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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