Decluttering Your Bookshelf Is A Novel Idea

how to declutter your books


We connect with stories because we see ourselves in them, which its why it’s so easy to fall in love with a good book. Decluttering a bookshelf can be challenging when you’re surrounded by a full library of beloved stories.

However, decluttering your books doesn’t mean you have to give up the novels you love most. You can tidy up your bookshelf without sacrificing the caliber of your collection.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

I’m a pretty big reader and at one point I realized I needed a way to manage my ever-growing stack of books. I adopted a policy that after reading a book I would takes some notes, then gift that book to someone who I thought would like it or benefit from it.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

How To Declutter Your Books: Questions To Guide You

How To Declutter Your Books

For those who really love books, it can be hard to know what books you’re willing to part with and which ones you’ll regret letting go of. Here are a few guiding questions to ask yourself when decluttering your bookshelf on your own.

Do I Own More Than One Copy Of This Book?

Do I Own More Than One Copy Of This Book

It can be appealing to own more than one copy of a book you deeply love. This is especially true if there is a fancy new edition of the book out there with gorgeous cover art and a smooth, high-quality cover.

These ostentatious features can be mesmerizing for a book lover, but make sure to consider your needs over your wants. When deciding whether to buy a new copy of a book you already own, or whether you should part with the duplicates already in your library, ask yourself if you’ll use two copies of the same book.

owning more than one copy of a book

Have I Read This Book In The Last Three Years?

Have I Read This Book In The Last Three Years

Bibliophiles have large libraries they cycle through, so you’re not going to get to every book in your library each year. However, if three years have gone by without engaging with a book, maybe it’s time to let that read go. That way, you can make room on your shelf for books you know you’ll actually read!

Can I See Myself Reading This Book In The Next Year?

Can I See Myself Reading This Book In The Next Year

If you haven’t read the book in the past three years, but plan to read it in the next year or couple years, you may convince yourself to keep it around. However, ask yourself if you truly have a tangible plan to read the book or if you just hope to read it, idealistically. If you’ve been planning on reading it for several years, it might be time to let that book go.

Does This Book Have Sentimental Value?

Does This Book Have Sentimental Value

It’s totally okay to keep books around because they were meaningful to you in the past, but don’t go overboard. Balancing how many books of sentimental value to keep when you know you’re not going to read them is a tough one.

On the one hand, you don’t want to let go of those childhood favorites that you have a deep attachment to, want to keep around for your kids, or that light your soul up when you look at them. However, you also don’t want to keep several closets full of books you’ll never read. Limit yourself to a certain container size for sentimental books. If it fits in the bin, it stays, if not, it goes.

books that have sentimental value

Is This A Classic Or Renowned Novel?

Is This A Classic Or Renowned Novel

Everyone knows of those classic books that you just have to have in your library. However, if your copy of The Great Gatsby or The Old Man And The Sea might not be read for several years, is it truly worth keeping around?

Ask yourself if you are keeping the book around more for the image of it, or because you truly love it. I think it’s okay to hang onto to renowned classics that were meaningful to you, even if you don’t plan to read them again for a while. However, if you’re keeping Kafka on your shelf just to say you have it, maybe revaluate that impulse.

classic books to keep

Does Holding Onto This Book Give Me A Visceral Reaction?

Does Holding Onto This Book Give Me A Visceral Reaction

There are also those books that you feel a deeply special connection to. Maybe you don’t plan to reread them in the next few years, but just by looking at the cover, your heart jumps a little and you remember how you felt the first time you read it.

minimalism book reviewsThat’s how I feel about Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. When I first read it, I remember I was on the train in London and when some of the first dots connected in my head, I was stunned by the implications.

I don’t read it every year because I want to make time for new, enlightening books that will help me grow. However, I always find my way back to this book, and would never force myself to let it go.

If you pick up a book and immediately feel something, it’s worth keeping around. That’s the point of literature — for you to connect with it. If you do have an emotional connection, you may regret letting it go.

Three Tips For Decluttering Your Bookshelf

Tips For Decluttering Your Bookshelf

Decluttering a bookshelf can feel like a scary endeavor, especially for a bibliophile who considers their books their most cherished possessions. Again, decluttering is about reducing quantity without losing quality, which especially applies to decluttering a library.

I had the opportunity to speak with Rachel, August, and Madeline. These women are Youtubers who had a lot to say about book consumerism and decluttering your bookshelf. I asked their advice on how to declutter books as an avid reader.

Ask Yourself Why You Feel Connected To Certain Books

Ask Yourself Why You Feel Connected To Certain Books

One way to make the decluttering process go more smoothly and avoid uncertainty is to reflect. What is it about certain books that causes you to want to keep them or let them go? If you begin to identify patterns, the decluttering process will be much easier for you overall.

rachel sargent

“Ask yourself why you feel attached to a certain book: Is it something you recommend all the time, something you have a special memory associated with? Knowing the why informs the how.”

– Rachel Sargeant, A Model Who’s Read

Don’t Force Your Bookshelf Declutter

Dont Force Your Bookshelf Declutter

Don’t force a bookshelf declutter just because you feel like you should. The last thing you want to do is make yourself declutter books you love that you later wish you could buy back! If you don’t feel ready to purge your shelf yet, wait until the time feels right.

august nyson

“I hang onto books that especially wowed me. Not just enjoyable reads — reads that made me think outside of the box, pushed me, made me question things, educated me, or inspired me.”

– August Nyson, Cozy Rosy Reads

Don’t Feel Guilty For Decluttering Your Books

Don’t Feel Guilty For Decluttering Your Books

Another tip to keep in mind when it comes to decluttering your shelf is to not feel guilty about letting your books go. Readers tend to also be the type to cherish things deeply or collect things of value. It doesn’t make you less of a book enthusiast to give some of your books away, especially if they’re just gathering dust on your shelf.

rachel sargent

“I know book lovers who feel like they aren’t as legitimate if they don’t have a full bookshelf behind them. This can lead to keeping books you don’t actually enjoy anymore just for show.”

– Rachel Sargeant, A Model Who’s Read

What Can I Do With All My Decluttered Books

Once you figure out what books to get rid of, how do you decide what to do with them? There are many options to ensure your favorites stories have a nice, new home.

Donate Books To A Charity Or Thrift Store

Donate Books To A Charity Or Thrift Store

One of the most popular options for getting rid of old books is donating them to secondhand stores, thrift stores, or used book stores in your area. Some even give books to kids, veterans, and prisoners. Donating your books is an awesome way to give back to the community you’re a part of.

august nyson

“When I finish reading a book I didn’t feel connected to, I immediately donate it! This way, I feel like I am constantly in a state of unhauling and passing books on to others.”

– August Nyson, Cozy Rosy Reads

Consider the following donation sites and stores

best places to donate books

Give Books Away To Friends Who Might Enjoy Them

Give Books Away To Friends Who Might Enjoy Them

One of the huge positives of having friends who are also book lovers is being able to connect and swap books that you truly enjoyed. One habit I’ve found myself adopting after many years of being a minimalist is thinking about other people when I decide to declutter something.

I consider specific people in my life when I’m cleaning and organizing, and ask myself if they could benefit from what I’m letting go of. Books are no different. I love giving books I’ve read to friends I know will really get something meaningful out of reading them.

give away books as gifts

Look For A Little Library In Your Neighborhood

Look For A Little Library In Your Neighborhood

The Little Free Library started gaining in popularity back in 2009, and they’re a great way to get rid of your old books while making sure others are still able to enjoy them. These little libraries have popped up in neighborhoods all across the world, with more than 100,000 little free libraries in existence.

You can easily locate one of these bookstands in your area and drop off some of your old books in a neighborhood near you. I was able to locate several little free libraries near me and sometimes, when I’m on my nightly walk, I’ll bring a book along to drop off.

neighborhood little library

Alternative Ideas To Buying New Books

Alternative Ideas To Buying New Books

The best way to keep clutter low is to reduce the amount of stuff you own to begin with. However, this is hard when you’re a bibliophile and love the idea of fillings your shelves with all of your favorite reads.

Here are some alternatives to purchasing physical copies of brand-new books that can help you maintain your love of reading without breaking your wallet or causing your shelves to overflow.

decluttering books pro tip

“One way to mitigate too many books is to choose books with decorative covers that can double as decor or wall art. You can still own the books you want to own while giving them a secondary purpose.”

– Madeline Flack, Content Creator

Go Digital With Your Book Collection

Go Digital With Your Book Collection

There are many E-readers out there that can replace physical copies of books and keep the clutter in your library down to a minimum. You can also try audiobooks if you’re an auditory learner. There are many ways to make your book collection digital and keep your favorite stories close while reducing clutter.

Try these E-readers and digital libraries

digital tablet for reading

Borrow Books From Your Bibliophile Friends

Borrow Books From Your Bibliophile Friends

Having a community of book-loving friends is nice because you can share and swap stories and trade books you love with one another. When trying to keep your personal collection to a minimum, ask your friends if they already own the book you have in mind. If so, borrow the novel instead of making the purchase.

Another fun idea is to host a book party with your friends who also love reading. Invite everyone to come over for food, drinks, and a book exchange. Ask your friends to bring over books they planned to donate or declutter, and then have all your guests browse each other’s collections. This is a great way to diversify your library without buying a ton of new books.

reading books with friends

Visit Your Local Library For New Reads

Visit Your Local Library For New Reads

The library is, of course, the most common way to read books without buying them. Most libraries have a lot more than people think — things like audiobooks, DVDs, podcasts, CDs, photo collections, telescopes and science equipment, and even tickets to local museums and attractions.

Libraries can do a lot more than just help you keep the clutter on your shelves down. Find a local library in your area.

Madeline Flack

“I recommend libraries because it forces you to read to more. There’s a deadline for how long you have with each book, whereas when I’ve bought books, they might sit on my shelf for years before I read them, if I do.”

– Madeline Flack, Content Creator

How To Declutter A Digital Library

How To Declutter A Digital Library

When you imagine a book collection that is in need of decluttering, you probably picture piles of books and overstuffed bookshelves. However, digital decluttering is just as integral to book collection decluttering as cleaning out your physical books.

Decluttering Your Audiobooks

Decluttering Your Audiobooks

Tips for decluttering your audiobooks are likely going to depend on what platform you use and the bells and whistles that your service has. I know that Audible has a “collections” feature which allows you to organize your library by creating individual folders with titles and descriptions.

Decluttering audiobooks is just like decluttering any other shelf. It can be misleading to think that digital clutter doesn’t have the same impact as physical clutter. It’s just as important to keep your digital world organized.

audible trial

Decluttering eBooks

Decluttering eBooks

Even as the quality of phones and tablets increase, E-readers continue to have a loyal crowd of adopters who enjoy the matte screens, lack of harsh light, and long battery life. Whatever type you use, you want to keep it as organized and decluttered as your physical shelves.

You’ll likely have the option to download a PDF or other format of the book, but these files can pile up on a computer quickly. Isn’t the whole point of a digital library for it to take up less space?

To avoid the digital clutter, remove book files from your library after you finish reading them. If you’ve purchased the book already, you should be able to redownload it anytime you decide to reread.

Your Turn!

  • What steps will you take this week to declutter your books?
  • What methods will you use to read without buying new books?

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