What Happened When I Donated By Entire TBR Pile

by Emma Oulton

Any book hoarder out there will know the struggle. No matter how dangerously high your pile of books grows, you just can't throw any of them away. You keep books even when the pages are falling apart. You keep books even if you didn't enjoy them, just because their front covers are pretty. You keep textbooks and notebooks and pamphlets. Getting rid of a book feels like throwing away a part of your soul — and so your definitely can't get rid of a book you haven't even read yet. What if it's your new favorite?! Just think of all the wasted potential.

Trust me, I get it. My book collection means more to me than my collection of shoes, bras, and handbags put together, and so it was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done when I rounded up all 50 of the books on my TBR — and gave them all away.

I've been collecting books for years that I totally intend to read one day — but never do. There's always something newer. There's always a prettier cover, or a more interesting author. There's always a new bookshop with a new 3-for-2 deal. And the books piling up on my bedside table stay unread and neglected.

When I moved house in Fall last year, I decided the time had come. I was buying and reading new books on a weekly basis, so anything that I'd held on to for more than a month was just never going to get read. Besides, they wouldn't fit in the moving van. So I shut my eyes, took a deep breath, and stuffed them all into black bin liners to take to the local charity shop.

Here's the first thing I learned: my attachment to these books is stronger than I had ever admitted. Because when it came to actually dropping them off at the thrift store, I just couldn't do it. The running commentary in my head was persistent: these books might change my life, if only I could find the time to read them. I ended up cramming them all into the moving van anyway and hiding them in the attic of our new house — and it took me four whole months to work up the courage to actually get rid of them.

Now that the books are finally gone from their hiding place in my attic, I've learned something else: they were weighing me down (um, and also weighing down the rafters of our house. Books are heavy, y'all.)

Books are supposed to be a joy — but these ones had become a chore. Every time I remembered my guilty hidden stash, I felt a burden settle on my shoulders. Now that they've gone to new owners, I've learned my love for books all over again. Now I can listen with genuine excitement when somebody recommends a new book, instead of with claustrophobia and a sense of impending doom. Who knew?!

And that's not all: I've learned that books can have different value at different times in your life. It's possible that one day I'll go back to one of my donated books, and maybe I'll love it. But right at that point, none of those books were right for me. They were making me feel stressed, but I just know that some potential reader will see them on the shelf at the thrift store and crack a smile. Maybe one of them will become someone else's favorite book — and how wonderful is that?

I've learned that donating books brings more joy than heartache, no matter how scary it may seem to us book-lovers. I've learned that books are so personal, and that the pressure is never worth it.

But the last thing I learned? Old habits die hard. In the four months that my old TBR pile spent gathering dust in the attic, I managed to build up a new pile twice the size. (Whoops.) It looks like my local thrift store is about to get another visit!