Downsizing, or Can’t I Just Keep Them All?

To Weed, or Not to Weed:  Is that really the question?

As a library media specialist, I make weeding decisions: books that are in poor condition, outdated, contain inaccurate information (can you say “Pluto”?), or that haven’t been checked out in years – these must go to make room for new books. However, making decisions about books to weed from my personal collection? Not as easy.

This Christmas, my husband and I decided to gift the family with a new living room. We literally sold all the furniture we had (including a three piece wall unit with 10 bookshelves) to make room for a new, and might I say, much more inviting living space. I love the spacious, uncluttered look of the room, but it required me to box up hundreds of books and begin making decisions.

The first round through my weeding, I was able to let go of  five boxes of books – and I took them almost immediately to Goodwill so that I wouldn’t have time to change my mind.

In Search of Weeding Criteria

I love books on organizing and clutter control.  None of those went to Goodwill, and some are currently stuffed into boxes with the hundreds of other books with which I couldn’t bear to part.  The others? (Clearing throat here.)  They have their own shelf on one of the six bookcases downstairs.  Ironically, that shelf cannot now be accessed without moving the seven boxes of books that joined the party from the living room.

So, this weekend I decided to investigate the ebooks our public library offered and found The Clutter Cure. In it  author Judi Culbertson shares “The Top Ten Reasons to Let a Book Go”:

“1. You couldn’t get into it…

2. You enjoyed the book, but you know you’ll never read it again…

3. Your interests have changed…

4. The information is outdated…

5. The book is attractive but too general…

6. You mistakenly think the book is valuable…

7. The book is falling apart physically…

8. You don’t have room to display your books without looking cluttered…

9. The best thing about the book is that it is inscribed to you…

10. You don’t love it.”

~p. 52-53

Although this is great advice, it didn’t turn on any light bulbs.  I had already used quite a bit of these strategies in the first round of  my weeding process.

Still Looking….

That’s why I was pleased to find the N.Y. Times article “Books You Can Live Without” this morning.  Authors Francine Prose, Billy Collins, David Matthews, and  Jane Smiley share their criteria for weeding their personal libraries.   These authors have inspired me to march myself downstairs and get to work.

However, in all fairness, two other authors were interviewed for the article.  Their stories must be heard, but I cannot focus on them, or all is lost.

Author Joshua Ferris’s personal philosophy about books:  “Get rid of a book? No way. Every one is a brick keeping the building standing. Books are my life. I leave and come back, and the books I find there tell me I’m home.”

The other author interviewed for the article, Chang-rae Lee, says, ”  Although periodically I have fits of discarding all sorts of sentimental flotsam like old note cards and photographs and perfectly decent dress socks, I can’t bring myself to get rid of even a book I dislike, perhaps because I read “Fahrenheit 451” at an impressionable age. Still, there are too many books in our house, a good number of them not chosen but sent or given to me, and so here’s some I’d cull…”

Then Lee proceeds to share the criteria he would use if he were to pare down his personal library.  Sigh….

I’ve Put It Off Long Enough

I could go downstairs, shove those boxes of books over, and look to see what advice my organizing and decluttering books offer on weeding personal libraries.  But that would just be delaying the inevitable.

As one of my favorite television hosts says, “I’m going in, people!” (Neicy Nash, Clean House)


Because every bibliophile wants their books to have good homes, I’m going to sponsor a contest.  The prize?  A book (of your choice from ten that I will list) shipped free to your home.  (Sorry, U.S. residents only.)

Complete this form by midnight EST, December 30, 2009 to be entered into the contest.  The winner will be announced on the blog on December 31, 2009.


4 Responses to “Downsizing, or Can’t I Just Keep Them All?”

  1. Doug Johnson Says:

    My one and only criteria for weeding my personal collection is: Might I ever have a problem finding this book again to read? If a book is readily available from a public library, from a new or used book store, or online, I don’t really need to keep it. Of course I keep books with sentimental value, but that’s something different – book as object, not as content.

    All the best,


  2. Fran Bullington Says:

    Thanks for sharing your criteria for weeding your personal collection. This is an excellent question for me to apply. Based on it, I can feel free to part with most of the fiction I have collected over the years.

    One source I recently read attributed some packrat tendencies (as far as books, movies, and music are concerned) to our society’s need for instantaneous access; many Americans are impatient and don’t feel they should have to wait for anything – if you own the book now, why give it up? You might want to reference it or reread it in the future and it might be checked out of your public library, and – heaven forbid – you would have to request a hold on it.

  3. Doug Johnson Says:


    Bulging bookcases also give one the appearance of intelligence – so long as no one looks too closely at the titles!

    Have a good holiday. Hope you got some books for Christmas. I did!


  4. Book Contest « Informania Says:

    […] my last post, I announced a contest, the winnner of which receives the book of his/her choice from the list […]

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