How to Get Rid of Books (Both Read and Unread)

Getting rid of books is not easy, I know. (This is coming from a girl who has hundreds of unread book on her shelves, so clearly I haven’t mastered the whole “minimalism” thing yet…) But no matter how many books you prefer to keep, or how many you have room for, there comes a time for all of us where we realize we need to let some beloved books go.

Here are 10 steps for getting rid of books (both read and unread):

Step one:

Realize you have way too many books. Panic a little. It’s out of control, the shelves are overflowing, the stacks are piling up all around you, and you’ll run of room if you don’t do something about this situation soon.

Step two:

Decide to purge. Take a few deep breaths. You can do this. Feel all the emotions you need to feel about letting go of your beloved book babies. This is normal.

Step three:

Start somewhere that makes sense— the biggest stack, the pile that has toppled over, the books you’ve had the longest, whatever. Get comfortable, this will take a while. Take all the books off the shelf. Nothing gets to stay— it will get messy. It will get worse before it gets better. This is all part of the process.

Step four:

Channel your inner Marie Kondo! This is where the rubber meets the road, friends. Hold each book. Look at it. Flip through it. Ask yourself “Does this spark joy?” Also ask yourself: Will I read this book again? Why have I kept this book? Do I really need to keep it moving forward? Do I have multiples of this book? Did I even like this book? Would this book help someone else, or be a good gift, or be fun to share with a friend, etc? Could I sell this book to my local resell shop or on Instagram? Could I donate this book to my library or to a Little Free Library near me? If I haven’t read this book yet, am I HONESTLY going to read it? Am I only keeping this because I feel like it makes me a smart/cultured/cool/etc person? Have I had this book for more than a few months or years without reading it? (That’s probably a sign that I can let it go.) Did I write personal things in the margins of this book (and therefore should maybe keep it, or throw it away as to preserve my privacy/dignity)? Do I really, really, REALLY need to keep this book or is it time to let it live another life?

Step five:

Make piles. A donate pile, a to-sell pile, a share with friends pile, a keep pile, etc. If you go through this process and have zero books in your goodbye piles, start again at step one and take it seriously this time!

Step six:

Bag up your piles and give yourself room to breathe and process. Move them out of sight, but don’t take action just yet. Give it a minute, a day, a week. If anything is bugging you about a book you put in a specific pile after your designated amount of time, act on it! If you’re really wishing you had kept that old Dickens novel even though you haven’t read it in 7 years, go get it from the “to-sell” bag and save it. If you look at your “to-keep” pile and realize there’s more you could purge, do it!

Step seven:

Remind yourself that books find you when they need to. Books are smart this way. Trust me. It sounds woo-woo and weird, I know, but here’s the thing: even if you purge those books now, if you want to read them again next month or next year or when you’re 80, you will be able to buy/borrow/find them again!!! It’s really true. Purging them now is not dooming them for all eternity.

Step eight:

Make moves! Take your donations to the library. Sell your favorites. Pass the gems along to friends. Re-shelve the keepers in a way that makes sense for you.

Step nine:

Breathe easier. You have done good work here, friend. You have made space in your life for what truly matters, and you have breathed new life into the books that you’re letting go of. This is a beautiful thing! And now, you have room for more books!

Step ten:

Realize in a few weeks that you’ve filled up your shelves again, and your bedside stacks are getting out of control. Begin again at step one.