It all comes down to this: Self-Help Cliff Notes.

Self-help books. I sheepishly admit to spending a small fortune on them over the years (working at a bookstore in my twenties did not help matters).

If you ask how many I have actually read cover to cover, that number could be close to zero shockingly enough.

In preparation for a move, I’m drastically pairing down. To make a very long story short, this is the first move I’ve gotten to fully engage in this process. Because of many years of chronic illness my previous moves were heavily supported by others and I never really got to go through the cathartic experience of methodically pairing down and making deliberate choices about what I want to keep or toss.

Why self-help books? They were comforting friends and companions on my journey. I remember struggling with anxiety (unaware that it was caused by allergies until later on), despair, and general angsty soul searching post-college in my early twenties and turning to books as a source of reassurance and hope.

Knowledge has always been an essential core value of mine, and these books were sources of information to help me grapple with adulthood, just as young adult fiction helped carry me through my adolescence (including torturing myself regularly with tear jerkers like Six Months to Live). Some are still favorites today, like the Tillerman family series by Cynthia Voigt featuring the fiercely independent and brave character Dicey Tillerman.

Early on I read Succulent Wild Woman, You Can Heal Your Life, Quarterlife Crisis and daily readers like Time For Joy and Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much. Knowing what I do now about how important words are to me, I think this was another reason I surrounded myself with books of all kinds. Over the tumultuous twenties my self-help collection continued to grow and expanded into relationship guides, workbooks, dream logs and journals. In the past decade it has become more about organizing, leadership, personality and assessments. They have been the companions, friends, cheerleaders and coaches I needed during the many phases of my life.

I have read, re-read, and cherished books like The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, The Alchemist, and Tuesdays With Morrie. This is a certain offshoot of the self-help book with a more allegorical/parable style that appeals to me. I have purchased these books many times as gifts for loved ones as well.

These few aside, the bulk of my self-help collection has remained unread all these years. I can now say with confidence that they have worked by osmosis- all you have to do is keep them on your shelf for 10 years, and like magic, you know the answers and the books are no longer necessary! 😊 By getting rid of them, they "worked" and have come full circle.

With some major pieces of furniture recently gone in my house, most significantly two huge bookcases, my remaining items are instantly equalized in piles on the floor. I sort them into final stacks: to sell, donate, keep, and burn. The well loved and worn old friends will go into the fire and be offered up in the transition from old life to new.

As I speed read and skim through the remaining books, here are a few of the overall highlights:

• Feel the fear and do it anyway
• It is time for joy
• There is only one you - the world needs your authentic self
• Reduce clutter to live better
• Let go
• Don't make assumptions
• Don't take anything personally
• Observe and not judge
• Understand yourself and your values 
• Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good
• You are the only one responsible for your life and choices
• Accept others exactly as they are- don't try and change them
• Learn about boundaries and how to use them 
• Embrace empathy and putting yourself in other's shoes
• Everyone else is making it up as they go along too
• Life is not a dress rehearsal ... 

Have you learned via osmosis from the self-help books on your shelf? Is the knowledge within you now so you can pass the books on? 


*Original post on Linked In Pulse