Downsizing Books and Organizing Them
Downsizing Books: Learning to Let Go

Downsizing Books: Learning to Let Go

We help people move, downsize and organize, all day, every day. Part of our job is helping people come to terms with letting go of items that are no longer useful or meaningful in their current lifestyle. But there are certain things people have an extraordinarily hard time letting go of: Pictures. Family treasures. Travel mementos. And books. Rows and boxes and shelves full of books.

Now, don’t get us wrong. It’s perfectly OK to love books (we love them too!). And we are huge fans of making them an integral part of our clients’ home’s decor. But if you have so many books that they’re creating clutter, your books, no matter how much you love them, could actually be adding to your stress, which means it may be time to consider paring down your book collection and/or rethinking your book organization strategy. Here are some tips for downsizing books by deciding what books to part with and what you can do with them once you decide to let go. We’ve also included tips for organizing your new, pared-down book collection.

Create Three Categories: Share. Donate. If you want to pick a number, go for it. This is easier for some people than it is for others. If you’re downsizing and you have no choice because your one bookshelf only holds 20 books, then resolve to keep 20 books. If space isn’t an issue, but you just want a more minimalist book collection, maybe settling on a final number isn’t as important.

Find Your Resolve. This is happening. And you can do it. And when it’s done, you will be so much happier with your home. We promise. Just envision a bookshelf filled with books that make you happy. Books you know you could happily read again. Books that remind you of an important time in your life. This is the goal you’re working toward: a collection of books that are truly meaningful to you.

Go Through Every Book. From the books on the shelves to the ones still in boxes. Put them all in one place, and get comfortable. Now pick each book up, one by one. Think about when and why you got it. How it makes you feel. Have you read it? If so, will you read it again? Keep books you truly love, that you feel you could happily read. If you read it, and enjoyed it, but you’re really not that attached to it, decide whether to share it with someone who might like it, or donate it. If you come across a What to Expect When You’re Expecting and it’s been 15 years since you had a baby, or How to Be a Better Boss and you’re retired, put it in the Share pile and give it to someone you know could use it.

Smart rule of thumb: If you’ve owned it for more than a one year and you still haven’t cracked it open, chances are good you never will. Be strong. Put it in the Share or Donate pile (you can do
it!).

Be Honest With Yourself. There are certain books you won’t even have to think about. But there are probably some you’re holding onto out of guilt, or the hopeful expectation that you MIGHT read it, even if you really have no interest in reading it. If you’ve been holding onto that copy of Moby Dick or Don Quixote because someday you’ll get around to it … you probably won’t. And that’s totally OK. Really, it is. There’s probably a library or local school that would love to have it, so feel comfortable letting it go and add them to Share or Donate.

Donate books. Let books you no longer want or need begin their next chapter. Call local daycares, schools, hospitals and libraries, and see if they accept books, and if so, what kind of books they need. Or find a Little Free Library or a Better World Books drop box near you.

Organize Your New Book Collection. There are SO many ways to organize your books. By size, alphabetically, by genre. This is truly a personal decision. If you have fewer than 20 books, we recommend organizing them based on size, for aesthetics (from tallest to shortest, stacked or side by side).

Pro tip: For bookshelves, we practice the following rule of thumb: 1/3 books, 1/3 decor, 1/3 empty space.

Put Them on Display. Put special editions or particularly stylish books on your coffee table, entryway console or on side tables throughout your home for an artful touch. They make excellent conversation starters and make great places to rest other small decorative accessories.

  • Stack two to three books and punctuate it with a small, decorative accessory.
  • Use decorative items, like vases, as bookends.
  • Put them alongside picture frames and tall accent pieces

We’ve helped so many clients downsize HUGE book collections accumulated over a lifetime, and we understand how hard it can be to “close the book” on them. But we also love the feeling a client gets when they are looking at their new bookshelves, filled only with their favorite, most meaningful titles. For more bookshelf inspiration, visit our Book Organization and Display Pinterest Board.

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