With all the recent conflict over the KonMari Method brought about by the Tidying Up Netflix show, I thought I’d go ahead and give my two cents about the KonMari Method with regard to books.
For those unfamiliar with Marie Kondo’s KonMari method of tidying up, you hold each item and, if it “sparks joy,” you keep it. Otherwise it should be discarded. For the record, I’ve read her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but only seen a few episodes of the show.
Librarians are constantly discarding materials from our collections through a process we call weeding. We weed items based largely on age, use and whether the materials are outdated. I personally follow a similar process with my own books, but I didn’t adopt this practice until after I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Something clicked and I finally felt like it was okay to get my collection down to a more manageable size.
Now, I don't see the sense in keeping every textbook for every class I ever took, books I didn’t like, or books I know I will never read again that are simply taking up space. These books certainly don’t bring me joy. A year or two ago, I went through and got rid of a lot of books. I got rid of books on ufology and the paranormal, screenwriting books from my undergrad days in film school, Doctor Who novels I doubted I’d read again, and much more. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not sacrilege for a librarian to minimize their book collection. And yes, it brought me joy to get rid of books I didn’t need or would never read. Plus, it cleared up shelf space for new books!
I think the spirit of what Marie Kondo is trying to say is something similar to this process, although I do not thank my books for their service when I choose to rehome them. I don’t think she’s some book-hater who wants you to get rid of them just because. I think she wants everyone to have a useful, manageable collection. She even says that one’s books should be a snapshot of the sort of information that is important to them at that moment in time. Getting rid of books on poltergeists and astrology helped me accomplish this goal. Sentimental books are okay. Some people consider all of their books to be sentimental, and that is okay too.