How to Downsize Books and Simplify Your Collection

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Are you trying to downsize and simplify your home but find it difficult or impossible when it comes to books? I hope that this article on how to downsize books will offer a few ideas!

How to Downsize Books and Simplify Your Collection

I want you to know that this is the blog post I NEVER thought I would write. I always told myself, I will never downsize my books. I will declutter everything else but books is the one thing that I’ve chosen to keep in large amounts.

But life changes. You grow, you mature, you move on. Books are still as important to me as they ever have been and I am not, and will not ever be an ebook user. I love the smell and feel of a real paper book in my hands.

But since we are planning on moving multiple times over the next couple of years. (Our family is going into full-time mission/pastoral work! More on that later.) I just can’t justify lugging around all of those books.

After I made the decision, once I started digging into my collection, things became much clearer and I’m happier with my book collection now than I ever have been before. Today I want to share with you my real (and sometimes hard) tips on how to downsize books.

Be Honest With Yourself

My first step to cleaning out my books was to simply be honest with myself and I asked these questions about the books I picked up.

  • Am I going to read this again?
  • Am I going to read this to the kids again?
  • Is this book worth keeping until the kids are old enough to read it?
  • Is this book in readable condition?
  • Is this a book that I will be annoyed with if I have to read it to the kids again?

I’m serious on that last one. If you are a parent that reads very often to your children, there are just some books that are so goofy and nonsensical I don’t ever care to read them again.

I went through each and every book on my shelves and asked myself these questions. Because if I don’t plan on reading the book again, why am I keeping it around? Side note — I did place a handful of books into my memory box that I didn’t plan on regularly reading to the kids (they are in rough condition) but I did want to keep for sentimental reasons.

Does This Bring Value to Our Lives?

Let’s face it, many (if not most) of the books available in this day and age do not bring value or morality or helpfulness to our lives. They are pointless, contain unhelpful information, or offer poor themes or storylines.

This was not as easy to ask as the other questions because, in order to answer, we literally had to have read the books. So if the book passed the first test and I thought we might read it again, it then had to pass this test. Once we do read it again, I’ve been monitoring the quality of the books.

  • Is this something that is helpful?
  • Is this something that teaches morality from a viewpoint that we agree with?
  • Is this something I would feel comfortable recommending to someone else?

AS we are reading through the remaining books, there are many books that still do not pass this test. They feature things like, children disrespecting their parents, or storylines that go in circles, or images/themes that I don’t find appropriate. These books are easy to remove from your collection when you find them but they will take more time to find.

I’ve found many book lists to be somewhat helpful in my quest to weed out the thorns in my children’s library of books, however no booklist is complete and it’s really up to you personally what you find encouraging and a good read so I will not link to lists here and leave this part up to your own discretion. I am happy to make some lists of our very favorite books in the future if that’s something you’d like to see.

Is This Something That Might Help Others?

The last category of books that I kept on my shelf was books that I thought might be helpful to others and that I may want to borrow out. Many of these books were on the topics of parenting, Biblical teaching, etc. Books that I may or may not read again soon but books that I really enjoyed, found helpful and wanted to keep on my shelf as my own personal lending library books.

These 3 simple ways to clean out your book collection may not sound like much, especially if you have a huge collection. But I’ve found them to be extremely helpful. I went from having thousands of books (yes, seriously) to a much smaller and more manageable collection.

Since the second step is an ongoing process, I know that I will still be cleaning out as we keep reading as well. But for now, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made and I know now that when we pull a book off the shelf, it will be one we all want to read and it will present a good or helpful message to me or my children.

And if you aren’t sure what to do with all of those books that you are cleaning out…. I donated every single one of ours to the local library. They will either put them in the catalog or sell them during their fundraiser booksales (it’s a community, not a public library).

More info on downsizing or decluttering:

Why You Don’t Have to Downsize to Live Simply

How to Organize and Downsize Toys, Games, and Movies

How to Declutter Sentimental Items

How to Declutter the Bathroom

Do you need to downsize books? Have you tried any of these steps?

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  1. Another option for your used books that need to go is to post them on For the cost of the postage, you can exchange your books for new to you books you may want later (even as gifts). They also have Swap a CD and Swap a DVD service. This won’t downsize your collection because it’s a trade; however, it’s a frugal way to treat yourself, your family, and others to new ideas and or music.

  2. I have that exact same vintage Little House box set! Found mine about 5-6 years ago at a yard sale for $2. Before that, I either had secondhand copies or borrowed from the library. Now that I have the box set, I donated the other copies to my library. They have a huge “friends of the library” booksale every fall. I’ll buy tote bags of books (bring your own!) for $2 per bag and then donate the books back when we’re finished with them or I pass them on to other families who might enjoy them.

    My local community center also has a “take a book/leave a book” bookshelf in its’ waiting area that I take our kids’ books to. I also use it to pick up new reading material or find something for the kids to read, again, donating when we’re done with them. I haven’t bought a NEW book in years LOL.

    1. How neat! That set used to be my moms and it was mine when I was growing up. I also love getting books from our local library booksale and I do the same…donate them back once I’m done unless I plan on reading them again.

  3. Regarding e-books. Just because you have an e-reader does not mean you never pick up a book again. If you are going to be moving around a lot in the next few years an e-reader makes a lot of sense. There are a number of sites on the internet to get free books and most libraries (at least in Canada) have an e-book lending library. I have a library of about 100 books on my reader, everything from cookbooks to classics to children’s books. I love it for travel especially.

    1. I have an ereader and have not used it since I got it a few years ago but maybe a handful of times. I just don’t think it’s something that’s for me. However I do know a lot of people that love it, especially for travel, like you mentioned!

  4. I read regular books and ereader. Ereader when in hospital and appointments. Books at home.
    When sorting my first question is… Is this personal or business? I am a retired chef but still sub for other chefs.. Cookbooks are like romance novels to me LOL. Then will I need this BEFORE it becomes out dated if business. Personal is easier for me to get rid of as we (4 daughters, 2 sons and some cousins) share books

  5. I down-sized our book collection a couple years ago. Like you, it was one of the last areas to “declutter.” I had quite the collection as well. I sold the children’s books for a “very reasonable price” to a teacher. Most of the others, I donated (a few went to friends etc.) It was difficult at first, but like the decluttering of other things, once done was wonderful. I now think prior to getting a book- is it one I will keep or pass on? Depending upon how I answer myself, helps determine if I actually purchase it and in what format/condition etc. What it boils down to is I give it more thought than just casually buying more books that stack up in my home.

  6. I find it so hard to get rid of books, but yes, even books need to be downsized sometimes. This is probably the area I downsize the least though!

  7. I have just begun some serious spring cleaning. As most of you here, that is the last thing I do–touching my books is like tearing away a part of me. LOL Still, I did do a “fair” job and plan to do it again later this summer. I found homes for a great many of my books which made me feel good. I usually don’t sell them–I love the sharing of the written word with whomever I can pass them on to.

    I had a Nook and used it as long as we were taking long cruising trips. We used Holland America for the best trips but we went so often I had soon read everything of interest in their libraries–the e-reader was a great way to go for me then. On the last trip, I had problems with the reader; B&N settled that but later the same problems popped up. I gave it up–to the electronics recycle. I really like to hold that book in my hand and see them on my shelves.

    Marissa, this is a great article.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this 🙂 And I agree with you about just passing the books along. It feels so much better, like you are sharing them with friends instead of giving up on them!

  8. Hi I am very much enjoying your website and content. I wonder if you would make some book recommendations for me and even some of your favorite children’s books? We homeschool our five and I love the Little House books too.