Two words I never wanted to hear in the same sentence: books and purge. I felt panic. What was this dumb project driving me to now? Why do I have to be the sacrificial lamb? Please. Couldn’t I leave myself at least with my books, if not my loo roll? I felt like pinching myself really hard for making up these dumb No Impact rules. I felt like Isabella when she really gets frustrated and wants to bite someone.
But when we began the sustainable consumption stage of No Impact Man—which meant essentially not buying anything new—it seemed a slightly trivial exercise, considering our apartment bulged with 40 years of accumulated possessions. When it came to books, for example, we had enough unread ones hanging around the apartment to keep us busy not just till the ocean levels rise but till they fall again.
With so much accumulated stuff, a year of not buying would just seem like one long holiday spent waiting for the stores to reopen. Hunger for new books would be staved off by our past literary gluttony. In the spirit of the experiment I was supposed to be having, shouldn’t I see what it was like not to be a complete resource hog? The idea was that instead of buying new copies, other people could be reading the secondhand tomes whose spines I would never again crack.
Grudgingly, my eyes fell first on Learning to Sail. There was a chance, I admitted, living in a ninth
floor apartment in the middle of
Next thing you know, I’m hand over hand chucking books off the bookcase and Michelle is tearing at her own bookshelf. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t throw away a volume of Vonnegut or Thomas Wolfe but I didn’t give myself a lot of easy passes either.
Want to know what we both thought when we were done? It felt good. Having a lot of stuff never makes me feel free, the way it’s supposed to. Instead it makes me feel trapped, weighed down, stuck, old. Less stuff, less space needed in my head and in my home. Freedom.
But I could be speaking too soon. For all I know, one day after we’ve delivered the books to the bookstore, one of my detractors, out of sheer spite, might suddenly up and give me a sailboat.
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.