Recently I embarked upon a task that puts Frodo’s little trip to Mordor to shame: a clear out. The reason? I’m finally becoming a grown-up and moving into a flat with my friend and my little sister, and from now on will be paying rent and council tax, doing a ‘big shop’ and collecting Tesco Clubcard points with the rest of the adults! Wahoo!
Whilst this is a pretty exciting life event, it has meant having to go through, cut down and pack up the twelve years worth of stuff I have accumulated since we moved into our current house. My book collection in particular has spread like some kind of contagious disease throughout my room over the years, to the point where I was having to stack them on the floor because there was simply no where else to put them.
Therefore, despite getting rid of books being a bookworm’s nightmare, I have had to part with a good number of them, and thought I would try and take some good out of it and write a (hopefully) helpful post on the matter for other people whose book collections have taken over their house.
So here are a few tips for other people about to take on this mammoth task! This is how to clear out your book collection:
- Firstly, ask yourself these three questions:
– How long ago did I read it?
– How much did I enjoy it?
– Am I likely to read it again?
All of it really boils down to that last question, but the other two play a part.
The reason for the first question is that, if you only read the book a short time ago then you don’t know whether or not you will reread it (plus it seems a shame to get rid of a shiny new book!), whereas with older books you already know whether or not they have ever been reread. If they haven’t, then it’s fair to say you probably never will.
By the same token, there’s no point keeping books that you didn’t really like, hence the second question. I think everyone has read one of those books that they didn’t hate, and may have actually kind of enjoyed, but just didn’t have any huge feelings about. Those are exactly the kind of books that you really don’t need, and are actually the easiest to edit down because you probably have no particular emotions attached to that book, or that story. My ‘ideal book collection’ would be comprised only of books I absolutely love, so I think ‘how much did I enjoy it?’ is a pretty important question to ask when you inevitably find yourself dithering over the fate of a particular book.
And the last question? Well books are there to be read. As pretty as they look sitting on a shelf, they aren’t really fulfilling their purpose gathering dust. If you know you will never open that book again, then you may as well not have it. Someone else somewhere will probably enjoy it (or it can just clutter up their house instead!).
- Be ruthless!
If you’re serious about cutting down your book collection, you’re going to have to get ruthless! So you loved that book when you were ten? Well are you going to read it again? If the answer is no then get rid of it!
My initial attempt at a clear out involved getting rid of about twelve books, but I quickly realised that I still had way too many. I had to start getting serious and be totally honest with myself about which books I really did want to keep, and which ones I wasn’t actually that bothered about.
However, I think one exception to the ‘ruthless rule’ is books with some kind of sentimental value. If a certain book was bought for you by a loved one or was a particular childhood favourite then obviously you should keep it, even if you won’t reread it. Another exception is if it is a particularly beautiful book, like a collector’s edition, or an illustrated edition that was basically bought for the purpose of looking nice. In that case it’s fulfilling its role!
- Weed out books you don’t need anymore
A huge part of my collection was taken up with books that I bought for high school, college and university, and I’d imagine anyone else who has ever studied literature will have plenty too. Whilst I discovered some great books through my studies, there was a lot more that were an absolute chore to read, and as much of a smarty pants as I look with them sitting on my shelf, I really don’t need them anymore. This is a quick and easy way of getting rid of quite a lot of books before you even get to the hard part – sorting through your personal collection.
- Be honest about your TBR pile
I am a book-buying addict (hence the need for a massive clear out!), and so have a fair few books that I have never read. However, in a lot of cases I found that I wasn’t particularly desperate to read them. Some I had bought purely because they were cheap, or on a whim, or because a friend insisted it was the best book ever and I should read it, even if it wasn’t actually my kind of thing. If a book has been sitting around on a shelf for a while and I haven’t got round to it, then surely I can’t be that bothered about it, and it seems pointless keeping these kinds of books when there are so many others that I do desperately want to read. Even though it seems a shame to get rid of an unread book, I think you need to ask yourself honestly whether or not you actually think you’ll ever read it, and if not, get rid of it.
- Get rid of ‘unwanted books’ IMMEDIATELY!
Do not – I repeat – DO NOT give yourself dithering time! A few books nearly sneaked their way back out of the discarded pile into my collection because I left them lying around too long and started to question my decisions. However you intend to dispose of them, do so as quickly as possible to prevent slips!
And as for what to do with your unwanted books, here’s a few suggestions:
- Sell them
You could always turn your old books into some quick cash by selling them on Ebay, or to a second hand bookshop!
- Give them to a friend/family member
If you know someone who might enjoy some of your old books, or say a friend or family member needs them for their studies then you could always just rehome them!
- Donate them to charity
This is how I got rid of my old books. It’s so easy to just take them to a charity shop, or put them in a book bank, and you get to feel good about doing it! Alternatively you could donate them to a school or library.
So how about you? Have you recently cleared out your bookcase, or are you overdue for a book spring clean? What do you think of my tips, and do you have any of your own?