January 15, 2016

Weeding Your Collection Series

You knew this was coming, right? Ha ha!

This is the start of a series, all about weeding through your books. We'll take it one section at a time, and go until...I run out of things to say about it!

Challenge: Find the weed in this photo!

Weeding outdoors--you know, REAL weeds--is a neverending job. Never. Ending. It's sort of like dishes and laundry: one eternal round.  However, weeding through your book collection can be done at your pleasure.

In my librarian days, I actually enjoyed weeding the collection. It was so satisfying getting rid of tattered, old books that never got read anyway. The shelves always looked so much better when I was done, and the books that remained would get significantly more use.

It will work that way at home, too. If you think about it, it makes sense. If you have to push past the books you don’t like all that much to get to the good stuff, you may end up doing something else instead. Having 100 books that you read and love is far better than having 300, of which only 100 are read and loved.
When is it time to go through your books? Watch for these red flags:

picture from morguefile.com

1.  Your bookshelves are beyond full. This could look like:
  • The books are packed in so tightly, your little ones can't pull out a picture book or put it back without help.
  • When you pull one book out, 3 more cascade down.
  • You have books stacked in front of or on top of other books on the shelf (due to lack of space, not just kid-style cleanup.)
2. You run across books that you didn’t even realize you had.

3. You or your child look at a bookshelf packed with books and complain that there is nothing to read.

4.  There are books on your bookshelf that no-one has read OR books that no-one has read for more than a year.

5.  You have purchased a newer version of it. This includes an electronic copy, if you can't see yourself picking up the print version again!

Okay, so if you don’t enjoy weeding, or are feeling overwhelmed, where is a good place to start?

First narrow it down to one section, whether it’s nonfiction, picture books, early readers, board books, etc.  Like with most organizational tasks, smaller chunks tend to be more successful.
picture from morguefile.com
Take all the books in that section off the shelf and put them on a table or on the floor.  Go through them one by one and evaluate their worthiness to remain in your collection. We'll talk specifics about weeding each type as this series progresses!

Make a "keeper" pile and a "donation" pile. The great thing about books is that libraries and thrift stories gladly take donations, as long as they're in good shape. If they're not in good enough shape to donate, don't make a pile--throw them right into the recycle bin!

Box up your donations, dust off your shelf, and replace the keepers. Organize or not--your call. Enjoy how easily they all fit onto that shelf. 

Breathe a sigh of relief. Repeat!

Next time we'll chat about weeding your nonfiction: the true, factual books.

Do you like weeding your books? Any hard and fast rules for keeping (or donating)?


  1. With the influx of new books we got for Christmas, I'm feeling it's time for another weeding session. Although, it's hard, because I feel like I'm at a point where I would keep almost every book I own if we had more shelf space (tiny apartment problems). But since we're not getting more shelf space any time soon, but we are getting new books, old ones have to go!

    1. I hear you! Grandma came through for us with 2 whole boxes of books! She is garage sale queen. :) Woohoo! (And now--where are they all going to go?) So I am definitely feeling the pinch. I keep looking at my walls and try to imagine where we can squeeze in another bookshelf. Or maybe go taller? Hmmm...two sides of the same problem!

  2. I was just looking at my kids' shelves and determining this needs to happen in the VERY near future! Especially with our school's BookFair coming up. I sometimes feel guilty about buying "stuff", but never books!

    1. I know! Books forever and ever! Until you just can't cram in one single more. Yes. I know this problem VERY well.