Living Beyond Books

I've considered myself a minimalist for well over two years. Before, I was a hoarder. A well organized hoarder, but a hoarder nonetheless. I loved to collect things. When I was younger my chosen poison was hockey trading cards. In fact, one of my favorite past times was to take my entire collection and spend the day reorganizing it. One day it would be by team, another day would be by name, and if I was feeling particularly motivated, I'd organized my massive collection by an obscure statistical category.

As I got older, I began collecting books. I was interested in anything that came in a series. Stephen King's Dark Tower series? Check. Lord of the Rings? Check. The entire Shannara series? Check. Any time I didn't have a complete series I felt like part of myself was incomplete. I dreamed of having a library that would fill entire rooms. But even that fantasy wasn't enough to assuage the emotional stress I felt about having as complete a collection as possible. Obviously, I could never own or read every book and for some reason that bothered me at a subconscious level.

Are you catching the crazy here?

Just in case it slipped by you, let me reiterate.

I was annoyed by the fact that I could never read and own every single book in existence.

Coming to accept that realization was the beginning of my minimalist journey. Since I couldn't have it all, I decided to see how little I could have instead. To my surprise, I discovered that it wasn't owning books that I loved after all. It was reading books that I enjoyed. Then, I realized that I wasn't even necessarily in love with the old fashioned construct of a book -- I just wanted to read.

I've lived quite minimally for awhile now. Quite minimally, that is, except for the two bookcases full of books. I always rationalized that an educated person such as myself needed an apartment full of books as proof of that education. I've also been holding onto various books that I thought would fill my classroom the day I became a full-time social studies teacher. Besides the narcissism inherent in keeping books as social proof of my own intelligence those books I was saving for my classroom were a constant reminder that I am not a full-time teacher. At first, that bothered me. Now, I'm happy that my plans have changed. Why keep the books, then?

This weekend I took the big step of giving away 95% of my remaining book collection. I'm giving them to the local library and a former high school teacher of mine. I'll let the library store, organize and care for them for me. I'll let somebody who is in the classroom already utilize the books that have been sitting on my shelves doing nothing but making me look cultured.

I love reading, not owning books. I love learning, not purchasing books.

I'm learning that minimalism is about focusing on the verbs in life: doing, being, reading, learning, growing; and a lot less on the nouns: books, stuff, collections, and clutter.

All you minimalists out there, where are the last remnants of your former self hiding? I was hiding in my books. What about you? Shoes? Photos? Computer parts? What would it feel like to finally let that go?