Monday, August 04, 2008

Another Book Embargo: De-Junk!

I tell my friend and colleague Jonne about the Book Embargo. He is very surprised, as he, too, has recently started a book embargo, with rules not entirely unlike mine. (We both, for instance, make an exception for graphic novels). Perhaps this is turning into a trend?

We just have too many things. All of us. Too much guilt.

My own book embargo has two direct inspirations. One is Colin Beavan, aka No Impact Man, who with his Manhattan family went without pretty much everything for a year. He and his wife are both professional writers (like me), so the idea of not buying any books was fairly high on the list of terrors. Not as high as forgoing toilet paper, which they chose to as well, but still. The article I read and then ruminated upon for about a year before anything happened was at the New York Times. Beavan's book (ha!) on the subject will be out next year.

The other is a book (ha!) that I bought, at Borders Oxford during my first year in England and have implemented in incremental raids on all my successive households. (Only now, to be honest, with real visible results – I am saying goodbye to two more large pieces of furniture today). It is called The Life Laundry: De-Junk Your Life, and is by Dawna Walter and Mark Franks.

My least favourite chapter in De-Junk, which is otherwise filled with reasonable and realistic advice was the one on books:

…think about who you have been and who you are now. Take the great leap and let go of some of the trophy books that we all keep to remind ourselves that we have obtained knowledge. You don't need the status symbol of a book to know what you have achieved in your intellectual pursuits.

How I have detested these lines! It took me almost five years of cleaning out other stuff before I could accept the wisdom in them and start getting rid of books I am unlikely ever to re-read. Five years! Now my favourite part about finishing a book is to decide whether to keep it – and the answer often being no!

Buy The Life Laundry: How To De-Junk Your Life at Amazon.

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