After indulging in a shopping spree to the bookstore, you arrive home to find you have no space left on your bookshelves for your new books. Is this situation familiar to you? Do you struggle with lack of space to put all your books? It really kills the thrill you feel of enriching your home library. Because it doesn’t matter if you already have hundreds of books, there is always a hunger for more. It’s daunting realizing there is no more space to line up 10 new books – never mind an entire bookshelf.
Well, there’s good news: purging your book collection doesn’t have to be daunting. With the right method at your disposal, you can easily take a tidying up action on your personal library without great traumas or an eternal sensation of loss.
I’m talking about the KonMari Method, presented by Marie Kondo in her best-seller book The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. We’ll walk through the chapter exclusively dedicated to books. When we’re done, you’ll know exactly how to achieve a smaller personal library consisting only of those books you really love. Ready? Let’s dive in.
1. Put all your books on the floor
Start by removing every book from your shelves and putting them all on the floor. If you have books in several locations of the house, gather them all in one place. There may be a lot of them neatly arranged on bookcases and they may be heavy but they have to come out.
2. Divide them into four broad categories
If there are too many books to arrange on the floor all at one time, divide them into four broad categories:
General (books you read for pleasure)
Practical (references, cookbooks, etc.)
Visual (photograph collections, etc.)
3. Take each book at a time and determine if it brings you pleasure
Once you have piled your books, take them in your hand one by one and decide whether you want to keep or discard each one. The criterion is whether or not it gives you a thrill of pleasure when you touch it. Make sure you don’t start reading it. Reading clouds your judgment. Instead of asking yourself what you feel, you’ll start asking whether you need that book or not.
4. Consider the “I may read it again” books (“Sometime” means “never” – Part 1)
The most common reason for not discarding a book is “I might read it again.” Take a moment to count the number of favorite books that you have actually read more than once. How many are there?
There are people who reread a lot of books but the majority doesn’t do it. There are so many undiscovered books yet to read that a lifetime isn’t enough. Think about at which group do you belong and act accordingly. If you aren’t a “reread” person, give the books you already read to the library or to someone who will enjoy it.
Remember, books you have read have already been experienced and their content is inside you, even if you don’t remember.
5. Consider the unread books (“Sometime” means “never” – Part 2)
What about books that you have started but not yet finished reading? Or books you bought but have not yet started? What should be done with books like these that you intend to read sometime?
It is not uncommon for people to purchase a book and then buy another one not long after, before they have read the first one. Unread books accumulate. The problem with books that we intend to read sometime is that they are far harder to part with than ones we have already read.
If you missed your chance to read a particular book when you bought it, even if it was recommended to you or is one you have been intending to read for ages, this is your chance to let it go. You may have wanted to read it, but if you haven’t read it by now, the book’s purpose was to teach you that you didn’t need it. There’s no need to finish reading books that you only got halfway through. They didn’t have the power to grab your attention until the end. Their purpose was to be read halfway. So get rid of all those unread books. It will be far better for you to read the book that really grabs you right now than one that you left to gather dust for years.
For books, timing is everything. The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it. Establish a due date. If you have a book for a year and you still haven’t read it, let it go.
6. Consider the books to keep
These are the books that belong in the hall of fame. The favorites. The ones that will make you happy just to see them on your shelves, the ones that you really love. Designate a special place for them, a place you honor. Display them vertically.
7. My personal suggestion: go digital, paper is for the books wall of fame
This tip is not in the Marie Kondo’s book It comes from my own experience. I continue to be a book hoarder but now I do it digitally (and my husband doen’s dispair anymore). I read every book on my tablet and I buy the paper edition only of the ones that really mean a lot to me, that gave me true joy while I read them. They are the ones that go directly to my book wall of fame.
8. Don’t throw away perfectly good books
Give them to friends, your local library, sell them. Swap them for others. You can do it online: try www.booksfreeswap.com. Write a list of the titles you are giving away and email it to your friends, asking if they are interested in any of them. They will soon be all gone.
These are the 8 steps you need to take to reach a spellbinding result: a bookshelf filled only with books that you really love and free space to acquire and display the new favorites you will find. What a glorious image!
If you want to see a Before & After video about this process you can check it here: