I I used to dream of having a house with a library like the one in Beauty and the Beast. A ladder that slides along incredibly tall shelves filled with more books than you could read in 10 lifetimes. That was before I understood that the idea that you would have a house you could live in for many years (and God forbid, adding bookshelves) would itself be a fairy tale. Packaging these books, stripping down their low-quality flat shelves, transporting them across town and down the interstate, and trying to re-establish this fledgling library over and over again has made me completely fall in love with my old dream.
I don’t want to get rid of all the books, but I don’t want to keep all the books anymore. At some point, I crossed the line from reader to hoarder and need to get back. These are the books that don’t pass the Marie Kondo test. These books do not arouse joy. If anything, the many markers still attached to less than half of them evoke shame. I know I will never finish them again. They know I will never finish them off again. It’s time to end this charade.
But accepting this psychologically is only part of the battle. Now there is a bigger and much more practical question: what do you do with the books you no longer want?
No one has prepared me for this. There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer. The traditional answer seems to be to dump them at a charity shop, but that feels gross. Why should they carry my problem? I know these are not good books! All I would be doing is hoping that someone else would be fooled the way I was fooled. Ditto for the Street Library boxes, an utterly charming idea that seems to have become a dumping ground for the third copy of the Billy Connolly biography, surplus crime fiction, and, strangely enough, always the Twilight book, New Moon.
If I’m not willing to pass my burden on to someone else, my options become much more limited. Simply throwing them away is unthinkable, even if I use the recycle bin. Winter is coming, but using them to keep the fire burning feels a bit too German.
Am I doomed to become one of those horrible DIYers who turn a stack of books into a knife block and deem it aesthetic? Do I just lean on the problem and start piling them up to build a pyramid that I will one day rest on?
I want to have one of those cute little shelves like you see in a magazine, with pots, pottery, and some particularly meaningful books with off-white covers that say “I can read but I’m still beautiful.” What I have is a fire hazard. A graveyard overflowing with paper that says “he was found dead but not for a few days.”
So far, I’ve only found one technique to match the collection that actually works. It’s good, so I’ll let you in in case you’re in a similar situation to me. The absolute best way to get rid of a book you no longer want is to give it to your friend and tell him that he can only borrow it, that he loves the book and that he wants it back as soon as he is finished. That will guarantee that you will never see it again.