Downsizing A Book Collection

Books can be some of the most sentimental belongings in our homes; we remember the moment we first read them, the person who pressed it i...

Downsizing A Book Collection


Books can be some of the most sentimental belongings in our homes; we remember the moment we first read them, the person who pressed it into our hands, and the despair we felt when a good story came to an end. It's hard letting go of books and while I'm not sure quite why, I feel it too.

When I moved into our apartment I felt mournful of the books I was leaving behind. I took with me a couple of boxes of my favourites, which quickly grew into a whole new library. A few years later and I have realised the sentimentality we feel for books can be overwhelming, and disastrous for what little space we have.

To downsize a book collection you'll need to brace yourself, it won't be easy; every book lover knows how hard it is to part with a single book let alone an entire shelf. It took me three attempts to downsize my own collection and I'm almost certain there are still books I'm clinging onto that I shouldn't be.



Reasons For Downsizing:
· You have books you won't re-read
· You have books you haven't ever read
· You have unread books that were gifts
· You have books just to impress guests
· You have books to make the shelves look pretty


I found I had shelves of books I was hanging onto because I hadn't read them even though I had been promising to do so for years; there were books I was gifted, and books I would never re-read. I have entire collection of books from specific authors I just couldn't face getting rid of because of memories of the day I discovered them.

I've resorted to turning some of the books I can't face donating, spines facing the wall, because they look prettier and tidier that way, and it buys me some time before I finally have to face getting rid of them altogether. It's a temporary fix if you find you should need one. I mostly keep digital copies and reserve my bookshelves for a proper collection of carefully selected, much loved books. It gives our apartment much needed breathing room and looks far less cluttered.



Downsizing A Book Collection


Questions to ask:
· Have I read this book?
· Do I give this book a "five star" rating?
· Will I re-read it?
· Does anyone I know want to read it?


One Shelf At A Time
Remove each book, individually, and stack neatly into three piles: to keep, to read, to donate. Keep only the books you adore and donate the rest. If you find you have a pile of yet unread books, stack them together on the shelf and make it a goal to read them within the next few months. If you don't read them, into the donation pile they go. Try to be ruthless but not unkind; we can get sentimental about books for all kinds of reasons, you can always do another book purge at a later date, but don't use that as an excuse to cling onto more books than you need to.



Desert Island Books

Keep the books you love. Really, truly adore. Your bookshelves should be reserved for all those books you fell in love with and would happily read over and over if they were the only books you had access to. I find these tend to be the books I have read repeatedly over the years and never fail to make me smile, laugh, or cry, however many times I flip the pages. Keep, cherish, and re-read them, those are books worth keeping on your shelves.



Switch To E-Books

I am well aware there is a great divide between traditional book readers and the e-book enthusiasts but digital books are undeniably more useful when it comes to storage space; there's no need to install new bookcases or desperately seek out a little more room for squeezing in an extra book or two. E-readers allow you to collect books without thinking twice about the consequences (except maybe on your wallet.) Consider investing in an e-reader and transitioning over to a digital book collection. There will still be books you will want to physically own and those are the books that should be kept on your shelves while the e-reader deals with all the one-read-wonders.



What To Do With Unwanted Books

There are plenty of places online to sell or swap books like Read It Swap It, Book Mooch, Book Crossing, Freecycle, Freegle, We Buy Books, and the usual marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. Local charity shops may accept book donations (please check before donating, some are very much overrun with unwanted books) as will public libraries. Alternatively you could set up a free library of your own, Little Free Library can help you do this or you could do it yourself. I leave piles of books in our communal mail room for residents to take and they disappear rather quickly.

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