Decluttering Your Bookshelves and Letting Go of Your Books


If you’re a reader in the Northern Hemisphere like me, you might’ve noticed that it’s finally spring! (Technically, spring starts in mid-March but I’m from Ohio where it often snows in late April so as of now, I can officially celebrate spring!)

When I think of spring, I think of warm weather, trees blooming, flowers sprouting, and spring cleaning, of course! Particularly, spring cleaning my bookshelves.

But I’ve learned to love the magic of unhauling books all year round! While we bookworms love to collect our books like treasures, unhauling allows our shelves to gain more space for new books (which is always a plus) and I can give away my once-loved (or not-so-loved) books to readers who might appreciate them more!

I understand that it might seem daunting if you’ve never unhauled your books before. But I’m going to share with you some tips for sorting and decluttering your bookshelves to help you get started!

How to unhaul your books

Once you get past your fears of removing your books—if you have any—then it’s time to approach your bookshelf and begin. Depending on the size of your shelves, you could either take every book out and examine whether you want to keep it, or if you have an entire wall of books, just browse your stacks and decide which books you want to remove.

Now you might be asking, ​which books do I unhaul? Don’t worry—I got you covered!

While book hauls are some of the most popular videos on booktube, I personally find unhaul videos are a lot more interesting! Every reader has a unique system and unhauling experience, so I suggest watching a few videos and taking note of each booktuber’s thought process. Hopefully, you find some suggestions that work for you!

(If you’re curious, I recommend ​Booksandlalas’s “Book Unhaul Challenge”​ for a creative brainstorming process for decluttering bookshelves. And several other booktubers also recreate the challenge.)

So, after watching several booktube videos, using my own personal experiences, and IG story and Twitter responses, I compiled (a few of) the most common reasons that readers unhaul:

  • Didn’t enjoy the book so I don’t think I should keep it

  • Own several copies of the same book

  • My opinion has changed on this author or book series

  • I love this book, but I’ll most likely never reread it

  • Ran out of space on my bookshelves

  • I only want to keep my most beloved books

  • I DNFed (did not finish) this book and don’t plan on finishing it

  • Realizing I’m never going to read ​that book​ even though I’ve had it for years

  • Removing an Advanced Reader’s Copy because I bought a finished copy

  • Books that I loved once but know someone else might love it more

  • I just have too many books that they’re just stacked everywhere in my room

  • Used the Konmari method and sorted which books do (or do not) spark joy

Now, I understand the horror of getting rid of your books—after all, for huge bookworms like us, they’re practically our children. But, hear me out: letting go of unhauled books isn’t as hard as you might think. In fact, you could send your unhauled books someplace where they can be loved and appreciated again.

Where to send books you no longer need

Your local library: Your local library is a great place to donate your books. This is your best option if you want a to give away a ton of books since the library will likely accept them all. Not to mention, you’re directly contributing to what I believe is one of the greatest (free) public services in our nation. You’re not only giving other people the opportunity to love a new book, but you sent your books to a better place. (Okay, so maybe not heaven itself, but with a library, you can get pretty close.)

Sell your books online: I personally love selling my books online! There’s a lot of sites and apps out there where you can list your books online and make a little cash for that caramel grande latte, a movie ticket, or just toward your next bookstore shopping spree.

Although, this option requires a little upkeep as you sell, package, and ship books yourself. (Admittedly, after over a year of selling books online, the local post office employees know me as a regular.) But the benefits are reusing shipping packages, giving books to other people who might enjoy them more, and don’t forget: some extra spending money!

Your local thrift store/secondhand book store: I adore secondhand and thrift book shopping! Sometimes you find great gems for cheap, and if you choose to donate your books, then you can be the reason that a bookworm discovers their new favorite novel. I’ve even heard of used bookstores like Half Price Books who will pay you for your gently used books! (What’s better than contributing to secondhand bookstores and receiving some money at the same time? Nothing, that’s the answer.)

Regift your books: This is a good idea if you believe your friend, family member, coworker, dog’s neighbor, etc. would really appreciate the book! Books are a great gift for readers everywhere, but especially casual readers who don’t mind a recommendation here or there.

Even better, if you have multiple copies of the same book, start a book club or participate in a buddy read with another person! That way you can share your thoughts and strengthen your love for reading together all while decluttering your bookshelves. (I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the most ideal scenario.)

Whatever you choose to do with your books once they’ve moved on, you can be sure that they’re going to a good place. I think we in the book community should continue promoting the idea that unhauling books can be necessary, possibly even relieving! (I often feel pretty satisfied when I’ve made some extra space on my shelves.)

After you’ve unhauled your books, whether it’s 2 or 220 books, feel proud of yourself! Letting go is only natural. And once you’re done, there’s just one more thing to ask yourself:

(I hope she did.)

Header Image: @Alittlebookworld (Instagram)

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