Let me just start out by saying I love books. I have three degrees in English. I have a library in my house. So, the advice I’m about to give you is from someone who understands why you love your books and don’t want to get rid of them. And yet, I am going to advise you to declutter your books anyway.
They’re heavy. They collect dust. They’re hard to move. And probably, most of the books on your shelves aren’t books you’ve read in awhile. In fact, you’re likely to not ever read them again.
Bookshelves are like galleries. People look at our titles and can tell something about us. Yet, most bookcases say more about where we’ve been than who we are now. And they’re often cluttered up with stacks so overflowing the titles can’t even be seen clearly. When you declutter your books, you have room for what really represents you, not just books, but tchotchkes that are meaningful to you and could use a place to live and be displayed.
Books can be both back and forward looking clutter. Backward looking = this is who I was, helps me remember my past, was interesting to me a decade (or more ago). Forward looking = I may read this somebody, my kids or someone I know might. So, in keeping with my general advice to let go of what no longer serves you, this week I’d like you to take a look at your books and ask yourself some pretty straightforward questions.
Five Questions to Ask Yourself to Declutter Your Books
- Have I ever read this book? If so, did I like it when I read it? Would I like it now?
- Would I read it again? Really?
- Do I need this book as a reference? Does it have current information or information that won’t become outdated? Would I think to look something up in this book or would I be more likely to Google the information?
- Am I keeping this book to loan to people? Do I actually loan it out? If I loan it out again, do I need it back?
- Would anyone else in the house read this book? Am I keeping it for my kids? My grandkids?
Make decluttering your books a Saturday project or just give yourself 5 minutes a day to look at shelves or piles of books around your house until you’ve gotten through them. Declutter your books to the point where they fit on the bookcases without being jammed in or you’ve determined you need to buy another bookcase to house your books well. Once the books in your house are decluttered to those you will actually read, reference, or share with others, adopt a one in, one out rule. Then, when you want to add a book to your collection, take out one that doesn’t fit your life anymore or that you’ve already read.
Donate, Sell, or Recycle
You can donate or sell your books or host a book exchange. In Austin, you can donate the books to Recycled Reads (the Austin Public Library bookstore) Inside Books Project (books for prisoners), create a little library outside your house to share the books, sell them at Half Price Books, or find a school, senior center, or even YMCA to donate to, so someone will actually read the book.