I’ve decided that I hate the word purge, and I hate the word cleanse because they remind me of that delightful time in my early 20s in which I dabbled in something called “an eating disorder.” Those were the days!
So if I can’t call it a cleanse or a purge, what to call this process I’ve embarked on? If Claire Randall Fraser were doing this, she would call it a KonMari debridement. That lady likes to clean out dead tissue. How about KonMari JOURNEY? Ladies on The Bachelor LOVE that word, and they are some smart ladies. Amirite, Heidi?
MacArthur Genius Grant winner
Confession time: One week into my journey, I’ve already broken KonMari rules. According to Kondo, the order of your tidying journey should be: clothes, books, paper, miscellany, and things with sentimental value. But I started with my books. Due to home construction issues and inaccessibility of one of my closets, I found it much easier to begin with my vast collection of literature than my Dior.
The Method of taking a Journey with your books that is not a purge
Marie Kondo instructs you to place all your books in a pile. Lord help me, I think I lost 5 pounds just carrying books up and down stairs. I don’t know if I lost five pounds, because I used to have something called “an eating disorder” and it’s bad for me to own a scale.
I stacked all my books in my bedroom and started to assess. According to Kondo, it’s not enough to just read the titles. I had to pick each book up and determine if it gave me joy. How does this book make me feel emotionally? Well, maybe it’s my Ativan or maybe it’s because the concept of joy is kinda nebulous, but I couldn’t be cut-throat at first. So I created three piles:
- I DON’T LIKE YOU
- ASK AGAIN LATER
This pile was super easy. These are my favorite books. The best books. Books I push on people. Books that changed me. Books that ruined me. Books that I can’t imagine not having around me. Here is a sampling:
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
- The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
- Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes
- Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
- Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- A Widow for One Year by John Irving
- The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
- Wanderlust by Danielle Steel
- Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
- Strokes of Genius by Jon Wertheim
Creating this pile also made me wonder which hoochie from my posse has my copy of Me Before You?! Whoever you are, bring it back!
I DON’T LIKE YOU
In determining what brought me joy – and what didn’t – I exercised my American freedom of choice. I no longer care what anyone thinks about my book collection save me. I no longer feel the need to keep “important” books simply because some old white guy who gets a paycheck from Yale thinks they are literary canon. Some books you need to read; you just don’t need to keep them. Some books are just not that good, and your opinion is totally valid. And some books are written by pricks who don’t deserve a place on my shelf (cough…Franzen…cough).
Some of what got moved to the donate boxes:
- The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
- The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
- Rabbit, Run by John Updike
- A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe
- Molloy by Samuel Beckett
- Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon
ASK AGAIN LATER
This was a tricky category since it was mostly comprised of books I have not read yet. I probably had 100 books I had bought or had given to me that haven’t picked up to read. And because we can sometimes conflate getting rid of books to terrible moments in history (book burnings), I held onto all of them.
But Kondo reminds us that when it comes to unread books, “sometime” can mean “never.”
It will be far better for you to read the book that really grabs you right now than one that you left to gather dust for years.
I had all these unread books on my shelf last week – all waiting to be read – and what did I do? Bought the brand new Sarah MacLean and inhaled it. Books come in and out of your life at certain times. Sometimes it’s not the right time and never will be.
Kondo says get rid of ALL your unread books. I could not do that, but I made a real effort to keep only the ones I do want to read. Yes, I can still buy new books, but for every new book, I need to read one of these that I kept. (That can be my next series: Is Our Amy Reading?)
Some unread books that I decided to keep:
- Yes Please by Amy Poehler
- 11/23/63 by Stephen King
- Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
- Gulag by Anne Applebaum
- The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes
- The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
You can pry my Tori Spelling books out of my cold dead hands.
At this stage, you are also supposed to tackle magazines. I recycled about 5 years worth of Vogue magazines. Going through them, it was like everything old is new again. Gwen! Taylor! Melania Trump?! I kept one single copy, the September 2007 issue. It was Vogue’s highest page count ever and the subject of the phenom documentary, The September Issue.
Flipping through my copy of Clean: The Humble Art of Zen Cleaning, I found the most delightful surprise: my daughter’s ultrasounds! Why they were in a book about cleaning with citrus and Borax, I have no idea, but finding them certainly brought me joy. Bittersweet joy, remembering that Ruby used to have a little buddy in there with her for about seven weeks. But it was also incredible lovely seeing her face and remembering how much I loved her and how I had no idea how much my life was about to change. If I hadn’t been on my KonMari journey, I might never have found them again.
So my book portion of my journey is done! It feels really good. Pro tip for your own book journey: have Benadryl at the ready because it’s a dusty trip. Achoo!
Total books donated: 216
Total books kept: 78
I’m winning! What’s my prize? Cleaning out my closets!
If you are part of the KonMari tribe, chime in! If not, what is stopping you? Come to the tidy side.