Friday, January 3, 2014

Purging

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I've posted numerous times that I've  been in something of a reading slump.  I am happy to report that I've gotten better.  I read over 100 pages of a novel on New Year's Day.  And I've been reading it over the past two days too.  I might actually finish.  It was quite a road to get here, though, and I still have a ways to go.  This is a problem that I've thought about a lot because reading is my favorite way to relax after a long day and it's my favorite way to pass the time, so not getting a whole lot of pleasure out of reading is really quite problematic for me--and I'm sure for many of you if you've ever found yourself in that situation.

I've been celebrating because I think I finally pinpointed a big part of the problem.  Cue the trumpets and the dancing bears!

The sheer volune of books that I've accumulated since I joined the book blogging community when I was a junior in college has seriously been stressing me out.  I met all of these people that I really like and I've trusted their judgment.  So when they say they like a book, I think I'll like it too--I buy it.  When they mention reading a book, I think that I need to have it too so that I can read it...sometime--I buy it.  But when you follow 150 book bloggers on Twitter and who knows how many book blogs and you subscribe to these mailings--it can get a bit overwhelming.  I had to keep buying bookshelves.  I kept spending too much of my paychecks, buying books (and food and clothes) when I should have been saving more of it for tuition and the future.  I began worrying that the room over my parents' garage--where most of my books live--would collapse (it wasn't a serious concern, but how many more books could I add before it was?).  I crammed my closet so that I could have more shelf space.  I'm not really proud of any of this.

I wasn't adding to a collection--I was becoming something of a hoarder and not in the funny way we joke about being book hoarders (obviously, I wasn't to the level of needing an intervention, but...).  I was buying books that, by the time they arrived on two-day shipping, I was "over" having.  I was willing to send them to my parents' house on my next trip.  That's not fair to the books.  And that was rather irresponsible of me...in a lot of ways.

On top of the hoarding, I started feeling judged by my books.  They'd sit on their shelves and say "pick me, pick me!"  There were some books that I'd routinely think about reading and maybe even pick up.  But there were many more books that I just couldn't really remember why I bought them or really see myself reading them.  Gradually, I felt so much pressure to pick the right book, the book that would make all of my reading troubles disappear, that I wasn't able to pick any books.  And my reading suffered tremendously.  I devolved to the flitting from book to book habit.

So what's a girl to do?

I decided that I needed to purge.  I needed to get rid of the books that I knew I would never read.  I don't read that quickly.  I like watching TV and sporting events and doing other non-reading activities.  I'm not going to read the 1,001 book that you must read before you die.  I think I can make a pretty good dent in reading the major classics.  As for everything else...So what if I read a novel (or, hell, even just part of a novel) by some author and rather liked it?  I didn't need to go out and start wantonly purchasing all of the other novels written by them, without really considering whether I'd like this other book that really had nothing to do with the first book and might actually be quite different.  Maybe that one book that I liked was a fluke and the rest of their stuff really sucks and that's why it's obscure.  I'm sure I'll miss out on some great opportunities, but that's OK.  I can let that go.

I had to do my purging in layers.  Some of them are really easy calls.  That healthy cookbook whose recipes really just taste like cardboard?  Gone.  Others were a little bit more difficult, but still pretty easy.  I don't really need to buy a biography on every author I own a book by--I can just keep a biography of my favorite authors.  A lot of the others can go.  I also don't really need to own everyone's collected letters or diaries.  I definitely don't need four different historical interpretations of the same event or period.  I don't need three different copies of a book I've never read (keep the copy with the prettiest cover, right?).  And thus I filled up a tub of books that are just sitting in my room at my parents' house.

But then it gets a bit more difficult.

What do I do with books that were gifts?
Do I start reading the blurbs of the rest of the books I own and get rid of the ones that don't really sound as interesting as I had hoped, knowing that I can always get another copy if need be?
How do I reconcile myself to just donating or trading hundred (thousands, probably) of dollars worth of books?  Even if I sell them all, I won't make that much money.
Since I'm not big on poetry or short stories, what do I do with all of those?

In the end, it's worth it.  I can relax.  I can see the forest for the trees.  I can have a manageable to-read pile.  I can focus on the truly great books as opposed to holding on to super obscure books that really just taunt me and that I probably won't actually get to.  I'll probably miss out on a few things.  But I feel pretty confident that I'll hit the highlights and that if a book is really totally me, it will find its way across my radar at a time when I will jump right on it.

Have you ever done a book purge?  What were your criteria for selecting which books you'd keep and which books you'd get rid of?

29 comments :

  1. I actually have probably gotten read of 100 or so books this winter so far. I have a great library system and so I told myself if I haven't read it yet, the library has it.So I also asked myself.. is this signed? Are you going to read it? When? And suddenly I had piles and bags of books. Then I went to my already read books.. is this a favorite, is it signed, am I going to read it? I'll admit, I even got rid of signed books that weren't by favorite authors. I felt bad but I figure they will find a new home. Now I have space on my shelves for new favorites, new signed books but even so, I've scaled back the past couple years of buying. If I go to a big conference I give myself a $100 limit. I buy for my two sisters-in-law that read YA instead of myself. . .and always have book gifts on hand then.

    So kudos to you for getting rid of so many yourself. I think a point comes when you realize, why do I have all of these books?

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  2. This is a fantastic post! And one that I can relate to, as well. I buy a lot of books and I have hundreds of books that I haven't even read yet and I'm also starting to feel slightly overwhelmed. I will probably end up doing this soon, as well as go on a book-buying ban. I'm buying tons of books but not reading any of them and that needs to stop.

    Thank you for writing this post! It was very helpful and I can definitely relate to it! :)

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  3. Fantastic post! I got into the habit of doing a yearly book purge after graduating high school. Even now I probably have close to 500 books, but I do go back and read them or use them for references. I keep books that have blurbs/gift books and books that are personal favorites. Good luck with your purge!

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  4. Great post! When we moved, I got rid of quite a few of the books I knew I'd never read again. My main problem is the books in my TBR pile, as I have an overwhelming fear that once I get rid of one, I'll suddenly want to read it! That's actually happened once, where I got rid of a book I didn't think I'd ever read, then they made a movie of it years later and I developed an urgent need to read it! I blame The Golden Compass for traumatizing me all those years ago. *L*

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  5. Book purges are always exceptionally hard. I did one a while back and while it was hard when I was doing it, it was so nice the next day when all of a sudden I enjoyed reading again. I know I basically lost tons of money but the way I look at it is that I am just passing on something wonderful to someone else (I donate a lot of my books to my aunt's school and my local library). I found that the easiest thing for me after the purge was to not allow myself to buy anymore books. I went to the library all the time though. I was able to check out books and have no guilt if I didn't like it, it was never a waste of money. I'm planning on doing a mini purge to start off the new year and thank you so much for the motivation! So glad your love is being rekindled! :)

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  6. Wow, this was a real journey for you! That's awesome! :) Sometimes, it's good to just take a step back and re-evaluate what's most important. For instance, I did a book purge when I graduated from high school, because my sister was commandeering my room (a tragic result of being eldest and moving away). Since I had limited boxes for my books to go into, I sorted them out into Keep, Give to Friends, Sell, and Donate.

    The ones that really messed me up were the books I loved in middle school... I was WAY too old to hang on to them, but they were really there for me in a time where I needed them. My mom ended up giving me another box, addressed to my future unnamed children, and said she'd give the box back to me when, a long time from now, my first kid enters the fourth grade. Now, my books are a little condensed, but I have a better handle on what I want to read, AND I've got a fun surprise waiting for me and my family somewhere in the future. :)

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  7. What a coincidence! I just did a post on this topic on Monday--here's the link if you'd like to read my take on it--
    http://bookmammalmusings.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/musing-mondays-making-space/

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  8. I am TERRIBLE for falling in love with one book by an author and then feeling like I must buy everything they've written. Sure, some can definitely be worthy of shelf space, but not all.

    Actually, I've gone through 2 major cullings since becoming a book blogger and I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I'm glad to have freed up space, but then I get sad that they're gone. On some days I'll get a hankering for a certain book and remember that I once owned it. Then that I don't have it anymore. I've resolved to start buying books that are worthy of my shelf space and not just buy to buy.

    Great post! Good luck. :)

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  9. I think that the books that are gifts are the hardest ones to get rid of. I have trouble getting rid of gifts people give me even if they are not books. SIGH... It's like I am some type of gift hoarder!! I don't ever buy books... mine are all from the library. I just don't have money for books.. so I am lucky that way. Good luck!

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  10. I'm definitely not a book hoarder or a collector because I don't have the space. Unless it's an absolute favorite or a book I haven't (but might) read, I purge it. Every few years a bring a couple of bags to the library so they can pass them along to other eager readers.

    - Jackie

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  11. Been there, done that. It's really hard to let go, but once you start it becomes so much easier to do. I still have a lot of books on my shelves that need to be read. So my goal this year is to read through the ones I own, save the ones I loved and donate, gift or sell the ones I don't think I'll reread.

    I think you get back into a great reading groove now that you figured out the stresser in your reading life. :) CONGRATS!

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  12. I really enjoyed your post and I am glad you have pinpointed the reason for your book slump.. since those are never fun.. I am getting out of mine as well. I would not be able to have the cuts to purge my books though. Just the thought makes me sad and gives me anxiety. But major kudos to you for being able to do it!

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  13. Good on you for figuring out why you were in a slump! Hopefully now you can get back to enjoying reading. I get rid of books quite often so I guess it's not really a purge as such. Whenever I read a book I didn't particularly enjoy, or I know I won't read again, I give it to my friend who also loves books, but for the meantime is a poor student.

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  14. My last book purge was 2 years ago when I took 33 books to Half Price Books- and I think I got like $32 for them all! Woo-hee! :) But now that I'm blogging I should just do giveaway purges.

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    1. That's actually a pretty good price from hpb! I get in trouble at that store because of the clearance section, those $1 books pile up!

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  15. Good luck with this! I get the same way when I see a huge to-be-read pile sitting on my nightstand, the pressure almost makes me stop reading for some reason. I work at the library so I really don't buy any books unless I love them or can't find them in the library system. I just wanted to put a plug in for your library--it really helps save me so much money and space! When my to be read pile is too much I just return them and try again with them later.

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  16. This was a very honest post. I've never had this issue to the extent you have described, but I've definitely been in that situation where you buy books that you won't read and they sit on shelves, collecting dust, waiting to be read. In the new year I decided to only buy books that I really, really, REALLY (emphasis on really :-P) want. In the meantime I'm attempting to make my to be read pile more manageable.
    I had my last purge recently coming up with 20ish books that I don't need, will never read, wasted money buying. I offered some of those out to friends and family - the rest will be donated.
    I wish you luck with controlling your bookshelves and finding good homes for the books you no longer have a use for. Oh, and thanks for sharing - I think this is a very relatable topic.
    :-)
    Bits & Bobs

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  17. Great post. I know there could be a purge in my future. Maybe I should just return to the library. My pockets will be more full, but owning a book is so gratifying until you have no space or desire to read it.

    I did have to buy a larger bookshelf recently. I attended the book expo of America and have tons of free books I haven't even touched yet.

    I do think I may have to do a virtual one on goodreads because there are too many I doubt I'll ever read; and the number freaks me out a little.

    Great, relatable topic.

    Happy reading!

    indiereadergirl0329

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  18. I can completely relate to feeling overwhelmed like this when you've been in a reading slump. I had a really bad reading slump at the end of last year and I was just so desperate to get out of it that I overanalysed every reading choice in case it was going to be another bad one. I just didn't know what to choose or even what to add to my wishlist from all the many, many recommendations I was getting. And I have been known to impulse buy books and by the time I get around to reading them don't want to read them or aren't in the mood to read them. I haven't done a purge yet but it's something that I do need to do for the sake of my own sanity!

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  19. OMG, thank you for this post. You have motivated to get my bookshelves cleaned off. It is now my goal for the weekend. Happy Saturday.

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  20. When I moved half way across the country, I had to narrow boxes and bookcases down to 10 books. That was very hard but also extremely liberating. I got a paperwhite for Xmas, so I'm hoping that helps me with my need for space.

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  21. I'm getting ready to move so I probably need to do a book purge, but I'm terrified to do it. What if a book I never thought I'd read ends up being something I'll decide to read later down the line, or it becomes a book club book and I'll have to rebuy it? A purge is definitely something I'm considering and I guess I'll see what I end up doing if I go through with one.

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  22. I did that a couple years ago when I moved. I even wound up with 4 boxes I couldn't bear to part with, but wouldn't fit in my car, so they've been languishing in a closet far from me for 2 years. I can get rid of clothes with no feelings, but books are harder. If you decide not to sell them, I suggest donating to your local public library!

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  23. My family's house is quite small, so growing up I didn't have a lot of storage space for books. Every few years, I went through my pile of books and donated books to book drives or the library. Nowadays, I have a bit more space but I still donate books to the library. I don't have the space and I don't want to carry the books when I move. Since starting graduate school, I have become more selective with the books that I buy. I tend to go to the library and get them there instead of purchasing them. This is mainly because I don't tend to reread books.

    It is OKAY to purge, even books that were presents. The books shouldn't be stressing you out. :)

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  24. It sounds like the loss of money is well worth the peace of mind that clearing out your collection will bring. I also personally think that a gifted book doesn't have any more right to space in your collection then one you bought. I live in a very small space, and I have learned to be pretty tough about that sort of thing because of it. And peace of mind should be the biggest priority here, so good luck and good job!

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  25. My thoughts exactly!! I used to buy books without really thinking if I would read them or not. I have such a huge pile in my room of books I haven't read yet but thought at the time they were must haves. Not to mention my to-read list on GoodReads! Wow that one really needs a serious a clean up.
    I just got back into reading after not touching a single book in two whole years. I am in the process of eliminating books and keeping the ones I know I truly want to read based on my preferences not on popularity.

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  26. I completely understand how you feel! I started blogging a few months back, and already the pressure to find the good reads on my shelves is frustrating. I end up thinking that if every book I read is rated 3 stars, no-one'll come see my blog because I'm picky, or because I can't be pleased. I decided to stock up on books this New Year in the hope that I'll buy much less throughout the year, and right now, I'm happy. I may have to do a purge of my Goodreads want-to-read shelf though, that's getting out of hand..

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  27. This is so great! I'm glad you found the root of the problem -- as book lovers, it totally sucks when some aspect of blogging actually hinders your reading experience instead of enhancing it -- all those recommendations can just be too much! I still have way too many books on my shelves, but I did do a pretty good purge recently and got rid stuff I've "out-grown" so-to-speak -- mostly bargain books that seemed interesting enough for the price back before I really knew how to find books that I really and truly wanted to read. I still feel guilty when I look at my shelves, but at least I can now honestly say that everything I have I actually want to read -- it might take forever, but at least I'm not cluttering up my living room with books that don't hold appeal any more. I recently decided on a golden rule of book buying for myself and am hoping it will be the answer to curb my out of control collecting! I can buy any book I want, but only if I am actually ready to read it. Here's hoping it works!

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  28. i've never done a book purge, because i'd never really buy THAT many books, but i definitely no what you mean! actually, i'm a clothes hoarder.... lol. love fashion and always buying... and recently more than usual and throwing away clothes is just so hard for me, but i had to do it! lol. some of it still probably needs to go, but i think it's kind of the same feeling as you... plus i feel the same about the book blogging community... at first i was like "yay! all these suggestions!" but now i just think i have so many things to read already, i often skip over a lot of reviews... and i made the decision not to read ARCs because then i can't even get into the books that I want to read!

    in the end, that's what matters i think. you should just read the books that YOU want to read.

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