"I can't and don't want to pass judgment on your books because you can do it perfectly well if you'll be 100% honest with yourself: you wouldn't read many of the books on your shelves if you were trapped with them on a desert island."
- Clutter's Last Stand, p139
A few weeks back I started using something called "The library". Now a lot of you may not have heard of this place, so allow me to explain. Just about every town has one of these. They are buildings containing thousands and thousands of books. No, they're not book stores like Borders or Barnes & Nobel. These "Library" places let you BORROW the books, and return them when you're done. And here's the kicker: it costs NOTHING! No strings attached. You just have to get an ID card there at the library.
Seriously though, I know what you're thinking. "Well that's nice, but they don't have the kind of books I want." Sad to say, most people haven't set foot in a library since they had to do a History paper back in high school. And these days with the internet, I have to wonder if kids today have ever BEEN to a library.
At the risk of sounding like somebody from a children's PSA commercial, I have to say that many libraries contain a surprising amount of new stuff. They get the used donations from the people who keep buying new books at stores like Borders and Barnes & Nobel. So chances are good that they do have that New York Times best seller that you heard about last year and just never got around to reading.
you do want to buy some titles that you can't find in the library, then
you can save yourself a lot of money by marking the titles down and
then buying them somewhere on-line. Even with the shipping included,
you can find websites that sell like-new booksat a lower price than what you find in the stores. I've had the most success with Half.com, with a close second being Amazon.com's
market place (when you look up a book on Amazon.com, you might see a
"used and new from..." panel on the right where people are selling
their used copies).
Books though are hardly the only thing a library carries. This is where people have been donating their old CDs and movies. I went to my city's public library and was amazed to find an entire floor of CDs and movies (not just VHS, but also DVD and even Blu-Ray). So -- not that I would ever advocate the following activity -- but you could conceivably get a stack of CDs, rip them to mp3s at home, and bring them back. As for the movies, most of the education or documentaries cost nothing to borrow, but all other VHS tapes and DVDs each cost $1.00 to rent, and you could hold on to them for a week.
There are also lots of freebies that the library gives away, but that they might not want everybody to know about. One library I know gives away tickets every day to the Boston Museum of Science. They only give out a pair of these a day, and you have to be the first to claim them, and show up on the day to do so. But they are free. So check your local library's website. You'd be surprised what free stuff like this they have.
Getting back to the subject of clutter (and this post's title line): I own a lot of books, or at least a lot by most people's standards. And I always find myself buying more and more. I had a stack of them piling up in the hallway near my bathroom, until I finally got a bookshelf for that area. And now, of course, the bookshelf is already full and I've found myself stacking books on the floor again.
I have, though, gotten much better about this. I've been at the local Borders store where I see a bunch of books that I'd like to own, but then I tell myself. "No, I don't need all of these! I still have 10 books at home that I bought over the past year and still haven't gotten around to reading!" Try this the next time you're at a book store. If you have the will, the phrase will save you money by walking away empty-handed.
Here's another good rational reason to use the library. Look at the books on your shelf. Out of them, how many have you actually read more than ONCE? If you find yourself reading many books only once, then doesn't it make sense to try to find them at the library instead of buying them?
I suppose it's also worth mentioning reading devices like the Amazon Kindle or the Sony Reader. I haven't gotten one of these myself, but certainly they're a way of minimizing the number of books when it comes to volume. They'll do for books what the mp3 has done for the CD. I saw one of these Sony Readers in a store, and at first I thought it was just a prop because the writing looked like a printed piece of paper put over the display, not an electronic screen. Lo and behold, I was wrong. The text on these things really do look that incredible! You really do have to see it to believe it.