Thanks to Marie Kondo, tidying up fever has placed a fevered hold on Netflix viewers and spread like wild fever to eager declutterers across the land. While people seem to be cool with neatly folding and containerizing almost all of their possessions and jettisoning their unneeded stuff that doesn’t, as Kondo puts it, spark joy, an outraged segment of book lovers has gotten its pages all in a crease about Kondo’s take on keeping books in your home. Pointing to a meme in which Kondo is shown saying, “Ideally, keep less than 30 books,” which is a slight mangling of a quote* from Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, bibliophiles are decrying Kondo as some kind of Book-ie Monster who wants to remorselessly devour all of their precious, precious books (after having thanked them, of course).
I don’t want to evaluate whether or not Kondo is in fact a certified book hater; I think she obviously isn’t and agree with this writer’s assessment of the backlash, namely that there is a seemingly willful misinterpretation of what Kondo is saying with her 30 book “rule,” as well as with her general “spark joy” philosophy. Instead, I want to express the somewhat controversial opinion, especially from someone who walks among and serves the book obsessed, that even if Kondo is advocating for universal scaling back of personal libraries, maybe that’s…not the worst thing? Please don’t get me wrong: I do love books, I work in one of the book-iest places you can work, I read all the time, and I keep books in my home. Despite all that, I find myself subscribing to the Jerry Seinfeld view of book ownership. I’m not quite as derisive of book owners as my pal Jer Bear, but I do agree that once a book is read, there’s not necessarily a great need to hold on to it.
Of course, some books, like cherished favorites and informational ones you may want to refer to again and again, make more sense to keep around. Also, as Kondo is quoted as saying in the afore-linked Vox article, “Only you know can know what kind of environment makes you feel happy,” so if being surrounded by shelves/stacks/mountains of books truly makes you happy, go nuts. If, however, your kept books are, as Seinfeld quipped, more like trophies to you, it may be worth reevaluating your book holdings and your motivations for them. The bottom line is do what’s right for you, which is what Marie Kondo wanted for you all along. And if you do decide to downsize your home book collection, remember that the library is here for you. We’ll hold on to all the books we can, because we’re about sparking joy for everyone.
*The actual quote is, “I now keep my collection of books to about thirty volumes at any one time.”