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Simplify Your Book Collection

If your bookcases look anything like mine once did, they are jam packed with books.  Whether it’s a cookbook or favorite novel we love to gift books, buy books, and collect books.

I’ll admit I never really thought about simplifying our family bookcases until about a year ago when I picked up a copy of Simplicity Parenting, which outlined a strategy for reducing a child’s bookcase to 10 books. Given the fact Sahara’s bookshelves were overflowing, and it was the most cluttered area of her bedroom, I decided to give it a whirl. Three rounds of book clearing and we’re now down to about 15 books on her shelf.

It felt so good I couldn’t wait to start on my bookshelves. Now three rounds later I’m down to two small shelves of my absolute favorite books. I love my bookshelves! Not only do my shelves look nice but every book is one I value and honor by reading and referencing frequently.

A few days ago I picked up a copy of The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard at the library and read about the production of books. What I learned really made me rethink my relationship with books. In short, producing books is an energy sucking, wasteful, and toxic process. While there are publishers who are aiming to do a better job of using fewer chemicals and recycled paper, they still have a very long way to go.

So here’s what I realized. If I am not actively reading or referencing books on my shelves then I should make those books available to someone who will. Was I worried I’d miss a book? Yup. But I reassured myself it would most likely be available at the library or I could purchase it again. I haven’t missed one yet.

How do you start?
Yes, it can seem overwhelming but if you give it your full attention for a few hours for two or three rounds you’ll get there. Here are some tips on how to start.

1. Start by culling books you never really liked or couldn’t finish, books you read and know you’ll never read again, outdated reference books, and travel books that are outdated or for places you aren’t visiting in the next year. Into a bag they go and donate them!

2. Next make a pile of books you liked or even loved but you haven’t looked at in over a year. For me this included art and coffee table books, good novels, and reference books I never actually referenced. As you look at them, think of friends you know who might use them and re-gift. Christmas is coming  – re-gifting is fun! Whatever is left over, donate.

3. Kids books – I actually let Sahara decide which books she did and did not want to keep for the first round. She was ruthless! Books I felt sentimental about we re-gifted to other families we love. Everything else was donated.

4. Still have lots of books on the shelf? Try putting half of them into a storage bin in a closet or garage. Come back to them in 6 months and see if you missed them. If you didn’t, it’s probably time to let them go.

Need Help?
Sometimes an extra nudge helps. If you can’t find the time or “umph” to simplify your bookshelves on your own and want some help, EMAIL ME and we’ll get a date set to start the process together. I’ll be taking clients through the first week of December before our move to Oregon.
Enjoy the newfound space you have created!

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