what to do with books…

yesterday, i gave away a book to a friend named jenna.  it really wasn’t that big of a deal.  i overheard her mention that she was planning to go buy a certain book.  i knew that i had a copy of the book on my shelf that i had already read.  the next time that i saw her, i grabbed it and gave it to her.  she was thrilled.  i had saved her money and communicated the value that i place on our relationship.

the whole episode got me thinking, “as a minimalist, what should i do with my books?”  i’ve seen the same question asked elsewhere.  here are my thoughts on the subject:

  • books that i have never read nor plan to read – get rid of them.  examples would include books that were given to you or books that were recommended to you that no longer interest you.  these books are just taking up space, creating clutter, and distracting you from the important things in your life.  donate to a local library, goodwill, or garbage dump. 
  • books that i have read and have no use for anymore – get rid of them.  examples would include fictional books or self-help books that weren’t all that helpful.  again, get rid of them.  there’s just no reason to keep them on your shelf or in your life.
  • books that i have read that have become influential in my life – lend them out.  these are the books that have helped shaped my life.  they have made a difference in me and made me a better person.  if so, these books woud make the same positive difference in someone else’s life.  holding on to them would be a shame.  put your name in the front cover and lend it out to someone who be equally challenged – and keep track of who you’ve given them to so that you can get them back.
  • books that i have read and use often – keep them close.  examples would include reference books, inspirational books, devotionals, etc.  if you are drawing knowledge or inspiration from them on a regular basis, keep them handy on your shelf.  and you should be able to find them easier with the other three categories removed.

happy reading.  and minimalizing.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    Minimizing? A bibliophile? Sir, you ask the impossible! My bookshelves groan, bending in the middle. I need more shelf space, more walls, a bigger house. If I had a big enough house I could own all the books in the world…

    That’s how crazy book-lovers are.

  2. Dasha says

    Well, I used to be a crazy book lover… then I realized how much space they were taking up in my tiny apt and in my budget – when most of them I could get at the library! I got rid of 2/3 of my books and kept only those that I might want to read or reference again. It felt great, because now every single book on my shelf is omgmyfavebookever! It feels great now that they are undiluted by eh books (or even great non-fiction that I am just never going to read again).

    If anyone reading this is in NYC, I highly recommend Housing Works Bookshop for both donating and buying books- they are a great org!

  3. says

    Getting rid of books has been the hardest because I love having a lot of reference books on hand and a lot of in depth stuff is still not available online (for free at least) or at the local library. I’ve managed to pare down quite a bit, though, since I now read so much online or at the library. Now, even though I have 8 tall bookcases, they’re not full to the brim with books.

    Three are doing double duty in the kitchen holding dry food on display in containers as well as other stuff. Another three are along the back wall of the living room with the books organized by color and then by height on each shelf, with some shelves left open for displaying decorative items.

    • Kira says

      Meg, your shelves sound gorgeous!

      I’m also slowly paring down, especially when it comes to used books I purchased simply because they looked interesting (but then never got around to reading) and were cheap (or even free). What did it for me was realizing the heavy feeling I often got when looking at the boxes of books that I couldn’t unpack because I didn’t have enough space in my new place, and then remembering how many heavy boxes even a single bookcase fill. No one should dread moving just because of how much stuff they have.

      I’m trying to make a habit of using the library and buying eBooks, but I’m not forcing myself to get rid of books that bring me joy. Being a bibliophile doesn’t have to manifest as gluttony and greed.

  4. Erin says

    I’m a bibliophile who’s seriously minimalists my book collection. I keep only the ones I’ll re-read. However, I’m a fan of a few book series, so I still have more books than most minimalists probably do.

    As to your suggestion of how to get rid of them, I always sell my to a local used bookstore for money. It’s rare that I need to donate and, unless they are in absolutely horrible shape, I never see the need to send them to a landfill.

  5. karen says

    My Achilles heel! Books! But……I did get rid of them. My books are second hand generally – and mostly ones that I “planned on reading soon”. However, the reality was that the library books always seemed to take precedence, as there was a due date for those ones. So…. I took my collection and book by book checked on my local library’s site and if the library had the book that I owned – I pinned the book on pinterest and then gave it away. The few remaining books left – I gave myself a time line for – and if I hadn’t read it by the time – out it went.
    You are so right – unless it is a book that we use over and over – no need for it in the house.

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