Sometimes, it can feel like this is the rallying cry of minimalists when it comes to, well, anything that can be digitized. Documents, photographs, movies, and now books. All these things can be stored away in the cloud and disposed of in real life, but what is the value in that? What are we missing out on?
I’m not against digital copies of anything. I loved having my kindle fire when I spent a lot more time at school and work, giving me the freedom to carry as many books as I needed with me (and have some games for fun too). I have few to no printed photos in my apartment, although that’s something that will probably change soon. Most of the movies I currently own are digital copies, and if I need a physical copy I get it from the library. I’m on board. I get it. Less crap to dust, maintain, and put away. It’s especially helpful for people who travel a lot or are rarely home.
I’m still not getting rid of my books.
I think the debate sparked by Marie Kondo’s now-infamous statement about keeping no more than 30 books shows just how attached people get to things that represent pieces of them. Kondo herself addressed it later on because of the controversy, stating that like most numerical limits on things, it’s a personal decision and not something that can be prescribed. For someone who doesn’t read often, or doesn’t like to re-read their books, owning more than that may be excessive. If keeping all those physical books is about appearing a certain way, by all means, clear the clutter and work through the insecurity that got you there. If you’re never home and will enjoy your books more in their digital form, go for it – just remember that digital clutter is still clutter.
If you’re a cozy minimalist and book-lover like me, don’t be ashamed or defensive about keeping as many books as your heart desires. So many people took to Twitter in an outrage about Marie Kondo’s tweet, and it amazed me that so many people felt they had to defend their choices to keep and love their books. I don’t know many people who feel the same defensiveness about still hanging their clothes instead of folding vertically, or having appliances on their counters. Still, books connect with us in a special way, and for many people, a perceived attack on their books felt like an attack on themselves. You don’t need to defend your right to keep books to strangers on the internet. Just look on your full or overflowing shelves with a sense of pride, and perhaps a little bit of rebellious glee.
If your goals in pursuing minimalism is not to live with as little as possible, but to make room for the things in life that matter to you and bring you joy, then it’s okay if some of those things are books upon books upon books. My rainbow bookshelf is the centerpiece of my living area, and I love that I have my own little reading nook (or who am I kidding, my whole living room was structured to be my reading nook!). I read and re-read books almost constantly, and like having my favorites on hand to loan to people or to refer back to. I love the sweet papery book smell, I love actually turning pages, and I love being able to make little physical notes to tuck into pages instead of typing up something. Books have always been a huge part of my life, which is I made them the centerpiece of my first tattoo.
Books allow people to gather around, start conversations, and learn more about the world around them and worlds unknown. There is a weight to them that feels magical in my hands. You can loan them, pass them around, flip through them and slam them shut, make notes in them, and experience them in a different way than ebooks. (Have I mentioned how much I love the way books smell?) There is something beautifully nostalgic about looking through a book and finding notes from your past self, or passages that changed the way you see the world. Glancing over the shelves of books that made you who you are can bring back so many beautiful memories, motivate you to make change, and remind you of the things that have made you happy in a way that scanning the tiny covers of ebooks just doesn’t provide.
I’m keeping my books, now and forever, with all their scribbles and scratches, their weight and scent, their dents and damage, their moments and memories. I don’t care how hard they are to move. I don’t care how many tea and coffee stains appear on the pages. I will continue to bury my face in their pages, eyes darting to and fro with glee as I absorb and relive the words on the pages.
I’m keeping my books.