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.”
[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.
[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.