Harry Potter paperback books

Can you donate parts of a set or a collection?

Absolutely. Feeling like you have to have all the parts of a collection can be a fast track to a cluttered house. Breaking up a set is a great way to keep only the things you love want and need.

Book of the month club was a genius marketing idea

The binding was always the same, so the books looked like they belonged to each other. A collection grew and grew and grew. Nowadays, the books keep their original covers but there’s still that logo at the top of each book to signal its place in your collection.

Maybe your parents were avid Book of the month club people and so now the tomes sit on your shelves too, or in boxes, waiting to be dealt with.

Maybe you’ve come across the same issue yourself as your kids collected all the Sweet Valley High books or your family was all about the Berenstain Bears books.

We assume we should keep a set together, so the ancient Encyclopedia takes up two shelves and the Harry Potter series are always lined up together in book order.

But the Harry Potter series got darker and scarier as the series went on, and once you’ve read them all, you might find that you reread the first three books but don’t want to revisit the later volumes. You still use the first three, but the rest have become clutter.

Or the first few books are boring but you’re drawn to the last four books.

Sending the ones you don’t read to the thrift store gives you some wiggle room on the shelves. And yes, your set will be incomplete and that’s okay.

A collection doesn’t have to be permanent.

You can donate incomplete collections

You have no moral obligation to provide a complete set of anything to the thrift store or anywhere else you donate.

It’s fine to donate a chair without the foot rest, and then to donate the foot rest without the chair when you uncover that months later.

Send them your set of three glasses, five spoons and six dinner plates. You’re not responsible for making sure things stay together.

What happens to your donations

When donations arrive at the thrift store, they’re put in categories. Your dinner plates rub shoulders with all the other dinner plates. People hunt around and choose what they want to buy. Even if you donate a full set of dishes, it’s entirely possible that someone will buy just one setting, or one fork and leave the rest.

And that’s okay. The things you’ve released to the world will find the homes they’re meant to be in now. You don’t have to shepherd them throughout the rest of their natural life.

Enjoy what you have while it’s useful to you and then let it be useful for someone else. If you have a set of twelve adorable penguin figurines, it’s more than okay to keep one or two as a reminder of how cute they are and then send the other 10 off to the thrift store.

Unless you enjoy dusting little china figurines. Or it adds to the pleasure for you to reread every series of books from soup to nuts. In which case, let the collections continue.

You’ll find something else that’s clutter.

Maybe for you, it’s keeping the sets and letting all the stray ones go. So you’ll hold onto that Harry Potter series but let the stand alone books find a new reader once you’re done.

As always, it’s what works for you and supports your ultimate goal: A clutter free, organized home where you can easily find the things you love, want and need.

READ MORE >>> How to declutter and organize

READ MORE >>> Best places to donate

by Lucy Kelly


  1. Great timing. I have been struggling with “family treasure” books especially a 26 book collection of artist books a Time Life collection . So heavy to move and can carry 3 at a time to the garage. As soon as I put some energy into it I decided to donate them to the Jefferson cty. Whale of a sale but they only take donations on Mon and tues. and only 6 boxes. I mentioned to a neighbor my delima and she told her daughter who said she would like them and come to chose which ones. There goes the set.
    When she saw them all and their beautiful condition she took them all. Moral of the story put the energy into it and let them go. Thanks for your energy.

  2. You give such great advice in this piece, Lucy. I like to remind my clients that even if they can only find one shoe – go ahead and donate it because there maybe someone with just one foot who needs a shoe! You never know. The point, as you so wisely state, is to create wiggle room and space in your home. Donate as much or as little of a collection that makes sense to you.

  3. Another thing – when my kids were small, dishes were always getting broken, so I decided to buy them at a thrift store, making sure none of them matched so I wouldn’t have to worry about having an incomplete set. We lived like that until we were empty nesters. Now we use good dishes every day. 🙂

  4. Thank you for this! I have a number of books which had been my mother’s. I’ve been hesitant to break up sets, but I’ve started by letting go of a couple of books by the same author that aren’t in a matched set. As the collection gets smaller, it will be easier to part with even more.

      1. Exactly! I run into this a lot at the library where I volunteer by pricing and sorting donated books for sale. I hate to put a 10-volume numbered set — missing one volume — into the used book sale, but I do it anyway. If they really want to replace the missing volume they can search online for single volumes. But I don’t hesitate to put a single, orphan volume into the sale because you never know who’s looking for it!

  5. Well AMEN to this! I run into this a lot. I love what you are saying.. picture someone rummaging around a book collection who only wants Harry Potter 4 (which was my favorite!). The set gets dismantled at that point anyway. We don’t need to have an entire set together in order to donate because buyers aren’t necessarily looking for an entire collection. The key is to keep what you want and move the rest out, in whatever form works for you.

  6. This is such good advice, because fear of separating members of a set not only keeps people from donating what amounts to clutter, it leads them to throw things in the landfill if they can’t find all the parts. It’s important to remember that some people are actually searching for just one element. I had a client sell a car and realize she’d done so without having given dealership the special back-back seats for the old station wagon. She managed to put them up on Facebook marketplace, and not only was someone willing to take them off her hands, but they wanted to pay her! Just because it seems like (or is) a set doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. In the 1940s and 1950s, it was the style to just buy one teacup and saucer and have lots of them in mismatched collections, and people with uniform sets were seen as old-fashioned. I love that you covered this!

    1. Yes, and kids around age 7 still love wearing mismatched socks (and some never stop), so I always encourage people to donate their odds socks if they’re in good shape. Likewise with the earrings, especially studs. People have any number of piercings anymore, and your lone earring may be just what someone is looking for.

  7. So often we need ‘permission’ to let something go. We can get stuck in the ‘right way’ to release something or how it ‘should’ be done. But that’s not the case, and you so beautifully encouraged letting go even if it’s a partial collection. Release the black and white thinking. Instead focus on holding on to what’s meaningful and useful, and saying bye-bye to the rest.

  8. Lucy, I love this post! You are so right that you don’t have to keep collections together. There are often people searching thrift stores or online for just certain parts of a collection, such as a certain volume of a book, so donating or selling those things that you’ll never use again is a very good way to declutter.