Getting rid of books

I’ve tackled quite a few black spots in my quest to organise my home and get rid of my clutter – but this is the area I am dreading the most. Books. Organizing books

How on earth am I going to get rid of them? I love books! Books are my ‘thing’. I’ve got a Kindle, so I have made a start of buying online versions instead of hard copies, but many of my books are not yet available as e-copies and a lot of the books I love to read are out of print. I am also seduced by the lure of a second-hand bookshop. I love the dusty darkened interiors, the shelves lined with row after row of old-fashioned binding, I even like the faintly fusty smell. Entering a second-hand bookshop is almost like being an archeologist – delve deep enough and you never know what treasures you will find. Maybe an elusive first edition? Or a gem from the 1950s with a garish cover and outlandish title. ‘Attack of the killer spiders!’

I have to frequently remind myself that my quest to organize clutter means that I manage with less not more and unfortunately this also applies to books. I have to stop buying them and I have to cull the amount I’ve already collected. It’s not huge, but I’m estimating about 300 titles. I realised I had a problem a while ago when began shelving books in two rows on the same shelf, one row behind another . I also had a large collection taking up cupboard space at my parents house. And this was the collection of books I looked at first.

But oh dear me – as soon as I started perusing the books, I felt a terrible cry rise from within. ‘I want to read this!’ Nevermind that I had failed to read the book in the past five years, each book I examined became the very book I desired to read next. Before I knew it was sitting on the train back to London with a bag full of seven books to take home with me. In one foul swoop I had managed to end up with more book clutter than I had started with!

This called for a proper plan of action. I was obviously going to take longer over this task than I would any of my other challenges. So here’s how I’m planning to tackle it.

  1. Take all of my books off the shelf and confront the real amount I possessed. I would count how many books I had and then commit to a realistic number to keep as a first cull. I decided I would keep half my books and give the rest away. That would leave me with approx 150 books which still sounded a nice lot of books.
  2. Sort my books into categories to see where I had clusters of similar titles and subjects. This would help me to decide which books I really liked and wanted to keep.
  3. Do an initial cull of the books I had read and were unlikely to read again eg novels. Any real favourites that I had re-read many times already – like my MR James Collected Ghost Stories, I could keep. There were also books I had been given as presents. Several of them I had never read and didn’t really want to read so these could go.
  4. Identify a charity shop that had a good selection of second-hand books, so the books would be likely to go to a good home. I could never bring myself to throw away a book unless it was damaged. This made me feel better about getting rid of them.
  5. Get rid of books about hobbies that I didn’t have the time for, or had grown bored of. I still loved to cook but I wouldn’t be decorating cakes or cooking any desserts anytime soon as I had given up sugar so these could go.  I was no longer into new age subjects, so the book on Reiki was now redundant and I really didn’t have time to do gardening, so a lot of these books could also be given to charity.
  6. Get rid of books I realistically would never read. These included classic novels and historical works that I thought I should read, but probably couldn’t really be bothered. As very few people ever looked at my book collection there wasn’t any point trying to impress anyone.
  7. Give back any books that didn’t belong to me. I had books lent to me by friends and they really should have been returned to them by now. Some I had read, some I must confess I hadn’t. To read more on this problem see What the clut?! Other people’s clutter.
  8. Stop going to the library. I love libraries nearly as much as I loved second-hand bookshops. The problem was I was borrowing and reading library books instead of reading my own collection. Bringing even more books into the house, despite only temporarily was proving too much of a distraction. This led on the next action –
  9. Start reading the books I already had! This should be easy – but instead of getting engrossed in a novel, I thought I would start with my non-fiction reference books. Often the reference books didn’t need reading cover to cover, I could just dip in and out and I’d know pretty soon whether I would need to keep them. For example, I found that in less than an hour I had read through my book on the films of Powell and Pressburger, so this was now one to get rid off. I sorted out ten books I wanted to read in the next month and started reading. Once I had read them I could decide whether to keep them or give away.

This is workable. Yes I am getting rid of books, but I will still be keeping some of my collection – only the best and only the books I am excited about reading. And this feels like a way forward.

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