You judge: Should my wife clear out her old books? | life and style

The prosecution: Andy

Sally keeps all her books, even old ones school textbooks. They are scattered in heaps throughout the house

Sally and I met at school in 2015 and after four years of dating we got married last year. She has always been a huge bookworm and while I enjoy a book every now and then, I don’t read as much as she does.

I also get rid of my books when I’ve read them. I don’t think you have to let every single book you’ve ever read sit on your shelf for the rest of your life. Sally’s books take up space on all shelves and accumulate in small piles throughout the house – on the counter, around the bed, next to the sofa, on the coffee table. It’s annoying as I like a tidy house.

We have a huge bookshelf in our bedroom, another in our office and even more in the living room. But it’s not enough. Sally gets books for her birthday and Christmas every year. They add up quickly.

I’m fine with Sally having books that are meaningful to her, but there are probably only five or ten books in that category. And of course some books that should never be thrown away – things like dictionaries. Illustrated books on the subject of photography or travel can stay because they are decorative.

But apart from that, pretty much every book should live in our house only temporarily. They are interchangeable and should be updated regularly to make room for newer titles. When we recently had a decluttering, Sally grumbled about having to throw out her books. But does she really have to keep her GCSE textbooks? We are in our 20’s and don’t need to comply.

Sally says she loves having a large collection of books in case she wants to read them again or borrow them, but that never really happens. We are also fortunate to live near a great library and also have access to a university library through our work. There is also the option of audio books.

Sally must learn how to throw away or give away books, conduct regular evictions, and adopt a one-in-one-out policy when buying books. Also, a book is easy to retrieve should she change her mind. It’s time Sally learned to let go of the books gathering dust in our house.

The defense: Sally

I don’t buy that many books and they live on assembled bookshelves so what’s the problem?

Andy thinks our house gets too cluttered because I like to keep all the books I read. But it’s not like we pile books on the floor – they have a home on our bookshelves. We recently brought a large box of my books to the charity shop, which I found very sad. I didn’t like parting with my books – I’ve had some of them for 15 years.

He once said that if I did a book we could keep it in the house permanently, but books bought and sold don’t really have any sentimental value and should be recycled. I find this view drastic. Who throws away perfectly good books?

He thinks I should start listening to audio books instead of buying books. But I don’t buy that many books, maybe one a month if that. And I really love curling up on the sofa with a real book – audiobooks and Kindles just aren’t the same thing.

Most of my books don’t take up space because they are on assembled bookshelves. So really what’s the problem? I understand why he thinks we need a declutter, but I think we should start throwing other things away.

Andy enjoys DIY and has a few shoeboxes full of wires and old parts that he uses to make things from scratch. But he never throws any of his half-finished electronics projects in the trash. I’m not sure why we should focus on my books. They are precious and sentimental and if we have children I would like to pass some of my books on to them instead of buying them toys. Keeping our books spanning generations could be a great investment.

I like being the person with a big collection. I also love lending books to people.

Andy’s parents got me a book subscription for my birthday, so I don’t think the book collecting habit will get any better. He’s now saying I should have a one-in-one-out policy. But I’ll ignore it. And I definitely won’t throw away any books – at least not until the house is absolutely overcrowded.

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The Guardian readers’ jury

Should Sally get rid of her old books?
Sally is not guilty. Books look great and Andy could help organize. Sally could also help by borrowing books from the library and only buying the ones she really loves.
Eleanor, 31

Sally is definitely not guilty. You can never have too many books. A collection of books is like a chart of your life so far – it contains memories and emotions, when and where they were acquired. A house with books is a house with soul and depth.
Hamish, 47

Sally is an intellectual and stylish personality who caught on early to the growing “bookcore” trend of quirky homes flooded with stacks of cascading books. A lot of millennials would kill for the aesthetic Andy complains about. I imagine Sally could make a murder on Pinterest.
Eliot, 23

Sally is guilty. At a conservative estimate, she has added 36 books to her collection in the past three years and admits to having owned some of them for 15 years. I suggest that Sally use the Marie Kondo method of decluttering.
Leona, 57

Andy seems quite authoritative in his approach to books, and his choice of words in describing the situation is revealing. He should loosen up, read some books to calm himself, learn about relationships and compromise; Otherwise there will be trouble!
Simone, 50

You decide

So now you can be the judge. In our online poll below, tell us: Should Sally clean out her old books?

We will publish the results on You be the Judge next week.

The poll is now closed

The result of the last week

We asked Zara to iron and fold the laundry – including the tea towels – which drives her roommate Rita insane.

72% of you said no – Zara is innocent
28% of you said yes – Zara is guilty

This article was modified on June 6, 2022 to conform with Guardian style guidelines.

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