Lightening my load

About an addiction I didn’t even realize I had.

BOOKS. A hidden addiction.

It seems that minimalism is the word du jour around the internet these days.  Tiny houses, the 100 Thing Challenge, Non-Conformist work strategies, and urban homesteaders are filling blog-space with ideas and adventures outside the old consumerist norm.  Many people are looking for something more in their lives and realizing that Stuff is not the answer.  There is often an epiphany in someone’s life when they come to the realization that humans are not just professional consumers or targets for marketing strategies.  Shopping is not a valid pastime.  Hopefully there is more to our short existence than reality TV.  Having lived without regular television for quite a few years I feel very lucky to miss out on political soundbites, sit-coms, and mass marketing of sports-watching.  Unfortunately, even with my relative isolation, I know about these things from reading the news on the Internet almost daily.

Choosing to not buy into most popular-culture lightens my mental load a lot and (hopefully) allows time for deeper and more elevated thinking as well as crafting a better life.  Daily walks, exercise, building things, cooking good food, and reading make for a calmer mind and a lower stress level.  These are intentional activities not the imposed sedation of consumer culture.

When I had to leave Flagstaff about eight years ago, I began uncluttering my belongings.  I don’t think of myself as a collector, but I had amassed an enormous library of books.  This is what people on an academic path do … right?  Who did I think I was?  Some nineteenth-century English aristocrat?  Why would I possibly need a personal library?  It hit me one day that this was crazy.  I have hauled books around since I was a teenager until it became truckloads to move while nearly always living within twenty minutes of a large, academic library.

Sure, as a person who researches writes for work there are certain references and sources I need to have on hand and could not adequately perform my job without, but I had fallen into the trap of keeping books around “just in case” I wanted them again.  That’s not to say that there aren’t recreational books I would never want to be without and I hope to read or reference many more times before I die.

I was able to sell a fair number of books and make a few dollars from them but, in the end, found that there isn’t a high monetary value on most books.  These I gave away.  I gave away even more to the local library and to the Goodwill store.  I still have far too many books, but now its really just the one’s I love or have a need for.  The ones I may not need but can’t quite part with are: a few rare antiques, first editions, special editions, and expensive academic tomes.

I’m still giving away books but I’m still buying them as well.  Being far from a real bookstore actually makes it easier, not harder, to shop, read reviews, preview and purchase books.  Without getting up I can order a book and expect it in my post office box in a week.  Such is the culture.

I still read voraciously, but now, when considering a book, I really try to consider how much I want to own it and do I want to lug it around? Another anchor holding me down.  Can my local library get it?  This has been a difficult addiction to overcome.  I’ve bought books since I was fourteen and, on some level, prided myself on having such an extensive collection at my fingertips.  It felt good to put another dozen or so hardbacks in my Goodwill box this morning.  Just a few hundred more to let go (but a few more are on their way to my post office).


10 thoughts on “Lightening my load

  1. You’re not alone on this. I too, and my wife with me, have a love for books. Where ever I go, the first thing I seem to look for is books. When ever I visit someone else’s home, I check for books, because to me that is the soul of that house and it tells me a lt about its inhabitants.
    We keep this booklove under control (more or less) by asking ourselves:” Why do we need (want) it?” Is it for reading only, write down the title and head for the library. Is it something we are actually going to use several times and/or learn from. Write down the title and look for it second hand. Has a book not left the shelf for over a year? We no longer need it and it is sold on or given away. We still end up with a lot of books, but that’s an addiction we can live with.

  2. Downsizing my library was the hardest to do, when I began minimizing. I divvied much of my library between my four daughters, sold what I didn’t love and only have those books I truly love and return to over and again. There is much to be learned about a person by perusing their library – agreed.

  3. I’ve been trying to buy any book I can in e-book format. I prefer paper, but the portability is hard to beat. Unfortunately most of the really interesting reference books don’t come that way.

  4. It’s probably a little late to make a post in this thread but here goes.
    When I visit some of my relatives back home in West Virginia, none of whom are minimalists, I am struck by the absence of books. Yet they are literate. They do not go to the library, either, and for that matter, I rarely do. My wife, on the other hand, is a voracious reader, and visits the library every week. But she also has a lot of books and so do I. But few of the books I have are available in our local library system, my interests apparently being too narrow or off-beat.

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