How to Part with Books

Many of my friends will think this is an April Fools post.  I mean seriously, who can have too many books?! The answer is me, I had too many books and still do. The book discarding project happened because I wanted to move overseas, and still do.  However, in the process, it is difficult to store a whole home and books take up the most volume when you have a collection like mine.  There were three overflowing shelves, books hidden around the house, and this does not include online copies of books on my Nook! I discarded several boxes of books before I left for Vietnam, but still had more than I can read in a life time.  So last spring, I set to discarding my massive book collection. 

How to Part with Books
My shelves were worst than this!

Pick Your Reasons

Before you begin sorting through your mountains of books, define why you are beginning this project.  Are you downsizing to a smaller place or preparing for a cross country move? Do you want to focus your to be read pile in a more appropriate manner?  Do you have dreams of Instagramable #shelfies with your beautifully styled and color coordinated bookshelves? Think of these reasons first so you can better decide your parameters of discard.  

Emotional Cargo

Books are some of my favorite possessions and most precious.  I have painstakingly collected them over the years. (Or hoarded them however you prefer to look at it.). They represent different  stages of my life and reading interests. Some were treasure found in antique bookshops or given to me as gifts. I swapped, thrifted, and dug through donation boxes in library book sale rooms.  When I was feeling wealthy, I would go to Barnes and Noble or Books A Million to buy new copies.  

So like any keepsake it becomes difficult to part with them.  It is made even more difficult if you love the stories in the pages.  I also have my own FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to all the books I own, but have not read.  

Get Sorting

So now that you have explored your why, and the emotional parameters of sorting books, now it is time to.  Get started. Here are my tips to get started.  

Don’t Do It All At Once

This task cannot be completed in one day.  I recommend breaking chunks throughout a day or over the course of a few days depending on your personal library.  Figure out a system to sort the books. All mine originally were in a big cluster besides the ones read on one bookshelf.  I sorted by books I would definitely keep, and then been sorting the ones I was unsure of after. Think of the method that would best serve you.  If you are visual, sorting by color and size may be better. Academic researchers may need to sort by topic or time period. Heavy fiction readers may need to think of all their genres and create a balance.  

How to Part with Books

Questions to Ask Yourself

For me, sorting the books was an agonizing decision.  I am a mood reader so I worry that each book I discarded would be a book I craved later.   Here are some questions and filters you can use in your own process.

-Are you done with the research or content in this book?

-Will you ever re-read it?

-Do you still like this author or genre?  (We can only read so many Twilight knockoffs)

-Are you still doing that hobby?

-Look at the book reviews.  I discarded anything below a 3.25 on Goodreads.com 

Find Them a Good Home

Many of my books went to places that could use them.  For example, all my YA books went to a friends high school classroom.  I placed many in the book sale room in the library as well to earn money for kids programming.  The best were traded into my local favorite book shop Southern Bound Books. Now I am using the credit to find meaningful gifts for friends’ birthdays!  Some Goodwills are no longer taking books so I recommend finding a place where they will be appreciated. It does make parting with them much better! 

Find Electronic Copies 

If times get desperate, you can always change to digital copies.  Countless classics are even available for free online with services like Open Library or the Gutenberg Project.  I found some under 5 dollar copies of physical tbr books for my reader. This is a creative way to save space and have the material still at your disposal.  Remember, you can usually find a copy at the public library as well!   

Is It Worth It? 

It was hard, but after a couple of weeks, my shelves were so much better off.  I could find what I was looking for. My shelves are much more visually appealing with room to fit my knickknacks and picture frames.  Also, it is much more manageable. Since organizing, I have only purchased one physical book. Just one! Although it has been tempting to buy others.  Instead, I order them from the library to read or stick to what I have. The day has still not come, but I hope to see a bare spot on my shelf eventually.  One can hope right?!

Can you part with books?

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