Hitting the Books, KonMari-Style.


My newly-tidied bookshelves!
It had been about a week and a half (maybe longer) since I tackled the laundry closet at JC's condo, using the discarding and tidying methods of Marie Kondo.   From there, I was content to sort of float along, resting on my laurels - until I realized that things were looking a bit messy around here.   Not 'messy' compared to before I started KonMari - but messy now, by my new standards of tidying.

I was having trouble motivating myself to move on to the next step (papers at JC's, books at my place).   So I made a little bargain with myself, to just do one shelf or drawer.   I tackled a shelf of towels and sheets inside JC's armoire.   There weren't many, and nothing to discard - I simply went through everything, wiped down the shelf, and re-folded the linens neatly.

And it immediately rekindled my enthusiasm and sense of purpose.   I became committed to tackling the bookshelves at my place - I had already pulled ever book I could find, and set them together in my dining area-cum-study, where they have been gathering dust for the past three weeks.

Late Wednesday evening, I took every book off of the shelves and table (music scores are exempt and are in another area, to be sorted another time).   I set them on the floor in great heaps.   This took about fifteen minutes.   Then I walked away from it, and took a brief break, before returning and starting the sorting process.

Sorting books is HARD.   Much harder than sorting clothing.  At least, it's harder for me.   I can hold a blouse, or a pair of shoes, and know whether or not it will make the cut - and then dispassionately release the item out of my life. 

Books are harder.   Books are personal.   I remember clearly how my mom always read aloud to us, the way she could bring the characters to life.   I also remember, clearly, the first day I spelled out a word, how it felt like this door suddenly opened out onto this wondrous world - a world of endless possibility.  A world where I could go anywhere, be anything.   A world - in print - that was my playground.

Marie Kondo recommends, in her book, that you take each book, one at a time, hold it in your hands, and ask, "does this thrill me?"  By no means should you open the book and start reading, she cautions, because you will get distracted.

Some books I held and felt that immediate thrill.   Others...  I was not sure of.   Then I opened them.   Mistake!   I could not let them go - even though I knew I would probably not re-read (or even first-read) them. So I set them aside in a 'maybe' pile. 

Within ten minutes of starting, I already had a maybe pile that was the same size as the 'thrill' pile... and waaaay larger than the discard pile. 

After an hour, I was almost finished - and I knew that when I did finish... I would need to do this exercise again.  I didn't put any of the books back on the shelves, not even the 'thrill' ones.   I separated out the discards, and because it was very late, I got ready for bed, resolving to leave it for the next day.  The last thing I would do before retiring for the night, was to put all the 'keepers' back on the floor.   I vowed to get up early and sort again before class.

As I put the 'keepers' back on the floor, I was able to pull out seven more books and add them to the discards.

This was the beginning of the book-sorting.
This is the donation pile, after the first sorting.   As you can see, there is not a lot here.

I awoke the next morning - late, because I overslept.    No early-morning sort for me.   I was scurrying to get ready for dance class - but as I walked past the piles of books, I was able to pull several more right off the top, and add it to the discards, to be donated.   When I got home from class, I took some time - got showered, had a light meal, made coffee, then I restarted.   I tell you this, because I found that it is much easier to sort something you are strongly attached to, if you are clean, warm, well-fed, and calm.

Before I started the second sort, I resolved that I would do this a third time, then allow the keepers onto the bookshelf.

The second sort saw me adding quite a few to the donate pile.    But the third time was really the charm.   I was able to 'polish' my collection a little.   I was surprised to see a cohesive collection emerge.   It was thrilling, to say the least.

Partway through the second sort.   The process got slower, as I got to the harder-to-cull books.

The donate pile after the second cull.

This is the beginning of the third, and final, book-sorting.

Here is the final result!

These are the books and magazines that were donated (as well as some clothing).
At the end, I was able to donate 85 books and about two dozen decorating and foreign fashion magazines, to Goodwill.   I don't know if they keep magazines or if they pass them along, or toss them out.   They were very nice magazines, and I hope they were able to use them.   

On Wednesday morning, I took 3 1/2 hours of dance class:   ballet, stretch, tap.   And none of it compared to hauling all those books down a flight of stairs to my car, in four-inch heels.   It took five trips, and left me feeling wrung out in a way that cardio-tap simply could not.

Once I got the car loaded up, I came back upstairs and vacuumed the floor (books are surprisingly dusty).   Then I stood back and admired my work.

It felt incredible.   Sorting books was more liberating for me than all the clothing I had gone through.   And even though I had pulled books from all over the house - including a chestful of books in my bedroom - I still had an empty shelf left!   As I stood there admiring the shelves, I remembered that I had some cookbooks I'd forgotten about.   So I pulled those, sorted them in about three minutes, and added them to the empty shelf - which means I now have an empty shelf in my pantry closet - score!

What's more.. even though my books are in a different room, I am seeing things emerge in other rooms, things that absolutely thrill me.  (I'm using 'thrill' quite a lot today).   My drumset.   It has been at least two years since I've touched my drums, and I had been reluctantly toying with the idea of selling or donating them.   They take up so much room.   I never could bring myself to do it.   It is a fun hobby that gives great joy - even if I haven't had the time to spend on it for a few years now.

The clutter is leaving my place... and now I can see the treasures emerging... and there is room now for my treasures, and for the things that bring me great joy.  It is an exciting, goosebumps feeling.   Once I get the revisions done on the WONDERLAND script and we start rehearsing, I plan to sit down, get them cleaned up and tuned, and drive my neighbors insane as I play along to my favorite Eagles, Boston, and Led Zeppelin tunes. 

I just wanna bang on the drums all day.

I plan to revisit those bookshelves in a few months, and see what is ready to be passed along to someone else.

As a final note, I want to mention...   if/when you do a book cull, be sure and stretch.  Stretch your lower back, upper back, back of your neck, shoulders, and hamstrings.  I feel I can't emphasize this enough, because at one point, when straightening up from taking a pile of books off the bottom shelf of a case, I lost my balance, stumbled slightly, and felt my back torque a little.  If I hadn't done a long stretch session earlier in the day, I think I really would have crunched my lower spine in that moment.   A small stack of books can be heavier and more awkward than you might expect, and they have a tendency to slide around when you're carrying a stack.   So be careful, and take care of your back!


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