Shelf policing?

Although later retracted, first we had the mainstream press reporting Marie Kondo as saying that 30 books was the maximum a person needed in their life. To be clear, she later clarified that mis-representation, stating that while 30 books might be the number which suited her, if books be your thing, then keeping those that spark joy regardless of the number was absolutely fine.

I’ve had a couple of book purges in recent years for, when you downsize, there’s only so long you can ignore the space books take up. My first purge was of reference books – mostly those relating to art & design. Now I love art & design, but it was simply an interest rather than a profession, and one I felt able to indulge fully while my daughter studied to become a textile designer. But she’d long graduated and those books remained dustily on the shelves for quite a while afterwards. So when I moved again, I donated them to her old school’s art department library and felt happy they’d found a good home.

The fiction …? That took a lot longer. I had quite the pile. Well, piles to be accurate. Problem is that I’d largely switched to reading fiction on my kindle having found it far more convenient. The size and weight made it portable, it fitted easily into my handbag so was to hand whenever I found a spare moment out of the house. I could also read it in bed without disturbing someone sharing that bed. I could read it in low light conditions – say when my nearest and dearest is watching TV and an overhead light would cause a distraction or be in their eyeline.

It was only when I got round to dusting the shelves (one of my least favourite pastimes only infrequently practiced) that realised quite how bad the dust build up on the books was. So, I cleaned them and bagged them ready for donating. Luckily the Konmari method hadn’t recently had an outing on TV at the time, so my charity shop was delighted to receive a shedload of unread quality literary fiction.

What that lengthy ramble is saying is that I totally get what Marie Kondo was saying. Keep your books if they give you joy, but if they’re just sitting there on your shelves making you feel bad, giving you the guilts about the money you’ve wasted, then it’s time to remove them from your life. I’ve replaced a few of the donated when they’ve appeared on kindle deals, but I can barely remember the rest.

So far, so happily policed.

But then I read this – entitled Shelf policing: how books (and cacti) make women too ‘spiky’ for men. I took the Guardian’s word for it and didn’t seek out the original article in the Daily Mail – for reasons I hope I don’t need to explain.

I totally get the concept of making room in your life for a relationship and of clearing away past clutter – both mental and physical – especially in later life. I also get the practice of clean sleeping – ensuring that your bed is kept solely for sleep or sex – although I personally see no reason to follow this practice unless you are suffering from sleep issues. I’ve had many happy years as a singleton sharing my king-size bed with books, magazines, a laptop, the tea tray and never had a moment’s trouble sleeping – nor in finding someone to share said bed.

But books as intimidation? More than one book being something that will crowd a potential relationship out of the bedroom? Well, my eyebrows were well into my hair by this stage, but the next admonition that books with depressing titles must be banished totally from the bookshelves – what utter tosh! Especially as apparently it’s only the titles which seem to be a problem, as it’s assumed that men (for it is heterosexual women this article is aimed at) do not read and thus will not know what is behind those titles! So a book with dark and depressing content will be no problem, so long as it has a sweet and fluffy title. Bonkers! Totally and utterly bonkers!  There’s a lot of rubbish thrown at women seeking a relationship and this is yet more of the same.

My advice? Do what makes you happy. Your home should be a place that gives you joy. Unless you plan to turn yourselves inside out and pretend to be someone you’re not for the rest of your life – find someone who loves the person you are, or live a happy and fulfilling life with your shelves full of books which give you joy. Marie Kondo would approve – take my word for it.


PS: while I couldn’t resist the prettiness of the colour-coded shelves, this bookshelf style is by no means necessary (unless it sparks joy of course!)

© Debra Carey, 2019

4 thoughts on “Shelf policing?

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  1. I’ve mostly started buying ebooks these days, for the reasons you mention, and because I no longer have to defer gratification- “Hey, that looks great!” and I download right away. I have given away 100-odd books from my shelves and more from my review books, but nowhere near enough. I’m currently de cluttering my living room.and sorting thrvbooks I find into “shelve” and “give away.” And that’s just one room, but it feels good. I love my books and sometimes have a pleasant surprise discovering one I had forgotten I had, but loved at the time, and rereading.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The only books I’ve struggled with getting rid of have been the hardbacks. I don’t have many, but they were mostly gifts, which all adds to the guilt. But I’ve coralled them into one bookcase, so when I’m overflowing all the others, it’ll be time to do something about them too. It’s going to be time all too soon …


  3. I love to read, but I admit I got rid of most of my books. I use an dreaded now, and I’m much happier. Reading and books still spark joy for me, but the clutter of books in a small space does not.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yup, a small living space does mean one has to apply the Konmari method or go crazy. I know that I’m going to have to do another cull soon …


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