Last Saturday morning, I poured my coffee, put on some great 80s tunes, and attacked a project I’ve been putting off for years. (As in, my entire life thus far.) I went through all of my books and downsized my library! It took eight hours. I brought literally every book I own into our living room and sorted them by category while making a decision to keep or let go of each book as I held it. During the first pass, twenty books hit the donate box. Then, after every last one was sorted into piles, I went through each stack again to see who would make the final cut.
This project taught me two important lessons.
First, Marie Kondo is one smart cookie. Her concept of organizing by item (books, clothing, etc.) and bringing every single item within that category to one central location for organizing (what has been dubbed “organizing Kondo-style”) is both brilliant and deviously sneaky. In this single step, those of us who have been wooed by her seemingly sweet and innocent demeanor are instantly ambushed as we stand before a mountain of superfluous what-have-you, faced with the sheer volume of what we own. This alone made me consider donating the entire lot to charity, shaving my head and become a monk –to rid myself of an apparent over-attachment to things.
But here’s the surprise…our attachment to things isn’t really about things.
Thankfully, this exercise was part of an assignment we’re doing in Rising Soul this month, which included noticing our thoughts and emotions as we downsized, organized and systematized our spaces and habits. So, as I stopped to notice my resistance to tossing books to the donate bin, I realized something surprising. This feeling of attachment and fear of not having “enough” wasn’t really about the books at all. Clearly, I had more than enough books. (Trust me. I did the math. If I were to read one book a week, I would not need to visit the public library for thirteen and a half years. Problem? I still think not.)
Having "too much" of something is often attached to a fear of "not enough."
What then, was I afraid of? Why was I keeping more than I could possibly consume? Ahhh…there it was. The fear of not enough…knowledge. The fear of missing out. The fear that someday, someone may come to me for help, and I would be unable to help them out of the pool they were drowning in, because I hadn’t read that book yet and I had given it away. And in that moment of realization, I sensed God whisper, “Do you trust me to give you what you need?” And of course, I do.
This made me wonder: when you hold on to “extra” things you don’t need, what is it that you are fearing? What need are you afraid won’t be provided for? And what do you believe about how your needs are met? Who is your provider?
The second thing I learned is that the belief that we “need” something can actually keep us from what’s available to us.
I have a habit (my husband may find the term “addiction” more appropriate) of going to used book sales on the last day, when they offer “fill a bag for 5 bucks.” Because, well– why buy 3 books you’ve been wanting when you could get those plus another 20 to fill the rest of your bag at the same price?! (I realize this line of thinking led to me standing in my living room surrounded by 706 of my favorite books. No judgement needed.)
Back to my point…. The majority of my collection is non-fiction. (I own only 12 novels, which are easier to read and toss, in my defense…because clearly, I need one.) As an example, I thought I needed every book I had about the brain and its impact on mental health. So, the first time I sorted through my books, I kept almost every one I came across. But when I stepped back and looked at all of the brain books together, I realized three of them were highly recommended, but the rest seemed just average and even outdated. In reality, I was unlikely to read the majority of these, since there will always be new best sellers written.
Because I had so many books on the brain, I wasn’t reading any of them. I’d stare at the assortment, get overwhelmed by the decision and move on to a different category altogether. In the end, I kept the three that I was most excited to read and let go of the rest. I followed that same pattern with each remaining category and at the end of the day, I had eliminated one hundred nine books from my library. (Full disclosure, six of the books had an identical twin among the collection, which means a win-win. I get to keep my copy and some lucky winner at the library book sale will too, following my donation.)
Sometimes in life (as well as in amazing library collections) we have to let go of what we think we need in order to use what we’ve got and make room for what’s coming.
I can think of several things in my past that I held onto tightly, only to find God had something much better for me when I finally let go. This can be true of jobs, relationships, houses, dreams… and surprisingly, books. What are you holding onto that’s keeping you from grabbing hold of what God wants to offer you?
I now have a library that’s organized topically…with only books that I can’t wait to dive into. But just as exciting is the empty space that’s now on the shelves. I’m determined not to fill it with things I don’t need. I’m going to enjoy what I have, knowing that as I read and let go of each book, there will be more knowledge and growth to come.
What are you holding onto?
What fears are keeping you stuck?
Schedule a free consultation with me to peek into your blindspots so we can free up some space for the good things God has planned for you!