The final chapter of my love affair with too many books


The final chapter of my love affair with too many books

Professional organiser Marie Kondo believes 30 books are too many for one home. Are books clutter?

Senior reporter

Marie Kondo hit a nerve last week. I started to dislike the professional organiser – who has Netflix users decluttering their homes faster than the next episode of her show – as much as I loathe the dreaded cousin, Mr Collins, in Pride and Prejudice.
And that’s a lot.
The Tidying UP queen suggested that more than 30 books in a home was clutter. Like every bibliophile, I was outraged.
How dare she call my beloved books clutter?
I read a lot. I read on average two novels a week. A bookmark is wasted on me as I tend to read a book in one sitting. I read so much that while some people read to cure insomnia, I don’t get any sleep on some nights just to finish a book.
In 2011, my husband got fed up with my personal library overflowing into our bedroom, so he bought me a Kindle. You’d think I would have kissed him for being so thoughtful, but I was so angry that he never understood my love for the feel and scent of a book that I didn’t switch it on for a month.
Today, I cannot live without said Kindle. But I still buy books. I buy secondhand books, new releases and even books for my son. At two years old, he owns more than 30.
Kondo would not be impressed.
So when I read her advice on decluttering home libraries, I wanted to join fellow bookworms and rant on social media.
However, I decided to take stock instead.
I started with the box of books hidden in a corner of the lounge. Those books relocated to the box when the bookshelf started to burst at the seams.
I hadn't read any of them in years. I then moved on to the books stacked on the cupboard. A few of those had been re-read many times while some were on my neverending to-read list.
As I ventured into what Kondo would refer to as clutter, my dislike for her started to disappear. My husband found me surrounded by books, with a tattered copy of Anne Frank’s diary in my hand, when he walked through the door later that afternoon.
“I’ll never forget the first time I read this book. It was on the eve of the first democratic election in South Africa. I was 14 at the time. This book changed me,” I said to him.
I then picked several Judy Blume books and started to tell him how those stories helped me in my adolescent years.
It was then that I started to realise that these books no longer served me. They were ornaments. And I was selfish to keep them from those who could benefit from them.
I wanted to share them. I wanted others to travel to exotic places, to experience the same thrill and fear and to fall in love just by reading a book.
Perhaps bookworms are offended that their beloved books were referred to as clutter. But Kondo is right – yes, I said it.
If a book that you have no intention of reading again is taking up space in your home, it’s clutter.
But there might just be a happy ending because one man’s clutter could be another’s treasure.
And that’s the mantra I am going to be repeating to myself as I donate some of my books.

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