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Minimalism & Books: A Tense Love Triangle

In case you missed it, I interviewed a BookTuber called Yasmin the other day and we really got to chat a bit about minimalism as her content changed quite a bit when she started practicing it. From that, I was kind of inspired to discuss it a bit more and do some research to see what other people might be saying about it, especially since having a book hobby can be notorious with having a book collection and buying book-related things – particularly in the online book community.

Having a book collection is not bad – I have one myself, but practicing minimalism is inherently about having and buying less. Enjoying the little things and making good use of what we have. To start the discussion, I thought I’d go through my own journey with minimalism and how it has impacted my life.

NOTE: In this article, when I say getting rid of books, I ALWAYS donate them. I’ve donated books back to op shops to be sold again, I’ve donated ARCs to local primary schools (because ARCs should never be sold). I love the idea that even if you aren’t keeping a book, it can bring enjoyment to someone else.

When you call a person a minimalist, you’re describing their interest in keeping things very simple. A minimalist prefers the minimal amount or degree of something. In art history, the minimalists were artists whose work involved extremely simple gestures and ideas.


How I Became A Minimalist

In late 2016, I guess you could say that I started off in the community as a minimalist. I was gifted a Kindle and got heaps on books on it, starting reading again after years of not doing so and this led me to find out about Bookstagram. I had no idea about the community until then, nevertheless bloggers or BookTubers. It inspired me to start my own Instagram account and find so many book recommendations. However, with my imminent employment, it also meant I started buying books.

Lots of books – left and right, I spent so much money on books, second-hand books at op shops, merch (so much merch) and I did this when I could afford it. So when I didn’t have much money to spend on books and merch anymore, I started to notice how much clutter I had acquired. Not just in the stuff I bought that was book-related but there was clutter everywhere in my life. My clothes, my makeup, my stuff. And it bothered me.

This may have been around the time Marie Kondo started getting popular but you could say I followed her method even though I didn’t know I was doing it. Around mid-2018, I began The Purge. I went through everything I owned, got rid of so many books I either didn’t care about, or knew I’d never actually read. I realized that there was no point in collecting all the things I had if they weren’t actually making me feel happy. It didn’t help that seeing others on Instagram and YouTube with libraries and constant consumerism created this pressure, this FOMO that I must get these too to feel better about myself. Not to mention the pretty unsolicited books publishers sent me that didn’t always catch my attention. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my toxic relationship with consumerism.

The cool thing about The Purge was that it wasn’t a single event either, I continued to do it again and again, really assessing my items. Particularly my clothing; I got rid of a lot of clothes I have had for years and never worn (this was especially hard for my mother who is a bit of a hoarder and kept trying to keep my clothes for herself or my “cousins” who may want it). At the end of 2019, I ended up getting rid of one of my bookcases. I didn’t need it for books anymore because I only kept the ones I really wanted/loved and I wasn’t buying many books anymore.

This year, I started being able to buy more books again! And let me tell you, that it has been a struggle to maintain minimalism. I guess this is where the debate of minimalism vs. being frugal can happen but I’m proud to still call myself a minimalist.

Minimalism Isn’t Just Getting Rid of Books

Something I realized in my journey to being more minimalist was that getting rid of books or unhauling books wasn’t the only way you could practice minimalism. Culling books may be a first step to clearing the clutter and giving myself a fresh start but maintaining my book collection so my buying habits didn’t get out of control again was harder.

The first step was to remind myself that I don’t need to buy certain books right now, they’re not going anywhere and I already have plenty to read on my shelves as it is. We have a lifetime to read what we want, and local libraries generally keep a good collection on hand too.

Second, was to continue analyzing what I had. If I wanted to buy something new, I looked at the existing books, clothes, whatever, and thought, what is this replacing? What can I get rid of now that I wasn’t loving before? It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype and the feeling that you NEED something so bad. It’s harder to step back and wonder, is this really a need or a want to satisfy something else?

You can also practice minimalism by borrowing books from your library, using an eco-friendly digital eReader like a Kindle (which I’m trying to use more but still prefer physical books) and buying from second-hand stores.

When analyzing my book collection and what I want to keep, I found an interesting article a while ago that gave a good guide for what books to keep:

1. & 2. Re-read/Recommend

3. Reference (what I consider to be favourites as well)

4. Rare (I may not collect special editions anymore but doesn’t mean I want to get rid of the ones I have already collected)

The Lifestyle Files

The Results

I don’t know if you’d necessarily call how it’s impacted my life “results”, because this is a continuous process but I definitely feel so much better about myself and my possessions since I’ve embraced minimalism. I moved out for the first time this year and it made the process so much easier (cause I had so much less stuff to move). I generally tend to feel satisfied after cleaning up my apartment. Removing clutter is another way of cleaning and “cleansing” my space. It allows me to recharge and start fresh!

I’ve become more critical of my spending too, by saving more money and supporting other content creators instead of chasing specific special editions with a passion or impulsively buying books I’m not going to read soon. Something I’m also new at is digital decluttering; organizing and deleting computer files I don’t need – although this one is so tedious and not as satisfying. A work in progress 😛

Being a minimalist isn’t for everyone, may people enjoy having lots of things around them and that’s okay. No one should ever let what someone else does dictate what they also do. Do what feels right for you and focus on your own happiness, particularly your mental health during this unfortunate pandemic.

So, how do you feel about minimalism? Do you practice it too? How does it work with your reading hobby?

Until next time,

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  • Jakob A Andreasen

    Minimalism is such an interesting topic to discuss and it is very much a prevalent one too, especially in this community. I do want to explore the concept myself, which I do think I subconsciously do on a daily basis, because it is indeed nice to enter a space and not feel overwhelmed by everything in it! I agree wholeheartedly that we don’t really need all the books right at this moment, that we’ll eventually get to them and I’ve realised this in the past year. This was quite the read and I am definitely excited to cull my shelves, rather than hiding the books I want to unhaul behind the front books.

    • Tracy

      Thank you so much <3 I'm so glad and I can totally relate, I hidden books before and I've found it so satisfying to finally unhaul them. It's definitely super interesting to read about and the cool thing about it is that you can always learn a bit more about how to adjust your environment and make it better to suit you. Happy unhauling Jakob ^_^

  • Mary

    This is such an interesting post! I’ve really struggled over the years with my book buying. For a long time, I literally just bought books, put them on my shelf, and they never saw the light of day again. I had this idea that I was a voracious reader, so I had to keep buying books, but I also thought that I was supposed to read only literary fiction because I was an “adult” reader, and it was just–a recipe for disaster, honestly. Now that I’ve finally accepted I can read whatever I want, and I’ve gotten better at judging what I’ll like, book buying has gotten both a lot easier and a lot more productive since I actually read what I buy! But I definitely understand the FOMO and the feeling like you just neeeeeed to have a specific book, and the willpower to not buy it is a lot sometimes, but it almost feels better that you really sat and thought about if you needed it rather than just flying into impulse, you know? Anyway, this got me thinking, so thank you for that!

    • Tracy

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and that it got you thinking. It’s such an invigorating concept within the community. Happy reading šŸ™‚

  • Julie Anna's Books

    I love this post! I think whenever this conversation arises a lot of people assume minimalism is about throwing out everything, and like you said, it’s not that! I started being more intentional about what I purchase a couple of years ago as well, and while my shelves are still more than what I feel I need, I’m feeling much better too. I definitely have a harder time with it now that I’m a part of the book community (especially Bookstagram), but I just have to be real with myself and ask myself if I really want all these things or if I just feel like I need to. It’s definitely a hard thing to balance, but doing things like taking out books from libraries instead or getting ebooks (right when I’ll read them) are definitely helping too. This is honestly a topic I’d love to see discussed more in the book community because I’ve seen it discussed in other communities, but not as much here yet! šŸ–¤

    • Tracy

      Thank you! That’s amazing, and I’ve been doing the same too šŸ™‚ I hope more people discuss this in the book community too because there are definitely kind of two sides to consumerism.

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