A friend of mine is an avid reader. I am fascinated by the fact that she reads about a hundred books a year. What I find even more fascinating is that she owns very few books herself.

One reason is that she downsized not long ago to a smaller living space. She had to be ruthless in getting rid of things, and extremely selective in what she kept. Another reason is that she lives near a library, which she considers her second home. At any given time, she may have requests in for a dozen books or more.

I, too, enjoy reading, but I can’t claim anywhere near the number of books my friend regularly reads. Yet as I look around my home and my office, I see books everywhere. Reference and writing books. Self-help books. Books that are inspirational or instructional. Books written by friends of mine and by other people I know or admire. I have some collections, like the Harry Potter series and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, plus a few of the classics. My books are not just in overloaded bookcases, but also on end tables, the kitchen counter, and the fireplace mantle. There are books stacked up on my nightstand, on some shelves that are meant for other things, and on the floor against the wall in some rooms.

I don’t think I qualify as a hoarder, and I do try to weed out my collection from time to time by donating books to the library’s used book sale and to other organizations that are happy to take used books. Still, I can’t imagine what I would do if I needed – or simply wanted – to pare down. And to read many more books than I own – as my friend does – rather than the other way around.

I think the first thing I would have to do is collect every book I could find, from everywhere in the house. That alone would take some time – and I’d probably be embarrassed at how much space it would free up. Next, I should organize the books into different categories. That, too, would be an interesting exploration, and would probably tell me some things about myself that I didn’t realize, like how many friends I have who have written books, and how much time and money I’ve spent trying to learn how to organize and manage things like my time and money.

I’m going to give this a little more thought, because I’m starting to think it’s a project I should actually take on. Partly to clear out some space and some shelves, partly just for the challenge, and partly because I know that as I actively let go of many of my books, I’ll treasure even more the ones that I keep.

If I do decide to do this, I’ll let you know how it goes. I don’t plan to follow my friend’s example and cut down the number of books I own to practically zero, but I could aim for around a hundred. And then try to read them all in a year.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on October 22, 2015.
©Betty Liedtke, 2015

Do you have any “collections” — like books, shoes, or coffee mugs — that you’d like to pare down? Or any advice on how to do so? I’d love to hear from you! Please be aware that all comments will be moderated and approved before appearing on this blog, in order to protect all of us from unwanted spam.