Sometimes “clean” can feel like a four letter word, especially when it’s in front of the phrase “out your bookshelves.” Now, I am by no means recommending that you get rid of all of your books. Some readers find comfort in living surrounded by hundreds of books, but they are not necessarily more dedicated lovers of the written word than those who only hold on to a select few or those who clear off their shelves come the spring. Here, check out some of our favorite tips for clearing a little room on your bookshelves.
Decide where the orphan books will go
Create piles of books to give as gifts to friends and family, donate to your local library, or even to pass on to a teacher you know. One of my closest friends teaches 9th grade students and I love passing on my young adult novels to her, because then I get to hear stories of real kids discovering these books for the first time. Hearing that a 9th grader was lecturing her librarian about transgender teen rights because of a book I sent gave me more feels than the actual book did.
The other option, especially if you’re strapped for cash, is to sell your books. If you live in New York City, one excellent option is The Strand, which will buy your used books and give you the money to turn around and get some new ones.
What’s the criteria?
Here are some great questions to ask yourself when going through your shelves:
Are you ever going to read that?
If a book has sat unread on my shelf for over a year I either make a plan to read it soon or I get rid of it.
Are you going to reread that?
Some of my favorite books I’ve only read once, others I’ve picked up time and time again. If I never see myself wanting to relive the magic, I tend to pass it along.
Did you even like it?
If I don’t enjoy a book, then it doesn’t deserve space on my shelves. When people come over and comment on my books, I want to be able to gush about how great they are and not mutter about how it wasn’t even that good.
What condition is the book in?
Yes I love my copy of Oedipus Rex, but it’s dogeared and highlighted from when I read it in high school. Toss it now and treat yourself to a nicer edition.
Is there sentiment attached?
My copies of Harry Potter have seen similar wear-and-tear over years of rereads, but those are staples in my collection and remain unmoved.
Is it signed?
A book is 10x harder to give away when I’ve had a personal interaction with the author. Once again, I tend to realistically look at how much I enjoyed the book and if I ever plan on picking it up again.
Have you made a valiant effort?
Some books you just don’t like. If I can’t get into a book, even one that comes highly recommended, I pass it on. I have too many books on my TBR to waste time slogging through a book I only feel meh about.
Do you need it?
Is my 2000 travel guide to Italy still relevant? Do I really need an SAT prep book? Chances are, no.
Do you plan on continuing the series?
Especially when there’s a solid deal, I’ll find myself picking up multiple books in a series before I’ve even read the first one. Or years will pass between release dates and I can’t remember what happened in the previous books. If they weren’t memorable or just plain don’t strike your interest anymore, let them go.
I just can’t go through with it
Okay, then on to Plan B: Storage unit.
Kidding (kind of). No one is forcing you to get rid of your books. If you’re on the fence about some titles, hang on to them. You might read them or you might get rid of them next year. The point is to have your library reflect what you want it to. And as long as you have room for new titles, you’re probably fine.