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  • Writer's pictureKristina Elyse Butke

Does This Spark Joy?

A white sparkler on a black background - does this spark joy?
Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

For months now, I've been getting rid of one of the most precious things to me--books. I started the book-purging process in Japan, donating or reselling books that I just couldn't take back with me to the States, and I spent days agonizing over which ones were keepers and which ones had to go. That was a painful process.

Then, coming back to the States, I ran into the problem of figuring out where the books from Japan were to go, as there was no room on the shelves for them. Thus, book-purging began a second time. And I've been working on it ever since coming home.

At the house in the States, I have a total of seven bookcases and then six built-in cubbies in the wall filled with books. I have no idea what the total number of books are in my possession...I know it's hundreds of them at the very least.

Most of my life I thought books were too pure to be disposed of, and that I would keep them forever. From a young age, I made a habit of writing my name in pen inside the book, thinking it would always be a part of my collection. I've got books from elementary school, middle school, and high school mixed in with books from both universities I attended, and then everything I've bought in my life after school. I didn't stop writing my name in books until my mid-to-late twenties, when I started realizing it was okay to dispose of books.

I first started being more flexible on my book stance when I lived in Columbus and was short on cash. I'd quickly make some book choices and go to Half Price Books to get money. It hurt me a little at first because I wanted to keep the books forever, but I had little room and the desire for a quick buck won out. I held on to my keepers in Columbus and got rid of everything else, and by that time had stopped defacing books with my name.

At home, I'm finally starting to weed through books that are 20+ years old. Unfortunately so many of them have my name inside them, so I either rip out the first page where my name is written (usually a blank filler page) or I take a marker and black out my name on the inner cover. Then I donate them. Books that are too old or too damaged or have writing on the inside of them (like books that require the reader to fill in blanks or use it like a diary) get pitched.

Books that no longer speak to my current interests have also gotten disposed of. For example, my theatre books are gone. I had books on playwriting, theatre management, directing, forming your own company...after my last play was produced, and all the hardships that entailed, I realized I didn't really want to do theatre again, and that I probably shouldn't direct or produce again anyway (for a variety of reasons. I did a lot of things wrong that I'm ashamed of and regret, and theatre often affected my mental health). I have divorced myself from theatre and I'm not going to form my own company or anything like that anymore, so I don't need to hoard all of those theatre books. My wishes and interests have changed.

I did save costuming, hair, and makeup books, though, because one of my hobbies is cosplaying, so I thought those would be helpful. Plus, when I write fiction, costuming is a very important part of character creation, and I have lots of historical clothing books that are great resources.

I've kept books on writing fiction (I have many reference books), some research books on magic and alchemy (for fantasy books I've worked on), travel and reference books on Wales and Japan (I've lived in both places), books that have been autographed and addressed to me personally, my graduate thesis (bound and printed in paperback form), books involving the fae (both fiction and nonfiction/reference), fairy tales and fairy tale adaptations, fiction (keepers that I've read before plus some unread books), graphic novels, books on drawing manga and making graphic novels, and then doujinshi from Japan along with copies of BL from both Japan and America, and my entire Tokyo Ghoul collection. I will continue to buy books along these lines as they reflect my current interests with what I like to read and what I like to write. These are the books that, as Marie Kondo would say, "spark joy." But if my interests change again in the future, I will be happy to purge the books once more.

The project is far from over as I still have hundreds of books to sort through and mark up to hide my name. Plus, packing books is a challenge for me because of the sizes (it's like doing a puzzle!), so I go very slowly.

But please wish me luck on this huge endeavor! It's a slow, ongoing project but it needs to happen!


Mar 29, 2023

good luck!

Kristina Elyse Butke
Kristina Elyse Butke
Apr 05, 2023
Replying to

Thank you!

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