Taming the Book Beast

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Back in January, my daughter Rainy called me and asked, “Mom do you think you have 10,000 books?” I know I have a lot of books, but the precise amount was something I’d never considered. Her question took me by surprise. “No,” I replied, “probably more like just 7,000.” A little while later I decided to look through my books and count—or at least estimate—how many I actually have. When I estimated over 3,000 in one room alone, I realized that I had a serious amount of books. I did, indeed, possess over 10,000 volumes. I called Rainy and told her that. I also added, “And I need to tithe them.” Then and there I’d committed myself to getting rid of a thousand books.

The next day was Sunday, and in Relief Society, our church’s women’s meeting, the sisters were invited to share their New Year’s resolutions. The usual get in shape and lose weight things were mentioned. Then there was a lull in the sharing. I raised my hand and told my book experience. There was a quiet intake of breath (the ladies were far to kind to gasp out loud) as I talked about getting rid of far more volumes than many of them even owned!

Going public meant I actually had to carry this out.

The vast majority of my books are paperback children’s books. Picture books, chapter books, junior and teen fiction. I’ve been a “teacher” doing monthly Scholastic book orders for well over 25 years. Over the years I’ve bought a few books and “earned” quite a few with my teacher rewards. I also have books that I’ve been given or bought at yard sales and thrift shops. I’m an admitted book magnet.

Finding the first two hundred books was easy. I weeded out duplicates and books I had no interest in reading—mainly television and movie tie-ins. I put these new/unread books into cardboard boxes and stored them in my garage. For the past 10 years I’ve given out books as well as treats on Halloween. It’s fun to be known as the neighborhood “book lady.” I now had enough books to give away for the next five years! Wow, 200 books down as I entered February.

I slacked off on the book giving during the spring, and when April began with only 50 more books added to the “to be donated” box, I knew I needed to step things up. I was able to donate a box full to our local library for summer reading prizes for the pre-teen and teen programs.

It’s now early June and I’m working on finding my 5th 100. The year’s nearly half over, I’ve given away nearly half my commitment of books.

There’s a good feeling about letting go of things you no longer need. There’s a good feeling about seeing a child’s smile as they embrace and cherish one of my books. It’s just a few baby steps in clearing out over two decades worth of stuff, but even baby steps, taken in the right direction, will eventually get you to your goal.

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