My high school boyfriend, knowing my ardor for books, built me a bookshelf for my 18th birthday and carved our names in the bottom. The bookshelf, brim with tomes of every variety, traveled with me to college, along with stacks of other books I stored under my bed, on top of my bed, in my closet, and between dishes in the kitchen cupboard.
I didn’t just collect books, I read and referenced them. I wrote in their margins, dogeared their pages, took them on dates, and stuffed them in my pockets at work so I could memorize their lines. I loved the smell of the ink, the heft of the pages, the criss cross through history, and the offer of intelligent, soulful friendship on a lonely afternoon.
Nine boyfriends, one love-of-my-life, and three baby girls later, I stood in my vast personal library one day and had an a-ha. Each of these books, innocent as they seemed, held an expectation of me to take action. Each of these expectations loomed in the corners of my psyche, taking up space and inflicting guilt that I hadn’t yet fulfilled my obligations.
Teaching Kids to Love the Earth, The Joy of Cooking, Your Life As Story, were the obvious ones. But so was my 54 book collection of The Great Books of the Western World, magazines on creating a beautiful life, piano scores, and rows of children’s grammar, science, math, poetry, and art books, requiring first a lesson from mom.
I began to realize that every “thing” in my life held an expectation. Yarn expected to be knit, notecards to be written and sent, seeds to be planted, movies to be watched. Fancy dresses to be worn to a party, jumpropes to be jumped, dolls to be dressed, Monopoly to be played. Apple press to make cider, house cleaners to be sprayed, weights to be lifted, jewelry to be worn. Lemons to be squeezed, fabric to be sewn, coupons to be used, and guitar to be strummed.
Even the bookshelf my high-school boyfriend crafted in his uncle’s garage expected to be to cared for and appreciated. Everything expected something, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I pulled out dozens of recycled boxes, and slowly purged over 900 beloved books for give away. I gave away furniture, kitchen appliances, clothes I still loved, and even a car. No garage sale, no Craigslist, just a desire to desire to openly share, and a leap of faith that I would have what I need when I needed it.
My life is more simple and easy. I still have a collection of books and things I love. I also have more space, inner peace, and time to spend with the living, smiling, happier people I call my friends and family.
Take a stroll around your home and notice how you feel in each room. Do you sense any unmet expectations attached to your things?