Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sunday Salon: Culling the Shelves (again)

I go through my bookshelves every now and then, pulling out books I no longer want, whether they are books I have read and do not feel the need to keep around or unread books I've lost interest in because I took too long getting to them. As Anjin and I prepare for our move (date still to be determined), we are being more ruthless in our culling out of books.

Today we tackled the "already read" shelves. As I looked over titles, several thoughts came into play. Is it a book I want to reread someday? Is it a book I want my daughter to experience (if she's so inclined)? How attached am I to that particular book? I also found myself wanting to hold onto books that I deemed as "classics", which my husband got a kick out of ("I'm beginning to think everything's a classic to you"). The series' collections I've accumulated proved to be the most difficult. I've always been of the mind that I should keep them around if I am still reading the series. And yet, suddenly, I found myself wondering if I really need to. Letting go of the series books I am no longer interested in was not hard to do. Most of the series I continue to read I just made an executive decision about, some I will keep and others I won't. Then there are a couple that I'm still undecided about.

There is a part of me that feels sadness at saying goodbye to so many books, many of which have been on my shelves for many years. They've been my companions, their characters my friends. Anjin and I set aside over 330 books from our "already read" shelves that we will be passing on. The remaining books are now packed in boxes, labeled and ready to be moved to our new home, wherever that may be. Anjin is already talking about how he wants to organize our books in our new home. By category, he says. That's a task I'm happy to leave to him.

When all was said and done, I suggested my husband might want to spend a weekend away while I go through my TBR collection, all those unread books I keep hidden in our spare bedroom. I have no inkling of how many I will decide to part with. It could be a small few or an embarrassingly high number. I just know it won't be easy on either of us. Even though I go through my stacks and cull out unwanted books regularly, it isn't with the same kind of ferocity I will do so now. What makes it especially hard of letting go of unread books is the amount of money we I spent on them over the past 20 years. I swear the books reproduce exponentially. You know what they say about appetites, about your eyes being bigger than your stomach . . . So many books out there I want to read and just not enough time. And I do love to be surrounded by books!

How are you at taming your stacks of books?

I haven't yet settled in to read today. Clearing the bookshelves was pretty much an all day task. You can be sure, however, that I will be curling up with a book this evening, joining Pru Marlowe, animal psychic, in proving dear sweet Lily couldn't have killed her human (Clea Simon's Dogs Don't Lie).

Enjoy your week and happy reading!

© 2011, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I just did some purging, too, but no where on the scale that you did! I gave away about a dozen ARCs on my blog and gave another 20 or so titles to my public library. My husband was so happy - and keeps asking if I'm sure there aren't more titles I can get rid of! LOL

    I follow a similar rule when deciding what to keep - if it was a 5-star or 4-star read, I keep it. If it's a classic, I keep it. If I think my kids will like it when older, I keep it. Otherwise - away it goes. :)

    Have a great week, Wendy!

  2. I often cull the books that I have already read and that are hanging around, but have never gotten up the nerve to remove books that are patiently waiting to be read. I know I need to do it, as there is just not physical space for all the books in the house, but I just haven't gotten to that point yet. Good on you for getting this done! It takes a heck of a lot of strength to be able to let go of books for me, and I admire you for being so practical.

  3. I feel for you. I did a huge purge in the fall and let go of 10 boxes of books. i am trying to do it more often, and now I have another big bag ready to go. No matter how hard I try they come in faster that I can get them out.

  4. I almost feel like I need someone to come over and help me through the process. It's amazing how books in a way become a part of us! I'm impressed by your progress but feel your pain.

    Hope you have a lovely week Wendy!

  5. Cleaning out bookshelves is always so hard to do. I've never discarded so many at once as you have, though!

  6. I don't keep that many of my read books, but I do find it hard to part with the unread ones! You're a brave person to get rid of that many books!

  7. It is so hard to let go of books. I used to have thousands but donated almost all to my favorite library. As soon as I let them go I started collecting more! Good luck with your culling!

  8. Carrie - It definitely sounds like we have similar criteria for determining what's a keeper! My shelves look so bare now, with the ones we're taking with us packed away and the one's we're giving away off the side . . .

    Zibilee - I've been really good about getting rid of books the last couple of years as I read them. It was long overdo I went through the older ones.

    It'll be a big challenge going through the TBR stacks, that's for sure. I am not sure how many I'll be able to part with when the time comes . . .

    Nicole - I think my last purge, before this one, was seven boxes of books. They definitely do seem to come in faster than they go out, I agree!

    Trish - Haha! My husband is good about getting rid of books--as long as they aren't his own. :-) I imagine I might have held onto a few more if it weren't for him.

  9. Jeane - The idea of having to move them all at once helped motivate me to get rid of more than I might have otherwise, that's for sure!

    Softdrink - I don't keep to many read books anymore either, but I used to (as evidenced by the amount I'm parting with now). There were a few I really went back and forth over. There's always the "What if" factor that gives me doubts.

    Kathleen - It is hard giving books up. Fortunately I'm in the mood to do so (nesting phase, I think it's called), otherwise I don't think I'd be brave enough to let so many go.

  10. It's so hard to let our books go isn't it. I ordered two new bookshelves last Friday and when it arrives this week, it will be time for me to sort out all my books. I look forward to it, because my books have been piling around the house and it's time for them to have a new home, ha!

    Hope you have a great week, Wendy!

  11. Melody - It is hard to let go of them. Many of them have been with me for years and years. Alas, it was time. I hope we'll have plenty of space for lots of books in our new house. We don't have enough space in our current one, I'm afraid.

  12. I recently had to go through this pain. With a baby on the way the second bedroom could no longer be my personal library. I just no longer have space for piles and piles of books. No doubt in my future the library will be my best friend, or ebooks. I can collect those without a problem!

  13. I'm going to have to purge books, too. We can't even walk into the guest room and, if we ever want to move, we just can't take all these books with us. That's why I've switched to my ereader, but still it's going to be a huge job getting rid of the books. Some are very old romances and I'm not sure anyone would even take them as a donation.

  14. That is quite a pile! I let go of alot of books when we moved and I am embarassed to say how difficult it was. They are like old friends. And yes, the money is an issue too. But it could have been spent in much worse ways!

  15. WOW..those photos tell all:) I actually pulled 55 books last week and donated them, and plan to pull at least an equal amount in the next few weeks.

    I'm happy u were able to part with some. It was easier for me as I do rarely keep something once I've read it.

  16. Whoa ... those pictures really tell a story. I had to do a similar purge in October and it was overwhelming. Lol.

  17. I pretty much hack away at mine all the time, although I go through what I think you could call "collecting phases," during which I can't bear to part with anything. Recently, I've been getting rid of about 30-50 books per week, which means I'm in a purging phase. It's difficult work if you're addicted to books but moving is certainly a great incentive. That's a pretty amazing number of books to get rid of all at once. Good for you!!

  18. The TBR room in pictures! That's going to be quite a project. I did a bookshelf purge last week and freed about 40 books from TBR Purgatory in addition to the "already read" ones I packed up to donate to the library. I agree that deciding a "to-be-read" isn't going to be a "read" after all is a tough call, and it requires some degree of ruthlessness. Good luck with the next phase of culling, Wendy!

  19. Man, this is hard to do. We just moved - after 13 years - and got rid of so many books it just blew my mind. (Still unpacking/recovering, hence the radio silence.) Very hard to choose, but the upside was finding books we didn't know we had -- often multiple copies! Does that happen to you, too?

    And don't let Wallis hear you calling Lily "dear" or "sweet." She's a ... dog.

  20. You can do it! :)
    I have to cull the shelves too. It is hard though to get rid of the unread books that you have lost interest in though... You wonder why you wanted it in the first place or why you took so long.

    Something that helps me with series books though is that if I have all the books in the series, then I will keep them but if it's incomplete I don't feel so bad about letting go of the ones I have. Isn't that weird?

  21. Good luck! I think getting rid of series books would be one of the hardest things for me to do. I love glancing at the shelves and seeing all the books in a series together.

  22. The only books that I have a hard time getting rid of are the ones that the kids grew up with. I just cannot part with them. I put them in plastic bins and keep them in the garage but they are adding up.

    The rest I regularly give away to my friends and book club members. I have about 20 that are near and dear to me. The rest, go.

  23. This is gonna sound crazy, but when we unpacked at the new house I only brought one box of books inside. I'm planning to make myself read that one before I can open the next! In a way it's nice not to have books everywhere.

  24. It is hard to let go of books that have been on your shelves for years. Some of mine I've packed up 5 times or moves over the years! It is easier to cull your stacks when you're moving so take advantage of it!

  25. I've gotten better about getting rid of books, but I'm still not good at it.

  26. Oh Wendy, I just loved this post! It made me feel "not alone" in the constant need to make decisions about my books. It is difficult making some of those decisions, isn't it? Oh, and the series thing ... I will just not get started on that. I will say that I am not parting with my Tony Hillerman series. And I am starting a new series that you have mentioned on your blog ... Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series. I've pulled Moon Called out of the stack and it is now in my purse. Will start it as soon as I finish the 684 chunkster I'm reading now (The House on Durrow Street).

  27. Good for you for getting this done Wendy. That's an awful lot of books to say goodbye to. I did this a while back and sent about 15 boxes to the library. It is hard to let them go though. I know I'm going to have to go through my shelves again soon and like you I cringe at the amount of money that was probably spent on books I probably won't read.

  28. Nothing like a move to help you get rid of books. When we moved from Kentucky to Iowa, I think I got rid of about 1000 or so. Unfortunately, I've added probably at least half that since then.

    In my move from Iowa to Alabama the company paid for movers so I didn't have to worry about breaking my sons' backs at least, so I kept most of them. Now as I'm unpacking everything, it's so fun to see my books again because some have been packed since Kentucky.

    Good luck on the move and the decision making!

  29. Wow, I'm very impressed with your progress, Wendy! Did it help that your husband was also purging his bookshelves?

    I've never gotten rid of that many books in one pass; was very pleased when I shared 60 last spring (I guess it's time to do it again).

    Good luck with the move ... books probably aren't all you're considering as you pack.

  30. Oh my, books seem to be the easiest things to move (you just put them into boxes, no big deal) but it isn't true, really. Looking at the pictures (and I'm sure you own much more), your move will be pretty tough. Good luck! Btw, I don't usually put any of my books away. I cannot do it, since I keep telling myself I will come back to each one of them.

  31. Caspette - E-books do take up a lot less space, that's for sure. I would love for our new house to have space for all my books. We'll see . . . If we were staying in our current house, my TBR room would become the baby's room.

    Yvonne - That pretty much sums up my TBR room--which also serves as our guest room. There's some room, but not much. Before I began packing up the books in that room, I couldn't even get to the closet. :-(

    Jaimie - It is hard, isn't it? You want to hold onto as many of them as you can but know you can't. You are definitely write about the money part--there are worst ways to spend it!

    Diane - That pile grew a bigger after I started tackling the TBR stacks and I'm only half way through those. I'm keeping way more of the TBR books than I'm parting with though--I still want to read so many of the books I've collected over the years but haven't had a chance to read.

    Beth - Overwhelming is the perfect word for it. I think that's why I kept putting it off.

    Nancy - I do too to a smaller extent. We decided to get ruthless this time around.

  32. Florinda - I don't know if I'm brave enough to show pictures of the actual TBR room. It's embarrassing the number of books in there. Hubby and I are about half way done with the TBR books as of last weekend. It's definitely been a challenge.

    Clea - So true! I've discovered books I'd completely forgotten about. Delving into my unread books was like visiting a bookstore or library and finding all sorts of treasures.

    I do occasionally find duplicate copies, but not as often as I did before I started keeping a spreadsheet of all the books I own.

    Wallis is all heart inside, despite her best efforts not to show that side of herself. :-)

    Iliana - I did find myself wondering that as I added to the giveaway pile. Some were much easier to part with than others too.

    I don't think it's weird that you keep whole series and don't mind parting with partial series. It makes perfect sense to me!

    Kris - I do too, Kris. I think it's become an issue because I'm not sure how much longer I want to read particular series that I've been reading for years.

    Ti - I can understand that. I found myself keeping my childhood or young adult favorites and I imagine I'll do the same with my daughter's books.

    I've gotten good about giving away books as I read them (unless I really don't want to part with it) in the last couple of years. It's a practice I'd like to continue.

    Lisa - I think that's a great idea, Lisa! I can see myself though marking the boxes with numbers to mark their priority. LOL

  33. Stacy - That's kind of the way I see it--it's much easier to do a thorough job with a move in mind than when I'm just doing it to clean house. It's also kept me from going overboard and bringing a lot of new books into the home.

    Kathy - It takes time, I think. It's something I struggle with still.

    Terri - It really can be difficult, I agree. We become so attached to our books.

    I hope you enjoy Moon Called!

    Darlene - It'll be nice though to have all the books fit on the shelves, I think. We'll see how long that lasts!

    Michelle - That's one of my problems too--some go out and more come in. It's a revolving door.

    Thank you for the good luck wishes!

    Dawn - It did help having him there, culling his own books as well. And this way too we could check with each other to make sure the other wasn't interested in keeping a particular book.

    Thank you for the good luck wishes. Hopefully everything will go well with the move. Packing in general is a pain, but something that must be done.

    Elli - Except when there are so many! Those boxes add up and since we'll likely be moving ourselves . . .

    I had a change of heart about keeping so many books around somewhere in there. I used to keep everything. I think the lack of space had something to do with it and a chance to share the books with others beyond just family and close friends.

  34. That is some pile of books! I'm thinking of culling my books too. If only the libraries here are good then I can count on them to "feed" me. I'm very careful with my book purchases these days.

  35. Alice - I am not buying books like I used to--space is more my issue these days than anything else.


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