Weeding My Book Collection

Photo by Tim Wildsmith on Unsplash

One of my favorite library tasks is weeding, which means discarding books that are obsolete, worn, or aren’t being checked out. Weeding is just as necessary as adding books to a collection. When the clutter of non-circulating books is gone, the rest of the titles stand out even more. Weeding can breathe new life into a library’s collection and can increase circulation numbers.

I’m a pretty ruthless weeder at work, but I suddenly want to keep all the books when it comes to weeding my personal library. That paperback I got for a dollar at Goodwill seven years ago that I still haven’t read? I might want to start reading that tomorrow. That book I finished that I didn’t like very much? The cover is so pretty, so it should probably stay.

I buy books faster than I can read them, and since the space I have to keep these books is relatively small, I know it’s time to do some weeding. In an attempt to get me focused and motivated, today’s post will be about how I approach getting rid of my books: what stays, what goes, and where they go next. I hope these ideas will help you if you too are afraid that the tower of books in the corner of your home will fall on you and cause bodily harm. Let’s jump in!

What Can Go: Books That No Longer Interest Me

I’ve always liked collecting things, and books are no exception. When I become interested in a subject, I want to have books about it. Several books about it. Maybe even a lot of books about it. And sometimes I lose interest in that subject later on, but the books remain. It’s okay to get rid of books that don’t interest me anymore. 

What Can Go: Books I’ve Owned for Years and Haven’t Read

I’ve worked in libraries where books are discarded if they haven’t checked out in a year or sometimes even months. That’s not because the library didn’t value the books, but because there was no more room on the shelves. Books that weren’t being read had to go to make room for the books that were.

I have to let go of the books I’ve owned for years that I haven’t yet read. That’s a sign I’m not interested anymore, and if I become interested again someday, I can get the book again. In most cases, getting a book in my hands only takes a couple of clicks. I don’t need to keep that one title I bought in 2013 because someone told me I’d like it.

What Can Go: Books I’ve Read and Don’t Like

This one seems so obvious, but I struggle with it sometimes, usually out of obligation. If I didn’t like a book but think I should like it, I’ll probably keep it. If someone got the book for me as a gift, I’ll probably keep it. But having books on my shelf that I feel obligated to like or keep doesn’t serve me. These books could be read by people who will really appreciate them. 

What Can Stay: Books I Love

Just as important as deciding what books go is deciding what books stay. The books I love get to stay. It makes me happy to look at my bookshelves and see books that mean something to me. I like seeing my underlined copy of Gilead. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside to see Stoner or The Secret History, two of my most beloved booksSome books serve as souvenirs from vacations or college classes or an essential part of my growth. Those books have earned their spot on my shelf.

What Can Stay: Books That Are Part of a Special Collection

As I said, I like collecting things. Over several years, I collected all the books in the Penguin drop caps series. I also like collecting Penguin’s clothbound classics and new vitae series. I love presidential history, so the presidential biographies I own can stay put. As long as I’m still interested in my special collections, the books have earned their keep.

What Can Stay: Books I Really Do Want to Read

I know it bothers some readers to have too many unread books on their shelves, but I am not that reader. I like the idea of having a library full of books that I’m excited to pick up. It’s okay to keep unread books if I’m still looking forward to reading them.

Where the Books Go After I Weed Them

Even though I’m letting them go, I want my discarded books to have a second chance at being read. Sometimes I donate them to my school libraries if I think students or staff will be interested. Other times I donate to a local thrift store that helps unhoused people get back on their feet. I can also donate books to local library book sales, knowing that all the money earned will go directly back into the libraries that serve my community. I’ll ship and sell books to Powell’s now and then if I have newer titles I’d like to discard.


I hope these ideas were as helpful for you as writing them down was for me. What criteria do you use when deciding what to keep or weed?

My 3 Favorite Decluttering and Minimalism Books

 

I really like stuff. As a kid, my bedroom was always a mess (sorry, Mom), and was covered with posters, DIY-decor, and piles of clothes/toys/books/etc. (Again, so sorry, Mom.) I wasn’t great at throwing things away, and by that, I mean I never threw things away. I would save old calendars, folks. That’s how dedicated I was to my stuff.

I’d accepted that I was just a messy person who was okay with clutter. It didn’t concern me until a few years ago when I noticed a few things about myself.

  1. I’m really good at organizing. Not only am I good at it, but I love doing it. Few things make me happier than straightening, labeling, or alphabetizing.
  2. I’m ruthless when getting rid of other people’s stuff. I usually help my mom organize her closet once or twice a year, and I encourage her to throw away anything she doesn’t love. When I’m doing a weeding project at work, I can toss books left and right without feeling a pang of loss or sadness.
  3. My workspaces are always neat. For work, I rotate between different buildings, and all my desks are tidy. Even my computer files are organized and frequently reviewed.
  4. My messiness at home started to really bother me. I found that I couldn’t focus very well when my surroundings were a disaster. I struggle with anxiety, and having stuff everywhere wasn’t helping. And when I had too much stuff, it would paralyze me, and I wouldn’t know where to start putting it away.

After thinking about these things, I realized it was time for a change. I’d been making excuses for myself for a long time about how I was just messy, and that’s all there was to it. But considering those four truths above, I knew I could change. I’m still far from perfect in this area, but I’ve gotten better and have learned a lot. 

As I always do when I want to learn, I turned to books. Today I’m sharing three titles that helped me transform my life and home. Let’s start with some magic.

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

I’m sure it’s no surprise this book made the list considering how popular it is. Some of the advice in it isn’t for me, but its thesis–“keep what brings you joy”–has made a tremendous impact on how I declutter and what I bring into my home. I also took to heart the concept of organizing category by category instead of room by room. This book kicked off my decluttering frenzy, and I’m grateful for it.

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Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More by Erin Boyle

I’ve been a fan of Erin’s blog for a long time. If you like the aesthetic of her blog, you’ll like this book. It’s full of gorgeous photos that show just how lovely a simplified home can be. Erin and her husband might live with less, but their home is warm and inviting.

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Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff by Myquillyn Smith 

Part of me wishes I could say I’ve completely embraced minimalism, but that’s not the case right now (and might not ever be). That’s why I appreciate this book. Smith acknowledges that sometimes you want an extra pillow or throw around your house. Meaningless decorations need to go, but Smith’s philosophy allows for elements that add character and charm to a home. 

BONUS INSPIRATION

When I need immediate decluttering inspiration, I turn to YouTube. I love watching decluttering videos. I’ve learned a lot about minimalism and simple living from seeing how other people work those concepts into their lives.


What about you? Do you have any decluttering or minimalist goals you’d like to achieve in 2019? What books or other resources have encouraged you in your pursuit? I’d love to know!


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3 Tips for Decluttering Your Book Collection

If you’re reading a blog about books, you’re either my mother or you’re passionate about literature. Assuming it’s the latter, that passion often means you like owning books. Maybe you like owning a lot of books. Perhaps you have piles of books in odd places throughout your house because your bookshelves are full. Or just maybe you have two stacks of books by your reading chair that are taller than a small child. That last one might be only me, but you never know.

Over the past few years, I’ve been working hard on decluttering my space and life. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve made progress. I used to keep everything that had even the smallest memory attached, and I’ve been guilty of the “someday I’ll use it” mindset too. As I’ve tried to overcome that thinking, I had to consider my bookshelves.

My personal library brings me a great deal of joy and satisfaction, but there were a lot of books that needed to go, and now it’s time for another purge. Today I want to share some of the things I think about as I declutter books. I hope these tips are helpful. If you have room for all of your books and don’t need this list, I don’t even know what to say to you. Anyway, here we go.

Tip #1: Ask yourself if you really want to read that book or if your fantasy self wants to read it.

A while back, I wrote a blog post about the idea of a fantasy self and how it’s affected my reading life. To sum it up, a fantasy self is the person you wish you were or delude yourself into thinking you are. My fantasy self reads all the intimidating classics, wakes up every day at 5:00 a.m. for yoga, and would rather have a pear than a brownie. As I added books to my personal library, I bought books I thought I should read as opposed to books I wanted to read. As you declutter, stop and think about what books are in your library because you can’t wait to read them and what books are there out of misplaced literary obligation.

Tip #2: You don’t need to keep books about topics in which you’re no longer interested.

Toward the end of my time in college, I became increasingly interested in feminism and feminist theory. I truly enjoyed reading texts from women like Audre Lorde and Betty Friedan in class because they opened up my eyes to new ideas. Soon I had a whole shelf in my library dedicated to feminist literature, but I never actually read any of it. As I stopped to think about why I realized that even though I care deeply about the idea of feminism, it isn’t necessarily what I want to read about. As much as I enjoyed reading those feminist writings from the ’60s and ’70s for school, that’s not what I choose when I want a relaxing night at home. You’re allowed to part with books that don’t interest you anymore. You’re also allowed to part with books full of ideas you care deeply about but aren’t your first choice for reading material.

Tip #3: Don’t keep a book just because you spent money on it.

Many of the books that have survived several rounds of my decluttering efforts have been spared because I spent money on them. It’s easy to let go of the books you only paid a few cents for at a thrift store or library sale, but it’s a bit harder to get rid of that expensive hardcover. Perhaps you treated yourself to a special edition once but don’t really care about it anymore. The money has already been spent, and holding on to those books we splurged on doesn’t get it back.


What about you? What are your tips for a book purge?


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