random piles of books

Books may be one of the ways you define yourself.

They may be entwined in at least one story that says only a Philistine would let go of a book.

I have one client who has a library that is full of books—so many that they don’t fit on the shelves anymore. They are in piles on the floor, in shopping bags, in boxes, and balanced on every surface in the library. They also line the entire hallway outside the library—but not in some orderly way—they are randomly stacked on card tables, TV stands, and the floor.

This client tells herself a story about how diligently she has curated this collection and that someone someday will want her life’s work.

Whatever supposed meaning or value her story says those books have, the reality is different.

At this point, they aren’t a reflection of this client’s thoughtfulness, creativity, or curiosity. They are a hazard and a burden. They are the source of weekly arguments with her partner. They are the cause of significant debt and the possible loss of her house.

Even in the face of these consequences, this client’s denial is so strong that she defends her choices and refuses to consider letting even one book go.

If this sounds familiar or similar to a situation you’re dealing with, I’ll tell you the same thing I told her.

If you value your relationship more than your books, if you value your home more than your books, if you value your safety more than your books … it’s time to make a different choice.

Don’t confuse an object, even a book, with the experience of having read the book. The book may represent the experience to you but it isn’t the experience itself.

Any more than a photograph of a sunset is the same as sitting on the shore of Lake Superior watching the sun set.

Here are links to organizations and groups that value books and work to get them into the hands of readers who value them, also.









Today’s challenge: set a timer for 60 seconds and settle into your breath. Then set the timer for 10 minutes and review your books, looking for low hanging fruit—the book or books you can easily let go of. They could be mysteries you’ve read, reference books you don’t refer to or cookbooks you don’t cook out of. See if you can find at least 12 books you can let go of and share with someone else who is eager to have a new book as well.

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About The Author

Andrew Mellen's picture

Andrew Mellen is an organizational expert, public speaker, and the #1 best-selling author of Unstuff Your Life!

Andrew has helped tens of thousands of people worldwide to declutter and simplify their lives while regaining time for the things that matter.

A sought-after authority on organizing and productivity, Andrew's addressed audiences from The Great British Business Show to TEDx. 

Corporate clients include American Express, Genentech, NetApp, Time, Inc., and the US Depts. of Education and Homeland Security.

The media has dubbed Andrew “The Most Organized Man in America.” He writes a featured column called “Ask The Organizer” in Real Simple. In addition, he has written for and/or appeared in: The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, America Now, The Lisa Oz Show, The Nate Berkus Show, Oprah & Friends, Martha Stewart Living Today, ABC, NBC, CBS, CW11, HGTV, DIY Network, LiveWell Network, KnowMoreTV, Better Homes & Gardens, Ladies' Home Journal, Woman's Day, Family Circle, USA Today, GQ, InStyle, All You, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Healthy UK, American Way, numerous trade and travel publications, and NPR.

He leads workshops and speaks internationally while maintaining a private practice working with clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies, trade associations, and non-profits to CEOs, award-winning filmmakers, and authors, as well as overwhelmed parents everywhere. 

In 2013, Andrew founded Unstuff U®, the world's first completely virtual personal organization training center, offering classes, workshops, and other online resources for businesses and individuals. 

Andrew is a member of the Experts Collective and serves on the faculty of the New York Open Center in New York City. He speaks frequently on the intersection of spirituality and organization at places including Omega Institute, San Francisco Zen Center, Tassajara, All Saints Church, JCC Manhattan, and the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, among others.

Previously, Andrew was an award-winning playwright, actor, producer, and director and the former Artistic Director of Alice B. Theater (Seattle), DC Arts Center (Washington, DC), and Shuttle Theater Company (New York). He is a contributing author to Yes Is the Answer: (And Other Prog-Rock Tales).

Andrew lives by his motto: More Love, Less Stuff!® 

Find him on the web at andrewmellen.com.

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