How one book addict let her collection go

I love to read. I’ve always loved to read. And during a lifetime of one-room living, my books have usually taken up more space than anything else – with the exception of my journals of course. My books were my first dictionaries (I literally would check my spelling by digging up a novel where I saw the word instead using a normal dictionary like a sane person), my friends, my tie to sanity and my escape.

But over time, I realized a few things about my collection of books:

  • Since getting a kindle most of my paperbacks have sat untouched.
  • They became serious dust magnets, and cleaning them was annoying and time-consuming, especially for items I really wasn’t using anymore.
  • I had no space on my shelves for other items – like the printer I really needed and bought th was now sitting on my floor.
Photo by Eli Francis on Unsplash

Much as I loved my books, in a 150 sq ft studio apartment, they had become a serious space liability.

They had to go.

It was so hard. I mean, what if I need that reference book for something? Or what if that $1 book from the Strand was actually worth something? It was from 1948. I can’t throw that out! I don’t get emotionally attached to much, but with my books, it felt like I was consigning part of my very soul to the donation bin.

It took a few months but I did eventually lug about 95% of my book collection to a Housing Works for donation. Here’s how I went about it:

  1. I made a master list of the books I felt the most attached to, including title, author, publishing date, publishing house, etc. Then I stuck all those books into boxes for donation.
  2. From the list, I looked up which books were available online as ebooks. If there was an ebook equivalent, I left the physical book in the donate bin. I did not buy the ebook. I just know if I ever have a pressing need to read that book again, I can get it online.
  3. If the book didn’t have an ebook equivalent, I asked myself the following questions: Is the information in this book available on the internet? Is this book relevant to hobbies I was interested in years ago, or hobbies I’m currently pursuing? If the book was still relevant to interests I had now and I wouldn’t be likely to find it online, then I kept it. If not, it stayed in the bin.
  4. I left the book bins in my hallway for about a month to see if I’d suddenly be compelled to read them again. I was not, so at the end of that month, out they went.
My shelf results: less books, less dusting to do

Yes, it was hard, but I feel relieved by the amount of space I regained on the bookshelf. Which, admittedly, is also my dresser, my media storage, where I keep my office supplies and all my important papers, photo albums, and other things. I live in a 150 sq ft studio; if I could bolt things to the ceiling for more storage, I would. But it looks a little cleaner, there’s less for me to dust, and I managed to fit my printer on there after all.

What helped you pare down your book collection? Let me know in the comments!

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