Shelf Awareness: How to Decide What Books to Get Rid Of

If you’re anything like me, getting rid of books is one of the hardest things you have to do as a reader. I just love having bookcases packed full of books all around my apartment. It really doesn’t even matter if my shelves include books I disliked or most likely won’t ever read again, I just enjoy seeing them all lined up and pretty. It’s my brand.

Let’s be honest though, what you see in that picture is a problem. My shelves are getting to the point where they are so unruly that they look horrible and probably are becoming a hazard with how precariously things are stacked on them. When my shelves become overflowing with books I tend to get complacent and throw a whole bunch of other things on them too that don’t really have any other home (like that carbon monoxide detector that belongs on the wall but I’ve been too busy reading to hang). Because of this mess, I figured it was time to start considering a major unhaul. But how do you decide what books to get rid of when you honestly just want to keep them all?

This is a topic that everybody is going to approach differently, so of course I went to Twitter to find out what some of my book friends thought. There was a pretty general consensus among everybody that a good place to start is by purging the books you simply didn’t enjoy. As somebody who likes the aesthetic of books no matter what they are, this is hard for me to do, but even I can admit that there isn’t really a point to keeping something you don’t like.

The second sentiment that the majority shared was that they get rid of books they don’t see themselves rereading. This is one that I absolutely cannot go by because I’m a very big ‘what if’ person. In theory it sounds great, and I’m glad that a lot of people can use this rule of thumb to help clear their shelves, but for me the potential of rereading a book is always there. I really don’t revisit things too often, but I love the idea of it, so maybe someday I’ll change and be glad I kept all those books.

Probably my favorite response was from somebody who asks themself whether or not they would give it to a friend who asked for it. I am such a huge gift giver (seriously, y’all, I want to be rich just so I can shower everybody in presents) so this is definitely a method that could potentially work for me! Another thing you could ask yourself, if you are’t a person that would just give a book from your collection to somebody, would be if you loaned it out and it wasn’t returned would you be devastated? If the answer is no maybe it’s time to let it go, but if the answer is yes it might be a good idea to hang onto it.

During this next week I’ll actually be attempting a major book purge. I’ll be taking before and after pictures of all my bookcases as well as doing a total count of all books owned before and after the purge. Stick around to see how successful I am or more realistically how badly I fail.

[Related – Shelf Awareness: KonMarie My Bookshelves (Major Book Unhaul!)]

How do you decide what books to get rid of and which ones to keep? Do you have any tips for somebody wanting to clean out their collection? Let me know in the comments and check out last week’s post on what to do when you’re out of shelf space!

Shelf Awareness is an ongoing series where I tackle our beloved bookshelves and talk about various things that go on with them. Have something you think fits into this category you want me to cover? Let me know in the comments!

16 thoughts on “Shelf Awareness: How to Decide What Books to Get Rid Of”

  1. I hate unhauling books, it’s hard to make those decisions. If I do decide to get rid of books, it turns out to be way less than I was expecting. Sometimes we need to do it though, give some space to other potential favorites!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great post! I really struggle with getting rid of books. If I absolutely despised a book I will usually donate it to the library, but otherwise…ugh, BOOKS! They’re like my children. 😛 I’ve gotten even worse about this since I have a niece and nephew I want to have a kids’ section for too!


    1. Oh, thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it! I totally relate to them being like your children. And yes! I have a hard time not saving EVERYTHING for my son to potentially read some day. His little library in his room is absolutely overflowing and of course he only has his favorite ten books and refuses to read anything else haha.


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