I get many emails each day from my superb readers, many of whom have the same issue – they have a lot of books and they have a hard time decluttering! So, as an avid reader myself, I decided to put together a friendly guide for decluttering books.
Books aren’t quite the same as clothes, or even shoes. We tend to place emotional value on our books. We associate memories with them and view them as beloved possessions. We become attached to them in a way that we don’t with other items.
Perhaps its because we see ourselves in come character, or we long for a similar adventure, or we just love the smell of a new (or old) book. Whatever it may be, books hold a special place in our hearts.
But as book lovers, we also know the struggle of having too many books that take up a lot of space. So, how do we declutter them without feeling like we’re betraying our beloved stories?
If you’re like me, you’ve probably thought about decluttering your book collection before but felt guilty at the mere thought of parting with even one book.
It’s true, the process of decluttering books can be a challenging and emotional experience, but with some guidance, it can become also be a liberating and rewarding project that won’t just create more space in your home but will also allow you to focus on the books that truly bring you joy.
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Why is it so hard to declutter books?
One of the main reasons decluttering books is tough is that books aren’t just objects – they’re a physical manifestation of stories, ideas, and knowledge. Each book we own often carries personal significance, be it a cherished memory, an inspiring quote, or an unforgettable adventure.
They’re tangible reminders of the journeys we’ve been on and the lessons we’ve learned. So, parting with even a single book often feels like letting go of a piece of our self, doesn’t it?
Of course, it’s not just the emotional connection – there’s also the ‘someday’ factor. We often hold onto books with the thought that ‘someday’ we’ll read it, or ‘someday’ we’ll refer back to it again. This makes the thought of decluttering even harder, as we grapple with the fear of missing out on potential value or enjoyment.
The anxiety that comes with decluttering books is also rooted in the idea that books hold a certain status or significance. Many of us feel pressure to have an impressive book collection, whether it’s for display or intellectual approval. So, getting rid of books can feel like losing a piece of our identity or reputation in a way.
There’s also the fact that many of us simply love books and the idea of having piles of them in our homes. For some, having a personal home library is a source of pride and comfort. This can make it harder to justify downsizing, even when you acknowledge that it’s necessary for creating a more organised living space.
Deciding which books to keep or discard is an overwhelming task. There’s no doubt about it. Different books have different purposes, and it can be tough to decide which ones are worth holding onto and which ones are better off finding new homes. The thought of regretting your decisions may add to the anxiety surrounding the decluttering process.
Benefits of Decluttering Books
While you might be thinking that there couldn’t possibly be any good reasons for getting rid of your beloved books, there are actually many benefits to decluttering your bookshelves and downsizing your collection.
- Having a tidy, organised space has been shown to improve mental health as it can help reduce stress and increase your productivity. Your mind naturally experiences a sense of relief when it’s not constantly trying to process a cluttered environment. This newfound mental clarity can lead to improved focus, creative thinking, and problem-solving skills.
- Decluttering books can give you a fresh appreciation for the titles you decide to keep. By curating your collection to include only those that hold special meaning or spark joy for you, you’ll be able to engage with your books more deeply and enjoy them to a much greater level.
- Donating unneeded books to libraries, schools, or charity shops can also be incredibly rewarding. Not only are you creating more space in your home, but you’re also providing others with the opportunity to discover new stories and develop their own love for reading.
- By reducing the clutter and distractions in your space, you’re also able to create a more relaxing and inviting environment. With fewer books, you can display your favourites more prominently, which has the added benefit of acting as a conversation starter when you have guests.
If you’re still with me, and haven’t gone to run and hide your entire book collection, congratulations! You’re taking the first step towards a more decluttered and peaceful living space. Let’s get into the steps to follow to get the decluttering process started.
Remember, this doesn’t have to be overwhelming and you don’t have to do it all at once. Take your time and enjoy the journey of creating your ideal book collection!
Decluttering books in 6 steps
Step 1: Check your mindset
Before you start decluttering, it’s important to have the right mindset. Start by asking yourself why you want to declutter your book collection. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you dealing with a small space?
Be honest with yourself about your goals and keep them in mind as you go through the process.
Also, remind yourself that letting go of books doesn’t mean you’re letting go of the memories, knowledge or experiences they hold. It simply means creating space for new ones.
If you’re not at all ready to give up your books at this point in time, don’t do it. Decluttering is supposed to be liberating and make you feel good, not forced and full of regret.
Step 2: Gather all your books together
In true Marie Kondo style, I always use the Konmari Method when decluttering anything. And that includes books.
Gather each and every book you own from all corners of your home, including any that may be on shelves, in storage boxes, or tucked away in cupboards.. This means EVERY BOOK you own – old textbooks, cookbooks, children’s books, fiction books, etc. Muster books from all areas of your home, like:
- Living room
- Home office
- Under the bed
- Hidden in the attic
Place them all in one central location. Now take a look – did you know you had that number of books?
Using this method and seeing just how many books you have altogether will give you a better idea of just how many you have and help you make more realistic decisions.
Step 3: Decide which books to keep and which to discard
Now that you have all your books in one place, it’s time to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. Start by discarding any outdated textbooks or reference books that are no longer useful. Then ask yourself these questions for each book:
- Have I read this book before?
- Will I read it again?
- Does it hold any sentimental value?
- Is this book still relevant or is it outdated?
- Is it easily accessible at a library or online?
- Have I outgrown this book?
- Would someone else benefit from reading this book more than I would?
Keep in mind that decluttering is not about getting rid of all your books, it’s about keeping the ones that add value to your life and letting go of the ones that no longer serve a purpose.
You never need to feel guilty for discarding books – remember, they are just things and their purpose should be to enrich your life, not weigh you down.
Step 4: Sort your books into bundles
By this stage, you should have a clear idea of which books you’re going to hold onto and which ones you’re ready to part with. Congratulations if you’ve made it this far! Now it’s time to sort your books into bundles.
Create bundles based on criteria like:
- Books to donate
- Books to sell
- Books to recycle
- Books to give to friends or family
Step 5: Organise your remaining books
Once you have sorted your books into bundles, it’s time to organise your keep pile.
You can start by grouping them into different categories such as:
- Fiction books
- Non-fiction books
- Reference materials
- Self-help books
- Business books
You can also organise them alphabetically by author or title, whichever makes more sense to you. Or if you’re like me, you might organise them by colour!
After you’ve categorised your books, the next step is to find the perfect storage solution.
- For a classic, sleek look, try the Edenbrook Sumac Bookcase, renowned for its simplistic design and adjustable shelves.
- If you’re after a rustic feel, the Sauder Heritage Hill Library could be your thing, boasting classic cherry finish and magnificent detailing.
- Fans of industrial style might appreciate the Homissue 4-Tier Industrial Style Bookshelf with its metal and wood combination.
- If floor space is a concern, the Wallniture Minori Floating Shelves offers a beautiful yet space-saving solution.
- Lastly, if you want something a little different that stands out, check out Yoobure Tree Bookshelf, a unique and creative book storage solution that adds an artistic touch to any room.
Step 6: Getting rid of the decluttered books
It’s now time to find new homes for your discard pile. Here are a few options to consider:
One of the most meaningful and selfless ways to get rid of your unwanted books is by donating them. There are so many places you can donate your old books to:
- A local library
- Charities that support literacy programmes
- Thrift stores
- Shelters for homeless people
- Local cafés – people love finding a new book to read while enjoying a brew!
- Friends or family member
If you have some valuable books that you no longer want, consider selling them online on platforms such as eBay or Facebook. You’d be surprised how much a rare or sought-after book can go for.
Recycle / Upcycle
If you can’t find a new home for your books, or they’re not in particular good condition, consider recycling them at a local recycling centre. Alternatively, get creative and turn them into something new.
You could make a clock. a knife holder or even a new purse! Here are some more ideas to help you upcycle your old books.
How to prevent book clutter in the future
One of the hardest things to do after decluttering is to prevent the clutter from building up again. Here are some tips to help you maintain a clutter-free book collection:
- Set a limit on how many books you want to own at any given time.
- Create a “one in, one out” rule – for every new book you bring in, donate or sell an old one.
- Embrace digital books and e-readers (such as the Kindle) for a more minimalistic approach.
- Scan old workbooks and store them digitally instead of keeping the physical books.
- Make use of the “wish list” feature on online bookstores rather than impulsively buying new books.
- Consider doing a book swap with others. It’s a great way of keeping books without adding to the collection, and it gives you something fresh to read on a regular basis.
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Conclusion: How to declutter books
Books are an essential part of our lives, but it’s easy for them to pile up and become clutter. However, with some simple steps, you can declutter your book collection and make space for new stories and adventures.
Remember to donate, sell or recycle old books responsibly, and use creative ways to upcycle them if you can’t find a new home for them. And, most importantly, follow the tips to prevent book clutter in the future.
With a little effort and determination, you can have a well-organised and clutter-free book collection that brings joy and inspiration into your life.