It’s a Thursday afternoon, I’m in my bedroom, and I — a card-carrying bookworm — am about to do the unthinkable: pull a Marie Kondo on my bookshelf.
I spend the next few hours taking stock of all my possessions after I pull them out of my shelves, and apparently I have 285 books and graphic novels (the result of bookstore sponsorships and free gift certificates, don’t @ me) to my name, as well as some 50-odd comic singles, all of them stacked in precarious-looking piles on the floor. But that’s not all, I also have other stuff and ephemera related to pop culture and geekdom: toys and figures I managed to buy during comic and toy conventions, a dozen or so posters and art prints I keep forgetting to frame and hang.
Lest you get the wrong idea, I’m no hoarder, and I never meant to have this much stuff. In hindsight however, I really should have seen this coming.
At the risk of sounding like a real-life cliché, I was the quintessential bookworm while I was growing up: my favorite spot in our house was my late grandfather’s floor-to-ceiling bookcase; I would save up whatever I could from my small allowance just to buy books from the neighborhood bookstore; my default lunch break tambayan was the school library; I was an active member of the school book club; I was the pabibo kid in Lit class; and I would beg my parents and my aunts and uncles for books as gifts every time my birthday and the holidays came rolling in.
This propensity to get more books continued even when I started working, to the extent that my family would know if I was home because of the tell-tale bookstore-branded paper bags that would eventually find their way to the kitchen trash bin, but I digress.
Books (and to cast a broader net since I’m also into other media, speculative fiction) have always been my refuge, my escape, and I think it’s pretty easy to see why. After all, books — alongside comics, movies, and video games — are portals which allow us to do the impossible; they allow us to explore worlds other than our own, meet characters we never would have met in real life, understand people on an especially intimate level, and inhabit thousands of lives and personalities and identities so far removed from ours, even if it’s just for an hour or two. In my case, they allowed me to become a Hobbit on a quest to destroy the One Ring; they made me live the life of a Jedi warrior out to bring down the tyrannical reign of an evil Empire; they made me go on an epic, dimension and time-spanning journey as an Endless Lord of Dreams; and they made me see through the eyes of Mutants who tirelessly defend and protect a world that hates and fears them.
In a nutshell, books taught me to live. And more importantly, books taught me to look at things with a much deeper perspective, and to always look at what’s beneath the surface. This, needless to say, made KonMari-ing — AKA purging — my shelves nothing short of difficult: I spent the next few hours poring over each title and each item, trying to check which ones still sparked joy, which worlds I still wanted to inhabit, whose eyes I still wanted to see through, and lives I still wanted to live.
And though there were titles and objects that I realized I just couldn’t be rid of sooner — AKA the books and stuff that I would never admit to owning — suffice it to say, that I could never fully part with my books and my comics and my geek miscellanea. Case in point: I was only able to put some thirty-odd paperbacks and about a dozen comic singles in the “to dispose” pile. Yes, the final number’s nowhere near the drastic numbers people would have expected and I figured there’s nothing wrong with that.
Marie Kondo’s number one rule has always been to only keep things that spark joy in one’s life, and in my case, those would be my books and comics et cetera. Truth be told, I might still whittle my collection down further in the future because of #adulting and whatnot, but for now, they’re staying.
I’ll just clean up the mess later.
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