How to Quickly Clear Bookshelf Clutter

It’s week 4 of my 6-week declutter-challenge and I have a new nemesis. Books. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading. I wish I had more time to cozy up with a good book and blissfully read for hours (collective sigh from all mom’s everywhere at this fantasy). What drives me crazy is book hoarding. Books are beautiful works of art that someone had poured years of their life into creating. Got it. But, if those said works of art simply sit unread on my bookshelf collecting dust they are clutter with a cover. So my project for this week is to go through my bookshelf and get rid of the clutter. The “right” way to do this would be to take everything off the book shelf, then thoughtfully put back only want you want while tossing or moving the items you don’t want. Only as a mom of two boys four and under I really don’t have the time to luxuriously take things off, sort through them, thoughtfully return them, and then proudly pin the photo of a beautiful, clutter-free bookshelf. If I even attempted this I would be able to take everything off just in time to be called away to change a diaper or wipe someone’s behind. Instead I am quietly purging the bookshelf clutter, one box at a time. In one week I am three boxes down, my shelves are thinning out, and I was able to do it without my kids melting down. Here’s what I did:

  1. Grab a box.  Or an empty laundry basket, whatever you have.  In my case I had an empty diaper box.
  2. Fill it with books you know you can part with.  These can be gifts people gave you and never read, paperbacks that you read five years ago and will probably never read again, or an old textbook from college you for some reason hung on to.  They all go into the box.
  3. Sort these into “Donate”, “Sell”, or “Throw Away”.  You have a number of different options here.
    1. Donate: I started with the “Donate” because it’s the easiest.  Simply drop them off at the local library, Children’s Museum, or your church.  You’ll feel good because the books will get a new life and your house it a bit less cluttered.
    2. Sell: Next is the “Sell” pile. I started by looking up their resale value on www.BookScouter.com.  It’s a great site that compares 60 different book resale sites and gives you the highest price.  It is really easy to use and helped me feel a bit more informed about what I had.  Other great options for selling books are on Amazon, ebay, or simply taking them to your used book store. Selling was tedious, but easier than I thought it would be, and don’t expect to be rolling in dough.  My box got me about $20 bucks.  But any extra cash is nice!
    3. Throw Away:  Ugh.  No one likes to throw away books, but for some it’s the old option.  (You could always upcycle and use them for crafting, but that is for another post, not one about clearing clutter)  Old college text books, random paper pamphlets, and paperbacks worn beyond repair all get tossed into the garbage.  I save this for the day before trash day so I can’t get “throw out remorse”.  Once it’s in the bin, it’s gone.
  4. Keep it looking good.  I am fascinated by those bookshelves in the Potterybarn catalog that display their books spine in so you can only see the pages.  I always wonder if it’s a copyright thing, a design thing, or some combination.  Regardless, it turns out it is a pretty great way of keeping the clutter from creeping back into the bookshelf.  There will be some books that fall into the “Maybe” area – you probably could or should get rid of them but for some reason you still want to hold on to them.  The way to get around this put them in book purgatory.  Turn them around so they are spine-in.  Then, when it’s time to declutter again you can start with these.  If you still haven’t read them in the extra time, it really is time to get rid of them.  If you are thrilled to see it and want to read it, then it’s a keeper.
  5. Don’t forget the Library.  I love the public library.  Instead of going to Barnes and Noble and buying new books all the time, check one out from the library.  Or download an ebook for your kindle.  Both of these give you wonderful ways to read the next great book without adding to the book clutter.

Now, look at your bookshelf, take a deep breath, and give yourself a pat on the back.  I know I did!