Marie Kondo, known for Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, came out with a new Netflix series, in which she says people should throw away books that don’t “spark joy” or even rip out pages that spark joy and toss the rest. Book lovers, of course, were outraged.
I went ahead and watched some of the episodes to see what it was really about. I’ve skimmed through her book some time ago because my mom told me to, although I didn’t read it thoroughly. I, too, am upset at the mere thought of the senseless atrocity of tearing books apart. But everything else, I have to say I’m in agreement with Kondo for the most part. I certainly am a book lover, and I am not really into organization, but most importantly, I am a pragmatist.
I live in a megalopolis, where physical space isn’t cheap. And since I don’t own a home, I am at the mercy of my landlord and I have to move whenever the landlord decides to not renew the lease. Owning a lot of paper books is, if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, a burden. It especially makes less sense when I have access to multiple public and private libraries, big and small, (perks of living in an expensive big city) and it’s 2019 and you can have a million books in an iPad mini smaller than an average book.
Just recently, my family had to move because the landlord decided to raise rent significantly if we are going to stay. My mom told me that I have to let go of most of the books; I complied. I thought it was gonna be hard, but it really wasn’t. I ended up donating (and throwing away what charities wouldn’t take) most of them save for 40 books, not many more than Marie Kondo says she owns. I just asked myself, why do I have to keep this? And if I couldn’t provide a convincing answer to that, the book is probably more useful to somebody else.
I make regular visits to thrift stores and used book stores, both selling books that I’m done with and to buy new (well, not new, but new for me) books. It is exhilarating for me. And it’s only possible for me to buy those books because someone somewhere has had them, and let them go. So letting go of my books wasn’t difficult or sad. I only hoped that someone else would get the joy and information from them as I did.
In the Netflix show, as people parted with their books, they will hold the books and say, “Thank you.” It really resonated with me. It’s like the Ariana Grande song, Thank U, Next. I have loved you, but then it came time for us to go separate ways. Thank you for everything, but I am moving on. Letting go of them doesn’t mean you don’t love or value books; if anything, it means growth, and it makes you appreciate books more. I think that’s where the book lovers getting upset are misunderstood.
Even out of forty or so books I currently own, there are only a few that I intend to keep. The rest are being sold or donated after I’m done with them. Some of the ones are Cosmos by Carl Sagan, which brings me cosmic wonder, and The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton, which I read in the height of my teenage angst, and A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, which gives me female aspirations for financial stability, and so on. I have decided to keep them because they inspire me anew every time I open them. They spark joy, if you will. They mean more to me than other books. And I think that if you are completely honest with yourself, some books mean more to you than others.
The tough love in all this is: If you knew every book in your possession sparked joy in you and hence would survive the KonMari method, you would have no reason to be upset. A lot of people keep books (and other things) out of habit or some kind of guilt, and it’s upsetting to confront that.
The books I intend to keep long-term spark joy in me, and the ones that are kept because I haven’t read them are attached to specific plans as to when I will read them, not obscure “eventually”. Be more intentional and mindful with your possessions, that’s all what Marie Kondo is about.