How To Declutter Books and Organize Your Shelves

Quick and practical tips to letting go, decluttering, and organizing your bookshelves!

Last Updated on February 21, 2024 by BiblioLifestyle

The Ultimate Guide to Declutter Books

Are you overwhelmed by the amount of clutter on your bookshelves?  Do you want to start book decluttering, finally get organized, and make space in your home for what matters most?  When you decide to declutter books, start downsizing, and organize your bookshelves, it can seem daunting.  But, with a few helpful tips and tricks, it doesn’t have to be!

If you are anything like me, your bookshelves are overflowing, and you have stacks of books strewn across the floor.  There is no room for new books to be added, and there are books you have not seen in years.  You might be going through a reading slump or experiencing what to read next paralysis.  This may be because there are too many options, and it might be time to purge your bookshelves.

So how do you start book decluttering?  What books should you keep or let go of?  We will talk about how to purge your bookshelves, declutter books, and organize them.  We’ll also cover organizing the space in your home where you keep your books so that it becomes a pleasant place for you to read or browse through when looking for a new book to read next or add to your collection.

How To Declutter Books and Organize Your Shelves

The first step is to take everything off your bookshelves and lay them out on the floor.

When you’ve decided to declutter books and organize your shelves, I recommend physically taking your books off your shelves first. This will give you a good idea of how many books you actually have and what condition they are in.  It might also inspire you to read some of those books collecting dust for years.

Sorting your books

Once you know how many books you own and you’ve started to think about which ones you want to keep, the next step is sorting your books.  First, start sorting them into categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc.  You can also group them by genre or author.  Also, separate those books that have sentimental value or are collectibles — these books will not be on the chopping block.

Now it’s time to purge your book collection!

The next step, as you declutter books, is to do a book purge. Start with the category or genres you are least attached to or don’t read as often.  For example, if I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, I would start by getting rid of those books.

When deciding what books to keep and let go of, ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I read this book?  If you haven’t read it in over two to three years, chances are you’re not going to.
  • Do I love this book?  If you don’t love it, why keep it?
  • Am I likely to reread this book?  If the answer is no, then get rid of it!
Declutter Books

To donate or recycle?

As you start to declutter books, the topic of donating, recycling or what books to throw away will inevitably come up. Books that are in good condition but you don’t plan on reading again can be donated to your local library or secondhand bookstore.  Books that are damaged or moldy should be thrown out or recycled.

Organizing your books

So now that we have gone through how to purge your book collection and bookshelves, let’s talk about organizing.  Once you’ve decided on the books you plan to keep, here are five popular ways you can organize your books:

  • Organize books by color
  • Organize books by authors’ last names
  • Organize books by genres/subject matter
  • Organize books by subcategories within each genre or subject matter etc.
  • Organize books by read and unread

Organizing your book collection does not need to be complicated or time-consuming – it can be really fun.  There are so many possibilities when it comes to organizing them which means there isn’t one right way! For more information on book organization, check out our “10 Ways To Organize Your Book Collection” article.

Frequently Asked Questions About Decluttering Books

How do you decide what books to keep and get rid of?

Deciding which books to keep and which to part with can be deeply personal, but a few guidelines can help bring clarity to the process. Consider keeping books that have sentimental value, those that you refer back to frequently, or rare editions that could be seen as an investment. Conversely, consider letting go of books that you didn’t enjoy or learn from, duplicates, and any that you’ve outgrown or that no longer align with your interests. It’s also practical to reassess books that are readily available online or at local libraries. Remember that by letting go of books you’re unlikely to use again, you’re freeing up space and potentially providing someone else with the opportunity for enjoyment or learning.

What books to throw away?

Deciding on books to throw away might seem daunting, but there are straightforward criteria you can use to make the process easier. Typically, you should consider disposing of books that are irreparably damaged, such as those with missing pages, significant water damage, or severe mold issues. Also, outdated textbooks or reference books that have been superseded by new editions or contain outdated information might be better recycled than kept. It’s important to be environmentally conscious when throwing away books; always check if they can be recycled instead of simply tossed into the garbage. If a book is not in a condition to be enjoyed or used by someone else and cannot be recycled, then it’s an ideal candidate for disposal.

How do I stop hoarding books?

To stop hoarding books, start by developing a mindset geared towards minimalism and intentional living. Begin the process by assessing your reading habits and space constraints. Set strict limitations on new acquisitions, such as a one-in-one-out policy, where you only buy a new book after letting go of another. Furthermore, regularly utilize libraries and e-books to satisfy your reading appetite without accumulating physical copies. Embrace the digitalization of reading materials to reduce physical clutter. Lastly, remind yourself of the benefits of decluttering, such as a tidier space, a clearer mind, and the joy of sharing literature with others. By consistently applying these strategies, you can curb the tendency to hoard books and maintain a more manageable collection.

How to Start Declutter Books

What is the golden rule of decluttering?

The golden rule of decluttering is to keep only what you use, need, and love. This principle emphasizes the importance of possessing items that add value to your life and encourages you to let go of anything that doesn’t serve a purpose or bring joy. By applying this rule, you create a more organized, spacious, and serene environment, which can lead to a more mindful and efficient lifestyle. It reflects the idea of quality over quantity, ensuring that every item in your space truly deserves its place.

What is the 20 20 20 rule for decluttering?

The 20 20 20 rule for decluttering is a simple heuristic to help reduce hesitation and streamline the decision-making process when purging items. Specifically, this rule suggests that you should consider letting go of an item if you haven’t used it in the past 20 months, if you can replace it for under $20, and if you could find a replacement within 20 minutes. This rule is particularly useful for items that are not of significant emotional value or necessity. When applied to books, it helps readers decide which volumes are essential for keeping and which might be better passed along for someone else to enjoy.

What is the core 4 method of decluttering?

The Core 4 method of decluttering is a systematic approach that focuses on simplifying the decluttering process by dividing items into four distinct categories: Trash, Give Away/Sell, Store, and Put Away. This method encourages decision-making for each item you own by assigning it to one of these categories as follows:

  • Trash: Items that are no longer usable and cannot be repaired or recycled. These should be disposed of responsibly.
  • Give Away/Sell: Items in good condition that you no longer need or want but could be of use to someone else. These can be donated, sold, or given away to friends or family.
  • Store: Items that are not needed regularly but are important enough to keep. These should be stored neatly and labeled for easy access when required.
  • Put Away: Items that you use regularly and need to be kept readily accessible. These should be organized and returned to their designated places.

By focusing on these core categories, individuals can tackle clutter methodically, ensuring that every item has a clear status and place, reducing the sense of overwhelm that often accompanies the process of decluttering.

How do you declutter books and organize your bookshelves?

So there you have it – quick and practical tips for letting go, decluttering, and organizing your bookshelves.  While it can seem like such a daunting task, especially if you have a lot of books on your shelves, the sooner you get started, the faster you’ll get through it.

The best part?  The space in your home where you keep your books will become a pleasant place to read or browse when looking for a new book to read next or buy new books for your collection.

Do you have a system or method that works for you?  Let’s talk about it in the comments.


How To Declutter Books and Organize Your Shelves

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