KonMari and the Heresy of Purging Books

KonMari and the Heresy of Purging Books March 10, 2019

Stack of Books. Source: flickr


Content Warning: language, stereotypical hateful opinion of Thoreau


I saw an ad today that said “Get yourself a tampon stash that sparks joy,” which I thought was a fitting example of the Marie Kondo fever that’s been gripping the nation.  First came the adulation of her as the hero America needs, then the backlash cries of BURN HER AT THE STAKE SHE’S NOT GETTING OUR BOOKS (based on a misquoted meme), and then at last, the capitalistic opportunism of tampon companies.


I read The Life Changing magic of Tidying Up in early 2016.  Overall I found some parts helpful, some parts irrelevant, and some parts frankly confusing.  Although Marie Kondo never said that we should limit our libraries to thirty books, she was skeptical of how much joy our home libraries actually sparked, a sentiment I found insulting.  How dare she imply that I get rid of these precious books! I raged internally.  I grew up with these books! They mean more to me than anyone else could possibly imagine!


I would hazard a guess that many of you who are reading this can relate.  The idea of getting rid of ANY books seemed like sheer blasphemy.


However, what I failed to take into account was that I had already unknowingly performed a KonMari purge of my books, although I hadn’t permanently trashed the results.  The collection I had in my East Coast apartment contained only those books that were particularly precious to me, with the rest of my collection stored in my parents’ basement. I didn’t realize this, of course. It wasn’t until I went to my parents’ house and left with an entire Subaru Forester full of boxes that I realized perhaps Marie Kondo was onto something.  The embarrassing contents of those boxes inspired this list, which I hereby present to you: A list of books that it REALLY is TRULY OK to get rid of. Practically every single book in that stuffed Subaru fell into one (or more!) of the following categories:


NUMBER 1: Every Terrible Book That an Author You REALLY REALLY Liked Wrote After They Stopped Being Good and That You Bought Anyway Because BUT THEIR FIRST BOOK WAS SO GREAT

S.E. Hinton post-The Outsiders comes to mind (also known as every other book she EVER wrote), as does anything by Paulo Coelho to anyone who isn’t into backpacking.  For real, though, if you think The Alchemist is lame and self-indulgent just go for a backpacking trip.  Please hold all comments about backpackers being lame and self-indulgent until the end of the article so I have time to sneak outside and cry.


NUMBER 2: Books You’ve Only Held Onto For All These Years Out of Guilt

These come in many different forms, for example, St. Sainty McSaintFace’s  Most Holy Meditations on the Most Blessed Mother of the Most Sorrowful Sanctiful Lord, which you were going to read back when you were 16 years old at a Catholic Young Girls to be Missionaries to the Poor Sinful World retreat.  Welp, you never got around to reading it, and you probably wouldn’t be a better person if you had read it anyway, and seriously YOU DON’T NEED TO KEEP IT.  I know you feel like you’re going to hell if you get rid of them, but trust me, you’re better off consigning guilt-books to the bin.


NUMBER 3: Back Issues of Old Magazines

Why on earth did I have so many of these?  Why do YOU have so many of these? Old magazines are HEAVY, dude.  Why on earth are you carrying fifty-pound boxes of old magazines around?  Just get a set of dumbbells instead, and if you REALLY NEED to save that ONE ARTICLE, bookmark it online.


NUMBER 4: Three Copies of Walden Pond

THREE COPIES?  I can’t stand even having ONE copy of Thoreau in the house.  He drives me CRAZY. I can’t get past the first few pages of the damn book, where he LITERALLY STARTS by saying he’s smarter and cooler than anyone else he knows.  And ALSO, if you’re going to be a super cool self-sufficient homesteader, you’re NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE YOUR MOM DO YOUR LAUNDRY. Arrogant prick.


NUMBER 5: Old Textbooks

By definition, any textbook that you currently have is obsolete.  It’s not even worth it to try selling them online. Bin ‘em all. The only exception to this rule is if you have a copy of something that doesn’t go obsolete, like Grey’s Anatomy.  This rule CEASES to be an exception if, for example, you aren’t in healthcare and you have a copy of Grey’s Anatomy sitting around. If you have a similar situation, please consider whether it fits into the next category…


NUMBER 6: Random-Ass Books You Just Keep Around Because They Make You Look Smart

Seriously.  Are you ever going to read that copy of Being and Nothingness, or are you just jealous because one of your friends read it and you want to seem like YOU CAN DO IT TOO, even though you have no interest in Sartre?  Or that (obsolete!) textbook you got off the side of the road about The Principles of Quantum Engineering?  Or that collection of William Shakespeare that’s printed in font so tiny you can’t even read it without getting a splitting headache? Which brings me to the next two categories…


NUMBER 7: Volume 2 of Some Out-of-Print Edition of Shakespeare’s Collected Works in Paperback

You don’t have volume 1.  Or 3, 4, or 5. You will never have volumes 1, 3, 4, or 5.  Furthermore, you cannot make a full collection by picking up more random volumes of different editions at the thrift store.  It’s never going to happen. You’re only deluding yourself. Don’t get me wrong, Shakespeare is great. He’s also public domain.  Either splurge for a set of collected works that doesn’t fall apart after one read (I’m looking at you, Dover Budget Editions) or just read Shakespeare online for crying out loud.


NUMBER 8:  Books That Are Printed in Tiny Cheap Paperback Editions That Have Font So Damn Small You Can’t Even Read Them

I don’t care if it’s the BIBLE ITSELF that is printed like this.  If you can’t read the damn book, you’re not GOING to read it. If the book is LITERALLY FALLING APART because it was produced so cheaply, just get rid of it.  I highly doubt that any precious, rare book that you’ll never be able to find again would have been printed like this in the first place. There’s probably a better edition of that book you just CAN’T part with sitting at your local Goodwill right now, and I bet you it’s actually printed in readable font.


NUMBER 9: Crappy Editions of Children’s Books

Examples from my collection: How to Eat Fried Worms, in a tiny paperback that was falling apart.  Four or five Encyclopedia Brown books that were all out of order.  Also, falling apart. I’m not saying to get rid of all your children’s books.  I still have a complete collection of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Beezus books.  But, number one: I like them.  Number two: THEY AREN’T FALLING APART.  And number 3: I also had falling-apart doubles of half of the books, which was ENTIRELY unnecessary.

Seriously, unless your cherished childhood book is literally out of print, throw it away.  I am not at all concerned that I’ll be unable to find How to Eat Fried Worms again when I have my own children.


NUMBER 10: Random Books You Got at Goodwill Years Ago That Still Have the Price Tag Glued to the Cover

Marie Kondo has a section in her book where she talks about the amount of clothes she encounters in her clients’ closets that still have a price tag attached.  I felt a ripple of pride as I read that. Good for me, I thought, I may be a bit of a hoarder but at least I don’t buy clothes and hoard them in my closet without ever wearing them!  Alas, it turns out that I’m not actually better than all those chump clients.  It turns out I have a book version.

You may ask what the problem is with a simple sticker.  Well, I am a compulsory sticker-picker. Every single time I’m consuming something with a labe (like a bottle of beer), I automatically pick the label off.  I can’t control it. It happens instantly and completely. The fact that these dusty books in boxes in my parents’ basement still had labels attached proved once-and-for-all that I was never going to read them.  I was only deluding myself. Each sticker was a badge of shame proving I’d never picked the books up for a second. I wasn’t some great bibliophile collector. I was just a hoarder of crappy books.

So I moved on.  I got rid of the crappy ones, and I invested in one or two nicer editions of books I truly loved, and my collection is much smaller now.  I feel great about it. Allow me to close with a list of the books that it is NEVER ok to get rid of…

Important Exception to These Rules: SIX DIFFERENT EDITIONS OF HARRY POTTER

How DARE you imply that I have too many editions of Harry Potter???  Once I learn Spanish, I’m DEFINITELY going to read the Spanish edition!  Do you even realize that the Kazu Kibushi box set forms an AMAZING vista of Hogwarts when you put all the spines together?  And have you SEEN how GORGEOUS the Jim Kay illustrated editions are? And for general everyday reading you just can’t beat the hardcover Scholastic editions.  Have I mentioned that I picked up the Bloomsbury copies when I was in London? I want to finish that collection but I’m also hoping to get the Ravenclaw-themed hardcovers soon…


In closing, PEACE OUT, read books you love, and fuck Thoreau.


Mariah is closer to thirty to twenty. She drinks too much tea and argues a lot. 


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