Books, Real Life

The Lenten Book Purge, AKA I cleaned my apartment

Thanks to Lent, Daylight Savings Time, or that extra cup of coffee, I had a terrifying thought yesterday:

I own too many books.

Even though I’d returned all my library books and cleared out a portion of my book collection last month, I still felt overwhelmed.

I picked up some new paperbacks recently and received some half-price hardcovers in the mail. Instead of feeling excited, I thought, “When am I going to find time for these?”

Thus, I concluded: too many books…still.

I made it my mission to clear my apartment of unwanted items (and, hopefully, clean it in the process.)


Step 1A: Purge the books

Picture two overfull five-foot shelves, four mid-calf stacks of books on the floor, and a never-ending pile of half-read books by my bed.

The urge to purge came when I looked at the remaining books on my Black History Month shelf and thought, “I should read those sometime soon.”

I thought the same thing about some historical books a friend lent me and a few perennially unfinished books from my nighttime reading pile.

I had to face it: I didn’t actually want to read any of these books.

My guilt about keeping these books around unread outweighed any potential pleasure from finally reading them.

I tried the KonMari technique of thanking each book I got rid of. Since I hadn’t read most of them, my thanks turned into, “Thank you for intriguing me. I’m sorry it didn’t work out. I wish you the best.”

I filled two cardboard boxes full of books. (This should net me at least $100 in store credit on my next Powell’s trip.)

Several unread books survived this second purge: a modern-day retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; a time-travel romance set in France; a family of witches finding love in the 1960s; a Cloud Atlas-esque title by an award-winning author; a fantastical reimagining of the refugee crisis; an adventure thriller about a magical bookstore; and (wait for it) a story of love, loss, and ROBOTS.


Step 1B: DNF some titles

DNFing a book shouldn’t feel like such a big deal.

It is to me, though.

It feels like a breakup every time; at best, awkward; at worst, heartbreaking.

It sucks to go from excited about a book to apathetic.

I wouldn’t string along a person, but I pretend to be interested in books I stopped caring about long ago.

I’m the type of person to tell a book, “No, I really like you,” while I’m eyeing newer titles.

I pulled three books from my “Currently Reading” stack and decided once and for all that I wouldn’t be finishing them.

I’ll go into more detail in my monthly DNF post; for now, here are the titles I sacrificed.

  • An Ember in the Ashes – I bought this book intending it to be my new obsession. I liked it all right, but by page 80 it still hadn’t grabbed me.
  • The Vegetarian – This book’s structure really bothered me and I never got over it. Also, WHY IS THE SUPPOSED MAIN CHARACTER OUT OF FOCUS? LAME.
  • Anger is a Gift – This one hurts. I wanted to want to read this so badly. I’ve been putting it off for almost a year. Sad as I am about it, it was time to give up.


Step 2: Rearrange the shelves

I reorganized my main bookshelf (previously nicknamed the “fluff bookshelf”) by genre.

That shelf now holds:

  • 41 romance and/or YA contemporary
  • 12 memoirs
  • 7 books on religion/spirituality
  • 13 graphic novels
  • 16 nonfiction/reference books (including 1 cookbook)
  • 8 YA fantasy

My other shelf (the “serious bookshelf”) now has THREE EMPTY SECTIONS. I COULD FIT SO MANY NEW BOOKS IN THOSE SECTIONS.

That shelf holds:

  • 13 middle grade/YA fantasy (I had more than I thought)
  • 3 adult fantasy
  • 6 YA sci-fi
  • 4 adult sci-fi
  • 14 general fiction
  • 1 book of poetry
  • 10 classics

Of all the books I listed, only 42 are unread.



Step 3: Kick out the unwanted shoes

I still own my non-slip black flats from my catering job.

I wear them now and again, EVEN THOUGH I HATE THEM, because I don’t want to invest in another pair of flats.

I also keep several pairs of heels that I haven’t worn in EONS.

I can barely walk in them and they’re not comfortable and I’m ALREADY 5’9″.

I set aside those shoes, plus an ancient pair of sandals that I wore in Morocco.

I’ll see if my neighbors want any of them.


Step 4: Abandon the magazines

I love Entertainment Weekly, but I never read an issue twice.

Buh-bye, back issues.


Part 2 of cleaning commences tonight, but this was all the exciting stuff. I already feel better.

Now to finish the remaining books by my bedside.

Then I can start the Obama/Biden mystery Hope Never Dies.


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