I know, I know, there’s no such thing as “too many books” except… what if there is? If you’re ready to acknowledge that maybe your book collection has gotten a little out of control, you may need to try your hand at decluttering books.
As a professional organizer, I often help clients to declutter. That’s easy for some, but quite hard for others. I also see some common themes amongst items people have a hard time decluttering. For many people, decluttering books is right at the top of that “hard to let go of” list.
It’s hard to declutter books
Why are books so hard to let go of? I think there are different reasons for different people.
Maybe your books helped you get through a tough time. Maybe they remind you of who you used to be. Maybe they kept you company through a lonely childhood. Maybe they represent lost dreams. Maybe they bring back happy memories. Maybe some are expensive. Maybe some are irreplaceable. Maybe you like the way they look. Maybe you like the way they smell. Maybe you like how people assume you’re well-read and educated when they see your book collection.
Regardless of the reasons you are having a hard time letting go of books, there may come a day when you simply have too many books and you need to make some tough choices.
Too many books?
Can there ever be such a thing as too many books? Unfortunately, yes. While I love a good book as much as the next person (the smell, the feel, the escape), it’s important to maintain a healthy view on books and whether they’re adding to, or taking away from, your quality of life and the space of your home.
You may have too many books if…
- Your books are impeding your daily living
- Your books are overcrowding your bookshelves
- You have books packed away and stacked in boxes
- You have books piled on floors, tables, nightstands, chairs, and other places books shouldn’t really be
- You have more books than you’ll ever read
- Your books make it hard to clean your home
- You’re spending money on books instead of other necessities
If the idea of decluttering your books has you panicking, just step back and take it slow. Think about why your books are so special to you. Maybe one reason above resonates with you, or maybe it’s something else.
Identifying why books are hard to let go of can be helpful. Sometimes it’s enough to help you make a logical decision about what stays and what goes.
Normally, when sharing “how to’s” on purging and organizing, I suggest readers gather all the like items in one place and evaluate the collection. If you’re motivated to declutter and ready to purge, go for it! This is a great way to see just how much you have (and become slightly disgusted with yourself, if I’m being honest).
If you’re overwhelmed and getting scared, go slower. Pick one shelf at a time. If that’s still too much, pick 5 to 10 books at a time. Look through each book and ask yourself some questions.
Questions to Ask When Decluttering Books:
- Have I read this book?
- Will I read this book?
- Will I read this book again?
- Did I love this book?
- Did I learn from this book?
- Am I still the person who read/loved this book?
- Will I refer to this book in the future?
- If I let this book go, is it easy to replace (monetarily, sentimentally)?
- If I want to read it again, it is available at my local library?
- Can someone else get more enjoyment from this book than I get from looking at it on my shelf?
- Would I rather have this book, or the space?
Use the decision tree below to help.
Make a Box. Use the questions above as a guide to decide which books to keep and which books to let go of. Go as quickly or as slowly as you’re comfortable with. Get a box or bin and as you identify books you’re ready to pass on to someone else, add them to the box.
Set a Goal. Sometimes setting a goal can help with book decluttering. You should include two elements: an amount to let go of and a timeline by which you will let go. Here are some examples:
- Reduce your book collection by 10% in the next 3 months.
- Find 10 books to donate in the next 10 days.
- Fill one large amazon box with books to pass on by October 1st.
Switch to digital. If you love the book, but don’t love the clutter, consider purchasing an e-reader and gradually replacing your collection with digital copies of the books. Yes, I know it’s not the same, but there are benefits to having the books online!
What to do with decluttered books
Hopefully, after going through the questions above you’ve identified some books to let go of. But now what?
Common options are:
- passing the books onto someone
- donating the books
- selling the books
All the options are good, although some are more altruistic than others. Choose the one that makes it easier to let go. Or, choose a combination of the three!
If passing the book onto someone you know will love it as much as you did makes your heart happy, do that! If thinking about your books making a soldier overseas a little less homesick cheers you up, do that! If getting some extra spending money (to buy more books with) appeals to you, that’s a perfect option!
Keep scrolling for a comprehensive list of where to donate books.
What to do with your remaining books
It’s okay to keep books as long as you enjoy them. Enhance your enjoyment of them by displaying them nicely and treating them well. Display them nicely on a shelf, sort them in a way that makes you happy. Sorting them by color and lining them up at the same depth on a shelf is a great way to reduce visual clutter and keep your shelves looking neat.
Stack them up in different displays or add colorful books to your coffee table. Most of all, use them and enjoy them.
Where to Donate Books
Luckily, there are many places willing to take your books!
- Little Free Libraries (find locations here)
- Send them to soldiers through Operation Paperback
- Nursing Homes (Large Print are especially helpful)
- Libraries (sometimes they sell them as a fundraiser)
- Thrift shops/Goodwill
- Send them to inmates via Prison Book Program
- Drop them in a Better World Books drop box (find locations here)
Sometimes knowing someone else will use and appreciate your beloved books makes it easier to let them go.
If you need more inspiration on decluttering books, try… reading a book! There are so many wonderful books on minimalism that are sure to motivate you to let go. A few of my favorites are The More of Less by Joshua Becker, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson, and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
Decluttering books can be hard. Work at your own pace and keep in mind the joy that your books could bring to another reader.
Have personal experience decluttering books? Have a book you know you’ll just never be able to let go of? I’d love to hear about it. Drop a note below and let me know!