Is this extreme? (getting rid of books) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 02:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We had a yard sale last weekend and got rid of almost all of our fiction books. I have about two boxes left. They're mostly non-fiction, some coffee table type books. Just some interesting things to read through.

Oh, I also have about 15 cook books but I plan to pare those down to the ones I use.

What I'm wondering is - is it nuts to get rid of almost everything except a few cookbooks, a dictionary, an atlas, and some really nice coffee table books (think "the earth from above" for example or some really great photography books from Lebanon, where I'm from)?

We live a short 5 minute walk from the library. I've never lived anywhere where the library wasn't at least a short bike ride away, and mostly walking distance. And we've always been able to request whatever books we want through the inter library loan system. So, would you do it? No books in the house except for a few reference ones you own, and the ones you've checked out?
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#2 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 02:32 PM
 
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Do I think it's nuts? Yes. More than that, the thought of getting rid of all books is appalling. Why would you?

Personally, I think a home without at least a couple of well-stocked bookshelves is not a home. (Exceptions obviously made for people without the financial resources).

The stuff in our home (beyond what's truly essential to support life) sends a clear message to our children about what we value. In our home we value literacy and reading. Yes, we go to the library, too, and regularly. But we don't live at the library, we live in our home. Books are a source of delight to everyone in my family. I can't imagine living in a house barren of them.
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#3 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 02:35 PM
 
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I don't think it's insane at all. You can always get more at the library. I think it's a very sane idea.

As for modeling...bringing them home from the library frequently is perfect for that.

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#4 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 02:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by zinemama View Post
The stuff in our home (beyond what's truly essential to support life) sends a clear message to our children about what we value. In our home we value literacy and reading. Yes, we go to the library, too, and regularly. But we don't live at the library, we live in our home. Books are a source of delight to everyone in my family. I can't imagine living in a house barren of them.
Well I beg to differ. First, we practically DO live at the library. Second, as I said, we use the library a lot. This means that while we won't OWN that many books, we will HOUSE books temporarily. I don't need to OWN the books I feel like reading, you know?

I should clarify that we have, at any given time, at least twenty books for my daughter who is two years old checked out from the library. We go at LEAST 3-5 a week and read there for about an hour or so. This is aside from the hours of reading done at home.

I've pared down the collection of what she owns to about 20 also. I should also point out that we read to her an insane amount. She lives for books. She loves books. She started memorizing books before the age of two and can recite a lot of it after one or two readings. So books are very much a part of my daughter's life. There are times I want to tear my hair out from reading too many books!!

She also sees me reading a lot. And when I'm done with that book, I take it back to the library. I don't need to "own" it to have the knowledge in that books.

So what's why I would get rid of books. It might seem nuts to some people, but I challenged the need to own books since we moved almost 5 months ago and I still hadn't unpacked my books! That's when I realized... do we really need to own all these books?

I invite more opinions...
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#5 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 02:55 PM
 
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I don't think that it's insane, no. It's not what I would do, because I very frequently re-read books, but even so, I've gotten rid of a very large percentage of my books. I've kept the ones that I actually do re-read or refer to frequently, and some that I love and that are hard to obtain - the long-out-of-print books that I had to wishlist on Powell's or watch for on eBay for a some time before they turned up.

As a child, most of my reading came from the library - we went every single week and brought many books home. There were plenty of books in my parents' house, but they never actually read them - they were essentially wallpaper. My parents influenced me to read, but that was all about our regular trips to the library, and nothing to do with the stale, un-read books at home.

So my only issue is that you might want to hang on to some of your daughter's very favorite books, because they do go out of print. On the other hand, it's been fun to find my childhood favorites on eBay, so maybe it's just fine for her to do the same thing someday.

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#6 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 02:56 PM
 
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I wish I had the guts to weed through mine. We are VORACIOUS readers, and we visit the library 2 or 3 times a week. All of us are usually reading 2 or 3 books at the same time. Unfortunately, we are warehousing thousands of books in our home, most of which have been read once and now are just being "owned". I need to send them out into the world for someone else to enjoy, I just can't seem to let them go.
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#7 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 02:57 PM
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It's absolutely not nuts. Let the library store books, that's what they are there for. Going to the library is great for kids, they get exposed to a huge variety of styles and types of literature and that's wonderful. Your home is YOUR home, keep whatever you want in it. If you want to keep an extensive library, do it. If not, don't. Personally, I don't keep many books either. I love to go browse the library shelves and I find that I read a much bigger variety that way than I would just buying what I want to read, which if course has it's own limitations (budget, storage space, etc.).

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#8 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 03:00 PM
 
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kind of crazy, yea. i mean, don't keep around total drivel that you'll never crack open in an eternity, but....

it'd make me crazy if i wanted to immediately refer to something important i'd read before, and didn't own it.

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#9 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 03:28 PM
 
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Why are you keeping the cookbooks? There are a million recipes online.

If reading isn't your cup of tea/mug of cocoa I can totally see ditching already read fiction, but you want to be sure your kids've got enough to last between trips to the library. Young children love repetition so much that they'd probably prefer to have 10-20 books at home and just get like 2 occasionally from the library.
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#10 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 03:32 PM
 
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Originally Posted by MiriamF View Post
since we moved almost 5 months ago and I still hadn't unpacked my books! That's when I realized... do we really need to own all these books?
No. I'd still open the boxes and double check that the library carries any you know you'd want to reread, but if you, like my dh, don't reread, wait until the library's collecting for a book sale and donate them.
(and I'm at myself since what you said about your dd's books is exactly what I was thinking you should do if you had a 2-3 year old)
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#11 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 04:04 PM
 
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Have not read other responses.

When we moved 2 years ago, I donated alot of our books to the library. We went from a books-everywhere household to just 3 short bookshelf units full (which might be alot for some but was very little for us!) I don't regret it. I gave away books that were never going to be opened up and read again, or at least rarely (say, by an overnight guest) or waaaaayyy in the future (when my son is old enough for adult books). It seemed to me a shame to have them sit and gather dust when someone else (or many other people) could enjoy them. I kept reference books, treasured books that mean something to us, and books we might re-read. THis was before we had DS - now we have alot of children's books and those are staying for a long time. One thing I don't understand is when people put away the "baby" books because their child is now a toddler - my toddler still likes to look at the "baby" books and I can't see how that's a problem!

DS 12/22/05 and DD 5/24/09
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#12 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 04:07 PM
 
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I don't think it's crazy, if you don't care for actually owning books. We've gotten rid of about 2/3 of ours, just kept books we use like some sewing and quilt books, my dog books, DH has some wine and technical books. Almost all the fiction I donated and haven't missed them. There's always another story or classic to find either at the library or secondhand.
The books our kids read have stayed untouched unless they were real babybooks and no longer interesting to them.

Christine, SAHM to DD ('05), DS1 ('07) and : DS2 ('09)
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#13 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 04:24 PM
 
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I think it's a great idea personally, especially if you don't have a ton of storage space.

I'd set up a whole shelf just for library books, so you don't risk misplacing them and returning them late.

However, we do own a whole bunch of books. Generally we like to purchase books that we've taken out of the library 3 or 4 times- if it's worth reading and rereading, it's worth owning it so you're not SOL if you're on the mood to read it but the library's copy is leant out to somebody else. I also have some books that my mom collected over the years and passed along to me- some of those I may pass along when I'm done with them (and when my kids are done with them).

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19 (in Israel for another school year), Hannah, 18 (commuting to college), and Jack, 12(homeschooled)
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#14 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 04:34 PM
 
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It's not insane. I keep reference books, a few novels that I read over and over (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Sherlock Holmes. I keep only cookbooks that I use regularly. I love the library. DS is starting to like it too.

If DH were to weed out all his textbooks that he never opens, I'd have enough room for another family(not really).

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#15 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 04:47 PM
 
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In MY case, the library is almost useless. I have never been able to find a book that I need especially new/current books, computer software, etc. If I do get a book from the library, I always forget to return it.

I throw out all books are useless: old computer/software, travel guides, map books that are not current, business, tax, law books that are not relevant or books I know I will never read again and keep the rest. I also have a small collection of vintage books that I love, classics, self-help books, health, etc. The library or even internet is not a good alternative for me.

ETA: I DO go to the library for music scores that I need to review for chours before I decide to buy them (need to mark them up) , but that is it.

If the library works for you, I’m jealous!
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#16 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 04:50 PM
 
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We have gotten rid of most of our books lately and I'm very happy with it. We also live close to the library and I think it will be just as good to take DD to the library and borrow books. If she ever really treasures a book, we have the option of buying it but this way we won't spend excess amounts of money and devote a lot of space to books we will read once or twice.
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#17 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 04:52 PM
 
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I have a friend who lives NEXT DOOR to her library. I am soooooooo jealous.

Take the time to heal from your marriage before you move on with someone else. Make a list of all the qualities you would like in a new partner and then work on growing that way yourself. ~mandib50
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#18 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 05:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think we are pretty good at having what everyone else has suggested we wouldn't have if we got rid of all books.

1) Wanting to re-read books. Patience is a virtue, right? Maybe I've got the wrong personality for that but even my very impatient two year old understands that when she suddenly remembers one of her favorite books that we checked out of the library, then she has to wait until they are open (if she remembers at night) and if it's checked out - then until it's available. There is so much more to life than re-reading that one book immediately! Of course she knows we can immediately read the books that we own.

2) Returning books: a few people mentioned not being able to keep track of library books and returning them on time. But to me that's what`decluttering is all about! We are never late returning books. We keep them as long as possible and return them when they're too. Because we don't have a million other things in our space at home, it isn't hard to keep track of library books.

3) My daughter is growing up in a world of books without shelves of books lining the walls and taking up space in our home.

4) I am still keeping some beautiful books to browse through, reference books, etc. It will probably be about 15-20 books total.

5) I often think of the poor children who inherit thousands of books when their parents die. It might be nice to build a library in your own house, maybe if you don't have access to one but in general I've grown to view buying books very often as wasteful and surely those thousands of books can't be THAT valuable to have your kids deal with them when you die, right?

6) Our heavy usage of the library makes me feel better about paying taxes. I pretend that all my taxes are going towards services that I use, while someone who supports the war in Iraq, for example, can pretend their tax money is going just to war.

I'm sure there are all sorts of happy mediums for different folks but I'm glad others agree that it isn't nuts. Our solution might be a little bit more on the extreme side, but to me, it's freeing!
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#19 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 05:30 PM
 
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I think it depends on the kind of reader you are. If you read something once or twice and rarely again then it doesn't make sense to own it. If the library is pretty close by and has a great selection then you probably don't need it in your home.

My family would honestly be more comfortable ditching the cookbooks, coffee table books, dictionary and atlas than fiction books. We can use the internet/computer for looking up words, maps, or recipes. Coffee table books get looked at once or twice by us and then gather dust. I have a shelf of cookbooks but I could pare it down to 1 that we really use a lot.
We read a lot and re-read our books often so we like having shelves of books. We've also lived some distance away from a library and it is good for us to have a collection on hand between library trips. We also view some of our books as a collection or investment.

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#20 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 05:39 PM
 
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Not at all! After reading Walsh's It's all too much (borrowed from the library of course!), I kept only a couple dozen books. We rarely buy new and also live close to a library that happens to have awesome books sales. For me, I don't see value in having hundreds of books collecting dust and gave most of ours to the library for their sale. Kudos to you for paring down.

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#21 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 05:44 PM
 
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Originally Posted by MiriamF View Post

2) Returning books: a few people mentioned not being able to keep track of library books and returning them on time. But to me that's what`decluttering is all about! We are never late returning books. We keep them as long as possible and return them when they're too. Because we don't have a million other things in our space at home, it isn't hard to keep track of library books.

!
It is for me! I don’t have a lot of stuff in my space either (getting better and better) but remembering to do the simplest tasks among the larger ones is difficult for me. Even if they are in my car, and I’m running around, I still forget. I've paid too many fines as proof!
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#22 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 06:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It is for me! I don’t have a lot of stuff in my space either (getting better and better) but remembering to do the simplest tasks among the larger ones is difficult for me. Even if they are in my car, and I’m running around, I still forget. I've paid too many fines as proof!
I hate making extra stops when using the car. Maybe I've got luck on my side since we walk there nearly every day. Hard to forget them then. Besides, we're constantly checking out books so I don't return some, it becomes really obvious!
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#23 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 07:04 PM
 
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No, I think you're right on track!

Any books that can be easily checked out of the library are history for us, unless they literally are keepsakes. We haven't pared down this far yet, but this is our end goal. This is what libraries are for - the space in my house needs to be for things I would not have access to normally.

However, we get a lot of flack from people when we state this project of getting rid of books (mostly fiction). Many times, people make some snarky comment like, "Oh, well I guess books and reading are just really important to our family." To which I politely try and make it clear that our family reads constantly and voraciously, but that that we just don't collect books except in special circumstances.

You know, try on put on your flack-resistant armor in cases like these. A lot of people acquire a lot of possessions and want everyone else to collect them too. Do what works for your household. And err on the side of less, rather than more!

Rachel, mommy to Ella (10/19/06) and Kaia (1/4/10), wife to Michael . Just another vegan, attachment parenting, homebirthing, UU & Buddhist, CLWing, bedsharing, vegetable gardening, Bay Area crunchy mom!
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#24 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 07:05 PM
 
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I think it's a great idea. I do love my books, but most of them I don't really need to keep.

I keep ones I know I'll want to read again and ones that I enjoyed that are out of print. Many excellent books aren't available anymore...

Mom to DD1 (11/1999),  DD2 (07/2003), and DS (11/2012), all born at home and cloth diapered. 

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#25 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 07:39 PM
 
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Any books that can be easily checked out of the library are history for us....
Out of about 400 (estimating low) fiction books, about 100 (estimating high) of mine ever fell into that category and in the new library system I've moved to it's more like 10, ~60 if "easily checked out" includes putting it on hold and waiting at least 2 weeks. (Huge collection, lots of branches, browsing isn't as effective as it was in the system with two branches.)

You have to keep an eye on libraries. Growing up I saw a number of books vanish from the shelves. In just 9 years in Lafayette, I saw several books become unavailable. Also, I enjoy graphic novels and about 1 in 10 that I check out has a couple pages missing, so if I really really wanted to read the whole book, I'd have to buy it (hasn't happened with anything I really want to reread so I don't bother.)

Anyway, I do think it's always good to critically evaluate whether any object deserves space in our homes. Each person's conclusions are going to be different based on specific needs and situations.

(Obviously, I feel a bit defensive about having so many books. Which is probably the problem with the people who are snotty to you. I do think there's a difference between "books are a priority" which can have lots of different ways of working and "I have anxiety if I don't have a book to read at any given moment" which requires a certain core number of books available constantly.)
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#26 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 07:59 PM
 
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It sounds like you feel at peace with your decision being right for your family. Therefore, it doesn't matter if it feels extreme to someone else; it's not their life, house, or family.

Now for me, I hope to die next to a pile of lovely books while wearing my flip-flops (which I love nearly as much as books!).
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#27 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 08:12 PM
 
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Yeah, it totally depends on where you live, what you need, what you like, etc.. etc...

We're not getting rid of any of our sheet music. Why? Hard to replace, hard to get a hold of, expensive, has to be in the right key/transposition, blah, blah, blah. And it's taking up more room than I wish it was.

I should also mention that I live 15 minutes by car from the University from which DH and I graduated. Their library is new, immense, and breathtaking. Their interlibrary loan system is even more jaw-dropping. I used to just try and find rare books through interlibrary loan just for the heck of it, and I learned that almost anything I ever wanted was available on there. So, I know that I can get a hold of practically any book I can possibly dream of. :

That being said, we're still hanging on to plenty of books that we have decided are worth it to us to have around. That's what I mean by every family doing what works, you know? If we lived in the middle of nowhere and enjoyed reading super-rare stuff, then that would be a totally different situation. Do what works!

(God I wish there was a local appliance/equipment/power tool library!!

Rachel, mommy to Ella (10/19/06) and Kaia (1/4/10), wife to Michael . Just another vegan, attachment parenting, homebirthing, UU & Buddhist, CLWing, bedsharing, vegetable gardening, Bay Area crunchy mom!
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#28 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 08:55 PM
 
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I figured out a week or two ago that we have 15 bookcases. All three of us are big readers. Dh and ds keep pretty much all their books. I don't. I only keep books that I love. Granted, that's still three large bookcases worth, but....

I have very few fiction because I don't tend to re-read any but my most favoritey favorites. Maybe a couple of shelves' worth. I generally end up giving away the bulk of the fiction I've read. I keep my poetry and nonfiction, though. Most of my nonfic is out of print and difficult to come by. Much of it is fairly rare. I'm not getting rid of that. Much of the poetry is out of print, too. And my library's interlibrary loan system costs a few bucks each time I use it.

I love being surrounded by books, but I hate being surrounded by clutter. Finding a balance has been difficult but so worth it. If this is what you need to do for yourself, and you don't think you and your family will feel deprived, do it.

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#29 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 09:51 PM
 
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I've decluttered alot of books too. You're not insane.

Our library system here is excellent and we use it alot.

Personally, I'm not a big re-reader. Same with movies, I don't rewatch them either.
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#30 of 85 Old 07-17-2008, 09:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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All these responses. I had no idea it was such a touchy subject!

I really do respect the need to be surrounded by books. We all have a deep love for books in our family. You couldn't find me without my nose stuck in a book as a child. As I mentioned my two year old gets read to for several hours a today. My husband has written and published a fiction book himself!! But something tells me that we can just separate that love from the need to HAVE books.

I'm not saying this applies to people here but I really do think a huge collection of books stems from somewhere in the vicinity of "we have these books, therefore we are intelligent and we own the knowledge in these books." And while having the books can IMPROVE your lives, not having them does not have to take away from your life (unless it really does, in which case that's your passion).

This reminds me of a conversation that has really stuck with me from high school.. I was in a poet's circle and my very friend who took her writing very seriously wrote a piece that the teacher/leader of the group was critiquing. They had an long argument about the piece she wrote because he was trying to explain to her that NO amount of reading the world was going to improve her writing the way EXPERIENCE would improve her writing. (Not experience in writing, but experience in living). It makes me think of how we personally are as a family - we really value the real life - trips to the forest, trying to plan our lives to be a part of the land, connecting with nature, etc. You know, you can read "Walden" or you can go live in Walden, so to speak.

It all depends on what you want in life. I'm not surprised at all that others really need their books in a completely different way. And I know very well that those you have all those books still have plenty of life experiences. We're still young and my main impetus behind clearing the clutter is because I need to free my mind to get to where we want to be. There's a chance I might own more than twenty books when we have finally settled into what feels like home and not yet another temporary place until we get a little closer to our dream. But on our journey there I can't help but find more and more freedom in the weightlessness of not owning things.
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