Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Great Book-Burning of 2010

I have been reading about the social movements of simplicity, minimalism and frugality lately.  The most influential book on the subject has been "The Circle of Simplicity," by Cecile Andrews, and was recommended to me by the Momma.

I was initially drawn to these ideas as a way to save money, but it has become quite a bit more than that.  I have always had a bit of distaste for the idea of shopping as a "hobby," and I never considered myself someone who had much of a need for "things."  After being inspired to go through all of my stuff and considering where I can reduce, I realize I am almost as guilty of consumerism as the girl with 20 pairs of shoes in her closet.  I just have different things that I spend money on.  Specifically, my search turned up four different pairs of boxing gloves, three different sets of sparring head gear, a pair of snow-shoes that I have used once, a snowboard that I have used once, a microwave that I never use, and most obvious, hundreds of books that I will not be reading again.

Getting rid of the books caused the most heartache.  I like having lots of books because it does good things for my self-esteem. 

See all those books?  Obviously, I am a learned and well-educated fellow, someone who probably has all sorts of interesting things to talk about.

I finally came to the realization that keeping all these books did not make those statements true or untrue.  If I read them, then I read them, and I do not need to keep them there as trophies to impress others (or myself.)  I was able to sell about 15 of them to a used bookstore for $40 (which really shows how much of a waste of money new books are), and most of the rest are going to be donated to my local library.  I am keeping one large shelf full of books that I have either not read yet or have not yet finished.  I will give myself until the end of the year, and then will get rid of anything that remains.

There are some books that I am keeping forever.  Some are very important to me, and I will be reading them again and again.  Others have good information or quotes in them that I often use for reference.  These will be spared.  More than anything, I am attempting to reduce the hold these objects have on meThey are NOT symbols of my intelligence, nor an indicator of my worth.  They are only valuable for the information and stories within their pages, and I can access them for free at the library (almost) any time that I want.  Obviously, what comes with this purging is an emphasis on not buying new books to replace these in the future. 

Reducing the amount of things that I own allows me to refocus on people and experiences instead of material objects.  I think that I do this more than most already, but I can absolutely improve. 

I found it interesting, but I have been trying to define what living a "rugged life" means lately, and I have several drafts that haven't quite felt right.  Then I read this: "[Focusing on experience is] the core of the spiritual life - it is awe, wonder, and delight.  It is the path that brings us a feeling of life, the rekindling of our spirit, the sense of being on fire with excitement about life."

Sounds about right to me.


Annabelle said...

I'm a pathological book-buyer; ALWAYS buy them (usually used online, so I get them cheap), and I always save them. I'm not sure if, like you said, it's the need to keep them as trophies... Maybe not as a mark of my intelligence, but since I'm an outrageously slow reader I can see them and give myself a mental pat on the back. Um but yeah. De-cluttering is good for the brain. I live in a room the size of a cardboard box so clutter isn't really allowed.

linda said...

martin i have a question for you when we chat privately.

and publicly i have a question:
which books did you keep?

i also have a comment! i find this incredibly brave. i love my books. and i've gotten better only keeping the books i haven't read or love. and getting rid of the books i hated. (i have a j.d. robb novel still in my car cuz i do not want it in the house. yucky yucky yucky book.)

Juliana said...

i steal the quote, thank you.
really enjoyed reading this.