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?
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.