How does a bibliophile declutter books? It’s not always easy!
Bookworm, avid reader, bibliophile, literary connoisseur, scholar, intellectual. Do any of these terms resonate with you? If so, then you, like me, probably adore books. In addition to my love of reading them; I can’t get enough of the way books feel, smell, and sound (when turning a page). There was a time when books overran my home. I would collect book after book from multiple genres. Sometimes I would read them, other times I was merely comforted by the thought of having them around.
Then came cross-country move number one. And I discovered books are heavy! I’m not saying the weight of multiple boxes of books prevented me from boxing up every book in my rather large collection and hauling those boxes over 1,700 miles. Because that’s exactly what I did. I’m just saying books can be heavy, that’s all.
Multiple moves later (including two more cross-country), somewhere along the way, one by one, I eventually began letting go of my beloved books. And I can proudly declare that I have not required a single therapy session (yet).
Why Is It So Hard To Declutter Books?
There are many reasons people who love to read hold on so tightly to their books. You may own massive quantities of books because:
- You have a sentimental attachment to them. Perhaps you grew up reading a particular book (or series). You most likely have fond memories of being wrapped in a blanket on a rainy day immersed in your favorite book. Chances are you think of the characters in your books as old friends. It may even be hard for you to determine if your childhood memories belong to you or your favorite author.
- The book is part of a set. Maybe you only really love one or two of the books in a set, yet you still own all of them. You feel you would be violating the unwritten book collector’s code if you ever broke up the set. As a result, you allow the entire set to take up space on your bookshelf.
- You are a visual person who appreciates the art in books. This is another way of saying you keep books because you like to look at the pretty pictures. Beautiful graphics hold your attention just as much as well-crafted stories. This is also why some people own multiple cookbooks. It’s not because we actually plan to prepare any of the recipes, we just like to drool over the yummy looking photos.
“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” -Ernest Hemingway
- You spent a lot of money acquiring them. Let’s face it, books can be expensive. The average price of a paperback fiction book is $15.00(USD). If you are a book collecting “snob” paperback simply won’t do. You will instead shell out an additional $10 in order to obtain the same book in hardcover format. Don’t even get me started on the exorbitant cost of textbooks!
- You feel more intelligent surrounded by books. I may step on some toes here, but some people (I used to be one of them), like to use their book collections as symbols of their intelligence. (Ouch!) They proudly display their numerous books so that visitors to their home will see them and think they are geniuses. They add to the illusion by showcasing their books in custom-made floor to ceiling bookshelves.
“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.” -Charles Dickens
- You plan to read them (one day). Procrastination. We all do it. Possibly, you are holding on to far too many books because you’ve yet to read them. Or, perhaps you started reading a book and for one reason or another, you never finished it. Maybe the book wasn’t your cup of tea, yet you still feel compelled to finish it anyway.
- You fear you may need to refer back to it (one day). Many people store their old textbooks for years after taking a class “just in case” they need the information again. Others enjoy the process of researching information; as a result, they like to keep multiple reference books nearby in case the urge strikes to look something up.
Decluttering Books: How To Let Go
Have you failed in your prior attempts at decluttering books? Have you let one (or more) of the excuses I’ve listed keep you from saying “farewell” to your book clutter? Do you worry that if you declutter your books, you will never want to read again? I can tell you from experience that decluttering books does not mean you have to stop reading them. You can, in fact, continue your love affair with books. The goal will be to keep them from cluttering up your home.
Follow along as I show you how to declutter your books. Once your books are decluttered, I will explain how you can obtain even more books! Wait! What kind of a sick person am I? Don’t worry, you’ll only be reading these new books not keeping them!
“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” -Francis Bacon
If you’ve read my post on the Shock Treatment Declutter Method, you probably know what I am going to say next. If you haven’t, check it out. I’ll wait.
Next, you’ll need to gather all of the books in your home together in one location. Your kid’s books (unless they are old enough to sort their own), coffee table books, even your cookbooks. Divide them into categories as you collect them. For example, your children’s books will be in one area of the room, romance novels in another pile, and reference books in another.
Once you’ve gathered all of the books together in one area of your home, survey the damage. Does it look like Barnes & Noble and your local library had a baby? Yeah, I thought so.
Acknowledge any feelings of regret, despair, and guilt you may be having. Do not allow any excuses to undermine your decluttering efforts.
Finally, pick up each book one by one and ask yourself the following questions.
- Do I love this book?
- Will I read (or need) this book in the near future?
Use these two questions as your litmus test for deciding which books to keep and which books you can rehome. If you answer “yes” to one or both of these questions, keep the book. If your answer is “no”, then (as Elsa says), “Let it go.”
Decluttering Books: Keeping the Clutter Away
After you’ve donated, sold or otherwise discarded any unwanted books, you are free to seek out more books to read. There are three (secret) resources I have discovered which have allowed me to keep book clutter from piling up in my home. I’m going to share these exclusive assets with you today. But you have to promise not to tell anyone else! Okay, here goes. The three main resources I use in order to keep reading the books that I love without actually having to own them…are (drum roll):
- The Public Library
- Kindle Unlimited (from Amazon)
- The Internet
What’s that, you say, everybody already knows about my secret resources? Then why is book clutter even a thing?
Seriously, though. I can get almost any book I can think of from my local library. If they don’t have it, they contact other libraries in the area to see if they can find it for me. Occasionally, none of the libraries in a 60-mile radius happen to have the book I am looking for. When this happens, I access the trusty old internet, go to Amazon.com and either check out the desired book from Kindle Unlimited or (in the rare case they don’t have it), I purchase the book (usually used). If you do not have Kindle Unlimited click the link below for a free trial.
Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial
Again, I almost never purchase books, unless it’s an e-book that I cannot borrow in print. When I do buy an actual book, I read it, resell it, or pass it on to someone else. Voila! No more decluttering books for me!
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”-Marcus Tullius Cicero
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Uncluttered Simplicity says
Great idea Justin, thanks!
Justin roake says
My own tip: take photos of your books before you take them to the charity shop. Kee the phots in a seapate file on your computer marked ‘Books’. Then you have effectively a list of those books, the edition, the colour etc. Then should you ever want that book back agan, you simply find it nline (abebooks, ebay, biblio). Books are so cheap online. Effectvely lending your books to shops, snd can get them back anytime you want.
Helen Le Sueur says
I’m housebound by illness and on home oxygen. Books have always played a big part of my life. I read on average 3-5 a week. I have around 1,500 print books and about 800 ebooks, most of which have been read more than once and some every couple of years for 50 years because they are old friends and I love them so much. I ran out of room for them all several years ago. I hate the thought of letting any go, it’s like losing my children, but we need to downsize so how do I choose?