I was that kid who brought in three Trader Joe’s bags of miscellanea for the Rube Goldberg project in eighth-grade physics, and I’ve been putting off cleaning my childhood bedroom because there’s just so much stuff to sort through. But being an out-of-state college student has forced me to be more mindful about the things I keep, because I hate paying for extra luggage and dorm rooms can be pretty small. While I don’t consider myself or an avid follower of the KonMari method (let alone anything more extreme), lately I’ve been pretty into the idea of minimalism and generally being more deliberate about my consumption and collection habits.
So although I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by books, my personal collection has shrunk dramatically.
Unless we’re counting ebooks, but the contents of my Kindle are a mess for another day. Though I’ve never been in the habit of buying a bunch of books, I do receive the occasional review copy or gift from friends / family, and once in a while I’ll drop by a bookstore or library sale. If I’m not careful, I gradually amass multiple TBR piles throughout my living space, so regularly sorting and cultivating my collection is an absolute must.
As I’ve already mentioned, I currently don’t have the storage space to hoard books, and on top of that my physical collection can be a logistical challenge for traveling between university and my parents’ house. Plus, as Haley mentions in the original prompt post, there are some books that you know you’ll never read (again) that are just taking up space.
So although I would love to have an Elinor Loredan library, books are meant to be loved! Think of Toy Story 3, where Andy donates his toys so that they can continue to have adventures and bring joy to their child.
Or maybe it was the second? I rewatched the original several times but I’m honestly not even sure I’ve sat through the second and third in their entirety. No one benefits from that TBR pile in your room, but your donation could benefit people and communities who might not have equal access to books.
I declutter all my print books, regardless of whether I bought them, was gifted them, found them at my local library’s monthly sale, or can’t even remember their origin. That said, some books bypass the process if they have particular sentimental value — The Little Prince, a Christmas present from my wonderful third-grade teacher; the Little House matched set, a gift from family friends and a childhood favorite series I revisit every few years; The Magic Half, the first book I ever bought for myself, at the Scholastic book fair in fifth grade; and so on. The remaining books all go through my sorting process, which I detail in the next section.
how & when?
It’s only this past year, when I started blogging and entering Goodreads giveaways, that I had print ARCs to contend with. It’s pretty easy for me to gather them up and ship them off for Kal’s international ARC program, Flapping Pages so that others can enjoy them; if I really love an ARC, I’ll likely eventually buy a finished copy to support the author anyway.
When I’m sorting the rest of my books, I take a (non-literal) page out of Marie Kondo’s book and start by gathering them all together — the read-next stack by my bed, the neat rows on my shelves, and any that have been scattered throughout the house. Then I re-stack them into quick piles, trying not to overthink each decision: To Keep (Read), To Keep (TBR), To Give To My Brother [aka “I don’t want it enough to keep it, but I’m not ready to let it leave the house”], To Gift To Someone I Know, To Donate, Undecided.
Ideally I’d do this at least once a year, though as my time spent at home decreases it seems less and less urgent to use any of it clearing out my shelves. I know that I’ll definitely do this around graduation when I get my own permanent place, but I have a long while until then and honestly I don’t know if/when I’ll get around to it in the meantime. To be quite honest, getting work experience and studying takes priority for these next few years — yet then again, I’ve been known to procrasti-clean/organize …
So what I’m saying is, I don’t have a set schedule for decluttering my books but I know it’ll eventually get done, and I’m okay with that.
a final note about ebooks
In theory, some of this also applies to ebooks. As far as I know they can’t be donated (lent, yes, but not transferred altogether) like print books, and I’ve found it a lot easier to get free ebooks so they tend to pile up quicker — but they’re also easier to forget about, since they’re hidden away in my Kindle archive rather than glaring at me from the corner of my desk. So it’s equally important, if less urgent, for me to regularly declutter these as well.
But I have trouble with the finality of deleting them. For free ebooks/ARCs that I read and didn’t like, it’s a little easier since I haven’t spent any money and know I won’t get anything out of keeping them. But for ebooks I paid for and/or haven’t gotten around to, I can’t quite make myself throw them out (metaphorically speaking), so for now I’ve resorted to putting them in a TBR collection to deal with later. It’s a band-aid, not a solution, but that’s where I’m currently at.
Do you have any tips for keeping your book collection under control? Or do you embrace the (book)dragon hoard? Does the source of a book (bought at a thrift store / preordered / gifted / etc.) influence how you feel about keeping or giving it away? Do you declutter your ebooks?
Also, I’m working on a post (possibly a series, depending on how many responses I get) for Mental Health Awareness Month, and I would love to get as many contributions as possible. Essentially it’s a collection of ~1oo word rants on any topic — so if you have strong opinions or frustrations about anything at all, please share them with me! And if you’d like to help boost the tweet, that would be appreciated too!