Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Bye, Bye, Bye Book-Weeding System

After five years of waiting and dreaming, we were able to install the bookshelves of my dreams and turn our living room into a library.  Three years later, lovely though they are, these shelves (not pictured in their entirety in the photo above) are at capacity.

But how to weed one's garden of books?  Booklovers understand that most of us can't just Kondo our books.  If we'd already read all the books on our shelves maybe, just maybe, we could start eliminating the ones that fell short of that "spark joy" mark for us.  Part of the beauty of having bookshelves, however, is the ability to store books one hasn't yet read.  It's not easy to weed out books that have the potential to spark joy even if we can't remember how or why we acquired some of them in the first place.
This is my laundry room, NOT my kitchen.  Kitchen slightly less C.H.A.O.T.I.C.
Inspired by a book, I came up with a new tool for weeding the book garden.  Earlier this winter, I read The C.H.A.O.S. Cure by Marla Cilley (also known as The Fly Lady).  Cilley has helped thousands with her books and newsletters on cleaning, organizing, and de-cluttering.  The C.H.A.O.S. Cure is a collection of tips that perhaps attempts to cover too much ground, but it did leave me with two extremely valuable takeaways.

First, Cilley's title diagnoses the exact problem that I am battling every single day:  Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome.  I'm not a hoarder living in filth, but I am also not someone who can welcome unexpected visitors into my home without a certain degree of shame and panic. 

Second, Cilley's book gave me a helpful strategy:  Take 5 minutes.  Junk drawer getting too full?  Set a timer for 5 minutes and discard as much as you can.  Bookshelves getting overloaded?  Set a timer for 5 minutes and add to your giveaway pile.  Repeat throughout the house.

I added a twist to my five minutes of weeding my bookshelf garden...

My Bye, Bye, Bye Book-Weeding System
1.  Set timer for 5 minutes.

2.  Stand in front of bookshelves and identify books that were just okay.  Books you are not likely to ever read again.  Books that no one is likely to want to borrow from you or to need for an academic purpose.  Put them in a giveaway pile.  If it's "just okay," it doesn't deserve valuable bookshelf real estate unless it was a gift from someone who sees your shelves regularly or was written or autographed by a friend or family member.

3.  Stand in front of your bookshelves and get out your phone.  Open your Goodreads app.  Now, identify books you have on your shelves that you haven't read yet.  Focus on the ones that you can't even remember why you bought in the first place.  Look up these titles on Goodreads.  What I found is that a bunch of my unread books had average ratings in the low 3 star range (and some even had 2 star ratings).  Life is too short to waste time on a book with an average rating of 2.65 or 3.13 stars (again, unless it was written by a friend or family member).  I weeded out two dozen books easily and without guilt or hesitation with Goodreads as my guide.  A few books that had low average ratings but a higher rating or positive review from a Goodreads friend received stays of execution.

4.  The five-minute timer went off a long time ago.  If you're worn out, call it a day.  You did your time and then some.  If you're exhilarated, feel free to keep weeding.

5.  Donate or sell the books you've weeded out.  (Mine are still sitting in a Macy's bag as I am not sure where I'd like to donate them or if I want to face the humiliation of receiving $6.40 in store credit for them at Half Price Books ... if I'm lucky).

6.  Repeat as often as you can.

How do you weed your book garden?  

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