January 8, 2015

Culling Your Shelves

Book culling. If you're a reader, you're probably familiar with this process. You know, when you finally admit that your bookshelves are just a bit too full and decide to weed out the books that you want to donate, share or sell. Unless you've got unlimited space, there's always an opportunity to clean our your shelves!

Since Alexa and I are committing to The Picky Pledge in 2015, we decided to cull our shelves before the end of the year. We wanted to start with as fresh a slate as possible! So today, I'm sharing how I cull books that I own and have read. These questions may not work for everyone, but I think they are a great place to start. While you're at it, don't forget to go visit Alexa's post. She's talking about how you can cull your TBR!

Before I get started, here are the three piles you'll be making as you sort your shelves:
  • KEEP: This book remains on your shelves.
  • MAYBEThis book is separated and placed in a bag, box or closet.
  • PASS: This book is removed to be sold, donated or given away.
Here are my guidelines for culling books that you've read from your shelves:
  1. All read titles will be up for consideration.
  2. Ask yourself: How did I feel about this book when I read it?
    • If it's a favorite, KEEP.
    • If you can't remember, MAYBE.
    • If you disliked it, PASS.
  3. Ask yourself: Do I want to re-read this book?
    • If you want to re-read it, KEEP
    • If you might re-read it, MAYBE
    • If you'd never re-read it, PASS.
  4. Ask yourself: Do I own another copy of this book?
    • If you don't own another copy, KEEP
    • If you own it in another format, MAYBE
    • If you own another physical copy, PASS.
  5. Ask yourself: Is there something special about this book?
    • If it's signed, KEEP
    • If it has sentimental value, KEEP.
    • If it is out of print or hard to find, MAYBE
    • If you didn't love it but it's a favorite author, MAYBE.
    • If you have no real attachment to it, PASS.
    • If you can't remember why you own it, PASS.
  6. Here are a few more ideas for how to decide whether or not to keep a book on your shelves:
    • Look back at your thoughts if you reviewed it. Refresh your memory, and see if it's worth keeping.
    • Check out the average Goodreads rating, and see what your friends think about it.
    • Read a few chapters, and find out if your feelings for it have changed.
    • If it's signed, be honest about whether or not it has any value or meaning to you apart from that. A signature doesn't mean it's guaranteed a spot on your shelves!
    • Consider whether you'd save this book if it were in danger of being damaged in any way. 
    • Picture your personal library, and pretend like you were going to tell someone what books they'd find there. Would this book be one you'd mention?
Now, it's pretty obvious what you're going to be doing with the books in your KEEP pile. Go ahead and stick those back on your shelves! If you're like me, it's the perfect excuse to re-organize your books... again. But what about the books in the MAYBE or PASS piles?

Let's tackle the MAYBE pile first. Separate them from the books you know you're keeping, and place them in a bag or a box. Then, stick them in a closet or somewhere out of the way. You're going to think about these books for a little bit longer. Give yourself a deadline - the length of time is totally up to you! When the time is up, re-examine the books using these same guidelines. Usually, by then, you know if you want to KEEP or PASS.

As for the PASS group, here are a few ideas on what to do with these books:
  • Do I know someone who wants to read this book? SHARE.
  • Does my public library or nearby school need or accept books? DONATE.
  • Will I get a decent amount of money for this book? SELL.
  • None of the above applicable? HOST A GIVEAWAY OR BOOK SWAP.
At the end of the day, culling your shelves is completely in your hands. If you unlimited space, just keep piling those books up! But if you're like most people, you'll have to sort through your books every now and then. Just remember: there's no right or wrong way to cull. And there's never a time limit on culling! You can keep something today and decide to donate it tomorrow. So, if you're new to this process - it's okay to be cautious.

I'm pretty ruthless when it comes to cleaning out my books. I enjoy the process because I know that 1) it frees up room on my shelves for favorite books and 2) I can probably find that book an even better home. I want to get it into the hands of someone who wants to, as Betty would say, firebox it. And personally, I want to keep books that have earned their place in my heart - and on my shelves!

Hopefully, these suggestions will help you clean out your shelves. Who wants to keep books just for the sake of having them?! And don't forget share your own culling methods or experiences - I know I'm not alone!

Do you cull your shelves?
How do you decide what to keep?

13 comments:

  1. How do I decide what to keep? WITH THIS AMAZING GUIDE, THAT'S HOW.

    (previously, I have no flippin' clue)

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  2. I cull my shelves ALL THE TIME. So fun. I'd make a profession out of helping people cull books if I could. Usually I'll cull in bursts. It's best when I have someone with me, whether they've read the books I'm thinking about giving away or not, for sounding board purposes. What's amazing is, every time I cull, I think that's it. I can't cull anymore. Then 4 months later I can't help but notice a bunch of books I don't need anymore, which just shows the hype machine is a killer. And that something can sound SO AMAZING one day and then sound unexciting the next.

    But, the truth is, instead of culling I usually sneakily try to create more bookshelf space with floating shelves or clearing off the top of a dressser or something so I can stack more books. It's an organized yet precarious situation because I need everything orderly but I also need ALL OF THE BOOKS.

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  3. This is great. Some finish copies I receive from publishers I read them and then I don't feel the need to keep them, but I haven't got them down to the library to donate yet. I also have some books I won through giveaways that I have read and just don't want to keep, but again haven't donated them yet. My hope is that I will get to that in 2015. Thank you for this post. If the book wasn't a favorite I should free some space up on my shelf.

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  4. I wish I'd had this guide when I went nutso several years ago and culled my shelves in such a horrible way, getting rid of several books that I've since either purchased again {ouch to the pocket book!} or looked at longingly at the used bookstore that I sold them to for $1. Definitely going to be using this when I'm able to do my next bookshelf culling.

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  5. I cleared out my bookshelves when I moved a couple of years ago, and only kept ~10 books. Having an e-reader has really simplified my life!

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  6. Oh gosh, I know I have to do a cleanup, but I don't know if I can get rid of any! Even if I didn't like them. I'm going to try though, because I have to reorganize my shelves and make more room. So this is a very helpful way of looking at culling your books and I'm going to have to try this! :)

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  7. This definitely helps to soften the blow of casting away one of your beloved... hahaha

    http://whatdoesmelthink.blogspot.co.uk/

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  8. I LOVE culling my shelves! I actually wrote a big long post about culling my goodreads shelves nearly a year ago (eep! I definitely need to do it again!) and last spring went through my physical shelves.

    I pretty much went about it exactly how your plan is laid out. A ton of my books were total impulse buys (brought on by both the shiny newness of bringing another book home and because of my discount at work. When you can get new hardback for $2 it becomes REALLY hard to say no). It was sad how many books I bought that I honestly forget about despite being gung-ho about them initially. I also found a ton of duplicates!

    I'm getting way better at saying no before buying, really thinking about the book - can I live without it? will I actually be able to read it soon or will it collect dust for the next six months? Still, they've piled up again and another round of culling is in order! :)

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  9. I cull a few times a year, and I love it. I like to think of it as curating. The more books I get rid of because I didn't care for them, the more my bookshelves represent my taste. Why would I want to stare at a bunch of books I didn't like, when I can stare at a smaller collection of books that are meaningful to me? I've actually gotten to the point that if I didn't like a book, I don't even put it back on the shelf; it goes straight into my "donate" box.

    These are all great tips! When I have a big box of books to get rid of, I take them to a used book store and sell what I can. Whatever they won't take goes to Salvation Army. Donating to a women's shelter or prison are also great options, but I haven't looked into them much yet.

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  10. I am so, so bad at this. And honestly, before getting into book blogging never got rid of any of my books. But now that the amount of books I acquire has basically exploded realized that I need to make it happen more often. I actually try to get rid of what I can through paperback swap. Except that means I earn a credit for a new book, which doesn't actually lessen my shelves. Of course I've found that not all the books I post to share aren't actually wanted, and at that point I wind up donating to goodwill.

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  11. I've never had any qualms over parting with books. I've moved a ton during my life, so I've always had to thin out my personal library collection to prepare for moving day. If I've read a book, then it's most likely being donated to the library, with the exception of books that I will always re-read (like Harry Potter) or books that created some powerful emotion in me when I read it. I also think to myself (as weird as it may seem), if I have a child, would I want to keep this for them so they can experience it?

    I rarely donate books I haven't read it because I keep telling myself I'll get there some day. I've held on to books for over a decade before finally admitting that I'm not interested in it anymore.

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  12. Great post! I really need to go through my books and see what I should keep, sell, or donate.

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  13. I love, love, love that we were able to post in tandem about culling books! While you and I generally cull on a regular basis, I think it's helpful to still have created some sort of guide for ourselves (and for others too, of course). These Keep/Maybe/Pass designations are perfect, and I think this will be helpful if we find ourselves stuck during the process of culling.

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