Week 15 of 15 in 15 in ’15 Challenge: The Book Collection

Week 15!  We made it!  15 weeks, letting go of at least 15 things, in 2015.  Did you do them all so far?  

So, what’s a fitting final chapter in this challenge?

One of the toughest ones that so many of us face:



15 in 15 in 15


We seem to think of our books so personally, and that our collection of books, on display, says something about us, something we want said about us.  Books can be postcards from different times in our lives, as if to say “when I read this book, it was an important time; something mattered about it,” and the book is there to mark its place. 


But what about the practical side of books, and how they can get in the way of how we live in our space, or how we want to live there?  There are some facts we should consider:


1) Books we’ve kept for reference are increasing less necessary with the internet, if the information in them are even relevant any more. Nonfiction is a great place to look at subjects that no longer are relevant or the source you’d use to research something, but there’s all those “staples”, too.  (Dictionary, Thesaurus, Bartlett’s Book of Quotations,  I’m looking at you…)

2) Really….  what percentage of the books you own now have you read more than once?  Or what percentage would you REALLY read more than once, if you haven’t already? And so, if you’re not reading them again, ask yourself why you’re still keeping them. 

3) You’ve got a kindle or other reader now. Your collection and preferred reading style is becoming more and more electronic, not on paper. 

4) The reason you bought and read a book may have been very specific to a time or situation in your life that has long since past.  Think of it similarly to a prom dress or a special ingredient you purchased once for a recipe you would never make again. Keeping it around is only about your past, not your present or your future.

5) Paperbacks really don’t hold up well. The ones you’ve been saving for a few decades are yellow, dusty and probably smell a little. 

6) There are books on your shelves you had the best intentions of reading. Or finishing. You didn’t. You won’t. So why are you keeping it around? 

7) You’ve got great cookbooks.  When’s the last time you said, “Hmmm… I’m going to make something new. I should browse through one of these books for inspiration?”  (You don’t have to say the answer out loud. You and I both know it’s been a loooooong time.) They’re there to be used, and you’re not using them.

8) Someone else may be at the very place in their lives for your books to be perfect. Gift them. Donate them. There’s even money to be made in selling some of your books. 

9) You got some books as a gift from someone else who thought you’d like to read them. Maybe you did. Maybe you didn’t. But you feel guilty doing anything other than keeping them, because, after all, someone gave it to you, right? You don’t need to keep gifts from people (books or otherwise) that are not more important to you than things you truly value

10) Books take up a lot of space, especially on walls. Because you have them there, you don’t have other things, like maybe furniture or artwork.  I think of a book case as artwork that you’ve let take over an entire wall. If you’re struggling for storage space or display space for other important things (or even for NEW books), you’ve prioritized your current book collection over them.  Make sure that’s still in line with the value you place on each and every book. 
So, you’ve decided to let some go.  Maybe you’re not going to be ruthless, but you’re going to skim a little off the top. Or maybe you attack this in multiple waves.   Here are a few steps:
  • Ask yourself: Am I keeping this book because it means something to me, or because I think it says something about me to someone (anyone?) else who looks at my shelves, and that is more important to me than the book itself?  Is keeping up the image that I think my book collection says important to me today as it was when I decided to get and keep this book? 
  • Think about those reference books.  What do you REALLY need, and when you say you really need it, when is the last time you used it, and you had no other way to get that information?  This includes your Spanish-English dictionary from high school, by the way. Let go of anything that you can’t imagine has a real and irreplaceable role in your future. 
  • Divide out your “yet to read” pile, review it for whether you’re just as interested in it now as you were when you got it, and give the new pile a realistic expiration date. Be disciplined about it between now and then.
  • Organize your non-fiction by topic. You’ll see what you have, how many of them you have, and whether that’s a realistic collection that is part of what is important to you TODAY.
  • And, okay, I’ll just say it:  Get rid of the paperbacks. 
Now, you should know I love books, grew up around books, and come from a long line of people who love love love and keep books. I get it. But over time, I’ve gotten a lot more critical about what I keep and why I keep it. So this challenge was an important one to me to be honest with myself about what I want to have in my space, and what I would let go.  

I have plenty of books I plan to keep, but my collection is probably a third of what it once was, and I regularly go through and purge. (In preparing to write this post, I got rid of about 30 “leadership” and management books, that I collected through my corporate years, that just don’t have a place in my life or my interests any more.  They’ve already been donated today.)

Are you wondering what did I keep?
1) My first editions and autographed books by authors that mean a lot to me
2) Some absolute favorite fiction books. No more than 10 on that shelf these days. 
3) Some cookbooks. No more than a shelf. Less than I used to have, and more than I need, but I’ll get there.
4) A few books from my youth that were favorites. No more than 10.
5) All my books about organizing — they’re relevant and useful to my current life, and I refer to many of them often
 So, get in there, and see what 15 or more books you can let go of… recycle, donate, gift, sell, whatever…  today!





  1. Janet Barclay

    I’ve identified another category of books: those I’ve kept from my own childhood. It’s nowhere near my own whole collection, less than a full shelf, and until yesterday I thought they were all special. Then I noticed a large one called Big Story Book (or something like that) with a clown on the cover, and couldn’t remember what the stories were about. I took it off the shelf and didn’t recognize any of them. I can’t figure out why I’ve kept it all these decades, but next time I need to free up space in my bookcase, I’ll be taking a closer look at those oldies!

    • clevergirlorg

      So glad this one got you thinking about your own collection! I also had some “childhood” books that I kept for a long while… I’ve given some away to special kids in my life, who have also since passed them along to other special kids I know, so I’m happy about that. I keep a VERY small set on hand at home, mainly for when friends or family visit, and we want to have a book out for them to look through. I bet my “special childhood books” pile is less than 5 books now, and I wonder if it will ever get to zero….

      Thanks for joining in!



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