What Marie Kondo Got Right About Decluttering Books

Can you declutter your bookshelves and still love to read? YES! Learn how to KonMari your books the easy way.

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As soon as Marie Kondo suggested that a couple on her show "Tidying Up" declutter their book collection, the social media storm began. Memes and tweets appeared from book lovers everywhere who were shocked that she would recommend parting with books, or consider that books could be clutter.

But here's the thing. She got it right. 

I love to read. I've been a voracious reader since I was 4 years old. I moved boxes and boxes of books from my college dorm to my first (and second and third) apartments. One of the reasons I fell in love with my husband was because he loved to read too, and when we moved into our home together, we filled our living room with a wall of books.

Then this summer, we decluttered almost all of them. And now I totally understand what Marie Kondo is trying to tell us when she suggests that we tidy up our bookshelves with the same process we use on our clothes or even our Tupperware.

And I want to help you understand too. But before I start, remember this.

No one, not me or Marie Kondo, is telling you to get rid of books if they make you happy. But considering the link between clutter, depression, and anxiety, it's important to consider whether it's the books that make you happy or the act of reading. And if reading is the thing that actually sparks joy, consider why decluttering books might be something you need to do.

Can you declutter your bookshelves and still love to read? YES! Learn how to KonMari your books and still enjoy reading with these simple tips. Find out what Marie Kondo really means when she says we should declutter our books and how to keep bookshelves clutter free! #konmari #declutter #mariekondo #tidyup #organizedhome

Our Book Decluttering Journey

Our big book purge had nothing to do with Marie Kondo. It all started with my son's allergy doctor, who recommended that along with removing the carpet from our home that we also declutter as much as possible. She reminded me that everything in our house is a magnet for dust, so unless you really need it or love it, don't keep it.

We started planning our new living room space, and decided the wall of books needed to go.

But wait. We LOVE to read. My husband and I both always have at least one book we are reading and a to-read list a mile long. Shouldn't we be surrounded by BOOKS?

Nope. Because we love to read. And we don't need a wall of books to do that.

Even our dog agreed it was time for the books to go.

So, in a very Kondo-like way, we gathered all our books together. We looked through each of them and decided what we were going to keep. We didn't actually use the words "spark joy" but we did set up some criteria:

  • Was it a book we had actually read more than once? Or planned to read again in the next month?
  • Was it a book that was special to us beyond just loving the story? One that was autographed by the author, or carried a special inscription from a loved one?
  • Was it a reference book that we had used in the past year? 
  • Did simply looking at that particular book bring happiness?
If we could answer yes to any of those questions, the book stayed. If not, it went into our giveaway pile.

And after all of that, we each saved a small number of books that we truly love. Mine are in a special shelf over my bedside table and his books are in our home office. 

Our living room shelves have been moved and repurposed to hold family photos, games, and a single shelf of books for the kids (they also have a bookcase in their bedroom). We also have a big basket for library books.

Cleaning out our bookshelves was just one of the ways that we decluttered our home as part of our living room remodel. But it made a huge impact on how comfortable and open our living space feels. It's much easier to keep the room clean and the best part is we still read as much as we ever did. Because we don't need to hold onto books to enjoy them.

How to Enjoy Books Without the Clutter

Get an E-reader

I've had a Kindle since Oprah called it her "favorite new gadget" 10 years ago. But I will only read on a Kindle Paperwhite, not on a tablet or laptop. The reason is because the Paperwhite is more like reading a print book. There is no glare and the print looks "bookish" to me. 

Plus it is only for reading. 

When I'm reading, I want to be fully engrossed in my book. I don't want to compete with emails, messages, or notifications. The Paperwhite lets me do this. And it stores thousands of books but is smaller than a paperback. I love that I can still have all the books I want to read at my fingertips without adding clutter to my house.

Head to the Library

Want to save money and reduce your clutter? Take advantage of your local library! It's such a simple idea that we sometimes forget: you don't need to own a book to read it and enjoy it. And yes, you can check them out again and again.

Go Audio

There are some books that I will only "read" as audiobooks because they are simply better that way. We have a subscription to Audible so we can enjoy audiobooks for a low monthly price. And no clutter! (PS - click here to get two free audiobooks when you try a month of Audible).

Keep a Reading Journal

One of the things that Marie Kondo suggested on her show was that if you love a passage from a book, then tear it out and save it. Here's where I have to disagree with her, because I believe that books should be passed on and not destroyed.

So how do you keep track of what you've read, what you liked or didn't like about it, or your favorite quotes and passages? It's easy: start a reading journal.

I have a free printable reading planner that will help you get started. It has everything you need to track your books read, write reviews, save quotes, and more. You can find it here.

You can also purchase a paperback version on Amazon here.

What to Do with Books You No Longer Want

When it was time to part with our books, we didn't put them out with the garbage. I believe that books should be passed on, so that they can be enjoyed again and again. There are lots of places to take books that you no longer want.
  • Used bookstores. We are lucky enough to have a used bookstore near us and were able to get some cash for a few of our books. Perfect to spend on new books for my Kindle.
  • Donate to the library. Many libraries hold book sale fundraisers and accept donations of gently used books.
  • Your local hospital may also hold book sales as a fundraiser.
  • Nursing homes and retirement communities often have small libraries for their residents and accept donations.
  • Thrift stores also accept books and may even take them on consignment.
  • Find a Little Free Library nearby for a few of your books, or even create your own!

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So what do you think? Is it time to declutter your books? Leave a comment below or message me on Facebook and let me know!

Want more deluttering ideas? Grab my FREE printable declutter checklist to find 75 things you can throw away TODAY.

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Can you declutter your bookshelves and still love to read? YES! Learn how to KonMari your books and still enjoy reading with these simple tips. Find out what Marie Kondo really means when she says we should declutter our books and how to keep bookshelves clutter free! #konmari #declutter #mariekondo #tidyup #organizedhome

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