January 29, 2012

A Bookworm's Debate: WHEN To Get Rid of Books?

Photo found here.
(I'm sharing my book de-cluttering discoveries with you over the course of three Sundays. Last week I shared WHY to get rid of books. Today I'll talk about WHEN to get rid of books, and next week I'll discuss WHERE to get rid of books.) 

It's a whole lot easier to talk about why to get rid of books than it is to actually get rid of books. I think most bookworms and bibliophiles will agree with my five reasons why you should get rid of books...but actually sitting down and attempting to choose which books to get rid of can be really painful!

Here are my thoughts on WHEN to get rid of books:
  • You've owned the book more than a year and you haven't read it yet. Are you really ever going to get around to it? If you think the answer is yes: try this tip from Erin Doland. Write the book title on your calendar on a day about six months ahead. If the title day rolls around, and you still haven't read it, get rid of it.
  • You don't think you'll ever read it again. No brainer! Kick it to the curb! (Not literally.) But think realistically: is this book so good that you'll want to read it again someday rather than reading a new book that may come along?
  • It's a book that someone gave to you, which you keep out of fear of offending them, but you don't like it. As Tsh Oxenreider says, there's a cost to everything. Is the emotional guilt/fear cost bigger or smaller than the extra space/need-to-be-dusted cost? If the fear/guilt cost is smaller than the need for space/less dusting cost, ditch the book! 
  • It's a book that you think your dad/sister/friend would like, and you're saving it to loan to them the next time they ask for a book recommendation. I'm SO guilty of this. Suddenly last year the lightbulb went off in my head: I should give the book to someone right then! I thought, "Hm, my mom might like this book"...and gave it to her for Christmas.
  • It's a public domain book that's available online. A lot of older books are available in their entirety online, or as e-reader downloads for free. Why take up shelf space for a book you can find digitally?
  • You're keeping the book to make yourself look cooler/smarter/more diverse. Also guilty of this one. Definitely had a bunch of Mencius and Confucius left from a college course that I was NEVER going to read again.
  • It's a reference book you don't use. Do you really use that old Random House Dictionary? Or do you usually click on dictionary.com? How about that dog-eared Better Homes and Garden cookbook? Have you used it in the last three months?
But before you think this bookworm has lost her mind, I also want to say when NOT to get rid of books:
  • When it's your favorite author. So what if it's not your favorite title of theirs? Pick your one or two favorite authors and own their complete oeuvre without shame. Just don't keep every book by every author.
  • When it's a pretty book that you just like to look at. I completely think that books can be art.
  • When it's a reference book that has information that cannot be easily found online.
  • When it's a book that you genuinely want to read again someday (and you have space for it).
  • When it's worth something. I have a first edition of Donna Leon's Acqua Alta that's worth about $90. I'm going to hang on to it, and maybe someday it'll be worth even more. (My caveat with this is: just because it's old does NOT mean it's worth anything. Check sites like abebooks.com carefully to compare pricing.)
So, with those guidelines in mind, I've gotten rid of 150 books in the last 14 months. Now I only have about 750 to go...

UPDATE: After already publishing this post, I went and counted exactly, and we have 524 kids books and 615 other books left. Oops. Apparently I need to listen to my own advice more often!

Do you have books that you should get rid of? 
Or are you ahead of me on the de-cluttering path?