I recently indulged in the new tidying-up phenomenon – the lifestyle of minimalism and possession-free living, and I embraced almost all of the tenets of disposal.
I listened to an audiobook in my car about how throwing out just about everything in your house will lead to a life of contentment, fulfillment, practically ascetic nirvana. Yes! Throwaway throwaway throwaway! What the hell do we need eight bath towels for?! Out they go! 16 drinking glasses? Are you kidding me? Buh-bye! Let’s donate everything. What the flim-flam are all these pillows doing in here? “Minimalism!” I shout, ready to paint my face Braveheart blue and rally the troops. All we really need in this four-bedroom house is a fork, a roll of toilet paper, and a sleeping bag, right?
Oh, and those 2,600 books up there on the walls. Those can stay.
“But, oh crap. What am I going to do with these?!” I stand back and survey my to-be-read pile, which is not really a pile, but shelves. And these are just my TO READ books, not my ALREADY READ books, which take up several more bookcases. Two book cases’ worth of to-read shelves. With piles on top. And I just balanced seven new books on top of those piles with Jenga-master-like precision.
My husband, Dan*, stands behind me and puts his hand on my shoulder, comforting me as though we’re standing in front of a coffin. His TBR pile/shelf/embarrassment of riches is almost as shaming as mine. “It’s going to be okay,” he says. Pat, pat, pat. “It’s fine.”
“But, I really should stop.” I place my hand over the top seven books, chagrined, as though that will hide anything.
Then, something profound happened. A Zen moment. Epiphany and wonderment. Dan asks, “Does buying books make you happy?”
I turn and look at him, transformed.
YES. YES, IT DOES.
“Then buy them,” says the oracle. And, I remember, the audiobook told me not to throw away things that make me happy. They can all stay! All 578 of them! I happily boxed up old toys, outgrown or unneeded clothes, knowing that all my precious literary darlings would be safe.
Then that Spartan minimalist harpy went rogue: “Pare down the books,” she commanded. Get rid of all of them, she practically advised, even the ones you love. You’re never really going to re-read them, are you? Those books you kinda loved? Pitch ‘em. What about your absolute favorites? Eh, they can go. You got what you needed and now they’re just rotting paper. Kick ‘em to the curb. Are you actually going to read all those purchased books “someday”? Somehow, she instructs, they’re ruining your life. I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the idea.
“Oh no you don’t, LADY!” I screamed at the audiobook. “YOU’RE ruining my life with your cavalier disregard!”
Dan sighs and shakes his head at me. “I think this part of the book just doesn’t apply to you.”
I call bunk on the book paring, especially the electronic books. What does it hurt? Is anyone suffering because I have 350 e-books on my Kindle Fire? No! And here’s the secret: I’m not suffering, either! Lady Bookless on my audiobook may disagree, and for some people having a tidy shelf with three or four books on it is sufficient and the first step to carefree living. To me, however, that is akin to stripping me of my identity.
And if you’re like me, I urge you to embrace your TBR pile, however grossly overfed it may be. Revel in it. Celebrate it! These are your choices for happiness! Swim in them like Scrooge McDuck!
Float away to complete bliss riding on the ship of your book piles. If you’ve Japanese-tidied, then you don’t have anywhere to sleep anyway because you gave away all your bed linens. Curl up on all your unread books and sleep with contented ownership. Dream of all the books you have yet to buy.
*Dan is not Dan’s real name. Our youngest child couldn’t say “Dad.” It came out “Dan.” Now we all call him Dan. Or, more specifically, his full moniker: Dan, Dan, the Garbage Can.