I think the most interesting response to my recent minimalistic bent, has been that of other bibliophiles to our book purging. I understand that, I do. Once our last rickety Wal-mart bookcase was down to only half full, I became determined to empty it, to find a home in one of the 2.5 larger, nicer cases we have. Our books have already been pretty ruthlessly culled, so this time, making space was almost physically painful. In the end there was probably more rearranging than discarding, and yet there is another small pile of books headed to the back of the van where the discard box resides. As I wrestled with the process I truly asked myself, "When was the last time I enjoyed this book? Have I ever even actually read it? Do I plan to?" Quite often the answer was, no. Thus, the decision of whether or not to keep the book is accomplished.
I often hear protesters say plaintively, "But books are my friends! I can't get rid of them!" First of all, books, are inanimate objects. They have no feelings. They are not actually attached to me in any way. Secondly, according to the questions I asked above, if these are my friends, I have a pretty crappy way of treating them. Sit on my shelves untouched, unread, unnoticed for years, collecting dust, collecting mold, adding no joy or benefit to my life whatsoever. With friends like this... well, you know the rest. Finally, I actually do have many friends, most of whom I treat better than the books we're discussing here, and not one of them actually lives with me. In fact, we get along better if they are not always up in my space, creating work and quietly brooding. I love to open the doors of my home to guests, but after a day or two it's time for them to consider moving on.
It isn't that I love books less or that I am defecting to some weird book hating cult. I just think it's time that books and stories took their rightful place in my life...which usually is in my memory or my local library. I still have three copies of To Kill a Mockingbird and three entire shelves of my Dad's Stephen King hardback library. Those things weren't even weighed because I know they matter to me. The few books that I truly do suddenly have an overwhelming urge to read at random pre-dawn hours obsessively are nestled safely on to shelves that can actually accommodate them comfortably and where they can be perused in an aesthetically pleasing manner rather than shifting titles or worse, removing one row to see the row stacked behind it. All my other book needs have been readily met with library holds or Kindle purchases ( don't even start with the "feel of a real book" argument, I'll take freedom from clutter over tactile gluttony any day.)
When we moved to Georgia from Florida, we came with over forty boxes of books. When we moved houses this past summer, we had narrowed it down to around fifteen or twenty. We may be down to single digits of boxes at this point, and I honestly couldn't be happier. If we are truly going to embrace a more mobile lifestyle, than this is just one more step into that freedom. If life is about embracing what really matters and shedding what holds you down, then I guess I truly found books to be a weighty obligation. But I've saved the best for last, all the time I no longer spend taking care of my things, including books, means I have so much more guilt free time to read, or enjoy whatever else grabs my fancy.
I call it a fair trade.