When you’re in the middle of a move, getting rid of some stuff is inevitable. My own case was no exception, so I ended up bringing a pile of books (and some DVDs, along with several other items) to a nearby thrift store. I no longer wanted to keep the books in question, so this was simply another opportunity to prune my bookshelves a bit. I periodically do this (and not just with books), so today I wanted to talk about unhauling books.
A few years ago, I used to hold on to practically every book I bought. This was partly because I majored in English; getting rid of a book you didn’t like only to have to buy it again for class sucks and is a waste of money. Another reason was because I liked having them on my shelf out of a misplaced sense of…pretentiousness, I guess? It looked good to others, or so I thought. I barely got through Ulysses by James Joyce with my brain in tact (whatever you do, don’t read 150 pages a day of this book in the space of a week; at least not if you want to try to appreciate its literary merit and not have your brain leaking from your ears by the time you’re finished). I won’t read that book again even if Hell freezes over, but hey, bragging rights and ‘oh look I’m so smart because I have it on my shelf’, right?
Of course, nobody is going to look at my shelf and judge me for having or not having Ulysses on it. It’s a very silly thing to be concerned with, which I thankfully realized when faced with space constraints and…basically being overwhelmed by my own bookshelves. Ulysses was just taking up space, collecting dust, to never be read again! I could use the shelf space for books I liked better! So Ulysses, along with a ton of other books I held on to but weren’t actually my thing, had to go. Most of them went to friends, who hopefully enjoyed those books more than I did.
And I wasn’t finished! Over the months, I kept pruning my book collection and got rid of a lot of unwanted books. Interestingly, a lot of ‘maybes’ during my first unhaul ended up being unhauled later. I began bringing them to thrift stores or free libraries because it’s more convenient and faster, rather than holding on to them until a friend wants it and is able to pick it up.
As of today, nearly two years after unhauling Ulysses and its fellow undesirables, I still find myself unhauling books. Not so many at a time, and I hardly get rid of everything, but I still unhaul frequently enough. Here are some of the reasons I unhaul books, and why I think it’s a good thing.
This is obvious. When you git rid of books, you get shelf space. Of course, this shelf space doesn’t remain empty, but I get to fill it up with books I actually appreciate it and/or are interested in (re)reading. I also believe this is a very necessary thing if you, like me, will not stop buying books and don’t want to become a hoarder. Space isn’t infinite and I very much appreciate being able to walk through my home. In the end, you have two choices when you run out of room: stop buying books, or get rid of some books you already have.
I no longer want to read it
Most of the books I unhaul are ones I’ve read but am pretty sure that I won’t read again, but occasionally there’s an unread one. I sometimes buy something because, at the time, I wanted to read it. Sometimes, I never get around to it and eventually lose interest. Should I hold on to it because I’ve paid money for it? That’s a bad reason to keep something. If I’m not going to read it, it’s wasting shelf space, and I’m not getting my money’s worth even if I do struggle through the book anyway. Tastes and interests change over the years, and that’s entirely normal. I just unhaul it and learn from it.
Others get to enjoy the book
I might not have enjoyed a certain book, or even if I have, I might not want to read it again. Some books just aren’t my thing, or they might be the type of book that is only interesting to read once. Rather than the book collecting dust on my shelf, never to be read again, the book might be meaningful to someone else. I also just like the idea of passing on books to others.
My book collection reflects my tastes and interests
My bookshelves aren’t cluttered with books I didn’t like, felt ‘meh’ about, or will never be read (again). Instead, my shelves contain books that I love and hold a lot of meaning to me, or books that I want to read in the foreseeable future. My bookshelves are a reflection of my tastes and interests, and to me, that’s the whole point of a collection.
Right now, whenever I finish a book I wonder how much I liked it and if I’m likely to read again. When I won’t, then in most cases I get rid of it. Sometimes I know whether to get rid of a book immediately, but occasionally I also need a bit more time to think about whether to unhaul it or not. And that’s fine, too! Unhauling is nice, but it’s not a contest to end up with as few books as possible.
But what if I regret having gotten rid of a book? Thus far, I haven’t even missed the titles I’ve unhauled. Even if I do want to read it again, there’s always the option to buy it again, possibly second-hand for a euro or two, or borrow it from a library or a friend. But frankly? This hasn’t happened a single time and I’ve unhauled a lot. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
What about you? Do you tend to unhaul books, or do you prefer to hold on to all your books (and why)? Where do you bring your unhauled books? Please let me know in the comments!