I have spent the past 12 years helping clients let go of unnecessary items in their homes, offices and lives -- one area at a time. This post focuses on cutting back on book clutter.
Go to one area where you keep your books. Take a stack off the bookshelf, or wherever they have been staying. Pick up the first book. There are three possible categories this book could fit in, and I've listed them below:
1. What you're currently reading. Ask yourself if you're still enjoying reading the book. Maybe you're still loving it. Great, it stays. Put it in the "books you're currently reading" stack. But, sometimes we enjoy a book up to a certain point and then we're done, though we don't know it until we've checked in with ourselves. If you're done with the book, put it in the donate box or bag.
2. What you've already read. If you're already read the book, ask yourself if you're going to re-read or reference the book. Some people like to read books more than once, while some people read a book and that's it for them. You're looking to see how you actually live so you can decide whether or not something supports your life. If you realize you are done with the book, put it in a donate bag or box. If you're going to read it again, put it in a reference stack.
I've worked with some clients that initially didn't want to let go of books they'd read because they felt their collections were a display of their intelligence. I pointed out that it was their house and they didn't need to get anyone's approval. Their only job was to give themselves a home that was nurturing. They saw the pressure that came with presenting an image, and let the collections go.
3. What you're not reading. If you haven't read the book, start to read the first page. How does it feel to you? Would you buy this book today at the bookstore? If you have any hesitation, the book isn't for you. Maybe you saw it was on the bestseller list or you read a review and you felt compelled to buy it. Or it was a gift from a friend who said you would love it. But maybe you're just not interested.
Perhaps you like to have three or four books in waiting. If that's how you like to do things, great. Still, read the first page and see if the book still grabs you.
Go through any books you have on Kindle or the Nook in the same ways I described above. Sure you can store over 1,000 books on your e-reader. But electronic clutter is just as energetically intrusive as the solid stuff. Delete whatever books don't support your life. The goal is your upliftment. Also use the same procedure if you have audio books.
When you are done clutter busting the books, find a place for the books that you are keeping. It should be in a place that doesn't mix with other things. It helps to have a home within your home for each type of thing.
Libraries would love the books you are ready to let go of. They will welcome them with open arms. It feels good to give to an organization that continually gives to its community. Just think, a book that you aren't reading may find it's way into someone else's hands, and change their life.
Please write and tell me your experiences clutter busting your books; it helps inspire people when you share.
Brooks Palmer is the author of Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What's Holding You Back (New World Library, 2009) and Clutter Busting Your Life: Clearing Physical and Emotional Clutter to Reconnect With Yourself and Others (New World Library, 2012). To schedule an over-the-phone clutter busting session, go to http://www.clutterbusting.com.
For more by Brooks Palmer, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.