Too many books and not enough shelf space? Use these 7 questions to help you declutter your books.
It’s Day 13 of our 30 day decluttering series, and today we are talking about books.
I have a lot of books.
As a child, I was a voracious reader. While my parents had lots of children’s books on hand, they had fewer young-adult and adult fiction books on their shelves. Still, I read every single book in the house.
That was how I first read CS Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Since I was only in 3rd or 4th grade at the time, I was a little bit horrified that my parents had a book about devils!
When I became a parent, I swore that I would have a ton of options for my children on our shelves. And I have definitely made good on that promise. I love buying books for my kids (and for myself) and I do it often.
They always get a book for Christmas, one for Valentine’s Day, and I provide them with new books every summer. I always purchase at the school book fair and from book order forms. There’s always a book for birthdays—in fact today is my oldest daughter’s 14th birthday and she’s definitely getting a book.
I buy books for myself fairly often, too. I generally spend the majority of my fun money each month on books. I receive lots of books in exchange for doing book reviews on this blog.
While I do have a Kindle, and try to purchase most books electronically nowadays, it doesn’t always work out that way.
So, yeah, I have a lot of books.
As wonderful as books are, they do tend to contribute to the clutter problem in the house. Whenever I have a box ready to donate, I always do a quick perusal of the books and make myself choose a handful to add to the donation pile.
While this helps keep the book population a little more manageable, it’s not likely that I am getting rid of books at the same rate as they are coming in.
So in the name of this decluttering challenge, I finally did a much more thorough (and terribly brutal) assessment of the books and was able to get rid of many more than I usually do.
Here are the questions I asked myself regarding books:
7 Questions to Help You Declutter Your Books
1. What reading level is this book? And do I have a reader in the house that is reading on that level?
My youngest is in 3rd grade now, and is an excellent reader. I decided that she no longer needed to have our My First Steps to Reading book series, so that immediately knocked out 25 books (except I think that the “o” book was actually destroyed a long time ago by a 2-year-old, so maybe only 24).
I got these books when my eldest was tiny and they have been much loved at our house by all three of my girlies. Believe me when I say that it was difficult to add these to the donation pile!
I also got rid of quite a few early readers that my youngest has grown out of.
I kept most of our family favorite children’s books. I will have grandchildren someday, after all! Books like ILove You Stinky Face! and The Empty Pot will always have a place on my bookshelves.
Which leads me to the next question…
2. How much do we love this book?
Don’t get rid of books you truly love. That is a travesty.
Do get rid of books that are only so-so—the ones that your family will probably not read again.
My kids helped me quickly go through the “younger” set of books and it was clear which ones they truly loved and which they didn’t. We were able to send a nice pile to the donation box for someone else to read.
3. In what condition is this book?
Many of the paperback books we got from book order forms were completely falling apart. No covers, pages missing or ripped, etc.
As much as it hurts my soul to throw away books, they had to go in the garbage. Nobody is actually going to read it in that condition, anyway!
There were a few well-loved hardback children’s books that were pretty much destroyed as well. I’ve kept them because we love them, but it was time to get rid of them.
If we love the books that much we can always replace them.
4. Is it a book I will refer to often?
Many of the books I review on this blog are self-help or parenting books.
Sometimes I feel like I have this type of book coming out of my ears. Now I ask myself if I have already learned enough from the book, or if I think I will refer to it again and again. If I know I won’t refer to it again, it goes into the donation box so somebody else can learn from it.
We also have a number of LDS church books on our shelves.
It’s harder and harder for me to keep them, since so much information is now available online, but I still keep most of them because they are good reference books and I do use them occasionally. Plus I want my children to have access to this type of book (see #6).
5. Have I read it yet? Will I read it (again)?
Sometimes I acquire books that I don’t immediately read. And, if I’m being honest, I know I won’t read.
If I know I won’t ever read it, I should get rid of it. Unless I think my girls will read and enjoy it, in which case I keep it. Of course, I keep all books that I haven’t read yet if I know I do want to read it. I will get around to it eventually.
I had a copy of Gone with the Wind in Romanian. In Romanian it is twice the length of what it is in English, and takes up two books instead of one. I finally let it go this time. While my language skills were once good enough to get through it, there’s no way I could do that now without a dictionary next to me and a lot of time.
I’m not sure if anyone at our local Goodwill will appreciate Margaret Mitchell’s famous tome in a language just about nobody speaks, but hey! You never know.
6. Do I want my children to read it?
I do want to keep a nice library for my girls to choose from. So if it’s a book that I would love them to read, I keep it. Classic literature always stays, as long as the book is in good condition, and any other book I loved and would like them to read someday as well.
7. Do I have more than one copy of this book?
It may seem like a silly question to ask, but in this last book declutter I found that I somehow had two copies of The Witch of Blackbird Pond. We also had two copies each of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Lemonade War because our elementary school gave each child a copy during reading month for the past two years.
There is no reason to keep more than one copy of a book, unless you are a school teacher and need multiple copies for your classroom.
Another clutter issue that I run into with books is storage.
We have plenty of bookshelves, but books that are currently being read or that have been recently read tend to pile up on nightstands and other places in the house. Between my husband and I there were 28 books on our nightstands! Mine is pictured below—I’ve finished about half of these books, and the rest I have intended to read, but haven’t gotten to yet.
Each of my girls had a pile near their beds.
I love that my family loves to read, but I only have so many book shelves.
Getting rid of quite a few books in the family room freed up a bunch of room on those bookshelves, so I was able to move several of the book piles there.
Now I only have three books, my Kindle, and a magazine on my nightstand.
The girls’ piles are more manageable, too.
The bookshelves are all pretty full, again, though, so I’m either going to have to stop buying books, buy another bookshelf, or continue to declutter often.
Gather up all of the books from their clutter “hotspots” (nightstands, coffee tables, etc.).
Assess the space you have for storing books.
Go through them, asking yourself the above questions.
Donate a good portion of them!
How do you declutter your books?
Find all of the posts in this 31 Day Challenge here: A Place for Everything: 31 Days to Less Clutter and More Peace.
Are you ready to declutter your life?
Join the 31 day challenge to get rid of clutter and make room for peace.