Thursday, May 14, 2015

On Letting Go of Books by Joy McCullough-Carranza

I was so proud of myself, having sorted through the picture book shelves with my kids. They’re five and nine, and while we still read plenty of picture books, we most often pull from the revolving library haul, rather than the old favorites. Combined with a general desire to declutter, I went through the shelves with them. If anyone wanted a book to stay (including me), it stayed.

When my husband got home and saw the 75 books marked for give-away, he howled. “Why do you hate books?! Dr. Seuss?? Sandra Boynton?? What is wrong with you people!!”

But it was freeing to lighten the shelves, to know these books will move along to homes where they’ll be loved. (I did tell my husband he was welcome to go through and pull out any he couldn’t bear to part with.) And in the process of thinning those shelves, we rediscovered a number of books we hadn’t read in ages. We've happily added them back into the regular rotation.

Just after we did the picture book shelves, I read a post by Project Mayhem contributor Joanna Roddy on a larger-scale decluttering she recently went through. I’m still waiting on my library hold on the book she recommended, THE LIFE CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP, by Marie Kondo, but Joanna’s post inspired me to keep going with the books. (Thanks, Joanna!)

Once I’d finished with my adult shelves, I had 275 book marked for giveaway.

It wasn’t always easy. When my daughter cleared out the American Girl books and only kept two sets, I balked. We homeschool, and those books are educational! What if we study the Great Depression and no longer have the Kit books?!?! But then I remembered that awesome place down the road where they let us borrow books. For free!

When I got to my own shelves, my holdovers from my theater major days just demanded to stay. I mean, I got rid of the books on design, the esoteric, analytical books. But RESPECT FOR ACTING? AN ACTOR PREPARES? I have to admit, I didn’t get rid of those, even though I’m 100% sure my acting days are over. I just wasn’t ready.

And I’ll admit: I barely thinned out any middle grade at all. But in my defense my kids are still on the younger side, so it seemed far too soon to get rid of anything they still might enjoy over the next five years.

If you get inspired to thin your shelves, here are a few ideas of what you can do with them:

·      DONATE THEM TO YOUR LIBRARY: I’ve seen some people mention donating books to their library for circulation. Maybe it’s because my library system is vast and decently-funded, but my library doesn’t use donated books for circulation. They do, however, take donated books and sell them in their regular Friends of the Library sale, using the funds to support the library. Win-win!

·      DONATE THEM TO GOODWILL, SALVATION ARMY, ETC:  When my kids were babies, I got very excited about the children’s books we’d read together. Long before they were ready for them, I built up our children’s library through second-hand stores. Your donation will help more overzealous new parents build their collections!

·      SELL THEM TO USED BOOKSTORES: In my area, I have multiple options for selling used books to second-hand bookstores. They’ll give me cash or in-store credit. They won’t take everything, but even a little in-store credit is better than none, right?

·      BUY NOTHING GROUPS: We boxed up the majority of our books and took them to the library, but when I had several complete sets of American Girl books, I offered them up on my local Buy Nothing group and people went crazy. There was a HUGE demand. I mentioned that I had more children’s books for giveaway, and teachers came over to see if there was anything they could use in their classroom libraries. See if there’s a Buy Nothing group in your area. 

·      DONATE TO A LOCAL SCHOOL: Speaking of teachers, I’m guessing local schools and teachers might be excited about an influx of new-to-them books as well. I’ve never gone this route, but maybe some of Project Mayhem’s teachers and former teachers can weigh in.

So what do you do with books you’ve decided you don’t need anymore? What do you do with all the extra shelf space? Is it wrong that it makes me want to fill it up with more books?


  1. Extra shelf space? Hmm...when I get rid of books, it finally gives me somewhere to put away the random stacks of books lying around the house, haha.

    These days all my middle-grade books (okay, not all of them...but the ones I'm willing to part with) go to my nieces. My kids are all older, reading YA and adult, but nieces are the perfect ages for MG.

  2. Love this post, Joy! I also clean out my shelves and love to bundle books by genre and do giveaways on my blog. This way folks get excited about winning books and pass them on to their kids. I also love to sell back to my used bookstore and get double credit to buy at the store vs. cash (more books!). Books are great for passing on over and over for someone else to love. Great tips here to do so!

  3. I boxed up a large number of picture books and donated them to the day care/pre-school my daughters used to attend. They were very appreciative. Many of the early chapter books, as well as a few picture book favorites, are still crated in our basement. My thinking is that someday we might bring them out for grandchildren.

    However, when I was asked to teach a community college class on Writing for the Children's Market, it was very handy to raid those boxes for materials to use in class! So I'm glad we still had them.

  4. Great work Joy!! Doesn't moving those heavy boxes out of your house make you feel as though that weight is lifting off of you too? Freedom from stuff is exhilarating! Keep it up! Oh, and if you use Overdrive, a free app, you can get free audio books from the library. That's how I managed to get Kondo's book within a few weeks when I was still number 157 on the holds list for the physical book. You're going to love it!

  5. I've given books to neighbors, Goodwill, classrooms, and the local Veterans' group. Haven't sold any to used book stores--the prices they offer are next to nothing. I'd rather just hand them over to a worthwhile charity.

  6. Oooh, I like the idea of donating to a Buy Nothing group. I feel the same conflicting feelings about getting rid of books, but, really, the library makes it a bit redundant to hand on to all except the ones I know I want to read over and over again. Hooray for spring cleaning!

  7. Great post. Our family has given away books to all of the above--except for "Buy Nothing" groups. I'll have to look into that avenue.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!