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Over the last couple of years, I have been making attempts to be more environmentally conscious through minimalism. I am nowhere near perfection and in some areas, I feel I am more successful than others. By re-evaluating my spending habits and seeking more of the experiences that I spark joy, I have made some headway in the clothing and books department.

I know that the subjects of materialism, minimalism and possessions can be divisive especially when they poke at the things that are closest to our hearts. But reviewing my own relationship with books through the lens of minimalism has changed my perspective. I have come to recognise that my desire to acquire the knowledge, lessons and experience of reading itself will not wane because I own fewer books.  In addition, I have come to appreciate the accompanying freedoms.

Verena of My Green Closet shared how minimalism has saved her money. So I compared how minimalism has affected my reading and spending habits; here are some of the lessons that I gleaned over the last two years…

Thoughtfulness: Needs vs Wants

I have become more conscious about the books I need to read as opposed to those that I want to own. As readers, you may be thinking that you need to own and read as many books as possible. I have talked about my anxiety and guilt from owning too many books while fearing that I would not be able to finish them. In truth, I will never be able to read all books. Furthermore, not all books are for me. So that’s why I am no longer afraid of DNF-ing. There is nothing worse than having reader’s remorse- investing your time and effort in 500 paged book that you eventually right off as a waste of time.

When I relocated back to Kenya after graduate school, I clearly recall lugging a suitcase full of unread books (excluding school books and materials). At the time, I  could not bear the thought of parting with any of them.   I had rationalised that  I would NEVER be able to find some of those titles in Kenyan books especially the ones that I had purchased in charity shops. Three years later, I have ended up unhauling a lot of those books without having read them.

These days, I  am more picky about the books that I purchase and bring into my space. If possible,  I use my local library to borrow the must-haves and gauge its ” keep” potential, especially for non-fiction texts. While I do not see myself having a zero-TBR, I do not envision myself spending my free time dusting my hoarded unread books.

Shopping is not a hobby

This point may not be as straightforward as it seems especially when you live in a city like Nairobi where shopping malls are popping up like in every corner with the likelihood of having a bookstore branch. It is even worse when you love shopping second-hand like I do and the likelihood of finding an inama bookshop at every street corner is almost a surety.  For a long time, I thought the only way I could feel that I had done errands is by coming home with something of value such as a book. Silly. But so true. For a long while,  I had also equated (book) shopping to having a good time but I was not smiling all the way to the bank.

By participating in the Unread Shelf Project 2018, I have forced me to “shop” from the books already on my shelf. Also, I have been browsing my family’s stash to explore interesting topics out of my comfort zone while trying to get out of my occasional ruts and slumps.

Further, I have come to realise that reading is only one aspect of my life. To be able to write my own book one day, I need to have more experiences that will take me out of my comfort zone.

Reduces expenses

When you find that you are not caught up in the latest releases and prettiest covers, you will discover that your banking statements do not resemble a high-frequency trader’s trading charts.

Reduces my exposure to online ads

Online ads are the bane of my online existence.  If you are not careful about clearing their online history, lots of sites pick up your data trails and push all sorts of products based on your shopping history. This can lead down a slippering shopping slope (notice what I did there?).

Personally, my interest in booktube book hauls has waned. Also, it helps with not being influenced to purchase more books while having more than enough in your possession.

These days I am vigilant about reducing my reducing my reading FOMO  in all sorts of ways. If I really need a new release I will request Netgalley for it because I will be “obligated” to give feedback. Plus, there will be no hard feelings if my request is declined.

My Re-definition of being ” well-read”

It can be said that over the years, the definition of being well-read has evolved. Previously, it meant only all reading books in the Western canon, particularly before the 20th century.  Today being well-read will likely be about how diversely one reads. In addition, people are more open to the genres and media for reading consumption. I have been able to slowly let go of the notion that I can never read books in e-format because I NEED to have physical copies. After reviewing ARCs for a while, I am glad that not have to keep all physical books

Let me know, are you a minimalist reader? How has it changed your life?

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