I’m a recovering book addict. I love to read. But even more to the point, I love books. I love digging into them beside a fire and if it’s cold or raining outside, all the better. I love decorating with them around the house. My husband is also an avid reader, so when we first got married and combined our book collections, tough choices had to be made. As our family has grown, so has our book collection. The addition of children’s books has transformed our house into what looks like our own personal library branch. But I also love cleanliness and order. I love bright open spaces and organization.
I have to be honest. Downsizing books is one of the hardest things I declutter. I have a difficult time parting with them. But here are some questions I ask myself to make the process easier. Maybe they’ll help you too.
1) Is it functional?
I’m all for a good, broken-in book. Like a comfy shoe, some worn pages are the sign of a well-loved book. That’s not what I mean. Some books are more than just well loved. Little hands rip books. Too many bubble bath reading sessions cause wrinkled pages. Worn spines don’t always hold pages together. It seems pretty basic, but I have found myself holding onto books I couldn’t even read. Be real with yourself as to whether or not you can actually read it.
2) Do I have space for it?
The space on your book shelf is prime real estate. If you like to read, new books will always be entering your house, which means, you’ll need to seriously consider which books will be allowed on the shelf. I know what you’re thinking! No, the answer is not to buy more shelves. The answer is to be selective, carefully editing what you allow in your home. In a pinch, you can consider alternative uses, such as staging a coffee table or beside table.
3) Did I enjoy it?
Be honest with yourself. Good books are hard to put down. If you never finished the book, consider that maybe you didn’t enjoy it as much as you would have liked. It doesn’t matter how much your friend loved it or how great the review was. If you struggled to read it or never went back to it, it wasn’t your favorite. Keeping it out of guilt or in the hopes that you might pick it back up, isn’t realistic. If you didn’t read it when it was new to you and you were both interested and motivated, you probably won’t do it later.
4) Do I have it digitally or in some other format?
Maybe this doesn’t apply to you. Maybe you aren’t like me, but I have actually found duplicates. For some reason, my son had three copies of Little Blue Truck likely because of gift-giving. I had a copy of one of Max Lucado’s books in both audiobook and print. It happens. If you have it somewhere else or in another format, choose one and remove the other. Also consider if it’s something you might not read again – or read very often – you may just want to get it from a library instead of wasting space with it.
5) Is it timeless?
There are many books that stand the test of time. They are classics and always will be. I reckon even in another hundred years, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice will still be a classic and for that reason, I’ll never part with it. It will always be a favorite of mine. If you have something you read again and again, keep it. If it’s a non-fiction book, ask yourself if it offers information that will still be relevant in a few years. It took a long time for my parents to come to terms with the fact that their World Book Encyclopedias, even though they cost $1,500 when they bought it, are no longer relevant. It’s no one’s fault. Times change. Don’t be afraid to part with that $200 textbook that is no longer accurate.
No one likes decluttering, but it’s especially hard when it comes to a treasure trove of books. Hopefully, this will help you, but I’d love to hear what you do!