How To Reduce And Downsize Your Book Collection When You Need To Move

Need to downsize or declutter your book collection? Here are the steps I took that helped us tackle our monstrous book collection, which consisted of over 500 books.

By Annie André ⦿ updated January 10, 2024  
how to Minimize your book collection before you pack them and move
how to Minimize your book collection before you pack them and move

Whether you’re moving to the next city or to another country when you move, sometimes you have no other choice but to downsize your book collection.

Here are the steps I took that helped us tackle our monstrous book collection, which consisted of over 500 books.

You can never have too many books until you need to move.

It broke my heart, but we had to do it.

We were leaving our friends and our lives behind in California to start fresh on the East Coast, and we needed to declutter and downsize before the move.

We were moving in with my Aunt in Montreal temporarily until we found jobs and a new place we could call home.

You might be interested in How We Ended Up Living In France with Our 3 Children.

See also: How we downsized all our stuff before we put them in storage

how to Minimize your book collection before you pack them and move

Lessons I learned to help you minimize your book collection (almost stress-free)

Collectively, my husband and our three children had enough books to open up a small used bookstore.

We had about a month to declutter our entire house and reduce our colossal book collection, which, on the surface, sounded easy but wasn’t. 

Decluttering and minimizing your possessions can be overwhelming and make you feel anxious and defeated, especially when it comes to downsizing and getting rid of books, which can be some of the most sentimental things we own. 

Brace yourself; it won’t be easy to part with certain books, let alone entire boxes filled with books. 

Here are my best tips to help you minimize your book collection and not stress about it. 

1) Start early in the morning.

You’re the freshest and most clear-headed in the morning. Going through piles of books is daunting, but going through books you cherish is doubly daunting. Don’t wait until the end of the day when you’re exhausted from the day’s activities. 

2) Break it up over time

If you’re new to decluttering and minimizing, build momentum slowly by dedicating an hour a day over several days or weeks. 

3) Stay hydrated and take breaks

If you’re on a time crunch and need to declutter your book collection in a day, make sure you take breaks to rehydrate and fuel your body. In my experience, low blood sugar and dehydration are your enemies. They leave you feeling grouchy and dazed. It is not a good state of mind for decluttering if your mind is cluttered. 

4)  Clear a large area on the floor:

This is where you’ll start putting books into designated piles. 

5) Attack your book collection by category groups

If you have a huge book collection, chances are you’ve organized your books into categories. That’s how you should start going through your books. 

For example, when we downsized our book collection, we started with cooking books, craft books, coffee table books, sci-fi books, magazines, school books etc. 

6) Put your books into one of three piles

  1. Keep
  2. Get rid of
  3. Maybe / Unsure

Ask yourself, do you really want to keep this book? If it sparks joy for you, put it confidently into the keep pile. 

If it doesn’t, put it in the “get rid of” pile. 

If you’re not sure, put it in the maybe / not sure pile, which you can decide on later. 

I highly recommend you read Mary Kondo’s organizing and decluttering book, which really has changed my life. 

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

The book that sparked a revolution and inspired the hit Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo:

Mary Kondo is a Japanese cleaning and organization consultant who's method of organizing is known as the KonMari method. It consists of gathering all your belongings, one category at a time, and keeping only those things that "spark joy". 

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02/19/2024 04:46 am GMT

7) Give your used books a second life

Move all the books which you are not keeping to the side out of the way. Rather than throwing them away, give them a second life. Donate them to a library, school, daycare, or Goodwill.

Alternatively, you could try trading them in at a bookstore for credit or money or sell them at a garage sale. 

If all else fails, recycle them. 

You’ll feel better that they didn’t end up in the trash. 

8: Get SMALL boxes (not big ones)

Books are heavy. We made the mistake of choosing boxes that were too big. When it came time to move them, we almost broke our backs lifting them. I couldn’t even lift some of the books. 

Don’t even think about filling big boxes up halfway with books. They’ll shift around when you have to move them and collapse under the pressure when you stack them during transport. 

9: Start Packing your piles of books

Start boxing the books you want to keep and label each box. We boxed up our books by category, so we put the words KEEP BOOKS along with the genre of books in each box. This makes unpacking much easier. 

I don’t recommend sealing your boxes up just yet. You may end up getting rid of more books. 

Once you have all the books you want to keep boxed up, step back and reassess. Will they all fit in the moving truck? Will you have enough space in your new house to store them? 

Now that you see how many books you’re keeping start going through the book piles tagged “MAYBE KEEP” and decide whether you really want to keep them. Do they spark joy?

10: Tape up all the boxes

Make sure you have multiple rolls of packing tape and tape dispensers, especially if multiple people will be packing at the same time. Having plenty of tape on hand will also come in handy if you misplace one roll of tape, which happened to us. 


We found that it was best to load them first so that they were against the deepest part of the truck against the wall. Loading them first means they will be on the bottom, not stacked up on other boxes, crushing them. 

What to do going forward: 

Minimizing our book collection was painful, but time has healed our wounds. 

In the end, I don’t regret decluttering or downsizing our book collection.  I’ve turned to digital books and audiobooks and love the freedom of not owning so much stuff. My husband still reads paper books, but he donates them after he’s read them or trades them in for store credit. 

Pin this article for later.

 Here are the steps I took that helped us tackle our monstrous book collection which consisted of over 500 books. 

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a 'petite commission' at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my links. It helps me buy more wine and cheese. Please read my disclosure for more info.

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Annie André

Annie André

About the author

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.


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