You be the judge: should my wife empty her old books? | life and style

The charge: Andy

Sally keeps all her books, even old ones school manuals. They’re scattered all over 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 great reader and although I enjoy a book once in a while, I don’t read as much as she does.

I also get rid of my books once I’ve read them. I don’t think you need to keep every book you’ve read on the shelf for the rest of your life. Sally’s books take up space on every shelf and accumulate in small piles all over the house – on the counter, around the bed, by the couch, on the coffee table. It’s boring because I like a tidy house.

We have a massive bookcase in our bedroom, another in our study, and more in the living room. But it’s not enough. Each year, Sally will receive books for her birthday and Christmas. They add up quickly.

I’m fine with Sally keeping books that make sense to her, but there’s probably only five or ten books in that category. And of course, some books that should never be thrown away – things like dictionaries. Coffee table books on, for example, photography or travel can remain, as they are decorative.

But other than that, pretty much all books should only live in our house temporarily. They are replaceable and need to be updated regularly to make room for new titles. When we had a cleaning recently, Sally complained about having to throw away her books. But does she really need to keep her GCSE textbooks? We’re in our twenties and don’t need to hang on to those.

Sally says she likes to have a large collection of books in case she wants to read them again or lend them out, but that never really happens. In addition, we are fortunate to live near a large library and have access to a university library through our work. There is also the option of audiobooks.

Sally must learn to throw away or donate books, to empty regularly, and to adopt a one-in-one policy when buying books. Plus, a book is easy to find if she changes her mind. It’s time for Sally to learn to let go of the books gathering dust in our house.

Defense: Sally

I don’t buy many books and they live on mounted shelves – so what’s the problem?

Andy thinks our house is getting too cluttered because I like to keep all the books I read. But it’s not like we keep books piled on the floor – they have a home on our shelves. We recently brought a big box of my books to the charity shop, which I thought was very sad. I didn’t like parting with my books – I’ve had some for 15 years.

He once said that if I wrote a book we could keep it permanently in the house, but books bought and sold don’t really have any sentimental value so they should be recycled. I think that view is drastic and a bit psychotic. Who throws away very good books?

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

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

Andy likes to DIY and has a few shoeboxes full of yarn and old parts that he uses to make things from scratch. But he never throws away any of his half-finished electronic projects. I don’t know why we have to focus on my books. They are precious and sentimental, and if we have children, I would like to pass on some of my books to them instead of buying them toys. Keeping our books for generations could be a great investment.

I like to be the person with a big collection. I also like to lend books to people.

Andy’s parents gave me a book subscription for my birthday, so I don’t think the habit of collecting books is going to improve. He now says I should adopt a one-in-one-out policy. But I will ignore it. And I certainly won’t be throwing away any books – at least not until the house is completely full.

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The Guardian Readers’ Jury

Should Sally get rid of her old books?
Sally is not guilty. The books look great and Andy could get involved in organizing them. Sally could also help by borrowing books from the library and only buying the ones she really likes.
Eleanor, 31 years old

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 – they contain memories and emotions of when and where they were acquired. A house with books is a house with soul and depth.
Hamish, 47 years old

Sally is an intellectual and stylish person who caught on early on to the growing “bookcore” trend of fancy homes awash with cascading stacks of books. Many millennials would kill for the aesthetic that Andy complains about. I imagine Sally could make a killing on Pinterest.
Eliot, 23 years old

Sally is guilty. By a conservative estimate, she has added 36 books to her collection in the past three years and admits to owning some for 15 years. I suggest Sally use the Marie Kondo method to declutter.
Leona, 57 years old

Andy seems quite authoritative in his approach to the books, and his choice of words to describe the situation is telling. He should relax, read a few books to calm down, learn about relationships and compromise; otherwise, there will be trouble ahead!
Simon, 50 years old

you are the judge

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

We’ll share the results on the You Be The Judge show next week.

The poll will close on June 9 at 9 a.m. BST

Last week’s result

We asked if Zara should iron and fold laundry – including tea towels – which is driving her roommate Rita crazy.

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