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How to Recycle Books

Updated on July 25, 2016
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That Was a Question, By the Way

Oh... sorry. Did you think I was offering a solution? No, the title is actually a plea for help. How do I stop hoarding books? The scale of the problem is increasing weekly, nay, almost daily. Our books appear to be breeding. Do you see all the photos on this page? Well, they are all taken in our house and the books are getting out of control. Please tell me that I am not the only one suffering from a literary tsunami. Make me feel better by telling me your books take up more room than your furniture. Give me your support as you explain that you also have trouble with books marching up the staircase.

Well, I have made a decision. Our book collection must be reduced by half. We need the space and I am fed up with the dust-attracting tomes in every corner. So, I am putting together a sort of reference as to how to go about my library annihilation.

If you have any suggestions, please add them in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

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Digitize Books

Step One. Stop buying books. Buy their digital equivalent. After all, both hubby and I have Kindle apps on our tablets, so it would make sense to only buy books that are available in digital editions. Oh... hang on a moment. I just checked my eBooks folder on my external hard drive – 1,747 books. Drat. I really don't have space on my computer for any more.

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Freecycle Books

In the past I have set books free on our Freecycle equivalent, Freegle. In fact, we started a really good system where we put together a few boxes of unwanted books and offered them on the local group, which I run, by the way. Our stipulation was that the person who took them removed the books that they wanted and added in their own unwanteds and then sent the boxes off to another group member. This worked pretty well until it kind of ground to a halt – right back at our house. And there were more books than there had been at the beginning. And they are all here.

I might try again, but like cats, I am unable to resist re-homing books. They need me.

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Donate Books

Okay, so we have a few local charity/thrift shops. They always need books, don't they? Well, yes, but they didn't want all ours. Too many they said. Take them to the recycling depot, they told us. What? Send them to be pulped? Or burned or whatever else they do to them? Unthinkable. In the meantime I am restricted to taking the odd shopping bag of books and subjecting myself to the glare of the volunteer elderly ladies at the charity shops, who really dislike sorting through the books. Too much bending, you see.

The other problem I have with taking books to charity shops is that I usually get my hubby to do it. He's big and strong and can heft those bags of books out of the house, into the car, in to the store and then come home with my empty bags. Yeah right. Those babies come back home just as full as they went out, but with different books. Ones that he has paid for. My husband rarely drinks, has never done drugs, doesn't smoke but, oh boy, he does have a dreadful book addiction!


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Re-Purpose Books

I quite like this idea. Have you seen those great designs of furniture made from books. They look wonderful. Desks, chairs, room dividers and even Christmas trees, all built from books. Fantastic. Except for one teeny little drawback. What happens when you want to read a book that's looking very enticing right in the middle of one of the supports belonging to your snazzy book-desk? Huh? How does it work? Do you have to dismantle the whole lot? Do you leave the book there and feel enormous frustration that you can't get hold of it?

Oh.. just wait, I know... you go and buy another copy!

Help me! I'm drowning in books!

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    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 8 weeks ago from Wales

      That's a great idea, Sally. Our local public telephone is nothing more than a cubicle. However we do have a great little community shop nearby that uses funds raised for local projects. Most of our 'unwanteds' end up there.

      Confession: I just got yet another bookcase from Freegle :)

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 8 weeks ago from Norfolk

      A recent little visitor stepped into our front room and exclaimed 'it looks like a library'. I promise he was not kidding! One wall is completely devoted to books! They serve two purposes, first, we love books, second, they help deaden the sound of music going from our house to our neighbors. Well, that is our excuse anyway.

      One of the nicest ideas I have seen for decluttering books from your home is to take them down to a disused telephone box where they can become a free library resource for locals where they can bring or borrow books as they please. Seems to me that this is a win win situation for everyone. I hope you manage to find a disused box close to you:)

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 5 months ago from Wales

      I didn't know that, Beth. Thanks for the suggestion.

    • Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

      Beth Eaglescliffe 5 months ago from UK

      I've experienced the same problem as you (local charity shops no longer taking older books). However, I've recently found a solution - the National Trust. Most of their properties accept book donations which they sell on-site all year round for £1-£2 each. Some of the larger houses also have annual second-hand book fairs which attract huge crowds. e,g, Dyffryn House has one every June.

    • Glenis Rix profile image

      Glenis Rix 12 months ago from UK

      I found a large collection of books when clearing my late father's attic - and I wrote a hub about what I did with them.

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 4 years ago from Wales

      Oh magazines! I used to buy every single house magazine available (in the UK) every single month - I had three years worth. I asked my mother to store them when I moved and they got damp - had to chuck them all. Probably a very good thing :D I managed to cure myself of that habit and don't buy magazines, other than digital ones I can read on my laptop. Thanks for stopping by, Gina145.

    • Gina145 profile image

      Gina145 4 years ago from South Africa

      I'm glad to see there are so many other people who have this problem. I can't stop myself buying books (and magazines) that look interesting, but I struggle to find time to read any of them. I really can't dispose of books I haven't even read, so the piles just grow. And I don't have a Kindle or similar device, so the only way I can buy books is ones made of paper.

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Hi Lisa, no I couldn't throw them out unless they were completely falling apart, and even then I'd keep a few pages to use in an art journal. I would love a dedicated room for a library!

    • LisaKoski profile image

      LisaKoski 5 years ago from WA

      I have a few boxes of books in storage so luckily my collection is out of sight for now while I look for a new place but once it's time to unpack them I have no idea what I'm going to do with them all. One day I'd like my own little library room but that won't happen for a long time. I don't have nearly as much as you do. I'm glad you don't just toss them in recycling

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thanks phdast7. It seems to be a pandemic!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Great Hub. Unfortunately, I have no advice or guidance for you and your problem, as I am afflicted with the same problem. :)

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Yes, iguidenetwork, I omitted to mention selling - I have sold quite a few books on eBay, though the hassle of weighing and shipping wasn't really worth it. Thanks for stopping by.

    • iguidenetwork profile image

      iguidenetwork 5 years ago from Austin, TX

      I mostly sell those books to second-hand shops, including a 15-volume set of encyclopedia. They only gathered dust and some smelled bad. I also sell my used books online, and many of them I gave away. I like your last idea, haven't tried that, and I think I'll have a shot at it. Great hub, thanks for posting. :)

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      They are breeding already, MerCyn60!

    • MerCyn60 profile image

      MerCyn60 5 years ago from New Jersey shore

      We sort of solved the problem by downsizing. Could not fit them all in our smaller home. Books went to Goodwill and the library book sale, family and friends, used book stores. But we still have some full bookcases and boxes in the garage. Use e-books now, more library books, but slowly new books suddenly appear...

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      That just might have been too many, Natasha! I don't keep novels - all the ones in the photos are hubby's. He keeps threatening to start writing - after he's read his stash of books. So, that'll be... well, uh.. never.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I used to be a terrible book hoarder. I sold most of the ones that were worth anything and donated ones I knew I would never read again, but it's difficult! I also have started trying not to keep beat up paper backs with no sentimental value. I went backpacking in New Zealand for 5 weeks and, by the time I got home, I had nearly 20 books. And I was backpacking! Everyone in my family has 'too many' books. I know, you can't have too many books...but I used to sleep on the floor in my parents' house because I took the bed out to have more space for book shelves! That might have been too many books.

    • theraggededge profile image
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      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      You will have to send them to me, Rachel! I offer a free re-homing service... or so it seems! You will have to move to a larger place - there problem solved :-)

    • Farmer Rachel profile image

      Rachel Koski 5 years ago from Minnesota

      LOL! Well, I have to confess that I share your problem. I have at least three huge shelves of my books at my father's house - and I haven't lived there for years. I just can't fit them at my house! We've got several shelves here, plus boxes of books up in the loft, and the 2 rooms in the cabin that we use for storage both have at least half a dozen boxes of books in them. What will I do when I move??

    • theraggededge profile image
      Author

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      Thanks, all. I am glad I'm not alone. Of course, we will be hanging on to our darlings, although I am quite happy to recycle novels - I won't get rid of my treasured art and writing books.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      Don't even go there. At one time we had two houses full of books...after giving about 100 to charity. Finally after moving to one place we left the books and I just did another cleaning out saving only favorite art books etc. I have kindle now and that helps. Great hub and I got a good chuckle..voting up and share.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Yes, My mother in law (long dead now) used to say that we could "paper the house with books". She was suggesting we use them as wallpaper! We used to have one room with nothing but bookshelves and then my husband decided that all the books were deadening the sound from his beloved hi-fi. That was the impetus to get rid of (some of) the books.

      We have an awful lot of books in our house but it is a big house and they haven't overtaken us (yet).

      I have got rid of some on Freegle. I did NOT allow any boxes to come back. They were advertised as all or nothing. A local charity was pleased to get them and came and collected!

      If I want to read fiction - I borrow it from the library. I don't buy fiction. I do buy non-fiction - on my Kindle as you suggest.

      I have given some away to the local library who are glad to get them and distribute them round the network. If I want to read them again, I order them.

      Some of the books were old and I have sold them on ebay. Textbooks can be sold through a number of places, such as Amazon, and other book sites that do not possess the books but which keep a database of people with books that can be accessed by people wanting those books - but you have to be organised to do that and be ready to find and post a particular book within 24 hours.

      I wouldn't worry about the elderly ladies glaring about the books. Take them in a few at a time. Lifting books is good for their muscles (I speak as an elderly lady!)

      Glad to see someone else is like us and has too many books: too many houses have none at all!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Oh, dear. I have this very same problem. I am constantly trying to weed through the thousands of books in our house, but they replicate every time I turn my back! I've tried bringing them to Goodwill, but I am just like your husband -- more books find their way into my bag than out of it. And I can't bear to think of my loyal friends torn to pieces in a shredder, so recycling is out. What's a bibliophile to do?