Book Decluttering: Rethinking Your Home Book Storage

Book DeclutteringPut a book lover in a homeschooling situation, with access to library sales, garage sales, and hand-me-downs, and you’ll soon have a book storage problem.

This is a very real issue for me right now. I love picture books, I love great quality non-fiction, and I love having any book I could possibly need easily accessible. But the longer we homeschool, the more I realize I cannot physically store every book that is freely (or cheaply) available. Here are some ideas for making sure the books in your home are the books you need!

With springtime hopefully coming soon, I am finding myself eager to declutter and reorganize our books. It’s time to get rid of the ones that we no longer like in order to make room for those we may truly need!

Ideas to Consider for Book Decluttering

One really good reason to have books on your home shelves is to encourage reading, bonding moments, spontaneous learning, and new interests. As one considers what books to continue storing on home bookshelves, it may do well to consider the following questions:

  • How will I use this book? Do I like it myself?
  • When did someone last read this book? When will we next use this book?
  • Which person would be most interested in this book? Is it engaging? (For picture books: Would a non-reader enjoy flipping through it?

Here are some additional ideas to consider when decluttering books from your home.

Consider alternatives to storing books yourself. If you face limited storage space, consider alternatives to owning and storing the physical books yourself. For example, plan on frequent library trips to replenish the currently reading shelf. If you own a home, consider this as simply an extension of your home: after all, your property taxes already are paying for the storage and upkeep of those books! In addition, seek out digital versions of textbooks, public domain works, and chapter or picture books. Although there is definitely a need for physical books in your children’s hands, digital texts can also play a role in this day and age. A plus side to digital texts is that often a device and “read aloud” or provide easy access to a dictionary for the young child reader.

Consider what your family really reads. I believe not every book is worth reading time and again. If there is a series on your shelves that you feel similarly about, take it out of your collection. For example, there are some picture books that my kids frequently avoid, and personally, I dislike them too. Why do we store them on our shelves when we have read them only once and probably will never revisit them? If it is not going to be loved time and again, don’t bother with the storage! Of course, one’s preference may change; if you anticipate a near future use for an item, you may want to store it until that day. (See above for some ideas of questions to ask about books in your home.)

Just say no. I have found that when friends with older children learn that I am homeschooling, they are often eager to unload books from their children’s libraries into my homeschool library. Many times, these people believe that they are doing me a favor. A former teacher likewise offered me boxes of teacher’s manuals and student readers upon her retirement. But, as with the previous consideration, there is a place for everything, and it is not always on my bookshelf. Although it sometimes feels difficult to say no to good-hearted friends, I have found that this is just what is necessary when I am not certain about my book needs for the future. Before I accept books from such friends, I ask questions such as those above. I also may consider seeking out reviews about a series of books I am unfamiliar with in order to make sure it is what I want in my home.

If I cannot find good answers to how and when I would use the book, and if the time span is extended (that is, I won’t need it until my child is in middle school), I probably should pass on the book. If it is not an attractive book to read and explore, I likewise probably don’t need it on my shelf.

Don’t be afraid of recycling. I love books. There is something so special about remembering the times we’ve cuddled together and enjoyed them. But everything has a lifespan! Unless the copy of the book has true sentimental value (an inscription from Great-Grandma) or it is a collector’s edition, when a book has passed it prime, put it in the recycle bin! (See below for some book disposal options.) A book that literally falls about when you try to read it is either a much-loved book or an abused book. If you loved it, replace it! If you toddler chewed off a bit too much or colored over the pictures a bit too darkly, it may be be time to send it on to its rest. If storage space is at a premium, don’t keep garbage around!

What Do You Do with the Decluttered Books?

I am one of those people who cannot stand the thought of throwing books in the garbage. Fortunately, in this day and age, books can often be reused in many ways.

Libraries, schools, and hospitals. These places often hold book sales or request book donations. Consider donating gently used books to these organizations to help them raise funds or to provide reading material to those who need it.

Swap books. Take books to a store such as Half-Price Books for an exchange; they donate or recycle books that they cannot resell in their stores. Or, join a free site like Your used books maybe on someone’s wish list and you can send it on in exchange for one you do want. See Recycle Now for more ideas on online places to donate, swap, or exchange.

Share with a friend. Although you may get a “No, thank you!” in exchange for an offer (just as you are saying now that you are decluttering!), consider who among your family and friends may better appreciate the books you no longer need or want. A new homeschooling mom may need the curricula you have finished with.

Recycling. Although truly disposing of books should be the last resort, sometimes books truly are past their prime. Magazines can often be recycled with no issues. Hardcover and softcover books may need covers and binding removed before you can put them in the bin.

Remember, before you kindly re-gift non-favorite books to other organizations or friends, consider the same issues I mention above. If it is truly a non-interesting, poor condition book, would those you are offering it to get anything out of your “gift”?

Although I hope you hold on to your favorite books, I do hope this helps you find a bit of peace as you attack the overflowing shelves of books in your home! While it’s never easy to get rid of something as important as a book, book decluttering may prove to be a worthwhile way of tidying your home.

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