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Decluttering books

If ever there was a time to catch up on your backlog of unread books, this pandemic is it. Whether you’re staying safe at home or working from home, time has opened up for most of us. No commuting, groceries delivered – it’s like we jumped a century or so to a more leisure-filled time. With all those extra minutes, how’s your to-read pile looking?

Have you opened any of the books you’ve been meaning to read? Getting the vaccine gives us a deadline – how many pages can you read until you get your shots? If you decide to take this challenge, notice what happens when you reach for a book you’ve been meaning to read. Do you dive right in or do you find yourself continuing the search for a better book ? How many times does that have to happen before you consider the possibility that you don’t want to read these books you’ve been saving to read?

If you find yourself powering through your to-read pile, then that’s a decluttering win too. Now you know which books you want to keep. Keep an eye on whether you get excited about reading them but then don’t find the time to do so. If that happens, pick one randomly and start reading. Sometimes a few minutes in, you’ll remember why you didn’t get very far last time you tried. Other times, getting past the first few pages is all to takes to discover a book you love.

What to do with the books when you realize you don’t want to read them after all? The simplest solution is to donate them to your nearest thrift store or library bookstore. If you want to explore more specific options, check out this comprehensive article on how to donate your books by my colleague Julie Bestry. 

READ MORE >>> Three games to help you declutter books

READ MORE >>> How to declutter and organize

by Lucy Kelly


  1. I love to read. Sometimes it’s just for the information. Then there are other times, when my thoughts and emotions are charged and the book I am reading instantly brings me to a faraway place.

    There have been stories that I’ve read,
    when I completely took my time and read the passages over and over so I wouldn’t miss a word. I don’t know how I could possibly put a time limit on that. The books that we truly love are our treasures.

    1. So true, Ronni. I discovered I have a bizarre habit of ploughing through the books I don’t really care for so much to get to the books I cherish and adore. Giving myself a deadline to get through the dead wood so I can focus on the treasures has been a revelation!

  2. During the pandemic I decided to spend my Saturday mornings reading in bed. I love it so much that I do it on Sundays now too. That way I’m able to get through books faster because I read for just short spurts of time during the week.

  3. I love the feel of a physical book so I tend to buy the ones I know I want to keep. Others, I read on Kindle. If the bookshelf becomes too crammed I do some editing a take those which didn’t make the cut to the local Community Action Center. It has limited hours but they really appreciate donations so I make an effort to take my books there.

  4. Lucy- One of my goals this year is to read more (and watch less.) I love reading. And while I read last year, I wanted to read even more this year. You mentioned the piles. Yes. We own a lot of books, but I also get new ones. I like to buy them because I make notes and write in them. So the stack next to my bedside was building up again. But I’m happy to report that as of today, I have finished two from the pile and am halfway through a third. My motivation isn’t necessarily clutter or number related. It’s more about leaning into the enjoyment I get from reading. The bonus is that the pile is getting smaller, and that feels good. I can see my clock again.

  5. I mostly read books on my Kindle now or listen to audiobooks on Overdrive. Because books take up so much space, it is worth thinning out your collection to include only those you actually want to read. I love our library, and they’ve done a great job throughout all of this, but returning books isn’t easy. We can only return on weekends. I love the way you opened this post. The pandemic WILL end. I need to keep reminding myself of this… and also turn off the news sometimes.

    1. It’s been fascinating to me how different libraries across the country are handling this pandemic. Ours was shut for a few months and then went to curbside pick up/drop off only and now we can drop off at any time but books aren’t checked in for 72 hours. And yes, it WILL. Remember all those classes in high school about the Spanish Flu? Me neither. This too will pass. Staying out of the news cycle is a smart way to handle the wait.

  6. I had a dozen books out of the library when the pandemic hit, and once I finished all of them, the library was still closed, so I started in on all of the unread books in my house, which took me through the end of the year. I still have two novels (down from a few dozen) and a handful of professional/business books (down from many dozens). Perfect timing now that the library has curbside pickup.

    Thanks for linking to my post!