Bookshelf Purge


When I was younger, I felt having lots of books around would be smart or at least look smart. Also, it didn’t hurt that one of my childhood heroes, Indiana Jones, had lots of books and look at the adventures he had (he wasn’t a real person).

With that in mind and the help of an uncle, I built a bookshelf with my own two hands a few years ago. I stocked it with all sorts of books. From classic to contemporary, my bases were covered and on display for everyone to see how well read I thought I was.

Occasionally, I even sounded smart. While hanging with the fellas some evenings, a topic would come up and I would share my opinion and say something like¬† “You know, I was just reading Good to Great and Jim Collins has a lot to say on that. Have you read him?” Interestingly, that would be the point in the evening when people stopped asking my opinion.

Recently I was working in my office and looked at all of those books. The question came to me: “Do I really need them?” Keeping the books in the unlikely event that I would re-read them or use as a reference was well-intentioned, but not smart. I knew the time had come to let go.

Some books were thick and heavy with broken spines and others were thin and faded and unopened.  My kids colored on some and others were last touched 8 years ago when I dragged them across town on moving day. They sat on the shelf for years like little trophies, had served their purpose and now it was way past time to jettison them.

My criteria was simple. I looked at each book and if I decided to keep it (To Kill A Mockingbird, Blink), I placed it back on the shelf. If I hesitated, even for a second, I had my answer and it went to the pile (Winning by Jack Welch). This turned out to be a great exercise and I came away with a couple of things:

1. Addition by subtraction works – My office looks better and less cluttered, but I did keep a few books so my Kindle Fire wouldn’t look so pitiful on a shelf by itself.

2. Letting go of stuff is very therapeutic and really easy – As smart as I thought it was to have all these books around, it wasn’t. It didn’t take much time or effort, there were no emotional strings attached and I wish I’d done this a long time ago.

Now that I’ve had this cathartic experience with books, it’s time to turn my attention to another realm. Garage – you are officially on notice!

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