KonMari-ing the Bookshelves of a Writer


Writer's Life / Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

With the addition of “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” on Netflix, I’ve seen a lot of the writers I follow on social media get their hackles up in regards to discarding any of their books. We have a tendency to channel Gollum on even our best days when it comes to our precious books.

This is the most commonly shared meme among the writers I follow. Each time I see it, I get more and more annoyed at perpetuating misinformation and incorrect quotes.

Before watching the show, I just saw the images shared on social media and also grumbled about keeping her tidying hands off my little library. Then I watched an episode with the hopes that it would help me downsize my closet a little. I noticed right away it would be impossible for the show to get too deep into the KonMari method, so I bought her book. For Kindle; it seemed a little counterproductive to buy the physical copy.

The book did much more for me than the show as far as helping me confidently sort my clothes into what I wanted to keep in my life. Why? Because the book offers Kondo time to explain more about why KonMari-ing succeeds where other methods don’t. She gives vignettes of other clients who had experiences uncomfortably close to mine. Sure, they might not have been as great for entertainment as the woman who bought more clothes as petty revenge against her husband. It’s closer to real life with less of the filter of media consumption.

And one of the first steps of following the KonMari method is to visualize your ideal lifestyle. For some people, even me, that includes an extensive literature collection. I want to have a wall of books in my workspace, silently waiting to offer me guidance, companionship, support, and motivation. Obviously that’s a little hard to achieve if I start chucking books in the donation bin.

I have two shelves that look exactly like this. I don’t think anyone would tell me I don’t need to tidy these up.

Then it becomes a question of which books do I want to stand ready on my shelves? Do I want to keep everything I’ve read as a testament to my reading achievements? Not really. I can do without the Twilight saga (which I tried to reread as an adult and it’s just too painful)), my accidental collection of books on college rankings (saved from a trash bin and a few years delayed from being donated), and probably the Inheritance Cycle as well (I’ve been trying to read Brisingr since it first came out, but couldn’t force myself to sit through Eragon’s suffocating ego).

But that’s my bookshelf. That’s my collection to KonMari and decide what sparks joy in me. Is my collection going to be more than 30? Almost certainly. And that’s okay. Because contrary to what the memes will tell you, at no point does Kondo say you and everyone else in the world should only have 30 books. That’s just how many she has at one time.

From The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, Kindle edition, page 92.

And so, as I start on painting my office at home, I’ll be pulling aside more books. It will be interesting to see how many of them are going to be looking for new homes. Looking at my shelf will hopefully be even happier when I’m through because only the books that really mean something to me will be there. Keep an eye out for photos of the tidied bookshelves (once I actually get around to it)!

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