Sold My Soul (to the Used Bookstore), Or How to Declutter

I’m de-cluttering like crazy this week. I blame Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee, authors of Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things. I checked it out from the library, thinking it was more about stuff acquisition and then read it all in one night, fascinated by the authors’ psychological analysis and case studies of hoarding. I’ve been talking about it so much that my aunt wanted her own copy. Reading it prompted me to look around and wonder: What I am hanging onto that is more about emotional attachment than usefulness?

  • First, I got rid of some of my books. I have more books than I have shelves, honestly. Yes, my name is Hope and I’m a bookaholic. For example, I have two layers of books in one cabinet and have to take out some books to see the ones behind them, which means I’m always wondering where the heck a book went, only to find it tucked away in some odd corner of the house. So, I went through all my bookshelves, looking for things I’d never read, been sent, or bought for reasons unknown. This prompts lots of inexplicable questions, like: When was I possessed by some sort of bizarre mania to read Malcolm Gladwell? Or how did I end up with multiple copies of The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup? (Answers: I don’t know and because Susan Orlean is fabulous). Once I started really asking myself if I wanted to read or re-read something, it was easy to distinguish between books I loved and ones I felt meh about. The stack of meh books ended up being enough paperbacks to fill some boxes and Trader Joe’s paper bags. Then I thought, why not sell these?
  • I used Bookscouter to find the best price from several online websites and shipped out several different parcels. Most sites ask you to sell back enough to meet a minimum (between $5-25) and provide free shipping labels. As long as you have a few empty boxes around, it’s fairly simple to do. One thing I learned: hardcover books really do depreciate like new cars. That hardcover of The Silkworm that I eagerly purchased and then only read once? It might net me $4–or less. Some recent books have zero market value. Ouch.
  • Next, I got all my magazines together. I usually donate the recent issues to my hairstylist every month or two. For some reason, however, I’d been hanging on to back issues of Yoga Journal (we’re talking 2009 here), thinking I’d revisit them. Instead of keeping the whole issue, I went through and tore out articles I wanted and put them in a folder. Random insight: magazines are mostly advertising. Really. So many adverts. Second insight? Ironically, almost all the January-February magazines had cover articles on how to live a simpler, less messy life. But decluttering articles in magazines are usually lousy and/or suggest more stuff to buy. Look at this ridiculous suggestion for Lazy Susans in your fridge or canvas bags on your kid’s bedroom door. I laughed, y’all. Canvas is a magnet for dirt, dust, and dog hair. You’d need to vacuum those suckers out periodically, barring accidents with crayons, sticky food, etc.11043276_915960355091404_4260365225382974538_o
  • I joined a Facebook group for decluttering. Check out their decluttering cheat sheets and in-depth guide. I find it easier to tackle individual tasks than to multitask. But I’m weird like that. Want to read more about spending and consumption? I enjoyed Juliet Schor’s The Overspent American, even though it is a bit older. Want to declutter? You can jump into XO Jane’s 30-Day minimalism challenge or teach yourself not to buy things.  Whatever you do, I doubt you’ll need these fancy $3 paper towels. I really laughed at that one.10986443_915971478423625_5577692112761736865_o

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