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Tiffany Walsh ponders how purging unread books from her shelves re-energized her for reading the stories she truly wanted to enjoy.

This spring, I experienced some major changes in my day-to-day life, including changing jobs and my son graduating from high school. In fact, both of those things happened in the same week! As you can imagine, although both situations were happy ones, a certain amount of uncertainty and anxiety pervaded my emotions during this time. I was feeling joyful and hopeful for the future, but there was certainly an element of stress in managing the myriad of feelings that accompanied the tasks needing to be completed.   

As this was ongoing, I needed to clean out my office in an effort towards moving into a new office without needing to haul over a bunch of “stuff” (for lack of a better word) that I had not used in many years. Some of it was paper that needed shredding, that went onto the to-do list, as did returning supplies and equipment that I no longer needed. I quickly realized, though, that because my office had a large bookcase in it, I had collected quite a few books over the years. This makes sense, in that I am a librarian, and well … I like books: this is not a surprise.

However, these were not library books that I could simply return. They were books that I had purchased or been given that had been sitting on the shelves of this bookcase for approximately 10 years. Many of them I had read, some of them I had not. Given that the prospect of carrying their sheer volume over to a new building was not a very appealing one, I determined to go through them and keep only books that I absolutely loved, or those that I had not yet read and still wanted to read. I would donate the rest to a local public library, which regularly holds sales from these donations to raise funds.   




What I found was that there were very few books that met my criteria for going into the Keeper Pile. Amongst the books I had not yet read, I found that there was a reason for this: I did not really want to read them! Guilt is never a great reason for keeping something, and I put these in the donation bag, because certainly, someone else will choose them and enjoy them.

The resulting tote bags of donation books were stuffed to the brim, and it was a bit of a workout to haul them out to my car and then into the donation bin at the public library, but the feeling of having simplified my space, reducing the physical footprint of items that I no longer needed or wanted, was a catharsis that I had not realized I craved. It was a joy to unpack my belongings in my happy new office and not feel overwhelmed with where to put everything. I had only brought over the most important things, and the volume was quite manageable.  

At home, I realized that I had the same issue. I had 2 large bookcases full of books that I had not sorted through in many years. They were so full that I had given up on buying any new print books, instead purchasing only e-books. I love my e-reader as much as anybody, especially for the ability to easily adjust the font size, but print books with their evocative front cover art and captivating back flap summaries are why I fell in love with reading as a child.




A much-needed indulgent purchase at Thrift Books drove me to embark on a book weeding and re-organization project on my home bookcases, and the effect has been immediate. I feel emotionally lighter and re-energized, excited to dive into some new stories and voices, a pleasure I have denied myself for some time because I was burdening my heart with guilt that I should not get rid of any of the books I had kept from my young adulthood.  


Click to tweet:
I was burdening my heart with guilt that I should not get rid of any of the books I had kept. #CatholicMom


The weeding process was quite different with my home bookshelves, as I kept many more of my old books that I did with the office collection, but I still easily cleared several shelves of space for new book friends. Others can now enjoy these donated books and the cycle of new knowledge and inspiration will continue on as a result.   

Do you find going through things and donating what you no longer need or use to be a cathartic process? I would love to hear about it in the comments! 



Copyright 2023 Tiffany Walsh
Images: Canva