Learning to Let Go

I was that kid who brought in three Trader Joe’s bags of miscellanea for the Rube Goldberg project in eighth-grade physics, and I’ve been putting off cleaning my childhood bedroom because there’s just so much stuff to sort through. But being an out-of-state college student has forced me to be more mindful about the things I keep, because I hate paying for extra luggage and dorm rooms can be pretty small. While I don’t consider myself or an avid follower of the KonMari method (let alone anything more extreme), lately I’ve been pretty into the idea of minimalism and generally being more deliberate about my consumption and collection habits.ย 

So although I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by books, my personal collection has shrunk dramatically. Unless we’re counting ebooks, but the contents of my Kindle are a mess for another day. Though I’ve never been in the habit of buying a bunch of books, I do receive the occasional review copy or gift from friends / family, and once in a while I’ll drop by a bookstore or library sale. If I’m not careful, I gradually amass multiple TBR piles throughout my living space, so regularly sorting and cultivating my collection is an absolute must.

This post is part of Bookending Spring 2019, which is organized by Sam & Clo! Today’s prompt, “Learning to Let Go,” is hosted by Haley @ The Caffeinated Reader.


As I’ve already mentioned, I currently don’t have the storage space to hoard books, and on top of that my physical collection can be a logistical challenge for traveling between university and my parents’ house. Plus, as Haley mentions in the original prompt post, there are some books that you know you’ll never read (again)ย that are just taking up space.

So although I would love to have an Elinor Loredan library, books are meant to be loved! Think of Toy Story 3, where Andy donates his toys so that they can continue to have adventures and bring joy to their child. Or maybe it was the second? I rewatched the original several times but I’m honestly not even sure I’ve sat through the second and third in their entirety. No one benefits from that TBR pile in your room, but your donation could benefit people and communities who might not have equal access to books.



I declutter all my print books, regardless of whether I bought them, was gifted them, found them at my local library’s monthly sale, or can’t even remember their origin. That said, some books bypass the process if they have particular sentimental value โ€” The Little Prince, a Christmas present from my wonderful third-grade teacher; the Little House matched set, a gift from family friends and a childhood favorite series I revisit every few years;ย The Magic Half, the first book I ever bought for myself, at the Scholastic book fair in fifth grade; and so on.ย The remaining books all go through my sorting process, which I detail in the next section.


How & When?

It’s only this past year, when I started blogging and entering Goodreads giveaways, that I had print ARCs to contend with. It’s pretty easy for me to gather them up and ship them off for Kal’s international ARC program, Flapping Pages so that others can enjoy them; if I really love an ARC, I’ll likely eventually buy a finished copy to support the author anyway.

When I’m sorting the rest of my books, I take a (non-literal) page out of Marie Kondo’s book and start by gathering them all together โ€” the read-next stack by my bed, the neat rows on my shelves, and any that have been scattered throughout the house. Then I re-stack them into quick piles, trying not to overthink each decision: To Keep (Read), To Keep (TBR), To Give To My Brother [aka “I don’t want it enough to keep it, but I’m not ready to let it leave the house”], To Gift To Someone I Know, To Donate, Undecided.

Ideally I’d do this at least once a year, though as my time spent at home decreases it seems less and less urgent to use any of it clearing out my shelves. I know that I’ll definitely do this around graduation when I get my own permanent place, but I have a long while until then and honestly I don’t know if/when I’ll get around to it in the meantime. To be quite honest, getting work experience and studying takes priority for these next few years โ€” yet then again, I’ve been known to procrasti-clean/organize …

So what I’m saying is,ย I don’t have a set schedule for decluttering my books but I know it’ll eventually get done, and I’m okay with that.


A Final Note About eBooks

In theory, some of this also applies to ebooks. As far as I know they can’t be donated (lent, yes, but not transferred altogether) like print books, and I’ve found it a lot easier to get free ebooks so they tend to pile up quicker โ€” but they’re also easier to forget about, since they’re hidden away in my Kindle archive rather than glaring at me from the corner of my desk. So it’s equally important, if less urgent, for me to regularly declutter these as well.

But I have trouble with the finality of deleting them. For free ebooks/ARCs that I read and didn’t like, it’s a little easier since I haven’t spent any money and know I won’t get anything out of keeping them. But for ebooks I paid for and/or haven’t gotten around to, I can’t quite make myself throw them out (metaphorically speaking), soย for now I’ve resorted to putting them in a TBR collection to deal with later. It’s a band-aid, not a solution, but that’s where I’m currently at.

Do you have any tips for keeping your book collection under control? Or do you embrace the (book)dragon hoard? Does the source of a book (bought at a thrift store / preordered / gifted / etc.) influence how you feel about keeping or giving it away? Do you declutter your ebooks?

Also, I’m working on a post (possibly a series, depending on how many responses I get) for Mental Health Awareness Month, and I would love to get as many contributions as possible. Essentially it’s a collection of ~1oo word rants on any topic โ€” so if you have strong opinions or frustrations about anything at all, please share them with me! And if you’d like to help boost the tweet, that would be appreciated too!

32 thoughts on “Learning to Let Go

  1. The good thing about the Kindle for me, is I can remove something from my device, but still have it connected to my Amazon account (in the Archive) so it’s not on my device but if I ever want to go and find it again I can. I definitely relate to giving things to siblings when you can’t quite let them go but don’t want to keep them either…. haha oopsies.

    I couldn’t donate all of my books etc. after reading them though. That might be because I’m a big rereader though. I always donate the ones I didn’t like, though, because someone else might like them! (Either that or I give them to someone I know.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oh that’s a fair point about keeping things in your Amazon account but not on the device; my problem is that I tend to declutter in batches and it gets a little annoying to go through the multiple prompts every time to delete each book individually – but I’ve definitely taken advantage of that feature with ARCs!

      and hey, to each their own – it’s definitely good to be aware of your own habits, I imagine it saves a lot of time and heartbreak! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes I wish there was a function for selecting multiple books at once (either for moving into collections or deleting from device). Serious design fault that one.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. that’s definitely fair! the books I’m gifted are usually ebooks (so they’ll never know whether I still have it unless they ask point-blank, and they probably won’t) or either from my best friend (who has almost identical taste in books as me) or close family friends who realize that they have no idea what I do/don’t like to read, haha. but I definitely get attached to books just because I own them and they’ve been on my shelf, so I totally get where you’re coming from!


  2. I hope you get through your cluttered book collection soon! I donโ€™t have a huge amount of books but Iโ€™m nowhere near Marie Kondoโ€™s version either. Iโ€™ve been with my collection for years now and I canโ€™t bear to part from them! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There are a few books I want to get rid of because I will never finish the series and it bothers me to have only the first book, and one that I accidentally have two copies of, but I haven’t quite decided what to do with them. I’m currently leaning towards “give to cousins” for those I won’t reread and “donate to the library” for the duplicate, but there is one first-edition hardcover I might sell. Depends. All the others I’d never get rid of because I love having a small SFF library too much.

    I do delete ebooks I’m not going to reread off my kindle, but I keep backup copies on my pc where space is cheap and plenty. I don’t see the point in deleting them entirely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it’s so weird that digital files (in this case books) are technically easier to get rid of, but emotionally I have trouble completely letting them go – when I do get around to decluttering them I’ll probably download and save mine too! but it definitely is satisfying to have a small, carefully-curated personal library of books I enjoy, so I totally get you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. First, thank you for the Flapping Pages boost!!! You were one of the first donors to the program and I am eternally grateful for you.

    I am a minimalist and have been for a long time. I just like things to have a purpose and meaning behind them, and with my MI most often manifesting in not tidying up it is useful to not have excess clutter around. But with books I have always been kind of a hoarder… when I bought new shelves last year and went through my collection, I found so many books I had from HIGH SCHOOL that I hated. I graduated in 2002. Why do I still have a copy of Grapes of Wrath? I’ve since donated two boxes of books to my local library, and I am due for another purge once I get my unread tbr a bt under control.

    You bring up a really good point about kindles, though. Because mine is a MESS! Like, anxiety inducing. I have to delete my bookbub and kindle deals emails now because I can’t be trusted, and I will probably never read most of these books. I need to do a cleanup but for some reason it is so hard to let go digitally? because it just ceases to exist… you can’t pass it on to a charity shop. I wish we could donate kindle books to libraries hmmm

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Flapping Pages is awesome and I will continue to boost it every single chance I get! thank YOU for all the work you put into it ๐Ÿ’•

      GRAPES OF WRATH IS THE WORST BOOK I HAD TO READ FOR SCHOOL, and I HATED Of Nightingales That Weep and so many others. in that regard my school does good though, they’d give us the option of ordering our own copy in case we wanted to annotate (especially with Shakespeare) and the teacher could get a bulk discount, but otherwise we’d take a class trip to the library on the first day of the unit and check out copies – otherwise I’d definitely still have all of them still lying around!

      donating Kindle books would be AMAZING. maybe (hopefully) someday soon ๐Ÿคž


  5. I have to say, I am CONSTANTLY taking books off the carousel on my kindle fire but I have yet to actually go through and take a lot off the Kindle and that needs to happen because if it were a physical bookshelf, things would be pouring out of it at this point! Somewhere the shame gif is being used on me But I love how you do pass on books to your brother and that you too have the struggle of the whole I have a dorm and a room at home. I didn’t realize that I had soooo many books until they were all gathered in one place because I’d been spread out between wherever I was currently living and my parent’s and even a storage unit!

    Also, I totally agree with Kal, I wish we could donate ebooks to libraries, how amazing would that be? And you can bet with some of these ARCs I’m getting that they’ll be passed onto Kal’s awesome program. It made me so happy that you did the prompt and that your post was so awesome! Thanks for sharing your process of letting go!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you for the awesome prompt and lovely comment, Haley! ๐Ÿ’• sometimes I imagine what my room would look like if I collected all my books and if all my ebooks poofed into physical form … it’s not pretty. (I mean on the one hand it is because BOOKS, but also my anxiety would be going off yikes)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s actually quite a neat way of doing that…
    I’m one to reread my books.. alot. and my library is quite smoll to start with xD (compared to some others, let’s say) and I take LOTS of time before being a book, in fear I wouldn’t like it and such … though i’ve been raised with my dad never saying no to me when I wanted a book because well, a book is never a lost of money! So I have very few like that that I no longer wanna read/contemplate or won’t ever get to.

    However! the two I had remaining (my night circus french copy got mailed to another girl), I just brought them to work with me as we have a free library thingy. sadly.. they were still there when I checked today — which is kind of what I expected as they are french books and well .. that’s not the “norm” here, though we are a bilingual province.
    Both were books I had unread on my tbr still, which I tried one time each to read but ohlord.. it went wrong xD one was from France french and WAY too complicated for my brain, while the other kept going back and forth between two split universe and.. shit I ended up halfway not KNOWING what I was reading, so I just gave up xd

    Liked by 1 person

    1. that’s awesome that your dad would buy you whatever books you wanted! your free library at work sounds pretty cool too, though it’s disappointing (even if not surprising) that no one’s picked up the books you donated, but maybe someday? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I like giving my books to charity shops and I did a big unhaul a couple of years ago before I left for university โ€“ but with all the books I’ve had to buy since then, my bookshelves are back to being full, so I think I’m going to need to revisit my book organisation spaces.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am actually somoene who is trying to build a personal library. Maybe not to Beauty and the Beast extent but I would love to have a room dedicated to just books in my future house! However, at the same time I also don’t really want to keep books in my personal library that I don’t like. So I am all for having many books, but many books I enjoy or intend to read. So a few weeks ago I unhauled 126 books which were all print that I didn’t like. I read ebooks a lot! So if I love an ebook I do then go and buy a physical copy to add to my collection. But that way I pick up fewer books I don’t like for my future personal library x

    My recent post: https://oliviascatastrophe.com/2019/04/the-influential-author-book-review/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oh wow, I don’t know if I even have 126 books in my current collection ๐Ÿ‘€ I’ve definitely been thinking about the ebook-first approach to keep the hypothetical future personal library manageable, and absolutely agree about only keeping books that I enjoy …… unless they’re very very pretty or part of a set/series ๐Ÿ˜œ

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  9. Am that selfish person who can never seem to part away with her books and at the moment it easy for me cause they are 98% e-book what I usually do is delete it from my device but I still have the copy on my account. To physical books am at the place when I don’t buy them unless I read the e-copy which I really love cause I don’t want to keep books that I don’t 100% like.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Since I’ve moved away, I haven’t had the time to go through my library at home. I’m hoping to have a long weekend soon just so I can clear out my library. Any books with sentimental value and favourites are kept on. I agree with your thoughts on ebooks. They’re harder to delete and manage. Many of my ebooks were bought when they were on sale of 0.99 USD or 1.99USD yet I still feel reluctant to let them go. Sometimes I buy a ebook just to see if I’m unsure whether I’ll enjoy a book.

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  11. I hoard. I just really like collecting things and books are no exception, I know I should get round to decluttering some of them but honestly the majority I’ll end up keeping anyway cause erm…I like having them on my shelves. It helps my memory trigger back to reading it so it’s easier for me remember the story and where i was when reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

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