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To Simplicity - Decluttering Part 2: Books and Papers. I continue my KonMari decluttering journey with books and papers! Books are usually hard for people to part with but I found a few tips along the way.

Decluttering Part 2: KonMari Books and Papers

As I continue following along with the KonMari process, after clothes comes books then papers. Even though I’ve done these three categories the first time I tried to KonMari my house, I was still really surprised by the number of clothes I was able to part with. This gave me some hope that books and papers would follow that same trend.

In a way, they did and in a way they didn’t. I got to see areas I did really well in last time and also places I’m still really struggling. Since the books and papers categories were pretty reasonable, I combined them both here.


Starting Point with Books

This was perhaps the biggest surprise of all. I donated a lot of books last time but knew I could do more. Like many others, I really treasure my books. I’ve moved no less than 10 paper boxes of books with me each time I moved. In fact, during an 8 year period, I’ve moved 9 times and had most of my belongings for 7 of those moves. Even when I moved from Colorado to Michigan with everything I owned in a Toyota Corolla, furniture stayed but books still came with me. I had always dreamed of having a giant library. Thumbing through pages of text and pictures had always been one of my favorite things to do.

So what happened to change that dream? To start with, books are heavy. Boxes of books are even heavier still. Even with heavy duty paper boxes that wouldn’t fall apart, I still dreaded books on moving day and usually saved them for last. Around the time I got married, e-readers were really starting to become popular. As a wedding gift, my husband gave me my first e-reader.

Suddenly, I could literally carry my entire library in my purse. The idea of being able to move my entire book collection by just picking up a single device changed everything and I rarely touched a physical book for years after getting that first e-reader. Did that mean the end of those books in boxes? At the time, no. They stayed in boxes, piled in closets and tucked out of sight for years until I dug them out to KonMari.

Book Decluttering Round 2

Unfortunately, I didn’t keep track of exactly how many books I gave away or donated with that first round. Plenty. So much so that when I started this time, I had exactly 22 books to sort through, including two recipe books and two recipe binders. Of those, the two recipe books and binders stayed along with 9 other books I have in my office. Considering how long I held on to my book collection, I was shocked at how much I had gotten rid of before and how easy the rest were to remove. What’s left? Just design books that I use for reference and inspiration. I don’t have a physical copy of a single book that’s just a fiction or non-fiction story. They live on my e-reader or are borrowed from the library.

My Secret to Discarding Books

I can think of a number of people in my life who would cringe at the thought of giving up their book collections and there are many people out there who share that attachment. Heck, I used to be one of them. What changed? The idea getting the information from those books then sharing that joy with others.

The value is not in the book; the value is in the words themselves. – Joshua Fields Millburn

I had so many great books in my collection that brought me so much joy over the years but I would never read them again. The information was useful but I had already gotten what I needed from them, enjoyed the story told, or learned what the book was meant to teach. This was especially true looking at the “someday” books that I never got to. I had to be honest with myself and admit that they were never going to be read or read again.

I loved the idea of sharing the joy of that collection so I donated my books to the local library. The best part of all of that? Many of the books from my collection made it on the shelves or in their sale corner. While stalking the library shelves for my former books, instead of regretting my donation, I was so excited to see them available for others to enjoy. That was the main motivator in getting rid of even more books this time. In addition to asking if a particular book sparked joy, I also asked myself if this book would benefit or bring joy to someone else.

A Surprise Decluttering Session

While I was working on decluttering my books, my daughter came over and asked what I was doing. I’ve done some decluttering with her over the years so she’s somewhat familiar with the spark joy idea or “pick your favorite”. She watched me finish up and put the remaining few books on the shelf and asked if we could go through her books too. After getting over my shock, of course I took the opportunity to declutter! I also knew she still had a lot of baby and toddler books on her shelves that she had outgrown.

Just like Marie Kondo suggests, we took all of the books and made a pile on the floor. We worked together and went through one by one, simply asking if she wanted to keep or donate a book. I’ve explained donating to her before as a way to give her toys and things away so that other kids can enjoy them. Having her go through each of her books and put them on the shelf as she worked was surprisingly quick and easy. I have about half of a garbage bag full of various board books, story books, golden books, and interactive books ready to go so that other kids can enjoy them too. It’s amazing how well young kids can declutter and how they naturally seem to do better with less stuff.

Imagine what it would be like to have a bookshelf filled only with books that you really love. Isn’t that image spellbinding? For someone who loves books, what greater happiness could there be? – Marie Kondo


Starting Point with Papers

Last time around, I didn’t follow Marie’s advice exactly. She says to essentially throw away everything. This excludes really important papers like birth certificates and things like tax papers you need to legally keep for a time. But I still struggled with her suggestion to just throw everything out. For as great as I did with parting with my book collection, I love paper.

I’ve gotten better about parting with things that obviously have no use anymore so I’m not hoarding paper like I used. An area that I still struggled with is knowing want to keep. Last time, I kept a lot of stuff and did develop a filing system for everything, labels and all. I wanted to try and keep things organized and at my fingertips but also put away.

Paper Decluttering Round 2

Since it had been over a year since I last cleaned out these folders, it quickly became obvious what was never touched. That made it easier to discard some items but the question of what to keep still lingered. Some items were obviously not needed, like expired warranty paperwork or manuals that could be found online. There were even invoices and receipts that were useless. But what about things like old leases and old tax paperwork? School records from college and before that didn’t seem to be needed but could be someday? What exactly did we need in that giant packet of insurance paperwork? Or the bank information from opening a new account?

What To Save and For How Long

I probably kept more than I should. In the end, I have birth certificates and social security cards, banking account information (not statements), medical papers for both us and the pets, insurance information, leases for the last 5 years, school records, retirement paperwork, and everything for my business. There were a few guides online that I’ve linked below that may help.

How Long Should I Keep Old Documents? – Lifehacker

How Long Should I Keep Records? – IRS

How Long to Keep Tax Records – Consumer Reports

Continuing With Komono – Tidying the Rest of the House

I’ve already started on some komono (miscellaneous) items while reading The More of Less by Joshua Becker. There’s still a lot to go and I’m excited to continue it. This time, I’m not going to try and tackle the kitchen anytime soon or without my husband’s help. Everything else in the house has been going really smoothly so far but that area is going to require some kind of strategy or experiment to conquer.

Next up will be the rest of the house, the basement, garage and eventually the sentimental items. Stay tuned!


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