Evaluate your bookshelves and learn how to get rid of books easily and without regret.
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I love a full bookshelf. Stacks of books on every available surface.
It’s comforting to know I’m rarely an arm’s length away from something good to read. It helps me read more, which is a continual goal, but as a writer it’s also inspiring to be surrounded by words.
But at some point do books become clutter? How many books is too many books?
Books are one of the top two or three major categories or stuff that has to be dealt with in our house (the others being yarn and kid stuff, and kid’s books are a whole different issue). But I think I’ve come up with a strategy for how to get rid of books easily that I think might help other people, too.
I’d guess most people have more fiction than nonfiction books. You’ll need to ask a few questions about each book.
- Have you read it? If yes, did you love it enough to keep it because you might want to read it again? If no, are you planning to read it within the next year?
- If you don’t want to read it soon, will you be able to easily get your hands on a copy again? If so, you can probably get rid of that book.
- If not, you might want to keep it, but if you really don’t want to read it soon it’s probably not worth keeping.
- If you’ve kept books you read but didn’t love, it’s time to let those go, too.
If you must, save a little room on your shelf for books you’ll regret not having a copy of. I don’t know if I’ll ever reread some of my old favorites, but I still kind of like having them around. Maybe the girl will discover and love them some day, too.
Clearing Out Nonfiction Books
Nonfiction books that aren’t related to your work can be handled in much the same way as fiction, keeping those books you love or plan to read soon, discarding anything you’ve read but don’t refer to and anything you don’t really want to read.
When it comes to books related to your field, it can be a little trickier. Some books really are legitimate reference books worth keeping, but do you actually use them? Can better, more up-to-date information be found elsewhere easily?
If you don’t look at those books, especially if you can find the same or better information elsewhere, it’s time to let those books go.
I have tons of pattern books, and that can be hard, too. I want to say I use those books for inspiration, and some of them have patterns I’d like to make someday. But the truth is I never look at them, and I could probably find other patterns if I ever had time to knit them (or make photocopies of the patterns I like, which would take a lot less space than storing the books).
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Set a Goal and a Deadline
As I go through my books now, I’m getting rid of things I don’t think I’ll read in the next year, and keeping an eye out for things I do want to read. I’m trying to read more, and to resist the urge to check out a ton of books from the library instead of reading what I already have.
Toward the end of next year, I’ll revisit the books I kept but haven’t yet read. If a year wasn’t enough time to get to them, am I really going to get to them later? (If I’m being honest, it’s probably not time for War and Peace, and I can fit three normal books in the space it’s taking up.)
I hope this helps me think about what books I allow into my house in the future, too. I’m not buying books now and I feel motivated to get reviews done more quickly so I can give away or donate more books rather than having them sitting around.
I pledged 100 books for the year on Goodreads (which usually doesn’t count knitting books), which should make a nice clear space on my shelves, so I can start feeling good about my books again and not like they are just clutter.
How do you feel about books? Do you think you have too many, or is every one precious? Do you have a strategy for how to get rid of books? I’d love to know how you decide which books to keep.
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