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How to Declutter Books

Updated on October 12, 2014

I have an addiction - it's books. Unfortunately my addiction for accumulating books far outweighs the time I have for reading them and that means I'm running out of space in my home.

The big problem if you're someone who keeps buying books is that you always want to read the newest book rather than reading them in the order that you gained them. Piles and piles of books just get forgotten about and your interest wains.

I decided that something had to be done!

Below I share some of the things I did to help me let go of all that paper clutter.

Can you ever have too many books?

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Why Declutter Your Beloved Book Collection?

You might be wondering why you would ever want to let go of any of the books in your beloved collection.

My books used to be the most precious things to me - even though I didn't read most of them or even notice them on my shelves.

There are many reasons you might want to reduce your clutter:

  1. Maybe your books are lining every wall, every corridor, every space and making it difficult for you to even move in and out of your home.
  2. Maybe you're worried those dusty old books are a fire hazard.
  3. Maybe you're worried about your shelves falling on top of you in the night.
  4. Maybe you're starting to think about who is going to clear everything up when you're gone (depressing I know).
  5. Maybe the thought of not reading all those books before you die is bringing you down.
  6. Maybe you're thinking of moving and you can't imagine how you're ever going to shift all of those books. Perhaps you're moving to a smaller home.
  7. Maybe you're adding to your family - a new person can mean a lot more books!

My Reasons for Shrinking My Book Collection

I used to buy books without ever really considering whether I had the time to read them, whether they would actually ever be that useful like a book on making shoes – not that I’ve ever been able to find shoe-making craft supplies anywhere.

I decided recently that I want to eventually get to the stage where I only have 1 small shelf of novels that I love and reread and one small shelf of reference books – mostly craft books in my case. I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen but perhaps I can get it down to one small waist-height bookcase.

I love the idea of living a simple life – not quite minimalist but getting there.

I’m a renter and I don’t want to have to shift a half-ton of books every time I move. I also have way more entertainment in this house than I need.

I love the idea of borrowing books from the library and returning them, rather than housing the books for life.

Organize What You Have

You won't know which books you can jettison unless you get organized. You might be surprised at what your shelves have been harboring!

I've organized my book shelves into:

  1. Books I really want to keep for now.
  2. Books I like but I want to reread them again before I decide whether they're definite keepers or not.
  3. Books I've never read and want to read - these can include books that I think I might want to keep and books that I know I probably won't want to keep but I want to check to make sure.
  4. Borrowed books that need to be read and returned.

I also separate fiction and non-fiction – that way it makes it easier to find specific books and take stock.

I find that it helps to physically take every book of the shelf – by touching each book they don’t get the chance to hide out on your shelves unnoticed.

Going through Book Phases

Realise that some of the books you own are only going to be relevant to one stage of your life and when that stage is completed you don't need to hold onto them any more. For example, school books, text books from degrees, that book you bought to help you write your dissertation. Sometimes your interest wanes in a particular topic and that's OK.

Challenge Yourself

I decided enough was enough one day and that I had to knuckle down and read some of the books I’d accumulated.

I decided I would write a book review for each book that I read. This had the wonderful benefit of making me really consider which books I really wanted to spend that much time with. I ended up parting with books much more quickly and also had a record of all the books I’d read.

The Ultimate Way to Get Rid of Book Clutter

Kindle Fire HD 7", HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB - Includes Special Offers (Previous Generation - 3rd)
Kindle Fire HD 7", HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB - Includes Special Offers (Previous Generation - 3rd)

Well, I say this is the ultimate way to get rid of book clutter but if you don't end up sorting out your physical book clutter first then you could end up with shelves and shelves of unread books because you're busy reading the newest thing on the Kindle. And if you're anything like me then you could end up with a load of digital book clutter too!

Of course, you could replace all of the books you currently own with digital versions - even replacing just your favourite books with digital versions could free up a lot of physical space in your home.

I love my Kindle and use it daily.


Keep fighting it

Craft books are a big problem for me, especially if I've just discovered a new craft.

Recently I decided I wanted to take up cross stitch and kept finding cross stitch books that I liked the look of in charity shops. To my shame I've already bought 3 books on cross stitch and I haven't actually picked up a needle for a week. I was tempted to buy another book this week but managed to catch myself before I did.

Part of my problem is not living within walking distance of a library and the other is living within walking distance of a place that sells cheap books!

Of course, the benefit of getting cheap second hand books is that you don't feel so guilty about letting go of them again as you haven't wasted as much money as you could have done if they had been new. Maybe these books will only be in my life for a little while but at least I know I haven't spent more than a few pennies on them.


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      dragonflycolor 3 years ago

      I say Nay to your suggestion of decreasing my library for obvious reasons! LOL. I love books, and I even love smelling them. I know you've done it, too. Good tips here. Thanks!

    • mactavers profile image

      mactavers 3 years ago

      A Kindle is great for when you need the latest novel right now and for traveling, BUT a Kindle isn't great for making notes in the margins if you use books for reference material.