How to Declutter Your Bookshelf


If you’re a book-lover like me your bookshelves are perpetually bursting at the seams, overflowing with cherished books and serving as the consummate conversation starter in your living room. Maybe bookshelves are the staple in your living room and maybe you’ve decorated your home around the number of bookshelves you’d need to keep (most of) your books out of boxes. Sound familiar?

Friends walk into your living room and comment on the sheer volume of books (“Have you actually read all those?!”) and marvel at the diversity (“Wow, you have both Rush Limbaugh and Al Gore on your shelf?”). Maybe you’ve even seen true friendships forged in shared book love (“Really?! My favorite author is Gene Stratton Porter, too! Let’s be best friends!”).

I am currently redecorating my living room (goal: buy matching furniture for the first time in my life!) and am forced to acknowledge that books and their shelves are standing between me and my decorating dreams. Bookshelves are the reason I have pragmatically decorated my living room, focusing on the function of bookshelves rather than the fashion of furniture decor.

Can you imagine the world of possibility that unfolds once “I’m a bookworm” is not the only statement in your decor?

But how on earth do you decide which books to keep and which to remove from your collection?

Using four simple questions, I just halved my bookshelf collection and made room for fashionable decor.

1. Have I read this book?

If I’ve already devoured the wisdom, humor, story, or insight of the book the chances are high that I can cull it from my collection without ever missing its existence on my shelf.

2. Will I read it (or read it again) this year?

If I’m not going to read or re-read the book this year (I gave myself a twelve month window, rather than sticking with the current calendar year), I might as well not have it clutter my shelves.

3. If I later decide to re-read it, will I be able to easily find a replacement copy?

Especially in the world of eBooks and Amazon Prime, most books are easily found again online. So just in case I regret my decision to discard the book, having a safety net is always helpful.

(If I probably won’t be able to find a replacement copy, then I should probably keep the book. Rare books are worth keeping on your shelf!)

4. Is there sentimental reason to keep this copy of this book?

Just because it is replaceable doesn’t mean it should be replaceable. I will probably never discard the books that my great-aunt bequeathed to me and I will always cherish the marriage book I made notes in during premarital counseling.

Using these four questions, I cleaned up my shelves and moved my book collection into my guest room so that my living room can remain a fashionably functional room for entertaining without all the books.

I’m living proof that decluttering your book collection is not only possible, it’s refreshingly easy.

What book do you think you’ll keep even after your declutter?


  1. You amazed me by using the author of my favorite book in your post! Gene Stratton Porter wrote the book “Girl of the Limberlost”! I have read this book at least a dozen times and would love to find a kindred spirit who also loves this book!

    1. I still feel a twinge of remorse as I box my discarded books for the consignment store, but I am confident in my decisions and excited for the empty(er) shelves!

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