I read more now I have fewer books.
I used to own a bookcase full of books and textbooks and only used to read one book every 5 months. Now, I only own about 20 books (plus 30 reference books) but read a book every two weeks. After de-cluttering, the books left on my bookshelf were a big clue about where my passions really lay, not where I thought they should be.
Maybe you’re already an avid reader but swamped by books or maybe you’re more like me and want to get better at reading, build your knowledge and create your horizons, and know where your heart really lies?
Why ‘should’ I?
I always knew reading was something I ‘should’ do more of but the only time I read a book was when I needed a distraction from life or when the book was something I thought I ‘should’ read. You know the type, the ones you have to drag yourself through and re-read every other sentence. While passive reading to escape has its purposes, I knew this wasn’t going to give me what I wanted; knowledge and horizons! So I made a decision, I was going to get better at reading.
What sparked my interest?
About 2 years ago I made the decision that I wanted to read more and broaden my reading habits. It was through a discussion with a fellow life coach friend that I wrote a list of some of things I wanted to do more of. Reading was high up on my priority list. I was lacking in the general knowledge department having been really good at just passing exams at school and uni but I was also lacking in the ability to apply this knowledge and most importantly apply it directly to my life and making it more intentional.
I noticed that the people who were doing more of what I wanted to do (being creative with their time, following through with ideas like setting up start-up businesses) all had one thing in common and that was reading. They were not just reading one type of book, but biographies, ‘how to’ books, fiction and non-fiction, blogs, listening to podcasts and not just one topic either.
So how does having fewer books, mean I read more?
During my de-cluttering phase number one, two or five, I can’t quite remember during which one I tackled my bookcase. There were textbooks, borrowed books, old school books, and recipe books, basically a whole heap of unread books. So why wasn’t I reading them?
Marie Kondo says that we often hold onto things that keep us stuck in the past or in the future. For example, we might keep something that reminds us of someone or it was something that we loved doing but no longer do. Or we might keep a book with all good intentions of reading it someday in the future. For example, getting good at the guitar having never really picked up that dusty thing in the corner or the room.
Marie Kondo advises that we only keep the books that ‘spark joy’ and store them like awards on a shelf. So I kept my favourite 20ish books and gave them pride of place on the top shelf. The rest of the books I donated to charity or put them on Fat Brain or WeBuyBooks (I’m sure there are lots of other sites out there. Just be careful to read T and C’s as they only want non-annotated books). I kept about 5 books that although I didn’t know whether they would bring joy, I really wanted to find out if they did or not, and so my reading journey began with reading what I wanted to read rather than what I thought I ‘should’ read.
I also kept one shelf for reference books including recipe books, travel guides and my uni textbooks but actually I’m sure I could reduce these further. Helen and I went to the local library last week to get some travel guides for Helen’s next adventures and I was amazed at the range- so I will be borrowing these from now on.
My passions were revealed to me on a shelf
Passion is a big buzz word these days and I don’t necessarily think its a great word as it assumes we are born with a passion that we have to uncover, but actually I think everyday we are growing our passions by what sparks our interests.
I bought the books on my shelf for a reason at that particular moment in my life. Some of these reasons are still valid to me now and fit with my values so I kept these books. Getting rid of the other books that no longer had a reason to be in my life, allowed me to see what I was truly interested in. In a bigger picture sense, my passions that I’ve been creating over time were revealed to me on a bookcase.
Steps to get better at reading
First only keep books that ‘spark joy’.
Read what you WANT to read
- Only read what you really want to read and don’t waste time reading something you feel you ‘should’ read. By reading what you want to, you build up your joy for reading and what it can do for you.
Read what will add value to your life RIGHT NOW
- If I’m choosing my next book, I really think about what it is that will add value to my life, right now. For example, at the moment, I’m questioning how I can live in a smaller house (possibly a tiny house), spending less with more time to do what I want to do so I have been wondering what it would be like to live off-grid. So you guessed it, I’m reading ‘How to Live off-grid’ by Nick Rosen.
Make time for it
- Set a period in your day for reading. I tend to read before bed because I have no other distractions in the room. You might get up an hour earlier and spend half an hour indulging in your latest passion!
- If you read something and you begin to question something or you make connections with something else you’re interested in, use this to figure out what ‘your next favourite book’ is going to be. The Good Reads App is a fab way to track what you have read and it suggests related books that may appeal. This helps you to create your passion even further.
Avoid ‘I will read this later’ piles
- If you’ve not read it by now, chances are you’re not likely to unless it happens to be in the couple of books you want to read in the next few weeks.
Find a friend who has similar interests and swap books
- Helen is basically my library and I know she’ll always have a book to recommend that I know I’ll love.
Pass it on or sell it
- Most books we don’t re-read so unless this book makes it onto your ‘awards’ shelf then pass it onto a friend you know would get some value from it too, send it to a charity shop or sell it on a website like Fatbrain (remember to check if they only want non-annotated books etc).
Re-root yourself through Re-ading, Re-search and Re-defining what it is to live intentionally. What doors will it or does it already open for you?