Hey, Kelsey! I’m having a dilemma. We have A LOT of books. I am pregnant with baby #3 and space is at an all time premium. I have drawers full of baby books, board books, toddler books, work books, etc. Then we have shelves of our books; novels, series, etc. We also have reference books, text books, medical dictionaries and such. Not to mention we each have a stack of “currently reading” on our night stands and then the shelf of bibles/marriage/parenting “go-to” books. We still have several totes of books in storage. I feel like I’m drowning in books! –Hailey
Ah, yes. Books. I love books. There’s so much potential in a bookshelf stacked to the brim. Of course, as our family has grown, that bookshelf (or bookshelves) has become needed for other things. After all, those toys and blocks need to be stored somewhere. We have a small home (under 1k square feet) and everything in it needs to be functional or clutter and chaos can take over faster than you’d think.
So what is a lover of both organization and books to do?
First, categorize and prioritize. It isn’t easy, but figure out which books are actually used on a regular basis.
Let’s take a look at Children’s Books.
Chances are, in your collection of board books and toddler books, only a portion of them are read through regularly. Are there books you feel ambivalent about? Boring ones? Shallow, stupid ones? Annoying ones? The ones where you die a little bit inside when your child pulls it out for you to read? You know what I’m talking about. Get rid of them!
Keep the engaging ones, the prettily illustrated ones, the educational-in-a-fun-way ones, and the rhyming, humorous, fun-to-read-out-loud ones. Keep anything your child is in love with (unless you really, really don’t like it yourself). In summary, keep the ones you love and discard the ones you don’t.
You may have a smaller pile of books at the end of it, but it will be so much easier to find what you’re looking for. Plus, you won’t have to worry about the mystery-book your child comes back with when you send them to fetch one from the shelf. In our home, a few of our reading favorites are the Dr. Seuss books and the Arch Bible stories. I’m a sucker for anything written in rhyming verse. It’s just so fun to read!
If you have a preschooler or school-aged child, you probably have a few workbooks lying around. Treat these the same way. Simplify, simplify. Find what you love and keep it. Work it from cover to cover. Don’t collect a gazillion of them just ‘because’ it might make your child smarter. Being intentional about what you keep, will help you be more intentional about what you teach.
On to Adult literature… Fiction, novels, and other One-time Reads…
I’ve been reading for pretty much my entire life. If it were up to me, I’d keep all of my favorites (and there’s a lot of them) out and on display. Many of them, I want to save for my children to read. However, for many books, it will be 13+ years until my child is mature enough to read them. You can see how storing them out in the open (using up valuable, functional space) for that long is impractical.
So, cut it down. Save… maybe 10? Ten of your all-time-favorites, I’m-saving-for-my-children books. These are the fun books you adore but probably won’t pick up again anytime in the near future.
For the other books you enjoyed, turn them into lists. I have a list as long as my arm of “Books I Want My Kids to Read”. Chances are, I’ll be able to pick them up for a few dollars when my kids are in gradeschool or highschool and old enough to appreciate them. And I won’t have them cluttering up valuable space in the meantime. Give them away to someone who can enjoy them now. Or give them away as a long-term, no-pressure loan.
What about reference books?
Before keeping a reference book on your shelf, answer this question: Does this book contain information I can’t find on the internet? The internet knowledge is so vast and happens to be awesomely efficient in the space-saving department. If your answer is yes, and you know you’ll be referring to the book regularly, then keep it.
My husband and I keep several Stage-of-Life reference books out. Pregnancy/Labor, child-rearing material, wife/homemaking reference books for me. Economic/Investing strategies, small-business owning skills for my husband (this will vary depending on your husband’s job). We also keep some interest-specific reference books out. That would be Writing/Blogging books for me, and self-sufficiency or military history books for my husband.
Don’t keep huge, bulky dictionaries or concordances (that’s what the internet’s for). Don’t keep reference books for things you have no interest in (fishing, sewing, etc, unless you like those things).
Of course, as a Christian, your regular reading material should include the Bible (and any current devotionals/theology books), so keep those handy.
What about the books you want to read?
First, be realistic. How much reading time do you actually have? As a busy mom of littles, I don’t have that much. Maybe, 15 minutes a day if I wake up before the kids do. Because of this, I have to be selective.
I pretty much get my fiction-fix from 2-hour movies nowadays. Sometimes I’ll multi-task to a guilt-free audio book. My to-read list includes more of the practical how-to-be-a-better-wife, mother, or Christian literature. That random book I want to read on Mesopotamian history is not going to trump those anytime soon. So I gave it away. I’ll buy it again when my kids are grown and out of the house.
Right now, I’ve thinned my Want-to-Read books down to one shelf-full. For the little reading time I have, I know that one shelf will easily last me a year or more.
1) Explore digital, clutter-free mediums, like the Kindle.
Sure, nothing beats the ‘book smell’ or the feel of crisp pages between your fingers, but then it’s hard to beat the digital prices or space-saving awesomeness. I bought a Homemakers Ebook Bundle last year for $35. I got several hundred books (which I would never have been able to fit in my house), all for a great price and zero clutter.
2) Multi-task with an Audio book!
Life is busy. I get it. But another perk of the modern age is the arrival of audio books! Think about getting an Audible.com membership. If you buy the yearly package, it comes to something like $10 per book. Not exactly, Goodwill prices, but then Goodwill doesn’t include someone to read the book to you either. For a year, you can choose two audio books a month out of their vast collection. I love the multi-tasking gift of audio books. It’s a great way to get laundry done and read something at the same time. It also works wonderfully for my husband, who does a lot of driving for his work.
3) If your husband is a book lover, don’t start thinning through his books for him. Trust me, that will get ugly pretty quickly. Explain specifically what you need the space for and try to come to some middle ground. My husband is not the minimalist-at-heart that I am and his books are his babies. Giving them away is like giving away part of his soul. I’ve learned that the hard way.
The best tip I can offer here would be to corral his books in his office or husband-specified part of the house. Perhaps specify a Husband-Only Bookshelf. When that gets full or his office starts overflowing, hopefully he’ll deal with the quantity himself.
I hope that helps! I’d be interested in knowing any book-storing tips on your end!