October 20, 2017

How to Declutter Books



When we put in our new flooring last year, I had to come to terms with my huge problem of book hoarding. As an avid reader and homeschool mom, books were my friend and who doesn’t want more friends, right?

Well, they take over, by droves. I can barely stand to look at the before picture of my dining room. It’s quite telling, so when Katie mentioned a Clutter Countdown post on books, I knew I couldn’t be the only person with this odd love affair. It’s still so hard for me to let go of books!!

These suggestions are invaluable!! 

Katie here: Two years ago, you could have called me a book hoarder. My books were my treasure. I loved to bring them home; I hated the thought of parting with them. Living in a country where folks don’t even speak the same language (I’m in Germany) makes my English books feel even more sacred.

Then I found out I was pregnant.

I needed a way to part with the books I’d already read and the books that I’d probably never touch, because I wanted to fill our home with Dr. Seuss, adventure stories like Hatchet, and board books that I could share with my son in the coming years.

I basically went from about 500 books to 60 over the course of my pregnancy. Here’s how:

1. Without counting how many books you have, determine how many books you’d like to have.

Write the number in your journal or on a paper taped to your fridge. Then write any exceptions that don’t count toward this number. I wrote down: childhood books to share with our son, cookbooks, journals, and piano music.

2. Put all the books where you can see them.

Count how many books you have if you want. But don’t just keep everything in boxes or scattered throughout the house. Books that are stacked in boxes are easier to unintentionally hold onto than books on a shelf. When they’re scattered throughout the house, you won’t truly see how many books you have. For this project, you need them all together.

3. Focus on the size you want your collection to be, and pull out every book you know you won’t read again (or ever).

Your goal is to see how big you can make this pile. You can always put things back on the shelf later. But for now, just pull and pull. I knew my target was huge, so it made me ruthless. In less than 10 minutes, I was ready to part with 40 beloved books.

4. Every few days, scan the shelves again. 

I was surprised to discover how many books I could keep removing from the shelves. I thought I was done! But then I’d see five or six books on the shelf that I knew I wouldn’t read again.

5. Mail the books you’ve loved to folks you love.

Good books deserve good homes. It’s easier to part with something when you’re excited about giving it to the recipient. Digging through the stacks of books I’d pulled, I made collections of books for all sorts of friends and family members. Media mail is cheap; everyone was thrilled with the surprise gift. One gal even decided to change her career direction because of a book I sent her. I wanted to go pull more books just to mail them!

6. Sell the books.

Used bookstores will often give you shop shop for books they can resell. A lot of people enjoy  selling books on Amazon, too. I almost did this, but then I realized I didn’t want credit or more books right now. Plus, I wanted to do something more.

6. Donate books.

Small town libraries don’t have much. Neither do many school libraries. My mom is an elementary school librarian. They don’t have the budget for books like her students need, so she shops at the used bookstore. It’s nice to know your books are helping.

7. Read a fiction book, then let it go.

Early pregnancy left me exhausted, and I decided to enjoy it by reading. My new rule is that once I read a fiction book, it cannot go back on my shelf. It has to be shared. It has to be gone. Enjoy it, then share it.

8. Read what you have.

I’m always tempted by a visit to the library, the bookstore, Amazon, and ebooks. I have to keep telling myself no. I need to read the fiction I already have taking up space in my home. The nonfiction can probably wait, too.

So what about you? Do you love books too? Does this resonate with you?

What have you done about your “library?”

Storycatcher and award winning journal crafter Katie Clemons helps tens of thousands of folks document and celebrate their stories with her beloved mother child journals, personal diaries, and complimentary journal tutorials at Gadanke. The mother and entrepreneur has appeared on HGTV, given a TEDxTalk, and washed sticky finger prints off every appliance. She also blogs at Making This Home about simple, handmade living from a vintage airplane hangar in Montana, USA.



  1. Oh, mercy, this one hits close to home for me. I have SO MANY books, and honestly there are so many more categories I am inclined to pare down before I tackle the books. At least I need to make a pact not to buy any more. I have so many I haven’t read yet. Thanks for the nudge, and congrats on dealing with your stash.


  2. This article hit me hard as I have too many books that I keep. There is no space for anymore books, but I seem to stack them and find innovative ways to stuff my bookshelves. Now I need to get serious and start parting with these “friends.” I’ve always sent books for gifts and now I need to consider who would want the ones that need to be sent away. It’s brutal but necessary to prune the amount of books that seem to multiple. Your method seems to be very successful and I’ll start a pile this weekend. Thanks for your inspiration.


  3. Oh my I definitely need to dig out all my boxed up books and declutter them before putting them up into the new bookcase that my husband has on his to do list to build lol. I seem to hold onto books forever. Thanks for this post 🙂


  4. Tonna McGee says:

    I just last weekend reorganized my books and added bookshelves to hold them all. I found that I could only give away one book. Uggghhh! But now, I realize that there are many of the books I kept that I will not read again. Like all those kitschy 4 in 1 romance novels. They were a cute read, but not worth a reread. After this article, I feel good about pulling out all of those fiction books that were good one time, but not good leftovers. I can take them to the resale book store and maybe find books I can put in my school library, (I am a librarian.), this could be really fun!


  5. Thank you for these ideas!! I really needed to read this. I’ve been trying to let go of books for years. (You have two # 6 up there)


  6. put all the books where you can see them is a great tip – seems obvious, but we had books in boxes stored away for YEARS. we finally purged and it felt so good.


  7. I am so #8. I am addicted to all the new and amazing book new to the market!
    My remedy!

    I have started reading ebooks and if a book really pulls at my heart strings I will purchase it in hardcopy for my library. Another thing I have been doing is buying series when they become combined in one book. If a book on my self prior to this change was not a 4 or 5 star rating in my minds eye I would donate the book to a local library or nursing home. This keeps me from being so overwhelmed by books.

    I currently have three large book shelves that take up one wall in my living room. I find it hard to let go of what I already have.

    Hope this is helpful.

    Blessings to All,


  8. Lovely tips! I’m moving in the middle of December and unfortunately my books are one of the things I’ll have to minimize. I’m moving into a smaller place and all the storage space is may be 50% of what I had till now. Thank you for the ideas and the tips,I’m definitely taking advantage of your post. Greets!


  9. vickie harris says:

    if I could get my books down to 500 it would be a major accomplishment=I have more than that in cookbooks, and religious books and fiction………………..but I do share and donate and keep buying



  1. […] is going to include lots of homeschool materials and cleaning up our bookshelves!  I’m using this post as inspiration… How to Declutter […]

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