Decluttering with Astrid (6)

This week, Astrid tells us about the growing mountain of books in her home. Astrid is – together with Irene the founder of Flow Magazine. Each Tuesday, she writes about decluttering. 

When it comes to throwing things out, books, for me, are the hardest. Perhaps that’s because, for me, the bookstore is a sanctuary ; a place where I feel at peace and come up with ideas. (But I wish they’d have some fun with the stores in the Netherlands?! Like, having a coffee shop in them, as in New York, for example, with comfy Chesterfields and lamps, where nobody looks at you in anger when you take a seat and flip through the pages of a book…) And perhaps it also has something to do with the fact that I live with someone who finds it even more difficult than I do to get rid of books? Having worked in the nicest bookstore in Haarlem as well as for a publisher doesn’t help matters much either. (Even though I do know someone who works for a publishing company and who can’t bear to have any books in her own living room.) And then again, it might also be that I’ve always dreamed of having a library room at home. I’ve had a photo on my desktop for ages; it’s of Nigella Lawson in her own study room, and I often click on it for a quick fix of delight. This one here:

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Since I do not earn as much as Nigella, and the mansion with the aforementioned library room is just a pie-in-the-sky reality for me, it seemed only sensible to devote a bit of time to Googling the best ways of tackling a growing mountain of books in the home. Seems I’m not the only one, because if you surf around a bit on the Internet, you’ll come across a mountain (!) of solutions, like the ones here:

  • One in, one out. With each new book that arrives, another book needs to go. This is a good one to do, because there certainly are some lesser gods in amongst my pile of tomes; dubious anthologies and titles that I haven’t even read or that I know I will never read again. And then there are the doubles; books that my partner and I both bought before we got together, which we brought in our respective moving boxes to our current home, and that we cannot agree upon as to which copy should go. Should it be his or mine?
  • Give books away via a small box in front of your door, a.k.a. a Little Free Library. These often self-made and decorated cabinets are popping up more and more. If you do a search online (on minibieb.nl in the Netherlands, or littlefreelibrary.org, for example), you can see if there is one near you or you can even register your own one. In England, I also saw a shelf of books set up in waiting rooms and coffee shops where the whole village would donate their unwanted editions for others to take (for free!). The English shop in my town has a lovely bookcase like this too.
  • The e-reader. I’ve had one for the past two years. It reads well, the books are cheaper, takes zero space in my bag and is perfect as the everyday on-the-road-book. To make the books I have read a little more “real,” I write down all the titles in a notebook as and when I finish one.
  • Make a gift to your (local) school, and give them all your children’s unwanted books. My children’s school is always happy to receive them, but they do want to know in advance what we will be giving them.
  • Sell your old books via an online store (like amazon or – here, in the Netherlands – bol.com). I know a lot of people who do this. You may find it a little time-consuming – you need to enter all the ISBN numbers etc. – but a friend of mine, for example, leaves her kids in charge of the task, which they love.
  • Travel guide books, cookbooks that you’ve never taken a recipe from, dictionaries, and basically anything you can look up on your phone or that will have info that is out-of-date after one year, can go.
  • Still need some more persuasion? Books are very much a source for dust mite allergy.

And even though I say all this, my bookcases and living room are still overflowing with books. But not for long; these written works are slowly making their way out the front door. I think.

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(Week 6: the book mountain)