Does anyone else have a really, really hard time getting rid of books? They’re like old friends; even if I know I’ll never read one again, it’s so hard to part with. Plus, you fall down the rabbit hole of opening them as you sort and getting sucked into the story again. Although I finally decluttered the bookshelf in my room a few months ago, my mom still has boxes upon boxes of my old kids’ and teens’ books in her basement that I need to go through at some point. Progress, not perfection, right?
Declutter Your Bookshelf: The Guiding Principle
Recently, I’ve written two posts on minimalism: What is Minimalism? + Reasons to Go Minimalist and How to Declutter Your Closet for Good. The first explains the what and why of minimalism and our personal reasons for going minimalist. The second explains how to do a massive closet clean-out to end all closet clean-outs! Two resources that I recommend watching and reading, respectively, before attempting to declutter any area of your living space, are Minimalism: A Documentary and Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. They’ll motivate you to finally attack your clutter and keep things clutter-free from then on!
Similar to my tips for cleaning out your closet, I made use of Kondo’s guiding principle in cleaning out my bookshelf: if an item didn’t “spark joy,” I got rid of it. However, in many cases, I found that I needed to ask myself additional, more specific questions to know whether or not to get rid of a book. I’ve boiled down my process below into nine easy steps!
Declutter Your Bookshelf: The Checklist
Step 1: Lay out one shelf’s worth of books. Don’t pull them all out at once–you’ll feel overwhelmed and be less thorough in your clean-out as a result. One shelf’s worth of books for me meant about thirty books, give or take ten books. You could be more organized and first divide your books into categories to sort through, but I found it easiest to just sort by shelf!
Step 2: First, get rid of books that you disliked. You didn’t like them, so you probably won’t read them again.
Step 3: Next, get rid of books that you know you’ll never read. There’s something to be said for diversifying your reading list. However, everyone has types of books that they simply aren’t interested in reading at all. Usually, these are books that were given to you by others. We feel bad for getting rid of gifted books, but we really shouldn’t! If you dispose of them responsibly, they’ll go to a place where they’re actually read and appreciated.
Step 4: Get rid of books that you know you’ll never finish. This one can be a bit harder. Prior to my clean-out, I often kept books that everyone around me seemed to love and find life-changing because I wanted to experience their magic, too! But if you’ve started a book several times and could never get into it, there’s no need for it to keep taking up precious shelf space. Again, don’t feel bad about sending these books to a better home.
Step 5: Finally, get rid of books that you’ll never read again. This is the hardest part, right? This is where there’s a whole lot of thinking, “But what if I want to read it again ten years from now?” For me, this meant clearing out a whole lot of books I enjoyed as a kid and teen (some Roald Dahl books and fantasy series, among others) but didn’t stay attached to as I got older. Will my kids want to read these books someday? Maybe. (Hopefully they’ll be avid readers, like I was!) But that’s where the magic of the library comes in. If we keep every single possession that we *might possibly* want again someday, we’re resigning ourselves to a cluttered life.
Step 6: Dispose of your books responsibly. Give them to younger siblings or cousins, sell them to a used bookstore, or donate them to your local library! You can usually just walk right into your library with a bag of books and they’ll take it off your hands. Try all of these options before throwing out books.
Step 7: Frequent your local library. Sometimes, the book you want to read has a ridiculously long waiting list or your library simply doesn’t have it. However, as a general rule, I like to “try out” books from the library before buying them.
Step 8: Frequent your local used bookstore. After trying the library, try your used bookstore! It’s a great place to buy books as well as sell them, and you reduce your environmental impact when you buy used. Twin Cities dwellers, if you haven’t been to Magers & Quinn Booksellers, you must go! It’s huge and the books are so inexpensive. You can also find out-of-print books and editions there.
Step 9: Don’t let books you didn’t like, won’t read, won’t finish, or won’t reread accumulate on your shelves again. Set rigorous standards for what sits on your bookshelf! I love looking at my own and seeing only books I love or that I’m excited to read.
Have you decluttered your bookshelf before? What tips would you add to this list?