Tackling Books


Some people collect knick-knacks. Some people buy an abundance of clothes or shoes. My vice is books.

As a kid I would ride my bike for miles to get to the library. I always asked for books for holidays. When I finally made an income my first purchases were horse novels.

Being a coach and writer has made buying many books even more acceptable. After all I have to keep learning, right?

We tackled my son’s cramped bookshelf of sci-fi, spy novels and science non-fiction this past week. And it reminded me I needed to go through my books.

I rarely keep novels because there are too many new novels to read. The ones I keep are nostalgic books like Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. I actually do re-read these. So when I am done with a current novel I either pass it on to friends or family, or put it in a box to take to the used book store.

As I go through the non-fiction, I ask if this book is pertinent to my current life situation. I gave some of my how to parent little ones books to my sister, a new mother.

I let got of some craft books that I was no longer doing projects from. And that diet that I will never go on again. I found a style book that looked very unstylish now.

And we don’t need to keep the whole book sometimes.

I scanned a few recipes I used from cookbooks and narrowed down my cookbooks to three. (Love the Art of Simple Food by Alice Walker.) I scanned a food plan and was able to get rid of the book.

My rule is if the books can’t fit in the bookshelves, then I have too many.

How do I slow the flow of books into the house?

  • I got a Kindle for Christmas and most new books are now on that device.
  • I have a pile of 5 books I am reading, and have to either finish the book or give away the book before i get to read a new one.
  • I ask if I already have a similar book and whether I have read it or not before I buy a book.
  • I get as many books as possible from the library. Most libraries can get books from nearby libraries if they don’t have the book you want. You can get ebooks from your library as well. Ours uses Hoopla and Libby.
  • I have a subscription to Scribd for books. I don’t know if I will keep it, but I got 30 days free.
  • I limit trips to Barnes and Noble. I can easily get at least one book each time I step into a bookstore. Usually it is a stack.
  • I take notes on books I read (in Evernote), so I don’t have to keep the books when I am done.
  • I remind myself that for most books, I can pick the book up again at the library or bookstore if I really need it again. That helps with the letting go process.

And these tips work for other things like clothes and shoes as well.

What do you need to tackle?


Photo by: Carbon NYC


  • Good tips! BookMooch (www.bookmooch.com) is another great way to get rid of books that just collect dust on your shelves.

  • Beth, what great tips and ideas to control the book clutter. I particularly like the phrase “pertinent to my current life situation” because I do tend to hang onto ALL non-fiction (that I’ve rated 8 and above) even if it was something I was concerned about ages ago.

    Hmmm, I need to go through my bookshel 🙂

  • Debbie says:

    Hi Beth!

    I love books too and I guess I have too many on my shelf as some of them are laying sideways on top of the rows of books I have!

    What do you do with books that you start reading and don’t really like? If I’m not highlighting in a book there’s something wrong? I feel guilty if I stop reading it! Isn’t that lame?

    I don’t know if I could get used to a Kindle I’m a touchy feely paper kind of gal!

    Thanks for all you do!
    Debbie Saleh
    Las Vegas, NV

  • Janet says:

    Ever since I cleaned my parents home, I have stopped collecting …. if I buy a book, I read it and pass it on to my friends. When my friends are done reading, I donate it to the Library. I just went through all my treasured books the other day. I have a really cool collection of Native American books. Some of them I read and some I never got around to reading but just couldn’t let them go. I asked a similar question of myself … am I still into this? Will I ever read these? The answer was no. So even though they are beautiful books; they are now in a box for the Library. I couldn’t part with some of them yet, but they too will go soon.

  • Maggie says:

    My sister reads more than me and I always thought that was impossible since I am a voracious reader, however, her job now is hit or miss so she has more time. Anyway, she sends me all the books she buys once she is finished with them. I just can’t keep up.
    So. I have stacks of books that I plan to read and I still check out books from the library. I am a sucker for reading all the books in a series so try to read those in a row even if I have to check out the books at the library.
    I am getting overwhelmed. I will say that every book I read, unless it is a children’s book which I collect, is donated to a friend or the library. I keep no novels or fiction once I have read it.
    So, my question is, how do I handle the books that are left? I cannot tell my sister not to send them because she thinks she is helping me because I cannot afford to buy books. I do pass along books she gives me that I am not interested in and if I start a book and do not like it, I just don’t waste my time trying to finish it. It took me a long time to get to that point but now, I just say, there are more interesting books that I can read and move on.
    I try to limit my reading to library books one week and home books another so I can clean out my library but am not making much headway. Any suggestions?

  • Beth says:

    Hi Maggie, it sounds like the overwhelm is coming from thinking you will get to the bottom of the reading pile. And you want to get caught up. What if you thought of it as books to look forward to. You are already doing great passing on books and not finishing books you don’t like. You can lend books in the meantime to people you think might like to read them while you are going through your other books if seeing the books is making you feel overwhelmed. I might help to put the books to read where you aren’t always seeing them.

  • Beth says:

    Good for you Janet!!!

  • Beth says:

    I know people would think I would say get rid of the book right away if you don’t like it. But, I know sometimes I have to be in a certain mood to read certain books. If you absolutely know you will never want to read it, then the sooner it’s out of the house the better, Debbie. Otherwise you can hold onto it if you think you might read it at another time. There really are too many good books out there to read some that you aren’t interested in. It’s your house, so you get to decide what is helpful in your home and what isn’t.

  • Beth says:

    Thanks Natalia – yes I love bookmooch

  • Rochelle says:

    Beth, your Declutter workshop helped me to let go of my books. I found the whole process somewhat cathartic. My whole family is going through their bookshelves and drawers finding books, magazines, dvd’s and cd’s. We are taking everything to our local public library. They are so excited to receive the items. Thanks for all you do to help us live a more simple and less stressful life!

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