Conquering Book Clutter

Last week I wrote about my family’s extensive collection of books and my failed attempts to store and decorate with them. I resolved to move all our books onto shelves, and cleared up the small piles that were dotted about the house. I also had a lot of books crammed and stashed away throughout the house.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is full of great tips, and Marie Kondo’s advice about decluttering by category might be the one I find most useful. Usually when I reorganize and donate books I go through the shelves and piles. But this time I decided to gather every book not already on a shelf. I stacked everything on the coffee table in our home library, with a few on an end table.


My “Before” Pile

From there I organized by size but also by category. I still have a lot of books about teaching, and though I have no plans to return, I hesitated to get rid of them. So I chose one shelf and only kept what fit there. This way I had to choose the books I felt would be most useful if I do go back, or decide to sub.


My pared-down collection of education books

I learned I was able to fit more books onto some of the existing shelves.  A couple years ago we redid our kitchen ourselves, and I was able to get this cabinet off the wall in one piece. It was in great shape so I gave it a bad spray paint job. Someday I’ll make it pretty. In the meantime it holds a lot of books and I feel good about re-purposing something. The bottom shelf had just a row of mass-market size paperbacks but today I realized I could shove them back and fit another row of books in front of them.


Kitchen cabinet turned bookshelf

This is what’s left. I filled two more bags, which I am going to take to the library along with the other bags I’ve had in my car for weeks.


Somewhat closer to finished

I’ve learned a couple things during this part of my project. Neither revelation is new to me but both are things I need to work on, so I’m sharing:

  1. I’m really good at thinking and planning. I think and plan a lot. But I get stuck when it’s time to act. By now I should know that staring at a to-do list will not make anything happen. If I hadn’t had to write this post, those stacks of books would still be sitting on my coffee table because I would still be planning the best way to deal with them. Sadly my planning skills don’t carry over to meals, which I’ll talk about on Wednesday.
  2. Several books ARE still sitting on my coffee table. The piles have dwindled but I’m not finished. Finishing things is not my forte. It’s something I need to work on, another bad habit to break.

I’m also excited to announce The Simple Year 4 Book Club! Many of us love to read and I thought a book club would be useful and fun. At the moment I’m still working out the specifics of how to best carry it out. In the meantime, I’ll share my first pick: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Because there has been lots of interest in this book, I thought it would be a good choice for us.

19 Responses to Conquering Book Clutter

  1. Ah books, I’ve been through mine twice so far, reduce the number by half, and still have 700 in my house…

  2. I have been dwindling down my own book collection over the years. Right now the ones that bother me most are the ones that I know I won’t keep after I’m done reading them. I’d like to get them read and then get them out of the house! This post made me think that maybe I need to create a reading list for myself of 10 books and then a goal to read one a month for the rest of the year! That will be 10 fewer books in my house by 2016 🙂

    • The unread books are my issue too. I have little issue with donating a book I didn’t like, but there are books I’ve had a few years and can’t bring myself to give them away even though I feel like I would have read them by now if I really wanted to. I like the idea of a reading list!

  3. I can so relate to not finishing jobs! I seem to always leave a small pile unfinished, very frustrating, maybe a perfectionist tendency? Great job in using the cabinet from the kitchen also!

  4. Love the idea of a book club. Just something consider with picks – mixing up new releases with some not so new releases. In an attempt to keep control of my book clutter and my book expenditure, I try to only utilise my local library. It’s fabulous, they have a great range of books – but you often have to wait for the most popular books. I’m currently 27th on the waiting list for The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and its still on order. They will get multiple copies but you get the idea. There is always the e-book option but the cost adds up and now even my e-books need decluttering! Just a thought.

    • That’s a good idea and one I will keep in mind, thanks for sharing. I almost gave away one of Julie Morgenstern’s books about organizing but decided to keep it for a future pick- though it makes me think I also need to make sure I pick books that are still in print.

      • Yeah good point. I like Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez. A financial focus. I’ve never followed the steps he lays out but I really like the bit about aligning your spending with your values and questioning whether you need more stuff.

  5. I don’t want to tell you how many books I own that are not in my house but I guess the sentence itself says a lot! I plan well, not good with the follow-thru, love the idea of a book club (bought the book). Working on having our own “home library” but I don’t know if I’ll ever have a library big enough for the books I want to keep.

    • I’m glad you got the book! I could easily keep every book, even ones I didn’t really like, if I only had the space.

      • I’ve actually thrown a book away ( NO means NO damn it!) but yeah, a magic room with unlimited book storage would be nice. I read about one in a book once 😉

  6. I can relate to the book thing. Through several moves, I have downsized several times. And now I’m trying to get through the books I currently have, and then just bring in two or three at a time, read them, and then pass them on. I’ve also been doing reading marathons with my 7 year old daughter, to donate some of her books. I read a book to her, or if it at her level, she reads a book to me, and if she is tired of the story, because the book has been read multiple times, it is donated. Over the last 6 months, I have probably been able to thin her books out by around half. As well, I have been going minimalist, and have removed approx. 50% of our possessions, and aiming for another upwards of 25%. And I don’t miss any of it!

    • Wow, that is great! I have not really thought about percentages but it’s something to consider. I need to read more with my daughter as she has a lot of books she may not want to keep. Though we recently went through her books and she chose quite a few to give away.

  7. Good job getting rid of those. It’ll get easier as you go along! As for menu planning, I was against it for years. I wanted to be free to make whatever I felt like on any day. But instead, it just meant I had no idea at dinner time. After reading _Simplicity Parenting_, and his discussion of routine, I created a routine for dinner. Mondays are veg and bread (soup, salad, or baked sweet potatoes often), Wednesdays are Noodle Night, each of the kids has a night where they are responsible for choosing a meal and helping to prepare it. It has made the 5:00 hour so much easier!

    And please, don’t shelve your books two deep! I always lose the books behind, because I forget they’re back there!

    • I will have to look for that book- I am going to do something similar with routines and themes for meals. I was kind of desperate when I shelved my books two deep because I didn’t know where to put them! It’s not ideal, I agree.

  8. Maybe keep a database of your less favourite ones with a short synopsis, donate them and if you want to read them again you can get them online or from the library. It would be interesting to see how many you go back to once they’re out of sight. Regarding cooking, get some good packet sauces and frozen veges and you can have tasty and nutritious stir fry or pasta meals every night with minimum fuss and dishes. You can still cook other things but with those on hand its harder to justify takeaways.

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