Is your home a shrine to your love of books? Do you have overflowing shelves with books shoved in willy nilly? Or stacks on other surfaces because your shelves are filled to the brim? Books are wonderful when you’re reading them, but do they all deserve a permanent place in your home? And do you have so many that you can’t find the one you want when you want it?
If you said yes to any or all of these, we have listed 5 steps to decluttering home bookcases that will tidy your shelves without breaking your or a loved ones heart. Consider these five questions to ask about each of your books. Get a few boxes and label them Donate, Sell/Trade, Storage and Trash.
With these by your side, go through your shelves and consider these five questions about each book you come to:
#1 Does it serve a purpose?
In this day and age, even most reference books aren’t truly needed. For example, you can Google (or use the search engine of your cho0sing) a definition of something in a flash, so dictionaries aren’t much needed anymore. . Encyclopedias that we used to rely on for reference information on a topic have become outdated. Coffee table and art books are utile due to the enjoyment factor and if they add value to your life in this way, you may choose to keep a selection of them.
To determine if a book is something you want to keep or something you can release out into the world for someone else to enjoy or use, consider the questions below. Even cookbooks and how-to guides should be examined closely since typically the information they contain is easily accessible online as you need it.
#2 Is there a sentimental value attached? Yearbooks fall under the sentimental category, as do copies of your favorite book, first read copy of a book or a book that you were given as a gift. You may have a book that evokes an important time or memory in your life. If so, and especially for those that were gifts, carefully consider the other questions below before deciding to box it or leave it.
#3 Is there a monetary value attached? First editions are definitely worth keeping as investments. Textbooks may have value. Books that are out of print or rare may also have value. If the book does have value, the question is whether you want to cash out now or hang onto it for a later sale. Unless they are collector’s items for some reason, used books don’t have much monetary value except for trade at a used bookstore.
#4 Will you reread it? Some people go back to favorite books again and again for a reread. If Pride and Prejudice is your fall back on a bad day or a cozy, rainy afternoon, by all means hang onto it. But if you know a book won’t be reread, why not share it with someone else by giving it away or donating it? Sharing beloved books is a great way to introduce readers to authors and topics you love.
#5 Will you never read it? Sometimes we buy a book (or are given one) and we have every intention of reading it “someday” but that day doesn’t come. When they amass, unread books can leave you with a sense of something undone when, in fact, that’s not the case. If you’ve got a book that you’ve owned for a year or more and haven’t already read it and aren’t really tempted to, it may be time to let that one go.
If you go through and cull your shelves in this manner, you should end up with a roster of beloved books that you can more easily organize, use and appreciate. When it comes to how to shelve your books, there are many organizational theories. You can go with the non-fiction and fiction separation then shelve by height or aesthetics, shelve by author or group by topic.
A note on e-readers and tablets… As a bona fide book lover, you may think that e-books aren’t a substitute for the real thing. Some people love the feel of a book in their hand and the sound of a tangible page turning. But you may be surprised at how much you’ll appreciate the convenience of having hundreds of books at your fingertips, the ease of purchasing and downloading immediately without a car trip or a wait for an Amazon delivery and the fact that you can have a library’s worth of e-books in a device the size of a single book. And having a digital copy of a book you love can make it easier to dispose of the one taking up shelf space that you may or may not ever read again.
Once you clear off your shelves, you can use the spare space to display other treasures like framed photos, pieces of art or make practical use by sliding in labeled bins to organize toys, magazines or other items that may clutter your rooms. One side note on decluttering shelves is to consult with (better yet, involve) your family members before you cull their books to avoid hurt feelings if you dispose of a book they hold dear.