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Let Us Keep Our Books, Marie Kondo!

Mon Jan 21 2019 | Author: Carol Olmstead
I thought I could get away with ignoring Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up show on Netflix, but so many of you are asking my opinion, I had to post something.

Yes, I watched some of her show, and yes, I offer her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. in the mindfulness bookstore on my website. I believe that anyone who is helping us clean up and clear out is doing a service. And, it’s hard to find fault with Marie Kondo’s nonstop cheerfulness.

On her new show, Kondo helps people decide what to keep (things that “spark joy”) and what to toss (things that don’t spark anything). I’m good with that.

But, one of the controversies surrounding the show is her idea that you should keep only 30 books.

I’ve been a Feng Shui practitioner for 20 years, and whenever I start talking about downsizing a book collection I get dirty looks and that arms-folded-across-the-chest body language that tells me to back off. I know it's hard to get rid of books. When I made a cross-country move 15 years ago, I donated an oversized shopping cart’s worth of them to the local library, and it felt like I was saying goodbye to old friends. Most of us have limited storage space in the best of situations and we need it for things in addition to books.

Sorry Marie, as often as I advise people to cull their book collection, I would never tell anyone to limit their books to any specific number. The books we choose to display are the ultimate reflection of who we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going.

That means you have my Feng Shui permission to display books - as long as you can answer yes to all of these questions:
1. Do the books still have meaning for you?
2. Will you read them again? That includes that dog-eared, stained, yellowed copy of The Catcher in the Rye.
3. Will you display them artfully? That means interspersing your books with objects that have equally-important meaning. No haphazard, tossed-in-a pile arrangements allowed.
4. Do you promise to remove one book every time you add one new book? (Yes, sometimes the Feng Shui Maven’s advice can be tough love.)
5. Do you promise to dust them – regularly?

Hopefully, this will let you keep your special books, and at the same time keep Marie Kondo (and me) satisfied. Always remember my Feng Shui mantra: Nothing new flows into your life until you make room for it.

Need help in deciding which books get to stay, and which must go? Here are four ideas from

1. Evacuate your home. Pretend you’ve been ordered to evacuate. You can take only the books that fit into three small moving boxes, and you only have 30 minutes to choose. When you're done, all the books that are not in the boxes are considered negotiable.
2. Practice worst-case scenario. What's the worst possible thing that could happen if you got rid of a specific book? Would you lose important information you couldn't find elsewhere? Would you lose a part of your family heritage? If so, the book is a keeper. Everything else that you could find in a library or on the Internet is negotiable. If the book is needed for an active project, it's a keeper for now. Once the project is complete, the book becomes eligible for elimination.
3. Play book custodian. Are you looking after the books as if you were a librarian? Are you able to keep up with repairs any books might need? Are your books organized in a way that you can find exactly what you need when you need it?
4. Make it a game. Have a friend pull a book off the shelf and tell you one significant detail, like the title or author. You have to tell your friend all about the book. For fiction, you have to provide a brief plot summary. For non-fiction, you must give facts from the book. If you can't provide details, it’s time to let go of the book. If you haven't read it yet, your friend puts it in a "to read" pile and comes back in a month. If you haven't read the book by then, out it goes.

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Posted in: Clutter & Organizing | Tags: feng shui, Marie Kondo, books, clutter, clutter clearing, tidy, tidying up

© Copyright 2021, Carol Olmstead