…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World
About half way through Marie Kondo’s book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ all about “The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” she gets onto the topic of de-hoarding books, and so shall I.
(I downloaded it as an audio book off Youtube, but it has since been removed).
I quite like books but I don’t consider my collection to be excessive, causing a problem, or in need of a sort-out (although I have pondered the issue in the past), but Marie’s client as she uses as an example in her book needed to reduce their collection. As with everything, she asked the question regarding each individual book (which first had to be removed from the shelves with all the others and held in the hands) “Does it spark joy?”
For me, my book collection as an entirety sparks joy, as far as I can tell, from the point of looking at the rows with admiration: “I read all those” plus I know it’s probably only half of the books I’ve read since a lot of books I read are borrowed from the library. I know from experience that selling or parting with a book in my own collection leads to anything but joy; instead I feel a sense of regret from a book I had carefully considered for the “re-sell” pile, when I wanted to later turn to it for reference or acquired another book by the same author and wanted to refresh my memory about the one I had read. This feeling still bothers me, so until my collection grows too large (which seems a long way off because I have plenty of space for more and don’t read that many), I’ll keep buying.
I’ll also add at this point that I feel that my book-buying habits are pretty well tamed as I buy only books I really intend to read, not just to fill shelf space, and when I see another book I want at a second hand book shop or charity shop, then I think about the books I already have that I haven’t got round to reading yet – that is a slight burden on my conscience, I must admit, and I don’t want to let my book buying rate overtake my book reading rate.
A similar issue could be attributed to one’s music collection, however, my music-buying has declined considerably from my younger years and the fact that I typically turn to Youtube when a song crosses my mind that I want to hear, and since pretty much every song seems to be there, why buy anything? My CD rack holds 50 albums and these used to be predominantly ‘compilations’ of “the latest chart hits”, but these have gradually been replaced by selected albums of choice, from The Ataris, to Velvet Revolver – I like other genres too but those such as classical or jazz haven’t found their way into my collection, yet. However, here is where I notice a difference with my book collection.
Both my book and music collection extend back 15 years or so to my late teens/early 20’s. I have noticed how I’ve “gone off” certain music, whereas with books I can see and appreciate how my interests have taken a journey from one topic to another, but these topics seem linked together; however loosely, there is a chain of thought, and those earlier books still seem relevant, even if I might not reread them any time soon. Some music I have gone off and when this started to happen I hung on to those albums thinking my tastes might change back again. The problem is, I can’t set an album to the side so easily, earmarked for “discarding”, because while the physical album sits in the rack, the actual one I listen to is stored on my computer. Of course I could delete but then I might regret it and have to re-rip.
But today I came across my folder of “random tracks” that I have acquired over the years and upon clicking Play on those early ones I realised I find it really hard to decide what “sparks joy”. Music is a funny thing because I know that each of these tracks once sparked joy, otherwise they would never have been stored on my computer in the first place, and when I play any one I am reminded of that joy and any memories associated with that time of my life, but does that joy still occur now? Do these songs represent me now?
And then, prior to this I was even considering my friend lists on various internet social networking things; Do each of the people spark joy? Or is it just that they once sparked joy and that time has passed? This sounds somewhat harsh, I mean, to treat a person like a book or album! And like the music, maybe the joy will return and I might regret it if I “discard” someone I haven’t had a good conversation with in a long time. And also like my music, it could be as simple as just clicking delete. It’s almost too easy.
When clearing out those books, CDs, or other material things, there can be a sense of regret, or a sense of us doing a disservice to our past selves, the one that once chose, purchased, and cherished that item at one point (because we should do that with everything we acquire), and therefore to “clear out” someone that was once kindly added to our little world, our virtual friend list (although some were added and never even spoken to again), we’re unintentionally neglecting someone, and ourselves (because what we do to others we do to ourselves), in a way we never envisaged. It hurts the soul.
For now I’ll just delete Will Smith and Papa Roach, sorry guys.