As you will have seen, I've been a little alarmed recently by identifying my reluctance to throw out things that are broken, damaged or no longer needed as the tip of the iceberg of proper, full-on can't-see-the-floors-or-even-the-walls hoarding.
The two factors came together with the realisation that most of the books on my shelf do not enrich my life. I have been holding on to lots of books that I have read and will never read again, some of which I did not particularly enjoy, but all of which I feel I have to keep hold of. This is perhaps partly a learned response, as I have always been taught never to get rid of books as they are an investment in your intellectual future, but also I think I have been clinging to an image that my bookshelves portrayed. I like being someone who has Virgina Woolf and Samuel Beckett on her bookshelves, even if I know I am never again going to read Nohow On. It was depressing enough the first time.
This means that every time I walk into the spare room, where all the bookshelves are, I feel conflicted between the life I would like to have and the one I do. Much as I would love to be an erudite reader who enjoys dissecting the finer points of Beckett after too much booze, this is not (or no longer) really a part of my life. I want to embrace new intellectual challenges - and read Beckett's plays, which I do enjoy, rather than his prose. I also look at the cluttered selection of books stacked two deep on all shelves, and piling up towards the ceiling, and feel how far this is from a peaceful, restorative and stimulating library I would like to have.
The purpose of a book is to be read. By holding books in perpetual storage on my shelves, all I do is make it harder to see the books I might pick up and read, and block new and exciting books from coming in to join the party. So I am selling four bags of books to the second-hand bookshop I frequent, and I hope they will entertain, inspire and challenge many more people. I can now actually see the books I have not yet read, and can think about which books I might like to add to a smaller but more meaningful and purposeful collection.