My minimalist journey began with books. I read an article which referred to Karen Kingston’s idea that books are ‘collections of old ideas'. At the time this was so distant from my own views on my prized book collection that I was shocked and dismissed the idea as absurd. Somehow though, I couldn't quite get it out of my mind. I read Kingston's book "Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui" in one sitting and while not all of it appealed to me, gradually I began to question why we had so many books.
I come from a family of big readers and big book hoarders, as does my husband. Every time we moved house more and more of our boxes were full of books. When we visited our parents, we came away with more books from our childhood. We accumulated hundreds of books while at University- some were required reading but the majority came from the magical second-hand bookshops in Edinburgh, favourite haunts of ours during our student days. At Christmas and birthdays we gave each other books, we asked relatives for books. When we started our family, piles of children’s books began to accumulate too, as presents and bought from charity shops. We were also then given the 'legacy' books, those that had been kept by previous generations for us to have. Still only in our mid-twenties we already had hundreds and hundreds of books in our home and more in boxes still to collect.
Something had to change or we were never going to be able to live the life we want to. Our books, while stimulating and much loved, also had the potential to hold us back and weigh us down and we did not want that to happen.
So we started to get rid of them- shelf by shelf, box by box. Each time we slimmed them down the out pile went straight in the car for the next charity shop run. We sifted through the keep piles at least two or three times over the few months before we left the UK, each time managing to get rid of more. My husband's grandparents had very kindly agreed to let us store some belongings in their attic and both they and my mother-in-law assured us that there was no need to get rid of books. They were aghast that we were even considering it. To have huge piles of books getting damp in an attic for us to deal with in the future? No thanks. I'd much rather give them to charity, let the charity earn some money and release them for future readers.
It was an emotional process and some we did choose to keep- our very favourites, some of my husband's beautiful photography books and a few that we loved and could not be replaced. The legacy ones? Unless we truly loved them ourselves and not because we felt we should- out they went. It felt great.
Now that we're thousands of miles away, I don't miss them at all; I just want to get rid of more! Still, I feel proud at how far we've come and no longer feel I have to be surrounded by all the books I've ever read. We don't need hundreds of books on our shelves to prove that we are intelligent or well read.
Somehow we still managed to bring lots of books with us to China but they were all children’s ones. Our sons are 3 and 1 and the Kindle doesn’t really cater for them yet! The baby board books will go no further though; we’ll find a good home for them here and lighten our load even more. Next time we live in the UK we’ll be making much better use of our library cards and as for now I’m really enjoying my Kindle and my ‘collection of new ideas’!