too many books? {enough, day 8}

I know I’ve just spoken heresy to many of you. TOO MANY BOOKS?? Not possible.

Yes possible. And it’s also possible to shift your thinking from “I MUST HAVE ALL THE BOOKS!” to “Okay, so maybe I don’t need as many as I thought.”

Because I did that. (it took awhile–a loooooooong while)

I had more books than all of you put together. I bought books by the crate at yard sales and thrift stores. I inherited them from grandparents and retired teachers. People gave me all the books they were getting rid of. I got free books as a teacher with my Scholastic points. I got (and still get) free books to review.

I collected kids’ books and antique books and cornflower blue books and ALL THE OTHER BOOKS.

And then slowly, over time, I made the shift. I realized that there are a lot lot lot of good books out there. And there are also some really great ones. And more are being published pretty much every day.

And I will never be able to read (let alone re-read) them all.

In light of that, here’s this:

My Criteria for Keeping a BookΒ 
1. I’ve read it multiple times, marked it all up, and still refer to it.
2. It’s super-compelling and is congruent with my life’s purpose (loving the poor/simplifying/missions).

That’s pretty much it. With a few exceptions. (some Bibles, 10 books published in the 1800’s, 1 fiction book, some books I’m still thinking about, the girls each have a math book that they may/may not ever open again)

Reasons I Decided Not to “Collect” Books Anymore:
1. I’m easily overwhelmed.
2. I have limited space.
3. I sold a bunch to help pay for our last trip to Cambodia.
4. Life’s too short to read/re-read books that aren’t awesome.
5. Life’s too short to read books that don’t fit with my life’s purpose.
6. We have an incredible library system.

Not all of you are going to buy into my fairly-new philosophy on books. I don’t expect you to or want you to. I’m just sharing my perspective and asking you to think through why you keep the things you keep.

Today’s Baby Step Challenge:
Get rid of (sell/donate) 5 books.

Today’s Little-Bit-Bigger Challenge:
Get rid of (sell/donate) 15 books.

Today’s Big Daddy Challenge:
Go through your entire book collection and get rid of everything you won’t read again.

As an author, it seems a little bit STUPID to be telling people to STOP HAVING SO MANY BOOKS, but it’s how I feel. (Most of my books are out of print anyway, so unless you’re pregnant and Β want to buy this one or you’re married and want to buy 10 copies of this one to get it off my hands…)

I do want to offer you a little incentive today. Some of you already have all my e-books, so whoopty-do, but if you don’t:

Get rid of 5 books, and I’ll give you a free e-book.
Get rid of 10; I’ll give you 2.
Lose 15; I’ll give you 3.
Lose 20; I’ll give you 4.
Lose 25+ and I’ll give you all 4 of my e-books + the promise of the one I’m writing now (about un-schooling).Β 

Just leave a comment telling me how many books you got rid of and which e-books you want. (and give me a day or two to get them to you).

Here are your choices: The Husband’s Guide to Getting Lucky, Once Upon the Internet, The Wife Life, We Dream of Cambodia, yet-to-be-titled-book-about-unschooling.

I’d also love to hear your philosophy on books and how you decide which ones to keep and which ones to pass along.

33 thoughts on “too many books? {enough, day 8}

  1. Kim

    I know I’m behind on this but better late than never! Over 50 books to go to the used book store for credit. Will use the credit for audio books for my husband to listen to in his car.

  2. jordan elizabeth

    I doubt you’ve had more books than my family…We have more bookshelves in our front rooms than our church library (and we have a big church) and that doesn’t count anything in the bedrooms or school room.
    Anyway, my personal collection is smaller. I’ve added at least 5 books to the get rid of box, and will be adding more as I go through the craft books.
    If it’s not too late, I’d like to be put on the list for your book about unschooling πŸ™‚

  3. Rebecca

    Behind again but as I have only started on this and already have over 30 books in the get rid of pile I think I’m doing ok. Books in this house for the get rid of pile will be well over 100 by the time I’m done. Feels good!

  4. Megan

    Whew! 25+ books. Feel lighter already πŸ™‚
    FYI – paperbackswap.com is a great place to trade books, and that’s where I’ll be listing some of mine.

  5. Wendy

    I got rid of 10! I loved the Peter Walsh quote shared above…that is exactly the trap I fall into, thinking “Just because this book has been sitting on my shelf, un-read, for the past 15 years doesn’t mean I won’t read it b/c it has good stuff in it I need to know, and having the book sitting here waiting for me is half of the knowing, right?!”
    I would love the Cambodia book and the unschooling one-thanks for the offer!

  6. Teresa Henry

    25 books…that was from one of my shelves. I will tackle the other bookshelves soon! I could use prayer for my health. Thank you. πŸ™‚

  7. allison

    Man oh man did I clear some books today. I was brutally honest with myself and ditched a whole bunch of books that I would really honestly love to read but haven’t yet in the year (or two or five) that I have owned them. They’re at the library if I ever decide it’s time. Off course there are a bunch of books I can’t touch because they are DH’s, though to be fair, he does periodically read through some of his books (and, like his music collection, many are obscure and very hard to find or out of print… what can I say, he’s an obscure kind of guy). i asked him to go through his books today and he made a face. Ten minutes later he brought me one book and said, “there’s my contribution.”

  8. Amy

    I’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and join your challenge. πŸ™‚ It is a little difficult since my son is in counseling right now for hoarding issues, but we can’t let our lives be controlled by the ocd/hoarding. So, please pray for us as we navigate this and as we do our best to live our lives without excess.
    Thanks for inspiring me! I got a head start on the books challenge last week. I cleaned out our homeschool room and tossed two bags of garbage and sold some books we wont be using anymore. FREEDOM! πŸ˜‰

    1. Marla Taviano Post author

      Prayed just now for your son, friend. I’m so sorry you’re going through this hard time but praying God uses it in a special way (I hope that didn’t sound cliche–that’s not how I meant it). And woooohoooo!! for cleaning out the homeschool room!

  9. Liesel

    I filled a paper grocery bag with children’s books to pass on to a friend last week. I will go through my bookshelves today!

  10. Amanda

    I’ve been working on this for the last couple years, thanks to my husband’s gentle teasing of the number of books I owned! I was thrilled when I discovered PaperBackSwap.com. I could send books to people who would actually read them, receive credits and request other books I wanted from anyone across the country. I sent out so many books that I was able to donate a bunch of my credits to schools so they could get books for their libraries.
    E-books don’t take up space, but it is still clutter in a way. I used to download any free ebook I thought I might someday read, and my Kindle got so cluttered! I’ve been trying to be much more selective about what I download now, but that’s still a struggle.

    1. Marla Taviano Post author

      You are sooooo right about Kindle e-books being clutter. I have GOT to stop downloading books I know I won’t ever read (most Christian fiction, for one).

  11. Bethany

    I didn’t realize how much I used to spend on books and movies until I didn’t have any money to spend on them. Then I realized that I could do just fine without them! We, too, have a great inter-library system so I borrow all my books and movies. If I find myself requesting them a second or third time and want to write in the margins, I will probably buy it. I don’t buy kids books either. We get tons from the library each week so we have kept only a handful of our favorites that we own and pitched the rest.

    Maybe a tip for people who are on the fence about getting rid of books they own–check to see if your library has it. If they do, get rid of it and you can borrow it anytime you want!

  12. Brooke

    i keep very few books and treat the used bookstore like a library. i read, take the book back, get trade credit and “buy” more using said credit.
    HOWEVER
    what i need to do is go through the books i’ve owned for years but yet haven’t gotten around to reading. if i haven’t, i’m not going to. right?

  13. cyndee

    Can I get some help with this one? I have a set of World Book encyclopedias and several “yearbooks” (the books you purchase annually to update the information in the encyclopedias). I often think of getting rid of them, (because, you know, the internet!) But I balk because of all the money we spent. If love to sell them, but who would want them? Doesn’t everyone pretty much have internet access? I’d even donate them, but again, to whom? I like the way the encyclopedias look on my shelves, but the yearbooks bother me. I’d really love to get rid of them! Any ideas of who might be interested in either just the yearbooks or the entire set?

    1. Marla Taviano

      We moved 10 times in the first 10 years of marriage. And I think I had 3 sets of just-for-looks encyclopedias. A friend, carrying yet another heavy crate up to our 2nd floor apartment, said, “You know you can get these on CD-ROM, right?” πŸ™‚

      My sweet Grandma sold World Book back in the day, so I have a special place in my heart for it. However. Yeah, it might be time to let go. I don’t know of any place that would want/need them unfortunately. I know Half Price Books takes old books and uses them for something (besides selling/reading them).

      Sorry I’m not more help! Maybe someone else will be?

  14. Laraba

    My parents have thousands of books, all in bookshelves and well organized. So I grew up feeling like I could never have enough books. I’m realizing that is not true. We have a great public library system and limited space. We do have many books and I’m not going wholesale on getting rid of them, but several times a year, I do go through and get rid of some. I’m also getting to be an e-book enthusiast as I can have many books on my Kindle and not take up physical space! Our library even has access to many books to borrow on Kindle, which is awesome. Maybe if I have energy, I’ll weed out some books later today :-).

  15. whimzie

    This is a constant work-in-progress issue for me, so I’m not commenting as someone who has always excelled in this area, but as someone who understands the struggle.

    Something Peter Walsh said (in a book) helped me understand my need to hoard books which in turn has helped me start to let go of some of my “collection.”

    He said that in many cases we “feel that owning is the book is equivalent to owning the knowledge in the book as well. For these individuals, letting go of a book is tantamount to throwing that knowledge away–no matter whether they have read the book or not and whether the book still interests them or not.”

    Once I realized that described me and that it’s faulty thinking, I was able to let go of some of that “knowledge” that wasn’t doing me any good sitting on a shelf.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Ooooh! I really like that quote, Whimz. It reminds me of some stuff I’m reading as I write my un-schooling e-book. In the past, we had to cram students’ heads full of knowledge because they didn’t have much access to books. Now we have almost everything we need on the internet.

      I think that’s why I mostly just keep books I’ve written in. Because they’re not just information to me. They’re also full of my thoughts and feelings on my journey. xoxoxo

  16. Jill Foley

    I used to look at books as an outward expression of who I was and what I was interested in. I often found myself looking at the titles of other people’s book collections and thought I could learn a thing or two about those people, so I assumed others would do the same with my books.

    Then we moved. And a year later we moved again. Then 2 years later we moved again. Then we moved 3 more times in 3 more years and I was tired of packing and unpacking boxes and boxes of books. Every house we lived in prior to our current house had built in bookshelves. This one did not. And I was determined NOT to buy bookshelves for all my books.

    I’m almost ready to get rid of one of the 3 we have. If I have access to the book through the public or church library, that’s all I need. The reality is that I won’t re-read most books anyway. And if I’m really in a pinch and really want to read the book again, I can buy it.

    I love, love, love using the library system – especially as a homeschooling family. I feel no need to own every single book we want to read.

    I pulled 25 books from our shelves to pass on – most will go to our church library (of which I’m the librarian – how convenient!)

    1. Marla Taviano

      I still look at books as an outward expression of who I am. That might be part of my relatively new (in the last 5 years) philosophy of not owning many. If someone looked at my bookshelf and saw all the books on simplicity and loving the poor, it wouldn’t jive with my millions of books. Whereas, in the past, I was passionate about everything (and nothing) and my bookshelves reflected my vast knowledge/interests. (cough cough)

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