Radical Simplicity and a Beautiful, Messy Life

How to Declutter Your Bookshelves Like a Minimalist

minimalist bookshelves

What I'm about to say is going to sound like heresy to some; You don't actually need to keep every book you've ever owned.  (who knew, right?)

Books are an easy thing to amass because each one seems so small and uncumbersome.  But after years or decades of shelving book after book, our collections can be unnecessarily huge.

Here are three reason to keep less books:

Less visual clutter.  Shelves full of books bring visual noise to a space.  

A smaller to-read list hanging over your head.  Do you have a lot of books you feel you should read?  That is a constant to-do list, weighing you down in your place of rest and refuge.  Shuffle off that to-do list, let books be a means of enjoyment and self care, not pressure.

Someone else can enjoy them when you pass them on.  Books are something to flow among friends, not be hoarded. If you've read a great book and likely won't read it again, pass it on to a friend so that they can enjoy it too.  Maybe they'll return the favour next time they read a great book. 


How to declutter your books

Step one: Make three piles

1. Your reading to-do list:  Books to be read sooner rather than later.  These are books you haven't read, or would like to re-read in the near future.  Put them in a stack on your bed stand or dresser.  

2. Your must keeps: Books that you re-read every few years or need to refer to.  These are the keepers that aren't necessarily on your to read soon list.  Thes books will go back on your shelves.

For me, The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning is a yearly read.  It's a little book, full of heart wrenching truths that deepen my spiritual walk each time I read it.  So I keep it.  

3. Your declutter pile.  This will mostly be made up of books that you've read and have no plans to read again, or books that you haven't read and aren't particularly excited to read. 

If you are unsure if a book should stay or go, ask yourself this:  "If I was moving to another continent, would this book come with me."  If the answer is no, you can probably let go of it. 

Because isn't that the point of minimalism?  To be unencumbered by our stuff.  Not that we would move across the world on a moments notice, but that we could, because we are here on this earth for the journey, not the stuff. 

Step Two: Figure out what to do with the books you are done with.  

You can pass them onto friends, donate them to a thrift store or library, or take them to a used bookstore where you can exchange them for store credit.

Step Three: Sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and a good book!  

Take the book at the top of your to-read pile and enjoy it.  When you are done, decide whether it's a book you will read again, in which case it will go back on your shelf with the keepers, or if you are done with it, in which case you will give it away or sell it immediately.  Move on to the next book in the pile. 


Common hurdles to decluttering books:
Don't let these mindsets trip you up.

"I might read it someday." If you have owned the book for a year or more and haven't read it yet, you likely won't read it.  

"I should read it.  I want to be the kind of person who reads these books."  Stop shoulding on yourself! You are who you are meant to be.  Don't keep Hamlet around just because you think you should read it.  This isn't high school and you get to read what brings you joy. 

"I spent 20 bucks on it and haven't read it yet."  You don't get a single cent of your money back by keeping things you won't use. If you aren't going to read and enjoy the book, pass it on.


Tips to keep your bookshelves decluttered

  • Consider buying ebooks rather than old-fashioned paper books.  (but oh how I do love the paper books)
  • Get your books from the library, or borrow from friends.  Not only do you avoid clutter, you save money too!
  • Have a one-in, one-out rule.  If you purchase a new book, get rid of an old one immediately. 


Friends, books bring a world of information, ideas and perspective to our fingertips.  The books we read shape us and move us.  Pass them on.  Let someone else be inspired by those words. 



pssst.... want to be part of a super encouraging online community of people striving to clear the clutter and live a simpler life?  Join my just-launched facebook group Radical Simplicity and take part in weekly challenges as well as share your own journey with like minded new friends.  I can't wait to connect with you over there!!

And as always, if you like this post, will you share it?  Thanks loves.

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