As I’ve mentioned before, every time I get the cleaning/decluttering/simplifying bug (actually, it’s becoming more of a chronic condition than an occasional bug), the first thing I go for is my bookshelf, even though it’s one of the neatest and most organized parts of my house. I’m pretty sure that’s because the books represent the intellectual clutter that bothers me much more than the physical clutter: all those unfinished projects and “I’ll get around to it someday” subjects sitting there demanding attention drive me crazy.
I never get very far cleaning out my bookshelves though. (That’s not entirely true. I’ve gotten rid of around 100 books in the last two years.) As soon as I start looking for books to get rid of, I start coming up with reasons to keep them, mostly “I’ll get around to it someday, and I’ll regret it if I get rid of it.” But here’s the thing, of the 250 or so books on my shelves, I count 83 that I’ve never read (not counting reference books that aren’t really meant to be read). That’s about a third of the books on my shelf that I’ve never actually read! And yet, I won’t get rid of them, and I keep buying other new books to read instead of reading those.
So here’s the challenge I’ve set for myself: I will not acquire any new books until I have read or gotten rid of every one of those 83 books. That will force me to decide which books I genuinely want and which books are just “shoulds”, as in “I really should read this book someday, but I don’t really want to.” I’m guessing that, by the time I’m done, my bookshelves will be 50 or so books lighter and a lot less guilt-inducing.
I’ll report on my progress. You may be getting lots of book reviews in the coming months. If anyone wants to join me, please share your goals and progress in the comments.