How to Stop Accumulating Books

How to Stop Accumulating Books

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Sometimes you’ll get a new book, glance through a few chapters, put it on the coffee table for later indulgence, and get back to whatever you were doing. You do not have time to actually read your new book yet. You have got a lot of work to do, and you are already part way through a couple other ones, so it will have to wait. But then a strange thing happens: Over the next couple weeks, you have done it again. You have bought another must-have book, and the last book, the one that was waiting for you on the coffee table, has silently migrated to your bookshelf, without ever getting read. You are a book hoarder. How do you stop the insanity?


  1. Cull your existing collection. Keep only particularly valuable books after reading. Donate the rest to your local library or charity, or trade them with other book lovers online. You can also sell your books:
    • Look up your books by ISBN on This will give you and idea how much your book is worth if you choose to sell it online. It also has feedback on ratings from most book-buying websites so you know which sites are reputable and which to avoid.
    • Look in the yellow pages of your local phone book under "Books - Used." Call the promising-looking stores and find out if they are buying books, if they give cash or trade credit, and if you need to make an appointment. Selling to a local used bookstore is the fastest way to downsize while getting something back, but they generally will take only the ones they think they can sell. The leftover books can then be donated to a thrift store; many libraries also accept donations for their used book sales and will give a donation receipt for tax purposes as well.
    • Sites like and allow individuals to sell books; listing is free and a small commission is taken when the book sells. Current textbooks in particular sell well. However, you are then stuck with storing listed books until they sell (if they sell), as well as the hassle of packaging and mailing them. Decide how much your time is worth and how much you want to make per book; a book that you would sell for $5 may not be worth the effort to list, store, package, and mail, but it would be worth it for a book that could sell for $25. Set a time limit (say, two months), and if a particular book does notsell online by then, either reduce the price, "unlist" it and take it to a local bookstore, or give it away.
  1. If a book has a few interesting gems of advice but it otherwise not worth keeping, make notes of the few interesting tidbits from the books, save those tidbits in a file for future reference and inspiration, then give away the book. This is probably a good time to organize your books as well. First, break your books up into the following piles, and decide which ones get to stay and which ones have got to go:
    • Reference books. These are books like encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other nonfiction sources that you come back to regularly for reliable information. If you have not referred to a particular book for over a year, though, you should probably part with it. These days, you can find a lot of reference information online, and there is always the option of using the local library.
    • Books you have already read, that you want to keep. Whether they are fiction or nonfiction, think carefully about why you are keeping them. Will you really be reading it again? Less than once a year, perhaps? If you can get your hands on a copy at the library, why keep a copy at home? Keeping books on hand "just in case" you want to read it again is a surefire way to watch your book collection invade your abode.
    • Books you have not read yet. These can be broken down into two other categories: books you have not read because you have not had time, and books you have not read because you are not really interested in them (usually gifts). If you do notwant to get rid of the books that you are not interested in, consider putting them into storage. For the other books you have not read, follow the remaining steps in this article.
    • Generally, if you have not touched the book in the last 2 years, it isprobably time for it to go!
  2. Make a rule that you will read X number of books you currently own before buying another one. Set a "read-to-purchase ratio". This solution works well because it lets you control your book purchasing habits without requiring that you wait several years until you have read the entire existing selection. It also encourages you to read more, knowing that you can reward yourself with a new book soon enough, and not feel guilty about it. Choosing a ratio that will work for you involves finding that sweet spot between how much time you have to read, how quickly you read, and how many shelves you have still got to get through.
  3. Make a “syllabus” of books to read. Look at your bookshelf, and pick out the next 10-14 books you want to read. The longer you have hoarded it, the better. Then write down the total pages in each book and add up the total. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to finish all the books, break the total pages down into a daily reading assignment, and tell yourself that you can not buy a new book until you finish half the books on the syllabus.
  4. Make a "to buy" list. Sometimes the urge to get a book can be satiated by writing it down on a list of books you would like to read or acquire "someday." Gardening your list can be a satisfying activity. Your list can be as simple as a piece of paper tucked into your library, or as elaborate as a computer database. There are even websites that allow you to keep and catalogue a virtual library.
    1. To keep your book collection from growing any bigger: If you buy a book, immediately get rid of a book you already have. Either donate it or give it to a friend, or list it for swapping with an online bookswap such as This can make you more cautious about buying a book, because you will have to part with one that is already on your bookshelf!
    2. Use the library: most library systems will lend you books from anywhere in their system. They also have online resources so you can look up and reserve books.
    3. Use the library for downloading ebooks: many libraries offer a service that allows you to download ebooks to your pc. Many titles can then be burned to a cd or transferred to another device.
    4. Purchase and collect your books on an e-Book reader (like Kindle Wireless). No more piles of books!
    If you have room for them and you still think "I amgoing to read (or re-read) that someday", keep them. Some of the best post-retirement hours are spent with books that were selected years and years ago. Finding time to read is no longer an issue, no need to answer to anyone (including the library) about how long it istaking to get finished with a book, and keeping five books going in five different rooms at once is perfectly satisfactory. THEN, when you are satisfied you are really done with them (or you think you are not likely to live long enough to re-read all of them), they can go to someone else or to have the paper recycled.
  5. Tips

    • Some people view their book collection as a reflection of their identity, such as if someone were to look at your books, they would get an accurate impression of who you are (or who you want to be).[1] If this is the case for you, try to keep the most representative books, and give away the rest.
    • The novelist Jonathan Franzen limited the unread books on his shelves to less than half of the collection.[1]
    • Remember, the point of culling your book collection is to make yourself happier. If you are making yourself miserable getting rid of books, accept that sticking with your book hoarding ways is the better choice for you.
    • One of the best gifts that can be given is the sharing of knowledge. After reading a good book, immediately pass it on to someone else who may like it, and ask them to do the same.
      • If you are a person who likes to pen notes directly in a book, you might find it hard to find people who will buy or take a book that has been written in. Three things you can do: learn to make notes elsewhere so you can reference them without the book, jot things down on mini post-it notes and stick them in the pages, or just limit what books you write in and keep them. One thing you can do is scan the page and write your note on that and keep it in a file. Yes, there are laws against this, but only if you copy the entire book. Copying a page here and there is not an issue especially if it is for personal use. There is nothing wrong with the practice of writing in a book so long as you understand that others will not want it afterward.
      • Warnings

        • If you are going for the e-Book reader solution make sure your favourite books are available in a supported format.
        • When you eventually decide to move on to another device, it may be illegal to convert the digital books to the new format if it has DRM.
        • Related wikiHows


          How to Get Rid of Old Books
          • How to Package Books for Shipping
            • How to Repair a Books Binding
            • Sources and Citations

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