Decluttering Tips: Being Book Smart

Hi, I'm Sondra and I'm a bookaholic.

As a professional organizer, I mostly practice what I preach. My nut mixes and brown rice each have their own sealed containers and my clothes hang neatly on huggable hangers. I throw away junk mail as it crosses my threshold. And my to-do list is kept efficiently on toodledo.com. But I will always have my own clutter challenges -- a problem I convincingly tell myself keeps me in touch with my clients.

I basically keep amazon.com in business. If I meet an interesting writer, I buy his book. If a yoga instructor quotes something life-changing in her class, I find out the source and make the one-click purchase. An inspiring TED video, or cure candida classic, I can’t help myself, I get those too. Now I have bookshelves overflowing with memoirs, chick-lit, New York Times best sellers and self-help galore (don’t even ask about my Kindle).

After some deliberation, I have finally made the difficult decision to attack my bookshelves head on and clear the clutter.

STEP 1. Schedule time for this project.

I set a time when I knew my husband would be out and I could take my time mulling and reminiscing.

  • If you don’t set a specific time on your calendar, this task will continually creep to the bottom of your list. Put it in ink somewhere.

STEP 2. Create a list of criteria in advance.

Before tackling my bookshelves, I wrote down my screening questions for keepers and tossers. It’s a solid list; feel free to steal it.

1. Reasons to keep a book:

a) It is one of my favorites of all time.

b) I plan to read it one day in the next two years.

c) A friend/mentor/role model wrote it.

d) It makes me smile (not stress) when I look at it.

2. Reasons to donate a book:

a) I read it (any time - ten minutes or ten years ago) and will never read it or reference it again.

b) It is falling apart (recycle, don’t donate it anywhere).

c) It is outdated (e.g. a guide to NYC from 1999 won’t do much good now).

d) I am keeping it because it looks cool to have it in my shelf (e.g. an old ragged copy of the             Fountainhead, which I have still never read).

STEP 3. Get comfortable and down to business.

I put on my most comfy lululemons, got myself a tall glass of water and started pulling books. I referred back to my criteria list and made the difficult decisions. I kept some gifts, tossed others. Held on to one book by a former writing teacher, got rid of another.

In the end, I had 47 books – some from the nineties, others from this year - on the floor ready to leave my home.

  • As a strategy, you can set a number of books with which you would like to end up. Or an amount of space you would like for them to occupy. Then work toward that goal.

STEP 4: Get rid of them.

I am holding on to my give-away books for one week for friends to browse for the taking. After that I will take them to my local library for donation.

There are lots of options for clearing out your used books.

  • Many local non-profits and libraries will take your used books.
  • You can sell them on ebay or to a local bookstore.
  • Swap and trade books on a site like bookcrossing.com.
  • Have a book swap event and pick up some friends’ used goods.
  • Get creative and repurpose them.

Pick one and don’t let all of your hard work go to waste!

Maybe books aren’t your weakness (but if they are, check this out: bookshelfporn.com. Perhaps yours is CD’s or scarves or shoes. Whatever the case may be, the steps above can help you keep your addiction clutter-free (and as a bonus… make room for more).

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