Baby Boomer Series ~ What To Do With Too Many Books
In previous posts, we have dealt with the process of downsizing possessions especially if people are thinking about moving to smaller homes. In addition to cleaning out the attic and sorting through old photographs, another special category that must be addressed is what to do with book collections. Like photographs, books often have sentimental value so people may not be able to part with them.
I just spent the last two weeks going through my book collections so I know how difficult this can be. I had a full range of book types, from old paperbacks to beautifully-bound editions, from text books to coffee table books. Some I look at frequently, and some I haven’t glanced at in decades. The task of deciding what to keep and what I could part with was daunting. Here are a few ways to make the task manageable:
Sort Books into Categories
The first step is sorting. Depending on your collection, you may come up with different categories but mine fell into these categories:
- Paperbacks (fiction and non-fiction)
- Children’s books
- Reference books
- Library-edition bound classics
- Business books
- Hard cover fiction
- Coffee table books
- Instructional books
Separate Each Category into Three Piles
For each category, I further separated them into three piles: those I wanted to keep, those I might want to keep, and those I didn’t want to keep. The smallest pile was the last one, so I knew I had to eliminate some books from the first two piles. By asking myself a few questions, I was able to bring myself to part with many of my books:
- Will I ever read it again?
- Is the information still current?
- Can someone else get more use out of it than I currently do?
- Will I regret giving it away?
From there, I was able to really downsize my collection. I ended up keeping many of my coffee table books, some reference books, some of my favorite fiction and non-fiction books, most of my travel guides, a few instructional books, and the gifts that people gave me. So I will still have all the books that I use frequently as well as enough books for a small bookcase.
What To Do with Books You Don't Want
That left hundreds of books that I wasn’t sure what to do with, but I still wanted them to go to good use. So I searched for options for the books and found several great outlets.
- I asked friends and family to take what they might be interested in.
- I donated books in good condition to my local library for their Friends of the Library book sale.
- I donated many children’s books to local literacy programs.
- I found a religious organization that ships encyclopedias and textbooks (which the library won’t accept) to other countries. I’m not sure where they will end up but I felt better that they were going somewhere.
- I sold some textbooks on eBay. You can also sell all your books on eBay, but I decided that I didn't want to do that so I chose other options.
If you want to know whether the organization you are donating to (for books or other items) is reputable, check it out on Charity Navigator or another charity-ranking site.
Sorting through old books was another time-consuming task, but it will make your next move easier if you decide you want to downsize.
Other posts in the Baby Boomer Series: