How To Declutter Books You Haven’t Read

 I’ll admit it. I am a book hoarder by nature. I love the smell of books. I love the feel of books. I love buying books and reading books. I love to see a packed bookshelf full of books waiting to be read. I know firsthand how hard it is to declutter your books. This post will walk you through the stages of simplifying your bookshelf and show you how to declutter books without having a nervous breakdown!

decluttering books

Why should you declutter your books? 

Having hundreds of books you will never read is like having hundreds of cars in your garage that you’ll never drive. You’ll need to clean around them and maintain them. They take up too much space, stopping you from getting to the books you actually read and refer to. There are many reasons you may want to know how to declutter your books:

  • You may be moving house and need to downsize your library.
  • You may be decluttering books from a bereavement.
  • You may want to know how to declutter children’s books.
  • You may want to stop keeping books you never read.
  • Or, you may want to know how to purge your bookshelf of used and unread books.

Whatever your motivation, I have some simple tips for decluttering books without the trauma of letting go.

How many books are too many?

As a book lover, my answer would be, that you can never have too many books.

As someone who prefers a more minimalist home, my answer would be over ten is too many. I’m conflicted every day on this subject.

A bookshelf should only contain the books you genuinely use or love. I won’t tell you to part with all your books or reduce your bookcase to a few books. Only you can decide how many books are too much for you and your space. Following these tips should help you get through the emotional distress that comes with decluttering your books.

This post contains affiliate links, and The Organizer UK may earn commissions for purchases made through the links in this post. For more details, see here. Thank you so much for your support! 

Why I needed to declutter my books.

✔️ I was a book hoarder. I had books everywhere:

  • Stuffed under the bed
  • Shoved into the wardrobe
  • In the car
  • Anywhere I had space

✔️ Every time I passed a bookshop, the chances were, I would buy a new book and, more often than not, new books!

✔️ I was offended when people advised me to buy a Kindle, and I could not understand why anyone would not prefer the physical version of a book.

✔️ I admit it. I was a book snob. I judged people’s bookshelves and tried to guess their personality by the book they were reading. I also thought people without books on display in their homes didn’t read books! Having a minimalist book collection had never even crossed my mind, and it was not something I’d ever considered. But things were about to change!

✔️ Things changed when I had kids and my days of curling up for hours with a book ended abruptly. I would manage to read two pages at bedtime before nodding off into an exhausted sleep.

✔️ Unfortunately, my book addiction didn’t end there, and my collection of unread books continued to grow at an alarming rate.

✔️ We also lived in a tiny house where storage was at a minimum, so as my kid’s possessions grew, I knew I had to sacrifice some space, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I had to start getting rid of my books.

If these reasons resonate, you may need a good library clearout!

Letting go of books 

Before you start decluttering your books, remember that you’ll not be able to get rid of all your books in one day. Think about how many years you have spent collecting all those books. If you’ve got an extensive personal library, you will need to give yourself plenty of time, as there can be a lot of sentiment attached to books, and decluttering books can trigger some powerful emotive feelings. Give yourself time to go through the process, and be kind to yourself.

Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value, and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.

Joshua Becker

How to purge your bookshelf.

  1. Get rid of unread books. Unless you rushed home and read your new novel immediately, it is doubtful you will ever read it. Like that item of unworn clothing in your wardrobe, when a book lover buys a book, they rarely leave it unread for longer than a week. If you’ve had a book longer than a month and not started reading it, the chances are you never will! Allow yourself to let go of unread books you think you won’t read without feeling guilty. Someone else can enjoy the book rather than letting it gather dust on your bookshelf for years. In my small village, we would leave a book on a bench or at the bus stop for someone to pick up on their travels.
  2. Get rid of cookbooks. I donated every recipe book I owned because every recipe I needed to follow was on the internet and very easy to find. If I needed to know how long to cook something for or which ingredients needed to bake a cake, I would look it up on the internet. Many recipe books were gathering dust, so I decluttered them. If you don’t use some of your cookery books, consider donating them. Enjoy the space you’ve created; you’ll never need to clean around them again! If you have sentimental cookbooks that you cherish, keep them in a clean, clutter-free space where you can see them every day.
  3. Minimize your reference books. One quick and easy way to declutter a bookshelf is to purge your reference books, keep the ones you use and get rid of any you’ve outgrown. If you gave up medical school halfway through, it’s doubtful you’ll ever need or re-read those dusty old college textbooks. Free yourself from the guilt of unfulfilled dreams, and get rid of the reminders! Someone else will get a great benefit from your used books.
  4. Get rid of your books about decluttering. We’ve all spent a fortune on books about getting rid of things, Marie Kondo’s KonMari method, The Home Edit, Mrs. Hinch, there are so many books on decluttering that it’s easy to get sucked into the hype and buy the books thinking they are the answer to our prayers. The reality is that they are only adding to the book clutter! They won’t help you stop hoarding books, but if you need to read one, order it from your local library and give it back when you are finished. There, I’ve just saved you £14.99!
  5. Purge the self help books. I love a good self-help book, but I rarely revisit them, choosing the next new release instead. If you don’t need the book, donate it so it can help someone else! If one book has particularly resonated with you, keep it somewhere you can refer to when you need extra help, like on your nightstand.
  6. Tackle the kids books. Decluttering your children’s books can be difficult as it can be a very sentimental category to tackle. Try keeping emotions to a minimum. Imagine the delight on children’s faces who receive the books your children have outgrown.
    The feel-good factor when giving to others is one of the best benefits of decluttering your book collection.
  7. Use your common sense. When decluttering your bookshelves, using a bit of common sense makes the whole process less daunting. Obviously, your grandma’s cookery book needs to stay, but do you really need to keep the complete set of unread encyclopedias you found in a charity shop ten years ago?
    The first edition of Harry Potter deserves a place on your bookshelf but do your teenagers really want to revisit the Gruffalo? If you are not emotionally attached to a book, and you don’t use regularly, gift it to someone who will love and cherish it.
  8. Try listening to an audiobook. I love listening to audiobooks in the car or while I’m working. It dramatically reduced the number of unread books I had in the house as I found time to listen to them while doing other things rather than struggle to find the time to read. Head over to Audible to get your first free audiobook!

How to decide what to keep when decluttering books

My strategy was to keep the books I loved, and I soon realized that I only truly loved a couple of the hundreds of books I owned. It’s like having a closet full of clothes when you only wear about 10% of them.

Once I had donated all the other books, it became apparent which books meant a lot to me, and it was a no-brainer to keep those. The books I currently have in my minimalist book collection are: 

  • Two books on wildflowers and wildlife my dad gave to me when I was a child.
  • Two reference books which I use for work.
  • A current thriller which I’m just about to start reading.
  • A book I need to return to my mum

Not including my kids’ books and my spouse’s books, the total amount of books I own today is five. Due to simplifying all my books, I managed to get rid of a giant bookcase and created a vast space which I love! Yes, I love books, but I don’t like clutter, and books I never opened were clutter!

I do not recommend getting rid of anyone else’s books or material possessions, especially your spouse’s. Click here to read more about getting your husband to declutter his stuff. Decluttering books is a complicated process and not something you should do for anyone without their permission or force someone else to do. You can help them, but the decision must be theirs.

The benefits of decluttering books

If you’re a book lover like me it’s going to be tough for you to imagine any benefit to getting rid of your books. after beginning to simplify my book clutter, I soon discovered the benefits of a minimalist book collection were:

  • I could see my treasured books displayed to their full advantage. They were not hidden away behind a stash of other book clutter. My books are easier to find, and the precious book that my dad gave me is always in view and has space to sit on the bookshelf uncluttered by anything else.
  • I stopped impulse shopping for books. Getting rid of book clutter and starting a minimalist book collection really helped me change my shopping habits. I no longer squirrelled books away as I was determined not to fill up my newly acquired space with random books. A book has to pass the test before it’s allowed into my house now. I also make a point of donating every book I’ve read when I’ve finished it, so it doesn’t turn into book clutter again.
  • I enjoyed reading on my kindle, especially as it allows me to read in the dark. My spouse hates me having the lamp on when he’s trying to get to sleep . Reading on a Kindle is the perfect solution to this problem. I can read for as long as I like and it doesn’t disturb him when I turn the pages over!
  •  The Kindle is extremely portable. I could never have dragged my whole bookcase away with me on holiday, but now I can! I can have a huge choice of books to read in one tiny little pocket-sized gadget. Now I just need someone to look after my kids while I read a few pages!
  • I created a huge amount of empty space, when I think about the amount of space I created under the bed, in my wardrobes, and in my living spaces, I can’t believe how much room book clutter took up! I’ve managed to get rid of large pieces of furniture and everywhere looks much tidier!
  •  I don’t have to clean and dust around my book clutter anymore. Less dusting the book clutter, means more time to do the things I enjoy, like spending time with my kids and writing my blog!

It sounds like I’ve got this whole book hoarding thing figured out, eh? Not so. I’m afraid my book hoarding days are not over;  I now have hundreds of unread books on my Kindle, but that’s ok. I can live with that. We book lovers can only do the best we can!

I still prefer physical books and always will, and will always love a lazy afternoon visiting a beautiful bookshop, but I prefer reading in the dark, and having an invisible library stuffed to the rafters.

Top tip when decluttering books!

If you want to read in the dark, take loads of books on holiday and enjoy a virtual book collection, order your Kindle like this one today!

You’ll also like The Minimalists for further reading about simplifying and minimalism and reducing your physical possessions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.