The War on Clutter: The Overflowing Bookshelf

by Melody on January 26, 2012

I am officially waging war on the clutter in our house over the next few months.  I’m going to be tackling one room at a time, making sure that each item in our house is useful, functional or just loved.  If you’re following along with me, I’m loosely following the recommendations of Stephanie O’Dea from her outrageously amazing Totally Together planner.

The focus from this past week was to purge and organize our bookshelves.  I have actually done this several times in the last year or so, but have been clinging to certain books that I just couldn’t bear the idea of getting rid of them.  I love to read and before we had kids, I read voraciously.  I couldn’t keep a book in the house that I hadn’t read.  Alas, things have changed.  I’m lucky to finish a book in 6 months.  If it’s a really good one, the only way I can finish it is to sneak off to the bathroom and lock myself in for a few minutes.

I decided to be ruthless this time around.  If there was a book on the shelf that I had never read and it had been there more than 6 months, it was donated.  Obviously, I wasn’t making it a priority.  What I learned about myself in this process is that I really like book collections.  When I like an author, I become a collector.  I am also a serious re-reader of books that I love. There is just something comforting about reading a story with characters I have become invested in.

Collections you’ll find on my shelf:

  • The entire Harry Potter series
  • The entire Twilight series
  • Just about everything written by Anita Shreve - I’ve read The Pilot’s Wife about 72 times.
  • Anything by Maeve Binchy - Her stories are generally based in Ireland (which I have have a secret longing to visit).  I’ve read both Scarlet Feather and Quentins more times than I can possibly count.
  • Anything by Fannie Flagg – Of course you have Fried Green Tomatoes, which is a fabulous story.  But my absolute favorite book of hers is Standing in the Rainbow.  It is an amazing story, starting in the 1940s small-town life of some pretty spectacular characters.  I just want to move in to the book every time I read it.
  • The Cedar Cove series by Debbie MacomberI stumbled across a book in the middle of this series and immediately after I finished, went to the used book store in town and picked up every single book before and after that one.  The series is loosely based on the town of Port Orchard, WA and reminds me a lot of where I grew up, which is probably why I love it.  My Mom and I are both hooked and bought each other the cookbook last year for Christmas.  We acted surprised.

What I ended up getting rid of seems to say more about me than what I ended up keeping:

  • Seattle Mariners Spring Training Guide from 2007 – Did you catch that?  2007.  Seriously, what?
  • An old battered copy of Jane Eyre – Each time I go through my books, I can’t get rid of this one.  Because I love the story?  No.  Because I want to be the kind of person that loves to read Jane Eyre.  I think I hold on to it because I’m wondering if that classy, sophisticated side of me will just pop out one day.  It won’t, because it’s not there.  I know the story is brilliant, but I don’t enjoy reading it.  Now that I’ve admitted it and donated the book, I can officially move on with my life.
  • 8 John Grisham books – This is a collection that I decided to mostly part with.  I was hanging on to all these books so I didn’t separate them from their “siblings”.  After staring at them all for awhile, I realized that I would never read any of them again except for the two I have actually reread, The Pelican Brief and A Time to Kill.  The rest of them got axed.

What to do with all these books?

The majority of the books I will take to our monthly MOPS group and add to our share table, where people can bring stuff they don’t need or want and take things they do.  If they aren’t picked there, I will drop them off at Goodwill.  If there were any books I thought a friend would enjoy, I would pass those along first.

If they were in better condition, I would take them to our local used bookstore called The Bookworm. They take many used books and give you store credit to in turn, purchase new books.  I’ve also heard good things about Half.com, an eBay company that buys and sells books.

I really love my books. They are like very small, inanimate memories of different wonderful times in my life.  I do also love the idea of only keeping the most treasured memories.  Cutting through the clutter helped me see what was most important to me in this area.

I’d love to hear how you manage your bookshelf?  Do you keep every book you read?  Are you more ruthless than I am?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin @ Simply Frugal Mom January 26, 2012 at 9:55 pm

I think we are literary soulmates. My book shelf looks very similar. Although my go-to Maeve Binchy is The Copper Beech. Great book of short stories. Everytime I edit my bookshelf, I find a few more to let go. Now if I could only get my husband to surrender his old physics textbooks.

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tina January 26, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Hi Melody,
I love reading and I have hard time to separate with books I love. I still keep my Jane Eyre and all Grisham books that I have :)
Just wanted to share that I also recenetly discovered the Cedar Cove series, and I fell under Debbie Macomber’s spell. Gosh, isn’t she good? Similarly to you, I started from the second book and I am impatient to see what will happen next. Her other books are also so compelling….

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Andrea January 27, 2012 at 6:37 am

I’ve been using bookmooch.com for my books. It does cost to send the books, but you collect points and can then request books from your wishlist. I use my wishlist for books to give as baby gifts, etc.

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alli January 27, 2012 at 9:56 am

I have 4-5 people I share books w & they do too. To me books are a gift to be shared & I hv no trouble passing them on. I hv also use my kindle for almost everything now which allows my book addiction to just keep growing. I’ve switched most of my magazines to my kindle too. I LOVE the lack of clutter this allows.

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Meghan January 27, 2012 at 10:19 am

You should try Barbara Kingsolver “The Poisonwood Bible” and Jodi Piccoult. I also love Wally Lamb “She’s Come Undone”.

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Melody January 27, 2012 at 12:19 pm

I read She’s Come Undone several years ago and read it over and over. It was really depressing, but oddly inspiring. I couldn’t even tell you why I liked it so much, but it was compelling enough to re-read it.

I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer and really didn’t care for it (which I rarely say, I usually like most everything to some degree). I’ll have to try The Poisonwood Bible. I just saw on her website an interesting sounding story called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

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Judie M. January 27, 2012 at 8:00 pm

HI, Melody. I would definitely recommend Barbara Kingsolver (she has a collection of essays that I love called “High Tide in Tucson.” The stories are perfect for short reading periods. :-) I love this post and agree with so much you’ve said (book collections, especially). Have you read the Hunger Games series?

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Melody January 27, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Oddly enough, I haven’t. I went to the movies with some friends and the trailer for the movie came on and they almost fell out of their chairs when they heard I hadn’t read it. :) Since my 2nd son was born, I have to steal moments to read (especially with the blog). It’s on my list for sure!

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tina January 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm

well, I like the idea of passing on the good books to someone else, but may be I’ll just let them borrow my books :)
Just can’t think of getting rid of favorites permanently.
Melody, I wonder do you recognize some of the characters from Cedar Cove in real people from Port Orchard? Is is too naive to ask that?

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Melody January 28, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I never give away the really good ones, I hang on to those. :)

That’s a great question, I’m sure I can definitely see some of the people from my home town in those stories. Probably why I like them so much!

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Michelle January 31, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Melody – first I have to thank you for your blog. It’s always an interesting read & inspiring as well. You mentioned Grisham & A Time to Kill, & I just had to pass along info about a new movie that is similar I really think you & your husband may enjoy (your readers may too). It’s an independent film coming out in a couple of weeks called Deadline & is based on a true story & book as well. It tells the story of a 20 yr old unsolved racially motivated murder in a small southern town. Despite warnings from his publisher & others in town, a young journalist decides to investigate the case searching for the truth. Redemption & family are themes that are woven throughout this movie, which we don’t see in media too often these days. Check out the trailer & get more info at deadlinefilm.com – it’s definitely worth your time! Thanks again for all your posts – they are always enjoyable.

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