Growing up, I used to hoard books and magazines. I couldn’t bring myself to throw any of them away. I remember in high school, I had this massive tub of wrestling magazines that was so heavy I couldn’t move it. So, it just sat, in my room, taking up space and getting heavier by the month.
A few years later, I discarded those magazines as well as the books I owned growing up. I’m not really sure how many I owned, but if I had to guess I’d say somewhere around 150 books and 600 magazines and I haven’t regretted it. I mean, the books that interested me in fourth grade aren’t exactly the books that interest me now. How many times does one man need to read Bo Jackson’s autobiography?
Consistently, when I run across people discussing decluttering, they always mention how books are off limits. They’ll live with five t-shirts and three pairs of pants, but the four hundred books cannot go. This always amuses me, but I think the better question is why? Why do people feel so inclined to keep books? You don’t see the same feverous loyalty to movies or even albums.
Well, the first thing we must take into consideration is the source. It’s the internet. So, who knows what influence the various boards and social media has played in presenting a home free of distractions where book ownership is the ultimate goal. But if we put aside online peer pressure and/or aesthetically pleasing goals, I think it all comes down to: when someone owns a piece of writing, they feel like they own the knowledge held within.
Don’t get me wrong, I know everyone has a favorite fictional book and it’s like reconnecting with old friends, but a lot of the times people feel like once they own a book they don’t really need to remember it. It’s always going to be there if they own it.
I used to keep men’s fitness magazines, because one day, I might need those advanced workout routines. I mean, how else would I find them again? I didn’t think about the insane difficulty it would be to go back through a few dozen copies of Men’s Health trying to find the one page with some advanced version of a squat. But I rested comfortably, knowing that I had it. It was mine and I owned it.
The same thing went for the wrestling magazines and books I once owned. My ownership made me feel like I was a keeper of the wrestling knowledge within. These stories and pictures were always going to be alive because I would have them. They’d always be sitting in this massive plastic tub drowning amongst their peers, impossible to truly find anything within, but I owned it.
Recently, a friend of mine reached out for some advice with his finances. The topic of streaming services came up. Like most of us, this individual was paying for half a dozen services, but only watching one or two of them. I struggled to explain that one service is enough, especially if you aren’t paying your bills on time. I referenced back to our childhoods where we didn’t have quite so many options and how much of a thrill renting just one movie was. I don’t think my friend was getting it until I brought up a quote an old manager of mine at GameStop once mentioned to me, “You can only play one game at a time.”
I try to remember that when I feel like I need more things. You can only read one book at a time, you can only watch one movie at a time, but for some reason we feel the need to have so much at our fingertips all the time. Is this part of the same desire to own information? Do we feel better because we have access to all these things through all of these services?
I don’t really know, nor have I formulated much of an opinion on it. I do feel like there is some strange primal urge to own stories and guides that seems to override other desires. Then again, maybe people keep a ton of books around just because they think it makes them look smart.