Bound By Books

September 8, 2009

Because of my recent success in sorting through the old audio tapes, this weekend I felt ambitious enough to try to sort my books.

Books are the hardest things to let go of.  I have very few fiction books.  Most of them are collected for a purpose.  For example – at one time I wanted to learn to sail a boat, so I have books on learning to sail, biographies of famous sailors, outfitting a boat for living aboard, how to survey older boats, etc.  These books are research material that I believe will help turn a dream into reality.  Getting rid of these books feels like I am giving up on my dream.

There are philosophy books related to principles that I believe in.  The implication is that getting rid of the books means my values have changed.  I know this isn’t true, of course.  But the feeling that a book is connected to a dream or belief is why I keep all my books.

The approach I started with was to sort them into four groups: To Keep, To Donate, To Sell, Not Sure.  Goal is to reduce them to the most essential books that cannot be replaced at any price, hopefully to fit in one banker’s box.  They had been boxed up for a year and a half.  Looking through them reconnected with the memories, beliefs, feelings, and dreams.  Only found ten I could let go of.

The next day I began to realize that the trouble in letting go is caused by this connection to things that I wanted to do someday in the future.  So I made a list of “dreams” and wrote them on index cards.  Also had cards for fiction, must keep, sentimental value, and other.  I placed the cards around my bed and table, then sorted the books into these categories.  The new goal was to sort them and then pick 2 or 3 books from each category to keep.

Tried to use the OHIO technique (only handle it once) but some were shifted around three times.  At the end of the day the keepers were down to about two boxes full.  Had a nice donation pile and a sell pile.  During the day I created a new pile called “the cusp” – for books that were somewhere between must keep and can go.  I’ll let this pile sit for a week or two, and maybe I’ll be able to sort it again and let most of them go.

A lesson learned: giving away a book does not mean that the knowledge within is being erased from the world.  In fact, passing it on means someone else can read it and share the knowledge.  If I need the information again in the future, I can probably find it.

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One Response to “Bound By Books”


  1. I could really relate to your “dream” books, also hard for me to let go of – the piles of language books I have you wouldn´t believe! I think keeping the best few of each is a great idea and be positive that you WILL find the information again if you need it.


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