One of the first things I did when I decided to try to slow down, was going through my belongings. Physical stuff can be very stressful. Clothing was the first thing I tackled and quite easily as well. For years now I have been trying to buy more consciously and to get rid of clothes that do not fit me anymore. I’m living with a decent wardrobe that isn’t at all what one might call ‘minimal’, but right now, it does the job.
Slowing down for me is all about trying to appreciate time, energy, craftsmanship, creativity and so on. As I’m very, very slowly recovering from a severe burn-out, there are a lot of things that still stress me out and keep me far away from slowing down. One of these things were my book shelves, believe it or not! I have always been a book lover, but ever since I have moved into my first home with my husband, books have also been a very prominent feature in our living room. We do not own a television and to answer Joey’s question (‘Where is all your furniture pointed at?’)… our couch faces the three Billy book shelves stacked with our books.
If you do love your books so much, what’s the problem? You see, I have always been a collector. I do judge books by their covers and I can never resist a pretty cover. I do now, or I very much try to, but still: there were a lot of books on those shelves that I had bought because I either loved the design, someone special recommended it to me or because I thought I ‘had’ to read a certain book. Especially the last category is a tough one. As a book lover and someone with an MA in Cultural History (specializing in literature as intangible heritage), I thought I had to read certain books, like Tolstoy’s War and Peace (never read it), or A la recherche du temps perdu (who am I kidding?). But To Kill a Mockingbird was on my shelves for over six years and I never touched it. And The Once and Future King sounded amazing, but after fifty pages, I abandoned the daunting prospect and never picked it up again.
Over the past five years I have come to know my literary likes and dislikes better. I know that I love 19th century British classics, but that it can take a while to read them. I know that I love reading Shakespeare, but that I also really crave some chick lit now and then. And I know that although I do like certain modern novels like Catcher in the Rye, I barely read contemporary fiction. I have a soft spot for classics, but not all classics. I want to diversify and keep trying out new things, but not forcing myself to read or finish something I do not enjoy.
With this in mind, I looked at all the books on my shelves and looked for the ones that were ‘have to read’ books. I studied them, read the back flaps and tried to determine whether or not I thought I would enjoy them. It took me three times to go through all my books and I pulled out around forty books. As most of them were in mint condition, I gave away a few and have sold the rest via eBay and such. My shelves are now much lighter and I feel less stressed out as well. I still have around seventy books on my shelves that I have not yet read (and I might even get rid of a few more, who knows), but I think I might have broken the spell of the ‘have to read’ books. I am going to read whatever strikes my fancy!