Challenge #6: Books

Organizing Books. Let's tackle your stash of books.

Congratulations – you’ve almost made it through the first full week of the Get Organized Challenge! Today’s challenge may take a bit longer, but you can finish up over the weekend if you need extra time. Let’s tackle your stash of books.

A quick reminder of the approach we are using:

THE PROCESS

1. Gather your supplies: (you can reuse these same supplies each day)

  • Boxes or bags labeled with “Donate”, “Elsewhere” and “Store”
  • Trash can and recycle bin
  • Damp rag/wet wipe

2. Remove everything from the area (yes, everything) and wipe it clean with a damp rag.

3. Sort the items into these categories: (The Seana Method’s R.E.D.D.S. system)

  • R- Restore: these are the items going back in
  • E- Elsewhere: these are items to keep, but that don’t belong in this space
  • D- Donate
  • D- Dispose: trash or recycle
  • S- Store: items you want to keep for sentimental reasons, or perhaps for a long-term future use, but which you don’t regularly use. These items will eventually need to go into a bin/box in an attic, basement, or closet.

4. Keeping the “Restore” items out, and put all other items into the boxes/bags you prepared.

5. Move items to their final destination:

  • Put the “Restore” items back into your designated area.
  • Carry the “Elsewhere” box/bag around your house and redistribute its contents.
  • Move the “Donate” box/bag to the car to be donated.
  • Trash/recycle the “Dispose” items.
  • Put the “Store” items into a container and move it to a remote location for future access.

THE TASK

Books have many positives: they make great gifts, inspire, provide instruction and are entertaining. As a result, many of us have piles of books. The explosion of e-readers may lessen this situation in the future, but hard copy books will likely always be around.

The key to organizing your books is setting LIMITS. Having some books is wonderful, having too many books is a burden. Since this is a quick task, we aren’t going to sort through your entire library. Think of today as a productive first round.

Quickly (don’t overthink it!) cull through and stack the ones that you

  1. Don’t want to read,
  2. Won’t read again,
  3. See are damaged, (dispose of these)
  4. Determine are out of date (your old textbooks?), or
  5. Don’t want for ANY REASON.

It is important to not feel guilty about passing a book along. Books, like all possessions, should only be kept if they are enriching your life today. Place any books you don’t want into your “Donate” bin/bag.

When sorting, avoid the following “excuse traps”:

  • “I might need that in the future.” Odds are, if you need a piece of information, you are going to search online rather than dig through a box of old books or magazines.
  • “I bought the whole series, I can’t give it away.” Yes you can! Someone will be thrilled to receive a complete set.
  • “But it was given to me by my grandmother.” That may be true, but if you aren’t going to read it (or display it), let it go. Take a photo of the book if you are afraid you will forget it.
  • “I’m saving them for my grandchildren.” That’s terrific, but you don’t need to save them all, only your favorites.

Once you’ve completed your quick sort, compare the number you have left to your shelves. If you have sufficient space, you can reload and be done. If you have too many to fit, use the space you have as the limit on how many to keep. For instance, you might say “I can dedicate these 2 shelves to fiction and this 1 to reference and self-help” and then keep only what fits on these shelves. Designating a limited, physical space is a great trick for helping you decide how many to keep.

Also, if you are keeping some books for a long term use (e.g. SAT study books for younger children), you don’t need to keep them out on your easily accessible shelving. Instead, put the books in a clear, labeled box and move to long-term storage.

Remember, books are the ultimate “reusable.” Donating books is easy, practical and environmentally friendly. Almost all charities accept book donations, so be sure to move the books you’ve decided to give away out of your space and into your car so you can get them to their final destination.

Which books are the hardest for you to give away?

12 thoughts on “Challenge #6: Books”

    1. I love that you are always a step ahead of me, Janine! I love donating books because I know that they are likely to be enjoyed/used over and over again. My daughter is a big reader and loves getting a stack of books for $1 at a sale!

  1. I am a huge fan of using the library. We happen to have a fabulous library here in Darien, CT, so I am particularly lucky to have access to almost anything. I hardly ever buy a book anymore.. unless it is a gift:)

  2. I have absolutely no trouble passing on books after I’ve read them. Now. But I’ve noticed several categories of books on my shelves that have been there for a long time and likely would be gone if I’d read them recently. They include collections by certain authors, especially those that belonged to my mom. I like to see them on the shelf, and I have room for them (since I don’t keep many of the books I buy or receive anymore).

    I have an e-reader, and for a while I was buying e-books instead of paper, but I realized a few things. 1 – I was buying e-books that I would never have spent money for if I saw the book in a store. 2 – E-books cost nearly as much as real books, but you can’t share them with anyone after you’ve read them. 3 – Reading an actual book is a more satisfying experience than an e-book. A family member received a book as a gift this past Christmas, and I knew that I had it on my Kobo, but couldn’t remember whether or not I’d read it. If I’d actually held it in my hand, had a sense of its shape and size and feel, I would know if I’d read it.

    P.S. I hadn’t read it yet, but have now. 🙂
    Janet Barclay recently posted…How To Get The Most From The Limited Time You HaveMy Profile

    1. Thanks for this insightful comment, Janet. People definitely have mixed feelings about e-readers. I have people in my own family with diametrically opposing viewpoints:) I think they are such a terrific option for travelers, but I can understand the desire to hold and interact with the physical paper. “Real” books are also decorative and inscribable, so they carry a sentimental value which e-books probably never will.

    1. If I were in any books, I would definitely keep them! Clearing out an area that has stuff that is “easy” to let go if is soooo rewarding because you often see a big difference. I used to keep all kids books, but I eventually got overrun. So as my children grew up, I asked them to pick their favorites, and I picked mine. The rest we donated:)

  3. Love this challenge! And what a challenge it is for many! Reading and books symbolize knowledge, intelligence and set a standard for many of who they are. But I love the idea of sharing this in so many different ways. Our local library has a book sale room that is my “go to” spot for donations. Book lovers flock to it and the sales benefit the library.

    Congrats on getting to day 6 on this challenge!

    1. Thanks for reading along and contributing some of YOUR wisdom to the challenge. Libraries are a wonderful place to donate books. Our library also has an annual sale and aside from the covers, the books are almost like “new.” I love that books can be shared again and again:)

    1. That’s exactly the feeling we are going for – “refreshing!” I’m thrilled to hear this:) I hope the rest of the month give you same feeling. Some space to inhale and breath and smile!

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