3 Questions to Help Downsize Your Book Collection

The following is a guest post from regular contributor, Kalyn at Creative Savings.

3 Questions to Help You Downsize Your Book Collection

It’s quite embarrassing how many books I actually own.

Although I’m a frugal, I’m also a book lover, and my first response has always been to buy a book, rather than think about how I could borrow or read it for free. Once quick glance at my collection, and I probably have more reading material than I could ever get through in the next 10 years. Yep, it’s that bad!

With the popularity of eBooks now, the hoarding is almost worse. I have hundreds {maybe thousands?} of downloads from $.99 and $1.99 sales and freebies from Amazon.com. Seriously, how can you pass those prices up!? I kept telling myself I was going to read the book eventually, and was convinced it was better to buy them now rather than later when the book wasn’t on sale. Ugh.

And so, I’m working my way through those massive piles of books and getting rid of the ones I’m not totally amazed at, as well as mandating a spending freeze with very few exceptions. I’m also going forward with the mindset that I do not have to buy books to feel happy or complete. My goodness though, is that tough!

But it’s definitely needed, and to help me rid myself of these never-ending piles of books, I came up with three questions to ask regarding each one before I give it the boot. If you are drowning in books yourself, try a little Q&A. It’s a game-changer, for sure!

Question #1. Would You Give the Book a 5-Star rating?

I keep meticulous track of all the books I’ve read through Goodreads, and one thing I’ve noticed over the past 3 years of tracking, is that I rarely give a book 5-stars. I actually used to run a book blog, and I didn’t want to be known for over-hyping a book if it was really just so-so. So when I give a book 5-stars, you know it’s good!

I use this same tracking system to help me keep, donate, or completely get rid of a book. If it’s 5-stars, the title stays on my shelf, and rarely will I make an exception unless the author is one of my very favorites.

If you have a book that isn’t landing on your favorites list, consider finding it another home so you can save space for the books you’re more likely to browse through again and again. Think quality over quantity!

Question #2. Has the Book Served it’s Purpose?

Am I the only one who saved a few of my college textbooks, thinking I would reference them later? Ha! I only wish I had gotten rid of them sooner, because it’s much harder to sell older editions once the new ones come out. Lesson learned!

The same can be said of books you read as a teen, or graduate-related books that were a gift when you left for college. Maybe you have a few pregnancy/parenting books lying around that have long since served their purpose. Look at these books through a new light and really consider whether you need to keep them.

Unless you are a mentor or a counselor, these resources might be better served as a donation to a library, or slipped into next year’s garage sale bin. You could even try selling them on Amazon.com for a few extra bucks!

Question #3. Is There Room?

This last and final question may actually be the hardest, but if you’ve already gone through Questions #1 and #2, and still have tons of books lying around, it might be time to invest in a Kindle or Nook. You still have to beware of the digital clutter that comes with having an e-reader, but it’s much better than allowing these books to take up precious space inside your home.

To help me decide which books I want on my Kindle, and which ones are better in paperback, I think about whether I would actually read the book again, and if I need a paperback version to make notes inside. Fiction almost always lands on my Kindle, while I prefer Paperbacks for How-To/Self-Help reads that I can mark up and highlight to my hearts content.

It’s the best of both worlds — truly!

I know that if you’re a book lover like me, it can be really painful to part with these books — it’s almost like you are giving away a part of yourself. BUT……….even though this is a painful process, it’s absolutely necessary if you want to live a clean, simple, and clutter-free life.

More books are not always better. Keep quality reads in your life, and in your home, and let the other ones just go. You’ll feel so much freedom in knowing you don’t have piles of so-so books lying around, and can now save room for the ones that will really change your life!

Do you find it difficult to downsize your book collection?  How do you decide which books to keep and which ones to toss?

3 Questions to Help Downsize Your Book Collection


Kalyn Brooke is a full-time writer and blogger at CreativeSavingsBlog.com, where she gives a fresh perspective on frugal living, and the kick-in-the-pants you need to create a budget from scratch. She lives in beautiful Southwest Florida with her news-photographer husband and the most adorable bunny you’ve ever seen. She loves making to-do lists, reading good books, eating chocolate peanut butter ice cream, and pursuing big dreams….all carefully planned out, of course.

Filed under: Guest Bloggers, Organizing Solutions


33 Responses to 3 Questions to Help Downsize Your Book Collection

  1. 1
    Kerri says

    I was pleasantly surprised to see this post this morning. I am trying to tackle my childrens’ books. I don’t have any difficulty letting mine go. However, I have a greater deal of difficulty organizing and letting go of their books. Please help me!

    • 1.1
      jules says

      I have an idea, u don’t have 2 be the 1 to do it, let your kids do it. I just had my daughter go through her book collection over the weekend. She had 2 decide between keep or donate. I let her make all the decisions herself, I did not. Once she was finished, u will be amazed how much they decide 2 part with, more than I myself anticipated. She kept the ones she really wanted and donated the ones she outgrew. It was as simple as that. It also teaches them at a young age how to get organized and stay organized. I was proud of her. She did music cd and dad’s as well. Good luck

    • 1.2
      Amanda Brown says

      Me too. I can’t wait to see the reply to this from the professional. I am in serious need. He is 9 not a huge avid reader but we still read to him as well as he reads himself. He has gotten into chapter books now. But still goes back to the “easier books. What to do?

  2. 2
    nicola says

    I used to buy books and then read them in a couple of days. Now I borrow them from the library and if they don’t grab me in the first few chapters I don’t feel guilty for not finishing them ,life is too short to read something you don’t enjoy!

    • 2.1
      Kalyn Brooke | Creative Savings says

      Exactly!! It’s hard for me to NOT finish a book even though I’m really not that into it, but then I realize how many more books are out there that I could be enjoying, and it helps me put the book down for good, and even get rid of it!

      • Anna MArie says

        If I feel like the book is not worth my time but it did have some appeal, I just skip to the last chapter. Sometimes it intrigues me enough to go back and read it all, but most times that satisfies my need to know how it turned out without taking the time to read the whole thing.

    • 2.2
      Melissa says

      Yes! This is me too, I used to buy them, and keep them, and have no room for them. Now I never buy books (except for my girls) and I love our local library. I also do not finish a book if I don’t like it – you are so right, life is too short.

  3. 3
    Connie Sullivan says

    I too am an avid reader. Would love it if you published a list of your 5 star list!!!!

    • 3.1
      Deborah says

      Oh yes, please share your 5 star list! I have been “grading” my reads lately but will switch to star rating. Thanks

  4. 4
    Nikole says

    I am guilty of the Kindle $0.99 logic too. When my 1st Kindle died on me, it took me a couple of days to figure out which books were still TBR so I started an excel spreadsheet list and put myself on buying freeze (usually during Lent). I get a sense of satisfaction crossing off items on my TBR list. Now if I could just do the same for the rubbermaid bin of paperbacks & hardcovers that i still haven’t touched…

    • 4.1
      Diana says

      What is a TBR? I am 82 and these acronyms really throw me>

      • Laura says

        Hi Diana, I believe it stands for To Be Read 🙂

  5. 5
    Sarah says

    Do you have any suggestions for getting rid of books? I have a large collection of used books. Is donating the best route? Do you know of any good venues to sell them? I know of a local used place that will give me credits… for more books. It might be my best route because it isn’t a one-to-one ratio for credits, so I’d get new books and eventually run out.
    Unfortunately I know a lot more about finding good deals on buying books than getting rid of them!

    • 5.1
      christina says

      I donate mine to The Friends of the Library (at the library branch). They usually have a book sale once or twice a year and let people (here at least) take paperbacks that have been donated.

    • 5.2
      Susanne says

      I agree, the Friends of the Library of whatever your town names it is the best place. They will most all books except damaged or moldy books. My library has a small alcove where they sell books (and DVD’s!) year round and then about 3 times a year they have a huge sale.

    • 5.3
      Kalyn Brooke | Creative Savings says

      It’s honestly really hard to try and sell used books these days — the shipping fees and commission that Amazon takes make it NOT worth it! Definitely see if you can donate to a local library, or give some books to a friend. And if all else fails, I just stick them in a Goodwill box!

  6. 6
    Adrianne says

    Loved this! I could have written word for word. One question what do you do with the books you are not going to keep???

  7. 7
    Jodi says

    We downsized our book collection a few years ago. It was painful at first, especially as my mother is a librarian, then kind of freeing. Now I only buy books that I know I’ll use as references again and again, although I’m using my Kindle for that more and more.
    Great post!

  8. 8
    CTY says

    I think I’ll add your 5 star rating to my plan. This year I am borrowing the clothes hanger trick (turn the hanger around backwards & if it is still backwards at the end of the year/season it gets donated) for my books. I’ll be turning them around backwards and at the end of the year only the books that have been turned back around can stay. Also, because my son & finacee are in great need of cookbooks–the purge is on for cookbooks. I rarely reference the cookbooks anymore, especially with Menu Plan Monday.

  9. 9
    Ann says

    Ha ha, this is so timely for me! I was just looking at (one of my 4 or 5) bookcases & trying to talk myself into downsizing. There are so many books in there that I haven’t touched in forever.
    I will use your questions for clearing and downsizing my library. Thanks!

  10. 10
    FLO says

    I have one bookcase for the special books that I love and read over and over. Every once in a while I might come across a book I really enjoyed. But, then, I have to let something go to make room for it. What remains in that bookcase is what I absolutely would take with me if I moved. Other bookcases hold things that only there on a temporary basis like three shelves of cookbooks when I really use about one book from there. So, those shelves are easy to clear. I have several boxes of books given to me by a friend and as I finish reading one it goes into the give away box. Yes, I enjoyed reading it but I do not feel a strong connection to it. I am not likely to miss never seeing it again. Another helpful thing is that many of the books that used to be so precious don’t match the me I am right now. At the time they were really enjoyable. Now, decades later, I have moved on.

  11. 11
    Jana B says

    Your first question, “Would you give this book a 5 star rating?” really spoke to me. I might even use that question for other items I have a hard time parting with. Why keep things that you arent absolutely I love with!

  12. 12
    Marcia Francois says

    Your system is very similar to mine – I ask “is this book an 8, 9 or 10” and I only keep those ones.

    Fiction is really easy for me to get rid of but I keep the non-fiction.

  13. 13
    Susanne says

    A question that really helped me when I downsized my books, was in all seriousness, could I still read the size of the print. If not, you know I’m never going to look at that book again whether it was a favorite or not. If I couldn’t read the print comfortably, the book found a new home even if it broke my heart for the moment. Now that they are gone, I don’t even think about them.

  14. 14
    nicky at not my mother says

    I’ve just moved countries and I took the opportunity to cull my book collection massively instead of boxing and storing them. I was amazed how easy I found it to get rid of some novels I’ve hung onto for 15+ years! My problem has always been “but what if I want to read it again?” Well my tastes have changed and even if I do want to reread I can get them at the library or second hand. I kept really only the true favourites.I’m also loving my kindle.

    But now I have a new problem. I LOVE love love the look of bookshelves! So what do I put on them now??? 🙂

    • 14.1
      Kalyn Brooke | Creative Savings says

      Set aside 15-20 minutes, and do some Pinterest browsing! I am currently styling a couple shelves over my office desk, and the images I found on Pinterest were so helpful for my visual mind. I know I saw a ton of bookshelf styling tutorials on there as well.

  15. 15
    Sophia says

    I really enjoyed reading this! I’m also a reformed book “collector” (meaning once a book made it into my home it never left)! I thought a lot about why I kept so many of those books and wrote a post about it as well. I’d love it if you’d read it and let me know if this is how you feel about the book is you’ve let go too!
    Thanks for the great article Kalyn!

  16. 16
    Loftin says

    I am an elementary school teacher and also an incessant life-long hoarder (not like a TLC worthy hoarder, yet and no offense to those who are – I get it). I just have clutter everywhere I look and have been trying really hard to part with things I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT NEED but have a silly sentimental undying attachment to them. One huge issue is my children’s book collection. Some I’ve had since I was a kid, but I’ve also acquired a ton of new children’s books since I started teaching 10 years ago. I’ve taught 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. I’ve been in a kindergarten classroom and most recently a preschool classroom. Many different ages, interests, and reading levels means books of all sorts. I hate to get rid of them because I bought most with my own money over the years and never know if or when I might decide to change grades again. My main goal is to have an inventory system where I can access a certain book based on author, title, grade level, synopsis, or specific skills I can teach based on this certain book. I am unsure how to create my own book inventory into a successful and easy-to-use system. Any suggestions?
    I also LOVE bringing library books into my classes to share with the students but sometimes the books aren’t available. This is another reason I want my own library inventory. Thank you for all of your fantastic ideas and giving this 34 year old classic case of ADHD to the “nth” power some hope that organization and I can become best friends!

    • 16.1
      Mimi says

      Hi Loftin,
      I too have many books for youth & myself. I place them on my bookcases by category. I label that section of the bookcase- “parental love” or “bringing home a sibling,” or “manners,” “value of trust,” etc. I use a paint stick from the hardware store to go in place when I remove a book, so I know where to return it to. I haven’t done anything on a computer to organize my collection as I’m a visual person- so creating something to read, doesn’t work for me. Hope this gives you ideas about what might work for you.

  17. 17
    Lacy says

    I have kind of a different problem. I LOVE my books, they are my Friends. They are in pristine condition even though I have read them. I haven’t counted but I have “quite a few”. Kids want me to “get rid” of them but my question is HOW? Especially when I don’t want to! Are they control freaks or am I a just hoarding. How do you get rid of your friends?!

    • 17.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      Lacy it’s so hard, believe me I totally understand. I’m curious though why your kids want you to get rid of them? Do you have the room to store them? Because here’s the thing, yes I agree we should keep the things we love and use but we also must have the room to store them. So if you do have the room to store them, then it’s totally fine to keep your friends 🙂


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