In Anne Lamott’s acclaimed book on the writing process, ‘Bird by Bird’, she encourages intentionality and confidence in simply making a start, without worrying about achieving perfection.
As we try this approach to writing, we find words appear, slowly gathering pace like a flock of birds taking flight. Faith is required to begin. Things only flow well once we open ourselves up to the leap in the dark it requires of us.
Similarly, my route to an uncluttered home is only achievable in tiny, book by book increments, beginning with heavily laden shelves that have been unexamined for years.
Having forgotten just what lies waiting to be taken down and viewed, I have to look at each and every book and make a judgement about which sorting pile it goes into.
My life seems to be measured out in books, circumscribed by words. I cradle each one gently, wipe off the accumulated garland of dust and leaf through the pages. We have a time limit in which to complete this particular task but my heart says it shouldn’t be rushed. Soul shifting work cannot be hurried.
Slow as it might be, the process of sorting and sifting demands decision-making. I don’t want to discard those things which feel like an extension of me, and are part of my history, without careful consideration.
With books, the theme of purpose and usefulness is complicated. How do you define the way words speak to your soul? How do you measure the merit of literature? What determines the decision to discard or to keep?
It’s challenging because a tangled thread of emotions keeps us attached to our stuff, especially those things associated with memories and personal history.
Will I read this book again? Maybe not. But look who gave it to me. See the inscription. How can I part with this? Perhaps I can pass it on to my children.
In fact, tackling our book collection can feel like trying to choose between chalk and cheese children, each greatly valued for their own idiosyncrasies. How can we choose? Do we base our choice on usefulness to us at that particular moment or on emotional attachment?
I’m finding some books draw me in like a lover (or belong to my beloved), and I put them carefully on the keep pile. Others only require a perfunctory glance to be able to decide to release.
My journey into gentle minimalism began and continues with prayer. Looking to God for the necessary wisdom, guidance, energy and strength required. Realising I can’t even take the first tentative steps without holding on to His hand.
It started years earlier with releasing my life to Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, and has continued with surrendering this and that into God’s hands as He indicates the need, while slowly recognising how His sovereignty surrounds and covers all things.
I cannot make progress without seeing the hidden blessings within these dusty relics, battered Bibles and mix of books, and noting the way God has so often used words to shape and mould me closer to Christ-likeness.
He speaks to me through these Holy lines of His and through those which others bring into existence. And He writes His personal words on my heart during prayer.
My heart needs to feed most on the Word that reads me, even as I am reading it. Because God’s Word has life transforming power. Piercing our thoughts and intentions as it does.
And only this Holy library, this seemingly disparate collection of books, is capable of speaking truth, life and healing to our broken, wounded souls. A gift we need to cherish.
What are you finding hard to relinquish? Is parting with books painful for you?