In Defense of a Small Home Library

The following post is from Rachel of The Minimalist Mom:

books bookshelf

source: Suzette Pauwels

The most contentious area to simplify or minimize in a home?

Books.

Nothing has raised hackles or eyebrows more than our decision to reduce our home library from a few hundred titles to a few dozen.

While radically de-cluttering our home I boxed up most of our books and sold them to a second hand bookstore. The handful of keepers were well loved favorites or we had strong sentimental ties with like the book my husband gave me on our second date and the one he later proposed with.

It was a joy not to have to dust bookshelves anymore, and two years later I can say I still don’t regret it.

A big home library doesn’t make you read the same way owning a pair of running shoes doesn’t make you run.

Since reducing our possessions, including all those books, we read more.

We use our library cards and my husband and I both have e-readers. Psst… we share an account with my sister so all three of us can read each others books.

We don’t have cable television, and we do have more time which allows my husband and I to read two to three books a month. If we are on vacation, or have yet to find a new to us television series on Netflix that we can agree on, we read a few more.

What about children’s books?

Our son is almost three and has about 50 books of which we keep 8-10 available for bed time stories and for him to “read” on his own. We rotate a few of the books every other month.

Originally we had all of his books out but after reading the book Simplicity Parenting I put away the more advanced books and just kept his favorites available. He is developing into an avid book lover, just like his parents, and has started to know the books well enough to use the characters and settings in imaginative play. Having fewer books and reading repetitively has also helped him develop his vocabulary.

This article at Little Stories, a website about early speech and language development, provides more information on the benefits of a smaller library for young children.

I no longer equate my intellect with the number of books I own.

For many years I moved boxes of books from one apartment to another and lined them up on a prominent bookshelf for my guests to see. I was proud of my books and liked what I thought they said about me. There were anthologies from my undergraduate days, classic novels like War and Peace and some interesting non-fiction choices to show off.

At first letting go of most of my books felt like I was telling the world that I didn’t value them. That I didn’t think reading was important. What would people think of me?

I realized over time that people really didn’t care about what was on my bookshelf.

I also realized that people will understand that you have a love of books not from the number in your home but because you want to discuss your latest read with them. Dusty books are no equal for telling a friend about your latest mystery novel find or the nutrition book that just blew up all of your assumptions about health.

Books don’t make a reader. Reading makes a reader.

What have been your obstacles to reducing your home library?

Rachel Jonat is a world medalist rower turned marketing professional turned SAHM/writer. At The Minimalist Mom, Rachel writes about living a rich life with less stuff. Currently living on a windswept island in the middle of the Irish Sea, Rachel owns two pairs of jeans, loves taking the bus and is attempting to become a tea drinker.