Monday, January 23, 2012

Decluttering the Bookshelves: 7 People Share Their Stories and Insights

Photo by dolescum / Anne G, licensed under Creative Commons

Are you suffering from overstuffed bookshelves — or books laying around everywhere, not on any shelves? Here are some encouraging words from a variety of sources to help inspire you to deal with all those books.

It's not easy, but it's necessary:
Painful task: getting rid of books (as I did yesterday). Like severing friendships. But shelf space is finite, and new friends arrive. — Alexander McCall Smith, on Twitter

OK, sometimes it IS easy. Many of us have books we can quickly say goodbye to:
Outdated business books — I never liked you in the first place. Who needs two copies of Naked Conversations? Out.

Outdated computer programming and computer reference books — I have no lingering, nostalgic affection for you. Out. — Dave Coustan, Purging and De-cringing a Bookshelf

Here's how one person got rid of some knitting books:
Part of this was just being pragmatic: paring down books that basically repeated information I have in other, more frequently used books. Some had patterns I once thought I’d make but no longer fancied — and, in some cases, couldn’t imagine why on earth I thought that was a good look in the first place. ...

I also realized that I acquired a number of these books at a time when there weren’t so many knitting websites around. Now I can get a lot of these patterns — or similar ones — online. Or I can check the books out of the library. — Julia Smillie, Purging

You can tackle the bookshelf-decluttering project in small bites:
We're decluttering our books, one shelf at time. — SueBK

You can (almost) always find the books again, if need be:
Getting rid of books does not remove them from the universe. Have faith in libraries, bookstores (new & used), & swappers. Donate some now. — Discardia, on Twitter

Just got rid of a ton of legacy-format books. If I ever want them again (unlikely), I'll re-buy electronic versions. — Fraser Spiers, on Twitter.

You really don't have to finish every book you begin:
Sure, sometimes a book is bad. More likely, though, the book is a misfit, at least for this time and place in the reader's life. Neither reader nor writer has failed; the two are simply mismatched. ...

In her reading memoir, So Many Books, So Little Time, Sara Nelson calls deciding to allow yourself to stop reading a book "a rite of passage in a reader's life." It is, she says, "the moment at which you can look at yourself and announce: Today I am an adult. I can make my own decisions." — Cynthia Crossen, Wall Street Journal, via NomdeB

Related Posts:
Book Lovers: Stop Reading Books You Don't Like
Clearing Out the Bookshelves
3 Perspectives: Not All Books Are Keepers
Moving Books Along to Their Next Home
Books: Weeding the Collection
Is It Time to Bid Adieu to Some of Your Books?
Purging the Book Collection: The Nonfiction Edition
It's OK to Give Up on a Book


Jan C. said...

I work for a branch of the public library, and even we run out of shelf space and have to weed out items periodically. That's life--you have to make room for the new or you will suffocate under the weight of the old. Don't panic, though, the main library keeps a copy or two of almost everything. But think of your home as a "branch" library. Weed and make space. Donate your old children's books to a school library or a teacher's classroom. Those old magazines would make an art teacher really happy--even a high school art teacher, because HS students do collage work. Our library will accept any and all donations, and if we can't add them to our actual collection, we have an organization that prices them and sells them, garage-sale style, to make money to supplement the library's purchases of new books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs. And we'll give you a receipt so that you can take a tax deduction for your donation!

Don't be afraid!

JustGail said...

? And you knew I was trying to steel myself for this task (again) HOW :) !?!?

OK, in all honesty, you could have posted this about any day of the year and it would be timely. At least now, there is a REAL plan for a new library in our small town. So even if they don't add my donations to the nonexistant inventory of sewing/needlework/cookbooks (they have less than 2 feet of shelf space devoted to such topics), I know the funds raised from the sale will be for a good cause. Now, to keep from going there and re-purchasing them :O .

Marcie Lovett said...

Just last week I enticed a client to part with seven (very) old textbooks that she knew, deep down, were just taking up valuable shelf space. The reward is knowing they were donated to a cause whose annual used-boook sale is its largest fundraiser of the year.

BTW, I loved reading the quotes, Jeri. I might have to hold onto them to use the next time I cajole someone into letting go of books!

SBC said...

For those who are overwhelmed, just take it one shelf at a time. I went from 4 huge bookshelves filled to the brim, to just 2 small shelves with a little room to grow. The whole process took me about a year, but the final product is so rewarding. I donated the books to a local non-profit that runs a bookstore to fund its literacy programs (For those in the Chicago area -

Jeri Dansky said...

Jan C, three cheers for our libraries! The "related post" entitled Weeding the Collection actually takes you to a manual on how libraries can weed their collections — but the advice is useful beyond just the library setting.

JustGail, I can pretty much guarantee that any post I write about dealing with the overflowing bookcases will resonate with LOTS of people — not just you! But I must admit I thought of you while writing this post, since you inspired one of those related posts at the end.

Marcie, I'm glad you enjoyed the quotes as much as I did! Sometimes it helps to have just the right words to share, doesn't it?

SBC, Open Books sound really cool; thanks for sharing!