“I threw some books in the trash” and other Dr. Seuss stories.

Those who jumped in half-lit expecting a polemic on censorship are about to be tragically disappointed. The only real connection to Dr. Seuss is that this is about letting go. [i]

I should’ve paid closer attention to “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” earlier in life.

I used the title mostly because I liked the way it sounded in my head. It’s also accurate: I did throw some books in the trash. I’ve been letting go of things all over the place for the last little bit. It’s been nice: I feel lighter. I attach pretty heavily to my things, and it’s that attachment, not the stuffed animal or book itself, that becomes the dragging weight. Being able to let the anchor line go feels an awful lot like relief.

Finances and my need for order meant I never went too overboard with acquiring things I connected to. It also helped that I generally connected to things that are small and easy to hide, like books, stuffed animals, and food. Connecting to armchairs would be a problem.

Lately, though, the collections that used to bring me obsessive joy feel like an unwanted weight. Too many of my possessions are past their expiration date. It’s time to let more of the “very important stuff” go—especially those things I didn’t choose with love.

I’m including more old gifts in the cull. Sometimes, I hate getting gifts. They feel like lifetime commitments, a problem if I’m not a fan of what I received. Getting rid of presents makes me uncomfortable, as if I now fail to value the relationship.

I did my first serious cull last spring. I wasn’t overly aggressive. I didn’t want to be harsh in case I experienced buyer’s remorse post-lightening my load. Marry in haste and repent in leisure, after all. [ii] Luckily, I feel fine. The empty spaces make me happy. The things I wanted to keep but no longer needed displayed were boxed up and moved to the storage room. We’ll see what happens to the boxes down the line.

An assortment of local thrift shops are the beneficiaries of my enthusiastic breaking-free. [iii]  I share between multiple stores, partly to spread the joy and partly to avoid overwhelming any single shop with more than they need. That consideration circles us back to books in the trash.

I might add more. I might expand beyond books.

Do you know how many books there are in the world? Some of Google’s data-nerds looked into it, and the number was just shy of one-hundred and thirty-million distinct titles. That number was calculated in 2010: there’ll be more books now. Self-publishing increases the growth rate: I added to the number of published books myself (though one can download the e-version instead (shameless plug)). [iv]

If there were only one copy of each, that’d still be a lot of books. Some authors will sell millions of each title. That’s a lot of books, with many of them holding little interest to anyone beyond the owner. The older the book is and the more obscure the topic, the less chance of anyone purchasing it again.

Not only are the textbooks I kept from university of little interest to the majority, they’re also outdated. Times change, theories change, people and systems adapt. They’re also marked up, and as I’m not a Kardashian, no one is much interested in my margin notes for Introduction to Political Theory.

There was a point in time, years back, when they’d have been welcomed: that ship has sailed. Even copies of “classics” like Democracy in America (Alexis de Tocqueville)or Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan are of no use, being yellowed with age and no longer pleasant to handle. Such is the fate of the pocketbook, I suppose.

If I bury them in the bags bound for the thrift store, I’m just offloading my problem onto someone else. The books still have to be disposed of, and since the charities have no way of tracking me down and demanding I do my duty, that task and the related costs are now on them. The charities post signs reminding donors that the dump isn’t free: this suggests that I’m not the only problem.

I may have passed on useless with my previous donations. “Someone will want it” is the universal sop to the conscience that knows better. My fatigue with that self-justifying-lie probably contributes to my dropping books into the trash. [v] They’re not recyclable either: I checked. Dropping them into the paper recycling regardless would be me bailing on my responsibilities again. Time to gut up or shut up. I brought these things into my world: it’s my responsibility to deal with them.

I’m resolute in my resolve, and each trimming of the household fat makes me feel good. I’m also using this latest thinning to hammer home my commitment towards consuming less. I’m going to remember the piles of discards, the non-trash in the trash, and the sheer weight of ownership every time I consider acquiring a new thing.

Though in the case of new Nora Roberts releases, the answer will always be “yes.”


[i] The title also brings to my mind Mike Posner’s song, “I took a pill in Ibiza.” I threw some books in the trash-uh. To show Avicii I was cool…

[ii] I wonder how many clichéd expressions I can force into this paragraph?

[iii] This is less about keeping things that spark joy (Marie Kondo), and more about getting rid of things that diminish.

[iv] “I’m immortal, in an ‘I published a book’ kind of way.”

[v] It hurt, regardless of the need and logical sense. I felt a clench in my chest that corresponded with the book’s thump in the bottom of the bin.

By Em

I like writing. Words help me unpack my thoughts so things can start to make sense. Once I have both myself and the universe figured out, I plan to take up macrame. "Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing, and learn as you go." E. L. Doctorow

6 comments

  1. Curbside recyling doesn’t take books, but there are some recycling depots that do.

    I was never much of an accumulator of stuff, but over the last couple of years, I’ve culled a lot out of a desire to get rid of things that belonged to a me that no longer exists. I still get urges to get rid of things, but there’s not much excess left.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. At one time I threw away hundreds of books because I was too lazy to bring them to my library. Most libraries will take donations and possibly even sell some at their annual sales.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a lot. I do have a pile for the library. The trash stuff is excessively marked. From back in the early days of post-secondary, when you still believed everything was important and deserving of highlighters 😁

      Like

  3. Oh, I have a lot to say about this.
    – I feel bad for great uni books that I kept for future reference. They were SO beautiful, full of knowledge. I was going to bring it to work and just ROCK. Well… that never happened. It’s sad how quickly things go out of date. Plus, everything can now be found on the Internet. Not a fan of that, but I am realistic and pragmatic. So, I get rid of those.
    – What to do with books that are not ‘special?’ That’s a great question. I was moving to a different state a few years back and took A LOT of books to a used books store. I was basically told they were all worthless and so I ended up leaving them on the curb and in various nearby cafes in hopes that someone would adopt them. Yes, that was me passing the responsibility onto someone else but I just get this feeling when I have to get rid of a book. Another time, I donated to the local library (just a couple of books). It was in their requested genre and the titles were not represented in the library. I went in to check at a much later time. Never saw them there, which made me sad. I’m disillusioned.
    – I think I’ve mentioned to you in the past that there is some sort of pressure on me to have rooms filled with books as I am an avid reader/writer. While I would love that, I also have limited space and hate the dust that books gather.
    – Purging (of stuff, not food) is quite freeing. I’ve been putting it off for many months now. One day, soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Purging is freeing, and I’m enjoying letting go of things that I’ve not been able to in the past. I laughed out loud at “I was going to bring it to work and just rock…” Right? I was going to take my twenty-something self and my head full of theories and fix everything too. 😃

    Oh, I’d have been sad in the library too. That’s the other hard thing about letting go of books – finding out other people don’t have the love you do. It hurts the heart.

    Rooms filled with books is a beautiful ideal, though I’m sorry about the pressure. I have just the small library and yes, it brings dust. Plus, you have to guard against bugs – I use a lavender misting thing that will supposedly help. I also worry about the fire hazard – compressed paper can ignite.

    Leaving them at cafes was a great idea! I thought about putting up one of those street libraries, but I live on a cul-de-sac that is off of another cul-de-sac. Not much walking traffic to take advantage and I don’t want to feel rejected by the neighbours I know. 😃

    Like

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