How To Minimize Your book Collection When You Need To Move Or Travel 

By  Annie André

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

Whether you are moving to the next city or across the ocean to another country, you are going to have to downsize your book collection or get rid of all your books all together. Here are the steps I took that helped us tackle our monstrous book collection.

My First Minimalist Baby steps

It broke my heart but we had to do it. We had to sell, donate and throw away our books or pay hefty storage fees to keep them in some storage unit. We opted to get rid of most of our books and just keep the ones which had sentimental value which we thought would be easy but we were wrong!

Why we had to get rid of our books and many of our belongings.

We were leaving our life behind in California to start fresh on the east coast or so we thought.

See also: Why we decided to leave California before: Before we moved to France.

See also: How we downsized our stuff

We had no jobs so the plan was to store our things in a storage unit near Boston until we found jobs and then find a place to live near that job. We had no idea how long it would take to find jobs so we wanted to minimize our belongings as much as possible and get the smallest unit possible.

  • First we sold, donated or threw away the things we knew we didn’t need. That was easy. Clothes, old toys, furniture that was stored, cheap furniture and plants. Lots of big potted plants like a maple tree, bamboo plants and my beloved Kafir tree that I used for Thai cooking.
  • Then we got rid of the books we knew we didn’t need or would never read. We kept the rest. You’ll soon learn why.
  • Once we thought we were done minimizing our belongings, we rented the biggest truck we could legally drive- a 26 foot long Penske truck.

Unfortunately, even after we reduced our belonging by half, we discovered we didn’t have enough space in the truck. OUCH. This also meant that our stuff would not fit into the storage unit we rented on the east coast. Double ouch!

We had to learn how to become semi-minimalist within a couple of days.

We decided to take care of the elephant in the room. The books.

Collectively, my husband and our three kids had enough books to open up a small used book store or two so the obvious place to reduce even more was our book collection. We ended up giving up over 85 percent of our books but we should have gotten rid of more. For now what books we have are sitting in a storage unit waiting for us to return to pick them up one day, someday.

I wonder If I will be glad we paid to have them stored or feel like an idiot that we stored them for so long.

Below are my tips to help you minimize and pack your book collection. 

My advice to anyone is never store any books if you think you will store them for more than a year. It’s just not worth the extra storage cost. You can easily replace the books you get rid of or sell with the money you save on storage fees. But if you have to store them, here is my advice on how to go about doing it. They may seem like common sense but if you have tons of books like we did, you’ll need to pack them in an orderly fashion otherwise you’re going to have boxes over filled, too heavy or unorganized.

STEP 1: . Start early In The Morning.

You are the freshest and most clear headed in the morning. Unless you have some ultra human stamina, you will be exhausted by the evening. Save the evenings to relax and if you have to, continue the following morning.

STEP 2: Have sustenance on hand

The last thing I wanted to do was cook. We ordered some take out and had plenty of drink and snacks on hand. Food will help keep you stable and avoid low blood sugar which can make you grouchy and cloudy headed. This turned out to be a brilliant idea.

STEP 3: Clear a large area on the floor:

We used the living room as our staging area because it was big and wide enough so we could spread out all our books on the floor to clearly see them all in one place.

Step 4: Start making small book piles:

Start making small piles of books based on whatever organization method that makes the most sense. I broke up books by genre. For instance, Art books, French books, math books, sci fi books, historical fiction books etc. I also had books broken out by person. For instance, our youngest daughter had boxes just with her box and so did my sons.

Then I had “keep” and “don’t keep” piles followed by a “maybe keep” pile. If you have kids, you can ask them to do the same for their books but in my experience they will just keep everything like ours wanted to do.

STEP 5: Get your boxes ready (IMPORTANT!!! THEY MUST BE SMALL)

Books are heavy. We made the mistake of choosing boxes that were too big and when it came time to move them, we almost broke our backs lifting them.

We decided to re-pack the boxes only half way which posed another problem. The books shifted and moved around in the boxes and when we stacked them up they collapsed on each other. DOH! Plus half filled boxes just was a waste of limited truck space.

In the end, we took a box cutter and trimmed down our boxes to make them smaller. The boxes were lighter, we filled them to the top making them easier to stack and carry but they were not cut evenly and some were lopsided. Again not good for stacking in our moving truck.

STEP 6: Start Packing your piles of books

Remember those piles of books you made? Take all the books you are sure you want to get rid of and put them aside, drive them to goodwill or whatever.

Now is the time to step back and look at all the books you have left. Can your get rid of more?

Then put all the books you have tagged as “MUST KEEP” in the boxes. Label the boxes with a sharpie on at least two sides. This will help you when loading them onto the truck to see that it’s a book box and what’s in them when you eventually unload them.

Remember, you have limited space in your moving truck. Do you really want to keep them all. If you have to, let a day pass instead of making hasty decisions.

Now go through all the book piles tagged “MAYBE KEEP” and decide whether you really, really, really want to keep any of them. We thought we did but then when we saw the books which we already had decided to keep, we thought it best to just get rid of the “maybe keep” pile. We just didn’t have the space to keep them all.

STEP 7: Tape up all the boxes

Once you have all the books you want to keep in the boxes, tape them up. If you can, do a dry run and load them on the truck. Otherwise, you are done. One last thing, try to be strategic with regards to where you load the books in your truck or car. We found that it was best to load them first so that they were against the deepest part of the truck against the wall. This way there was no shifting and they would get unloaded last.


Getting rid of books is hard.  It will be painful at first but time will heal your wounds.

If you are brave, you will get it down to one box. We couldn’t but now that we’ve been away from our books, I don’t miss them at all. I’ve gone totally digital. My husband Blake who is old school who said he would never read eBooks now does reads e-books from time to time. He still buys used books from time to time but he promptly donates them or discards them.

ps..Don’t forget to pick up plenty of packing tape along with a tape dispenser. Having plenty on hand will come in handy if there are multiple people packing. Plus, we kept misplacing our tape so it was nice to have extra rolls lying around just in case.

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  1. I have a very hard time parting with my books. I have accumulated quite a few over the years, and I’ve also moved quite a bit. I can’t tell you how important it is to make sure your boxes are a manageable size. A ton of smaller boxes, while obnoxious to pack in and out of a residence, are so much easier to handle than large boxes full of incredibly heavy books.

    1. You are so right, the box size is one piece of the puzzle that you don’t anticipate until you are right there doing it. Atleast for me it wasn’t.

  2. Hi Annie,

    It’s always when you move that you feel like you have too much, and books are so heavy on top of everything.

    It’s funny that I am reading this, because I am supposed to move by mid-May and I’m not looking forward to it. And I am talking about the move itself, of course. It’s exhausting and a mess.

    Thanks for those great tips.

    1. So true sylviane. Moving also gives you a chance to really evaluate your possessions. For our move, I found things that I didn’t even know I had. Clothes I had not worn in 3 years. I felt pain when i had to get rid of them but now I don’t even miss them.
      Good luck on your move. :)

  3. lol I think I/we may have too many books too!! (but sis doesn’t want to give away/sell those that I would lol!) So, we’ll see.. :)

    Great post though and glad you were able to make it!! :)

    1. Until your sister HAS to sell them. i.e. she has to move them, runs out of room or gets tired of them, there is no way she will get rid of them. That’s how i felt.

      It’s ok though i think, if you always stay put in one spot and never move to have a huge book collection. My aunt has never moved in 40 years.

      Not me thought. i like to move around a lot, travel, and shake it up a bit. So i got an ereader to feed my need to read without all that bulk.

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