Friday, April 18, 2014

Too Many Books?

Some sweet friends asked me last week how to organize and declutter the books.  Like I know.  haha

"Michele - do you have a blog post about purging books... I have a major book problem. Especially children's books. And with kids ages 9, 8, 5, and 2, nothing's really outgrown yet so I don't know what criteria to use to get rid of anything!"

Yep, it is hard.  Which is why you have not seen a post around here about it until now.  They kind of put me on the spot. ;)  It is also why I am going to turn this post over to my wise daughter in a moment and let her guide you.  She is a minimalist, remember - but she LOVES books and could have books problem like the rest of us if she was not very careful.  She also guilts shames helps me hold my book problem to only a minor problem.  Mostly.

Before she gets you all straightened out let me say this -

I love books.  Biographies, fiction, children's books, antique books, it doesn't really matter.  In the past I have not been too picky.  Now I am trying to be more so.  I also do own an iPad on which I download books to read.  Many of them are still sitting there to read because I forget about them.  It is a concept that I embrace, but not one I am real good at implementing.  Yet.  I am trying.  We also are trying to utilize the library more.  Don't get me wrong, we have always loved libraries.  But in the past we have just added those books to the dozens a month we bought.  Now we are trying to let the library buy the books and just borrow them instead.   Keep in mind, that I also have kids in four very distinct age groups so I understand that problem.  I am also a military wife and we move.  Often.  And my husband is sure that most of our weight is in books.  He may be right.  SO that being said - here's Ashton!

As mom mentioned, I am pretty minimalistic in many ways, but my biggest weakness is books.  I love books. I actually own a NOOK and have the NOOK and Kindle apps on my phone but still, I have this need to hold a real book.  I have, however, been thinking about ways to cut back on books. It started when we moved and almost all of my books were packed up in boxes and then re-packed in tubs because there simply isn't space in my room for them. So I've been without most of my books for almost a year now. And while I have missed many of my books, but there are others that I had forgotten I had. Clearly those need to go.

If you go through your books, you will probably find you own different books for different reasons. The first step is to decide why you own a book. Is it because...
1. You love it - This is a great reason to keep a book. If you plan to read it over and over again, by all means, keep it.
2. It is helpful/a frequently used reference book - If you garden, keep the gardening books you use the most. But if you never garden, don't keep books on gardening.  With the internet, you might be able to do without owning a dictionary, or more than one dictionary.  Do you use that book often enough to warrant keeping it, or it is good enough that you can check it out at the library?
3. Someone gave it to you - Sometimes this is a good reason to keep a book. Most of the time it is not. If it was a gift and you are never going to read it or you didn't love it, pass it on to someone who will read it and love it. And let us all pledge to stop giving coffee table-type books as gifts. Thank you.
4. It makes you look intelligent - This is not a good reason to keep a book. You are going to look downright un-intelligent when you have to confess that you haven't actually read War and Peace, but you keep it on a prominent shelf to make people think you have read it.
5. You might need it someday - How likely is it that you are really going to need that book on...whatever obscure topic? Give it to the library and you can borrow it if you do end up needing it.
6. You needed it...once - But do you need it now? Yes, you needed that text book in college, but do you need it or reference it now?

If you are overwhelmed, start with a shelf. Pull out a book. Do you love it? Yes? Great, put it back on a shelf. No? Ok, so why do you own it? If you haven't read it, do you honestly plan to? If you have read it but don't like it, why are you holding on to it?
Bottom line, if you wouldn't read it or reference it again, don't keep it. It is pretty much that simple (or not).

Antiques. I love antiques, and I used to own a lot of antique books. But I realized that they were a problem, for several reasons. First of all, few of them were books I would actually read. Second, few of them were in good enough condition to actually be read. Third, I have serious allergies, and dust and mildew and mold create huge problems for me. Guess what old books usually contain? Right. So now I don't keep an antique book unless it is a book I actually want to read (and love) and it is actually readable. (I now only own the Bible Dictionary in the picture up there.) It does you no good to have an antique Dick and Jane if it is falling apart and you can't let your kids actually hold it and read it. Let a museum or library or decorator have it (and antique books usually sell pretty well).

Collecting. I hereby confess to owning every one of the 50 original Nancy Drew books. But I am absolutely head-over-heels in love with them. They are special because some of them were mom's, others I found and family found for me, and I just love reading them. I am a total Nancy Drew nerd. And before they were packed away, I read them all the time (they are the perfect length to read during lunch, just saying). So if you love a series, keep them. But don't keep a series if you don't love it or just to keep it. And books are meant to be read, not looked at. Oh, and no multiple editions. Trust me, you can only read one copy at a time.

Children's books can be harder, but there are ways to manage them.

1. Only keep books your children like (within reason). Don't hold onto books just because you like them, especially if your children do not like them. Of course, there will be exceptions to this one.
2. Stick to favorites and classics. When choosing which books to keep for the next child or even their children, stick to the favorites and classics. Choose books that mean something and skip the Tonka truck and Barbie books (unless those are the ones that mean something to you). Also, skip the ones you can easily find at the library.
3. Be careful with "classics." Ok, I am about to tell you a dark secret. Many books that are considered "classics" are actually terrible books. There. I said it. Don't keep a book because it is a classic, keep it because it is good. This goes for any "classic" book.
Example. I can't stand The Scarlet Letter. (Please don't come after me.) I know there is great symbolism, history, etc. etc. etc. in that book, but I thought it was terrible. So I don't own a copy. If I ever hit my head really hard on something and want to read it again, it is easily found at the library and is not taking up space on my shelf in the meantime.
4. Focus on books for all ages. I am always amazed at what little ones pick up by just listening. And while it is great to have books at their level for them to enjoy, they are also capable of listening to and enjoying many books meant for older kids. They may not catch every detail, but someday they will.

I am sure there are more ideas that I'll think of later, so this post might have a part 2, but I am not promising anything...And while my books are packed away right now, I will definitely be donating a bunch when I unpack them someday soon!
What did I miss? Are there tips you would add? Do you hoard books like mom? =)

Linking up with the Frugal Homeschool Family Link up and Loving the Weekend Blog Hop!


  1. Thanks so much for your helpful hints! I know that organization can be a weakness of mine, but I have tried to be systematic in my organization. Still working on it.... :) Love reading your blog! Keep up the wonderful work you have here.

    1. You are so welcome Rodney! We are a constant work in progress here with organization. Thanks for visiting the blog!

  2. Thanks for this. Last Sunday our pastor talked about hoarding. He said we tend to keep things that could or should be shared with others. Two of the references were possessions and church.

    1. You are welcome Holly! What a great point about church and possessions! Purposing here to share BOTH with others!


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