Learning to Let Go — of Books

Do you have a collection of books on your shelves, or on your nightstand or even sitting stacked in odd places? What would you do if you had to let go of most of them? Stacey @ Adventure Wednesdays came across this issue recently in the process of downsizing her home for a cross-country move. Here she shares her advice for letting go of one’s precious items:

Books are inanimate objects, and on the surface, appear easy to declutter. My dad even noted that it is so easy to get any book you want online. Heck, he could even get his college textbook (from 60+ years ago) in digital format. So, the need for that hard cover book, or even that portable paperback, has started to become irrelevant.
However, learning to let go of my collection of books, was an adventure – a true challenge with a great deal of emotional baggage to overcome.

(Want your own Nancy Drew collection? Start here (via my Amazon Affiliate program) https://amzn.to/2PG9TDn)

Books represent having the time to read them and to digest them. They carry wisdom, laughter, pain, the past and the present.

Reading books as a kid was my escape from what was, at times, a chaotic environment, and helped to soothe the awkwardness of growing up. I developed relationships with certain characters, like Nancy Drew (a popular mystery series), who was an 8-year-old like me, but with driving privileges! I’m sure if Harry Potter had been around when I was young, I would have sought refuge in that world too. As an adult, I have many favorite authors and book series that offer a similar escape. How can you let go of friends like these?

One realization helped me let go of these dear friends: I was able to accept letting go of beloved books, knowing they are still a part of me.
Even though I donated my hundred-plus collection of the Nancy Drew Mystery series to the library when I was in middle school, I still have my favorite Nancy Drew characteristics as a part of who I am all these years later. It’s what’s in the books that matters most.

Packing books is hard. They take up a lot of room. They also collect dust when they sit around untouched for years. Many books are made in way that the pages yellow and get brittle. From the boxes stored in the attic and in the basement, from the shelves in my living room, in my bedroom and in my kitchen – there were hundreds to sort through. Here is the sorting process I used. You can adapt it as needed.

I went through them all. Enjoyed the memories. For the last several years, when searching for recipes, I have relied on the internet. I realized I hadn’t referred to a cookbook at all, despite the dozens on hand. My dietary needs have also changed, and many of the cookbooks I had kept offered recipes for dishes I could no longer eat. So, I decided which ones were clean enough to donate or give away, and off they went.

I used to work at Scholastic, and so I had tons of kids’ books. Many books in my collection were my own favorites as a child (including two that were illustrated by my mother’s cousin). I went through the classics with the question “would I want my future grandchildren to read these?” These special books went into a “save” box, marked in large letters so they won’t accidentally be thrown out.
Also stashed away, I found the collection of Harry Potter books I’d shared with my children. I searched online and discovered they could be worth some money. These went in a box for a future “let go” session. Then again, maybe those books will help fund my future grandchildren’s education.

Going through novels I’ve enjoyed through the years was harder. These are the ones whose stories and voices have become part of my own personal fabric. Many I let go with the knowledge of the ease of digital access. I had to be ruthless with many others in that collection, letting go of the hoped-for time to read them. Calling on the Marie Kondo method, I used the gratitude style of decluttering – thanking them for being in my life, and letting them go.

My favorite inspirational books were in the biggest bin. These are not just the self-help books, but ones about travel and adventure, a focus of my decluttered life. I am still attached to many of them. I still refer to many of them. My desire to read or re-read some of them is still strong.
So, I carefully packed these in a mouse-proof and water-resistant bin. They are safely stored away for now. I know that in time, I will have to go through these again and let go of more of them, but this is another strategy I employed- being gentle with myself. Being okay with not getting rid of everything, right now.

While letting go of books can be an emotional process, there are steps you can take to make it easier as well as feel good about it.
Give books to friends – Rehome books with willing friends whom you think will enjoy a particular author or genre.
Give them away for free – Use a local giveaway social media venue like Facebook to offer your books to others, place them in a Little Free Library, or donate them to a cause you support..
Sell them – In some cases, your books can be resold on platforms like Amazon. Use this strategy if you have the time and inclination.
Repurpose books that cannot be sold or donated. Pinterest has many cool ideas for this!

Sorting through your books can be hard. Or you can see it as an adventure. Take your time. Have a goal in mind. In the process, you will learn a lot about yourself, and what is important to you.

Are you inspired to go on the adventure of culling your book collection? What are your feelings about your books, your collections? Have you packed and unpacked them many times? What methods have you used to let them go?

We would love to hear your ideas, and if you need help with the process, give Queen B Organizing a call!

With thanks to original blogger, Stacey Newman Weldon @ Adventure Wednesdays