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 life 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.
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 book store.
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, 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. 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
- Get rid of
- 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.
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, day care, 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 half way 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
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 reasses. 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 tame 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.
BONUS PACKING TIP:
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.