September Book Haul & Wrap-Up and Minimalism

The “original” meme (I don’t know if this was the very first one – hence the quotation marks), In My Mailbox, was created by The Story Siren and Pop Culture Junkie. Right now there are other bloggers are hosting similar memes with different names. I don’t know who’s hosting Book Haul, though, or who started it.

Hey people :) September is the month I went kind of crazy with all the book-buying, and it is also the month I realized I have problems. I’m not talking about “Oh I have this book buying problem” thing (I realized that a long time ago). It was more like a “Oh I have this psychological issue I need to hash out but instead of dealing with it I am turning to buying books, which doesn’t help me at all” kind of thing. More on this below.

September Book Haul 1September Book Haul 2September Book Haul 3

Yep, I wasn’t kidding. Let’s see what sort of crazy things I did this month!
I collected more Nora Roberts – the Inn BoonsBoro trilogy (which I wasn’t impressed by), the rest of the Sign of Seven trilogy, the Donovan series, and The Witness. I started collecting the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Basically I ordered books #1 – 12, plus some. I have the rest of the Young Royals series now. Some random classics – The Return of the Native, Lolita, The Casefiles of Mr. J. G. Reeder. A historical fiction by Jean Plaidy. One Ally Carter book. White Oleander by Janet Fitch. Oh, and the Love in the Afternoon DVD. A non-fiction: Thinking, Fast and Slow.

As for what I read in September…
You already know about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Next Always, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, The Last Boyfriend, The Perfect Hope, Duchessina, The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things, and The Murder on the Links.
What you didn’t know about are The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar by Gail Carriger (a short story about Alexia Tarabotti’s father), Lovingly Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Lester makes me snort out loud, Alice knows how to stick with her gut feeling although she can be a bit exasperating, and their dad tries hard and succeeds at being a good father), and Minimalism: How to Become a Minimalist by Bekka Thomas.
It’s the last book that has set off a catalyst that is ever so slowly changing my life. It’s a personal story about how the author became a minimalist. It has funny pictures and lots of personal touches. The tone is very down-to-earth and easy to relate to. The title is misleading, though, but other than that a fantastic journey!

The first time I really thought about minimalism is when I encountered Ashley Riordan on the internet. It was actually her YouTube channel that I started to follow because of her videos. I think she mentioned it in one of her videos, and I started going through her blog posts on her personal minimalist lifestyle. I vaguely remember thinking, That must be nice. But I’m not ready to do that.

Then I moved in past April to an apartment that was about half the size (which is still more than enough for a 20-year-old student who is not even financing it herself). I got rid of a lot of junk during the process, and vowed never to buy a product that wasn’t edible, the only exception being books. Now, I have mostly kept this vow. Of course it’s impossible to not buy toilet paper or soap or other items one uses on daily basis. But all that extra stuff we don’t really need – plush animals, some decorative pieces, extra pair of shoes (although I have never been a shoe person), whatever – I haven’t purchased. I also got rid of about 150 books by donating them or putting them in the trash.

Sometime after that I read a free ebook on minimalism – The Minimalist Budget by Julianne P. It was maybe a bit drastic and contained steps that I didn’t really need right now e.g. paying debts and letting go of car(s). But it started to give me a more solid idea about what a minimalist lifestyle meant.

Last week, I read Bekka Thomas’ Minimalism: How to Become a Minimalist, another ebook I got for free. In the first chapters Bekka Thomas tells about her life before she went down the minimalist route; She had a stressful, time-consuming job, a big house full of stuff she didn’t even use, a bad eating habit that was wrecking her health. When she decided to quit her job and move across the U.S. to Portland, she and her husband had to decide what to do with their houseful of (mostly) junk. The process they go through was a more intense version of my own moving-story. But most importantly of all, this book gave me an insight that I had until then lacked to really understand myself – and my book-buying habits.

“I guess feeling out of control means, for some of us, we struggle to control the areas we can. We use buying things as a replacement for being able to make choices. […] I was surrounding myself with stuff because I felt powerful, even if only briefly, when I bought it. My mistake was in not learning sooner to go in the opposite direction.” (Chapter Two)

This book got me to going back to Ashley Riordan’s blog, and from there to another blog called The Minimalists at http://www.theminimalists.com , and to taking a hard look at the stuff I own. I especially took a thorough look at my bookshelves because that’s where most of my stuff was. Then one night, when I should have been working on my criminal law paper, I started pulling out books. The first to go were the ones I had initially planned on giving away when I moved in April but bailed out on because “just in case I want to read them first before giving them away”.
If there’s one thing I learned about minimalism is to throw those “just in cases” away, along with your junk. Best case scenario: You were never going to read that book so you got rid of it 50 years earlier, saving yourself additional space and less stuff when you move. Worst case scenario: You buy it again to read it. Thinking along this line helped me make decisions, and make them quickly. Sometimes I hesitated, especially if the book was an expensive one. Then I thought back to Bekka Thomas’ words: “[I]t’s the value that the item brings to your life and not the value of the item.” (Chapter Five) Added to this was this article on sentimental items that I read. With those on my mind, I went through my bookshelves again. And doubled the amount of books I was planning on getting rid of. I think I lost most of my just-in-cases. Those I have left mean something to me or I plan on re-reading them or I’m genuinely curious about what they can teach me. There were books I hadn’t given away during the move because they had been gifts from my mother or my friends. Again, that article above and other articles linked to that post helped. I didn’t need the books to remember my mother (who is alive and well, thank goodness) or my friends. So I got rid of them, too. Then a strange thing happened. For a long time I had to stack my books on my bookshelves because there simply wasn’t enough bookshelves in my house. After pulling out all the books I didn’t need, though, I was able to put books on some shelves back to their vertical positions. It feels so good to see that!
I’m also putting a temporary block to buying new books. I haven’t bought any new ones for two weeks but when you see a October book haul, please know that it consists of leftover books from September orders. I won’t buy any new ones in October – why? Because I still have four weekly steps left in my 6-weeks-plan. I have six shelves on Goodreads that read: 1st-week-want; 2nd-week-still-want; 3rd-week-will-read; 4th-week-will-reread; 5th-week-will-read-right-now; 6th-week-does-it-add-value-to-my-life. Every Monday I have the chance to move up the books. On the first Monday, I put over 200 books on the shelf, basically everything that I have even the slightest interest in right now. Next week they went under strict scrutiny and moved 71 of them to “still want” shelf. Every new book I took fancy to in the second week went right to the “1st-week-want” shelf. Every Monday each and every book gets the chance to move up, or remain. The first couple of weeks is all about want. The next three are about whether I will read them for sure and not in a vague oh-I-will-read-it-some-day. The question about re-read is important because if I’m going to read the book only once, I’d better get the ebook version rather than a physical copy. Of course I don’t know whether I want to re-read a book that I haven’t even read yet. So this is all based on the potential of the books. Mostly one can get a good picture of the book by reading the first chapter or two, which is almost always possible thanks to Amazon. The last hurdle my future books have to pass is one of the minimalist questions: Will this book add value to my life? Again it’s a potential question, and also a personal one. Does reading this book fit into my values?
The plan is to weed out books that I think I want from books that I really will read. I have been reading lots of fiction for pleasure for past five years. My reading habits and tastes are shifting ever so slightly and it’s my conscious decision that I want to gain something from my readings. I don’t want to indulge in mindless escapism reading every day anymore. (Nothing wrong with it though.)

I probably will go through other downsizing phases in the future, which I am already looking forward to. Right now, doing this, letting go of my clutter and helping myself to focus on what is really important, feels right to me. It feels good.

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