At this time in my life, as I get ready to move, and try to sort through the accumulations of 22 years living in one house, I’m reminded of the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4-6 (NIV)
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: …
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away…
This has been particularly obvious as the time has come for my wife and me to sort through our libraries. While the parsonage that we are moving into may have more square footage than the current one, the amount of book space and office space may be less. That is because my office will now be in the parsonage as opposed to having a separate office in the church. In addition, there is the simple issue of weight. Movers charge by the weight of the shipment and books are heavy; so it is best to take only what you will need. Furthermore, there is the whole issue of what is happening in our culture with regard to books; books you hold are slowly losing ground to electronic ones. A few weeks ago we sorted out four or five boxes of used books from our home and took them to two used-book stores. One bookstore owner sorted out a few and paid us about enough to buy one new paperback; the other did not want any. So we donated the rest to the Salvation Army. A great deal of this is due to the rise of electronic books. As a result of these facts, my wife and I have set a goal to downsize our libraries by at least one third.
How are we doing it? Here are some guidelines we’ve used to achieve the goal.
- If I haven’t read it in all these years, is it going to make it to the top of my list anytime soon? I’m giving away some brand new books because I felt the answer to that question was “no.”
- Is this a reference book that I do not need to use any more because I have access to the material in a program or on-line? My Bible program has replaced several of my books, including at least one set.
- Will this book help one of those I have been mentoring more than it will help me? If so, let it go.
- Is this a book I do not need because by a combination of experience and material I have read, I have covered the material? If so, I should let the book help someone else, even if it is one I have valued in the past.
- Is this a book I have quoted often and will probably continue to cite? If so I should keep it.
- Everyone has favorite authors. I’m keeping almost all the books by my three or four favorite authors – John Maxwell, Jim Cymbala, E. Stanley Jones, Bruce Wilkinson.
- Is the book outdated? Unless an older book is by a famous person, it will not be that useful to quote. A few may be useful to read anyway. They might be by someone else’s favorite author.
- Is the book a classic I wish to pass down in my family? We don’t have many of these, but there are a few.
With these guidelines, I am getting it done, as the picture shows. My mentees and church teachers will be able to choose from the sorted books before we figure out what to do with the rest.