Declutter Your Bookshelves: How to Decide What Books to Give Away

declutter your bookshelves

There are a lot of reasons you may need to declutter your bookcases (or, uh, stacks of books on the floor).  Maybe you’re moving, or you’re running out of storage space, or you just want to curate a collection of only  books you love.  Krysta has written in the past about why she doesn’t own a lot of books.  However, even when you have good reasons for wanting to move some books out of your home,  doing it can be hard.

Personally, I like to focus on some key questions: Did I even enjoy the book?  Will I really read it again (or ever)?  Do I have good memories attached to the book? Is there some reason I want to keep the book beyond “wanting to own a lot of books?”  I also like to keep in mind that, if I didn’t really love the book or I’m not going to read it, then getting rid of it means I can donate it to someone who might love it or to someone who doesn’t have a lot of books at all.

If you’re looking to clear out some books, check out the flow chart below for some suggestions on deciding whether to keep or give away a specific book.  If you are clearing out some books, you can also consider donating to some of these places I suggested previously.

Tell us in the comments: Do you regularly go through your books to unhaul some? Why or why not? How do you decide which books to get rid of?  What do you do with them?



41 thoughts on “Declutter Your Bookshelves: How to Decide What Books to Give Away

  1. bookwormmuse says:

    I have a tendency to keep the books I am going to re-read and I have been trying to create some storage space so this chart is all kinds of helpful. I haven’t cleared out books for almost four years? So, yeah, that’s gonna be a long process.


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I mostly clean out my books when I have to, like I’m moving or running out of space, but I am trying to get better of getting rid of books I don’t really like more quickly. Especially review copies, since I don’t really feel “attached” to them because I didn’t pay for them anyway, so I often donate them.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I sometimes scan the books for trade hashtag on Twitter, but it seems that everyone is looking for only two specific books and that trading would just be so much hassle because no one actually wants the books I have, or people only want ARCs and not finished copies. I mostly just donate my books to the library.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Inge | The Belgian Reviewer says:

        Me too but it has never resulted in a trade, either they have a wishlist or they are in the US. I’m an international blogger and most people don’t want to post abroad. If anybody wants to look though, I created a FB page called English Books-Engelse Boeken (@bookwormsdream). I still have to add In Search of Us but I keep putting off adding that one ;-). I have added a few novels to the closest Little Free Library but you don’t know how someone will enjoy them, it feels like a loss, especially if there’s no trade :-).


  2. (Danielle) Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    Love the graphic! I am actually about to start an unhaul on my own bookcases. I have just been waiting for my back to heal. My plan is to ultimately only keep favorites and those that hold sentimental value. I have way too many and am back to books on the floor 😂


  3. Sammie says:

    The correct answer is never! How can you be so heartless? *clings to books*

    All right, so that’s not entirely true. We’ve all been faced with the horrible reality of needing to get rid of a few books. xD I love your questions. Those are pretty much the deciding factors for me when I decide on books, too, and if the answer is no to all of them, then it goes. No regrets. Okay, slight regrets, but what can I say?

    I love your graphic! I chuckled at the really? under will you read it. That is, quite literally, the very same thought process I have. With the double-check and everything lol.

    I usually go through my books once a year, and I take them down to the library and donate them. Books that they think other patrons will read, they will shelve them. Otherwise, they put them out at their semiannual book sale and the funds go towards programming for the library.


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I hoarded books for a long time, but unhauling them the first time really helped me be more comfortable with it in the future!

      I also always do the “Really??” question to myself. “You haven’t read it in six years, but you’re totally sure you’re going to read it???”

      I donate a lot to the library, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fawn & Fern Books says:

    Love this! I am constantly going through my bookshelves and removing anything I know I will never get to or any I think I’ll never re-read. It’s just not worth it! Cluttered bookshelves stress me out haha


  5. Shalece says:

    I’ve been looking at my shelves lately and I keep seeing books that need to go. So I made a list and have been slowly adding to it to do it all at once at the end of the summer. This post really helped to simplify the reasons why I should/shouldn’t keep a book! Thanks!


  6. Annemieke says:

    I try and go through my books once or twice a year and then give away to my sil or friends what I think they will like. Then I try to sell a few if possible. And what is left (which is usually a lot) I donate. Before I would take them to a second-hand book store but they stopped 😦 I still have to take my very big box to goodwill but since we have a lot of other stuff going that way including a cabinet soon, we are going to just do it all in one haul.

    This year I did an unhaul at the start of the year but then i also realized throughout the year I wasn’t going to be reading some after reading the first book so those got unhauled too.


  7. saraletourneau says:

    I actually declutter on a “constant basis.” *lol* It sounds worse than it really is, though. As soon as I finish a book, I decide if I either want to keep it or donate it to the library. And if I didn’t enjoy it enjoy, then off to the library it goes. I went through a couple larger purges of my shelves last year when I went through a major reorganization phase at home. So now I guess you could call my periodic library donations a sort of “maintenance program.”


  8. ofmariaantonia says:

    What a wonderful infographic! I had to downsize my books after moving one too many times, and I agonized over what to keep and what to get rid of. I pretty much came to the same conclusions as the infographic 🙂 Hard-to-find books get kept, as well as books that I love and re-read. Everything else goes on so that somebody else can enjoy them…


  9. PerfectlyTolerable says:

    I am currently in the “hoarding all the books I can even if I know I will never read them” phase haha I am trying to create my own little library even though noone will ever borrow them. Once this phase passes and I run out of shelf space I will have to start getting rid of some haha. Your flow chart is great 😀 I will have to use it if I ever decide I need to get rid of books!


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