Cleaning Out My Bookshelves

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Cleaning Out My Bookshelves

How to discard books


One of the most difficult things for an avid writer and reader (who also happens to be a simplicity nut) is facing a wall of books and KNOWING that some of those tomes just HAVE to go.

I’ve managed to make the first pass. But, it’s going to take a few more before the bookshelf I have downstairs can be given away. It’s a monstrosity. I’ve decided to limit my collection to what can be easily held in a couple of smallish, low shelves at the top of the steps.

It doesn’t mean I’m going to quit having books, I’ll still keep my reference books, my writing books, my classics. I’ll still collect a few of my favorites in leather-bound versions. But the “fluff” and the one-time reads will be given to family or friends or will disappear to the local goodwill when I finish them. The books that I have from former interests are going to go “bye-bye” as well.

I have decided that ebooks are off-limits from my discard urge (which means that I’ve spent more time downloading ebooks lately than I have tossing physical ones.) And having the iPad means I can carry more books with me than that huge wall of shelves can hold in physical versions. 🙂

If you have a way to whittle down the footprint of your book collection, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section because I still have several difficult passes to make before my bookshelf is finished.


  1. […] addition to clearing out my physical bookshelves, I’ve been *passively* looking for a way to organize and easily access my digital books on my […]

  2. Cheryl says:

    First of all, great blog — I’m very much enjoying and agreeing with what I’ve read so far! So, the book thing. It’s been weighing on my mind ever since I started thinking more seriously about “living small”. I’ve got four tall Ikea bookshelves full of books. Probably the books that are truly sentimental or valuable could fit on one shelf. But it kills me to think of parting with something I’ve spent so much money on, not to mention what they represent — my intellectualism, interests, personality…. I’m especially attached to my childhood books but as time goes by I realize more and more that toting around tons of stuff when you hardly ever look at it is just a waste of energy. Anyway, I did a book purge the last time I moved, and actually found a guy who came to my house and bought a whole bunch of books, maybe 50 or so. I sure didn’t get back anything near what I’d paid for them, but at least it was something and he did the work of taking them away. That was in the nyc area; I wonder if there are still people around who do that?

    • Angela Allen says:

      Hi Cheryl! So glad you dropped by the livingsmall blog. I can’t tell you how hard it was for me to ditch physical books. But now, it’s getting much easier. My reference books stay (and that’s no longer a “catchall” phrase meaning all the books I don’t want to get rid of. It’s actually the stuff I use and reference for hard, fast information. My love of books has been slowly turning toward the ebook world and I’m gathering quite a collection there — but it takes up much less physical space. You will never get out of books what you have in them. You already got the value when you read them. Let that be enough. If you have “sentimental” books, pick one that is your favorite, that has wonderful memories and keep that one, but gift/sell/donate the rest. You will be able to capture that nostalgic “feeling” by merely touching and thumbing through the one you keep — and isn’t that what you want, the feeling?

      I’m not sure how many places have people who come in and look over volumes of “things” and make you a price on the lot of them. I think most locales have something similar.

      Kudos to your progress toward living a lighter, freer life!

  3. Frank Bacon says:

    I believe the word you meant to say, in your first sentence, was tome, as opposed to tomb(sic). Granted, some books are rather monumental and dead inside, like a tomb, but I think you get the picture. ; )

    • Angela Allen says:

      LOL. You know, Frank, I think you are right — on both counts! I’d like to blame autocorrect, but I can’t do that in good conscience this time since I’m pretty sure I just screwed it up. Thanks for the catch! I’m correcting that now.


  4. […] also working steadily to clean out my regular bookshelves. This one has been tough, especially since I decided to READ all the books before making a […]

  5. Zoe Lassen-Purser says:

    I’ve definitely been struggling with this. Here’s what I’ve done:

    First, I read the news. People are losing their houses and all of their possessions all over the world–and in the U.S. I just happen to be lucky enough to live in the northwest right now. First, I decided that I didn’t need any of my books in order to be happy.

    Then I chose a few books that I read over and over again, usually as bedtime stories to myself. I got rid of all the books I’d been keeping since college that I never read, the classics that I’ll be able to find in any library, and the books that friends have given me that I never got around to reading. I chose my comfy books, like the Mary Russell series, a few important references, such as my Better World Shopping Guide and the Teenage Liberation Handbook, and books that inspire my creativity, such as Dangerous Angels and a few drawing books.

    My goal is that every single book I own will either be an incredibly cozy escape, inspire the heck out of me, or I will use it constantly as a resource. And yes, it’s hard getting rid of books when I was raised to accumulate as many as possible. Good luck!

    • angela allen says:

      I’m really working on this, but the glorious (and unexpected) result is that I’m reading voraciously for the first time in years to “let go” of the books I’ve been “meaning” to read. Serendipity!