How I cured my book hoarding habit

I used to hoard huge amounts of books. I collected every book I could get my hands on and accumulated for four years in my first solo apartment, which had three huge Ikea book cases. Then when I had to leave, I parted with about half of those books, only to replenish the hoard later. For some reason, I just have a hard time letting go of books, and they seem to re-appear in my home if I am not vigilant.

I think one reason was the "fantasy self." I liked to imagine I was a different person than I really am. At one point I had a stack of old french cook books that I never really used, because I convinced myself I needed to learn to cook that way, but I never did. I had reams of poetry, because I feel like I should read more poetry, but I don't actually like reading poetry that much, so I didn't.

However, I think I've finally cured my impulse to hoard. What is a book? It's just a collection of words, which when read, insert some ideas and experiences into my brain. Once I started thinking of books as information transmission devices, I stopped feeling the need to collect. I can still hold onto a digital copy through e-books so I always have access to the book's contents whenever I want, if I want to "reload" the book in my mind. I have a huge Dropbox folder with books, plus my Kindle library, so I can read any book literally anywhere – I have no need to keep a paper copy. I rarely re-read books, except with certain books like the Bible or a philosophy book that are used more for reference, and my favorite fiction books that I re-read every couple years.

Only the elite top 25-30 books of all time are actually re-read often enough to be worthy of occupying actual physical space on my shelf.

I think probably 95% of the books I have read were quickly consumed and mostly forgotten. I experienced them, got what information I could out of them, whether that was facts or perspective or an aesthetic experience, and then that information became part of my brain or was dropped when the information stopped being useful or intriguing. And that's okay. It doesn't make me an ignorant boor, any more than having three giant book cases full of books I barely remembered reading made me an enlightened intellectual.

I think books are a tricky one because while buying books may seem worthwhile, the impulse is really the same as with any consumerist hoarding behavior. It is an attempt to change one's self-perception through consumption. But when you slow down and think about it, there is absolutely no reason to do this. I am not going to be any smarter or dumber based on the number of paper rectangles in my apartment.

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