it’s a little scary to keep them all.

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  4. I’ve given myself a free Get Out of Guilt card when it comes to my girls’ outgrown books and toys (and clothes, come to think of it). I give away most but keep the really special ones, their favorites, the ones with sentimental value to our family to have around for guests with little children and hopefully pass on to my daughters’ children one day. I don’t think the Feng Shui would be TOO offended by a little basket of outloved books tucked into the guest room, do you?

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  5. My mum kept all my books, and my brother’s. All of them. Now my little boy is 3, and he adores going through the piles of great “new” books at Ama’s house. Yes, they take up a lot of space, yes my mum sometimes wishes she could use that space for something else, but we are a hugely book-loving family, and just seeing the joy on my little boy’s face when he finds another fantastic book, and knowing how much I loved the very same copy of that book when I was his age…well, it makes me glad my mum is a bit of a packrat.

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  6. My sweet T. just sounded out Hop on Pop today…very exciting!
    Although, I guess it means in a year or so, I’ll be having to think of what to do with that same class of books you’re dealing with now…

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  7. Thank you so much for validating my non-clearing-the-clutter ways! I feel so guilty not having a spare, clean, every-surface-cleared house, and it’s lovely to hear some acceptance for another way. I don’t like having an untidy mess, but I don’t see why I should have to give up my favorite books from childhood or my mother’s photographs or the trinkets and mementos of my travels.

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  8. Books rarely count as clutter to me, however, I also can see the case for helping books find new homes in which to be read frequently. I’ve often had the instance where I am trying to remember a title that I know I used to own but have since given away and have found a remedy. I have our house collection in netlibrary.com and when I give a book away I switch it to a ‘donated’ collection. That way, we still track the title down although it has left the house for more adventures elsewhere.

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  9. Books are only clutter when I trip over them in my kids’ bedrooms! ๐Ÿ™‚ We are reaching a time where I’ll have to start a second round of getting rid of some our our kids’ first books. I am not planning to save all of them (where would they go?!?), I am planning to save the most special ones. I have only one (one!) book from my own childhood and I’d love for my kids to have more. And I certainly hope to be fortunate enough to one day perhaps read the same books to my childrens’ children.
    “My books are friends that never fail me.” โ€” Thomas Carlyle

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  10. If they are not read anymore, I think they are clutter. And if you have a place to pass them along (book sales count!), then I’d feel OK letting them go. There are definitely some books that make me sad when the kids put them in the discard pile, but I also know that not every book is a life long keeper. Making room for new is always nice. (Also, I’m a HUGE library fan…I feel like my kids (ages 5 & 8) like variety these days, more than rereading the same stories. I’ve actually made a conscious effort to NOT buy more books, but to keep our library stack always fresh. Then I don’t have to worry at all about purging.

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  11. I have a lot of trouble with books. A few years ago, my parents sold my childhood home, which meant lots and lots of hours helping to sort out all the things my siblings and I still had there. And half the basement was taken up by books. When my sister, brother, and I had each taken several large baxes full, we still had about 1/4 of them that we gave away. And I’m still trying to sort out how I feel about that. On the one hand, it’s a statement to me that even when we had very little money, books were always a priority to my family. On the other hand, there were literally so many of them that you couldn’t find a particular one and rarely came across a surprise because you couldn’t get past the top layer. With my own kids, I’ve only tossed out a couple of books–copies that were destroyed and immediately replaced with a new one, or things that were so ridiculous (like the book that came free with the box of diapers) that I couldn’t justify the shelf space. With my oldest in first grade and my youngest just turned 2, we haven’t–as a family–really outgrown anything yet. And of course, I have all my favorite YA books–Ramona, the Wizard of Oz, Narnia, etc–in the garage, just waiting for them to grown into them.
    I’ve learned to get rid of my own books when I know I’ll no longer read them, and paperbackswap.com is a great way to do that. But I can easily envision all the shelves being slowly overtaken by kids’ books.

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