Getting Rid of Books – How to Decide When It’s Time to Part Ways

This is the time of year when I most often think about parting ways with some of the physical books that fill my bookshelves.  Every year I receive wonderful new books as Christmas gifts and then spend days trying to figure out where to put them because my shelves are already overflowing.


I have to admit that as a book hoarder collector, I find it very hard to get rid of books. In the back of my mind, there’s always this little voice that tells me I might want to re-read all of my books someday and that it therefore doesn’t make sense to part ways with them.  Spoiler alert:  I rarely EVER re-read books so the little voice in my head is totally full of it.  And now that I’m doing bookstagram, that first little voice has been joined by another that says “Don’t get rid of that book. You might want to use it in a photo layout one day.”  So yeah, fun times, lol.

That’s not to say I never get rid of books though. I do. I have to. I’ve come to accept that my house just isn’t big enough to store an infinite number of books so when I’m maxed out on shelf space, I make the difficult choice to part ways with some books.

How do I decide which ones to get rid of?  Well, the easy ones are the books that I didn’t really enjoy when I read them, especially if I actually DNF’ed them.  Those are always the first to go. I know I’m never going to read them again so I go ahead and donate those, either to Goodwill or to the local library.

The books that are harder to choose from are those that I liked but didn’t necessarily love.  I kind of cheat when it comes to these books.  I’ll pull them off my shelves to make room for newer books, but I won’t part ways right away.  Instead, I box them up and shove them in the back of my closet.  If I haven’t given any of them a second thought after a few months, then I’m good with getting rid of them.  Because I did enjoy these though, I’ll usually show them to my mom and sister, who are also avid readers, and give them first pick if any are of interest, then I donate the rest.

I have an even harder time parting ways with classics. There’s just something about them that makes me feel like I should hold on to them, even if I didn’t particularly like them when I read them.  I have two copies of Moby Dick sitting on my shelves right now, for example, and I absolutely hated that book when I read it.  And as you can see from the photo above, they’re not even pretty copies of the book. Maybe it’s the collector in me or maybe I subconsciously think it makes me look smart to have classics on my shelf. Or maybe I think my son might want to read it someday. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just weird, lol.

So if classics are a struggle even if I didn’t like them, what happens if I actually loved a book?  Well, you can pretty much forget me ever parting ways with it.  It’s just not happening. Those are the books where those little voices in my head always win out.  Thankfully, although my methods are clearly far from perfect, it seems to work out well enough. I’m typically willing to get rid of just enough books each time to make room for the new ones.  If that ever ends up not being the case, I guess I’ll have to re-evaluate what I’m doing, but until that time comes, I’m content with my system.


So, what about you?  How do you decide which books to part ways with?

32 replies
  1. Aj @ Read All The Things!
    Aj @ Read All The Things! says:

    I also have no space to keep books. I go by my Goodreads rating. If I give it less than 4 stars, the book leaves for sure. If I give it 4 or 5 stars, I only keep it if I know for sure I’ll reread it. I think 95% of the books that come into my house end up leaving it again.

  2. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I also have a hard time parting with books. I used to just not do it and then I was forced to get a smaller bookshelf. Now I enforce the new book in/old book out way of life. *Well except when I buy 15 books from a book sale.* If I DNF a book it automatically goes to my donate pile. Same with ones I wouldn’t recommend to a fellow reader.
    In 2018 I donated over 50 books to my local library.

  3. Angela
    Angela says:

    I pretty much try to only keep books that I loved and will see myself rereading. There are also a few authors I collect all the books from. I feel the same way about classics, though. I have a whole shelf of them that I will probably never reread, yet I can’t get myself to get rid of them yet. But they’re classics, so it’s not like if I ever wanted to read it again I wouldn’t be able to find it.

  4. Erica Robyn
    Erica Robyn says:

    I’m very similar! I seem to always have a pile of books ready to be donated. If it’s a book I’ve DNFed or read and just didn’t care for, it immediately goes into the pile. I struggle with my three star reads that were just okay. I usually hold on to those for a bit to see if I want to re-read them, but then they usually get donated. Because of space issues, I really try to only keep the ones I know I am going to reread time and time again. I’ve found that I really enjoy displaying the books that I really LOVE. Great post!

  5. Dinara Tengri
    Dinara Tengri says:

    A few years back, my brother and I decided to get rid of books we thought we didn’t need. In what’s now known as “the great book purge” we donated a whole bunch of books to goodwill and threw out the ones nobody else wanted. And we’ve come to regret it ever since. That’s why I have a very hard time getting rid of books. Then there are books that I hated the first time around but that I think deserve a second chance. Except for Moby Dick. Thankfully, that was a library loan.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      This is so relatable. I did a huge book purge a few years ago and ended up re-buying several of the books I got rid of because I wanted to re-read them after all. I’m much more selective about what I’ll part with these days, lol.

  6. Lindsi
    Lindsi says:

    I actually don’t have issues with this one! After I finish a book I always aske myself, “Would I read this again?” If the answer is yes, it stays. If the answer is no, it goes. It keeps my shelves pretty neat and I know they’re full of the books I’ve loved and look forward to reading again. I can love a book and not want to read it again, so those usually end up in giveaways.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

  7. lisa thomson
    lisa thomson says:

    Well, my ‘system’ for parting with books is very similar to yours. If I loved it, it stays. I will re-read some books, too. I’ve read To Kill A Mockingbird about five times now. I tend to keep a collection of the same author i.e. I have all of the Jane Austen books. I can’t imagine parting with those. I have no problem letting go of fluffy books such as romance (which I truly enjoy, too). I know I won’t be re-reading those. I’m running out of room for books, honestly. So clearly, I’m not doing a very good job of getting rid of books. Great post, Suzanne. Especially for the New Year coming. I tend to clean out and spring clean in January.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I’m right on the edge of running out of room so I may need to come up with a better system soon. I hope you have a Happy New Year!

  8. sjhigbee
    sjhigbee says:

    Great discussion! Yes… this is the darker side of being an avid reader, isn’t it? Our situation is complicated by the fact that there are two of us in our household and while I’m not much of a rereader, Himself is. So the only chance I have of freeing up books that are cluttering every corner of the spare room and our bedroom is to be extra ruthless with my own books. I mostly don’t mind too much – although there are a handful of books I refuse to be part from – all the Terry Pratchett, Lois McMaster Bujold books and C.J. Cherryh, for instance…

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Thankfully my hubby is pretty good about parting ways with his and has also started reading more and more audiobooks so he has less physical copies lying around.

  9. Tanya @ Girl Plus Books
    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books says:

    I try to go through my bookshelves and weed out on a fairly regularly basis. If I didn’t love it, it gets passed on/shared/donated. If it’s lingered on the shelf for years and I no longer have any interest in reading it, it gets passed on. But the ones I loved? They’re not going anywhere. I love seeing them on my shelf. 🙂

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I really like displaying books that I loved as well. There’s just something so comforting about seeing a shelf of old favorites.

  10. ShootingStarsMag
    ShootingStarsMag says:

    I’m sort of good at getting rid of books, but I still have tons and tons. What’s hard is getting rid of any that I haven’t read yet, and I have sooo many of those. But sometimes they just don’t interest me anymore or I figure I won’t read them for a very long time, so I’ll pass it along. I sell books to Half Price Books, gift/give some away, and donate to the library when getting rid of books.


    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Oh yeah, I feel you on the struggle to get rid of unread books. I did finally part ways with a few of those that I had lost interest in ever reading but it took everything in me to actually put them in the donation book and send them out the door, lol.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Yes, I definitely hold on to all of my 5 star reads. And your comment reminds me that I’ve been wanting to add illustrated HP books to my collection. Always adding rarely purging, lol.

  11. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight
    Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight says:

    I got rid of a bunch of books I had from middle/high school a couple years ago when I moved. Since then, I haven’t gotten rid of any lol. I don’t have that many though, so I haven’t had a real need to get rid of any yet. I also struggled to get rid of classics though, even though I didn’t like them!

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles to get rid of classics. I seriously thought that would just be me being a weirdo, lol.

  12. Brittany
    Brittany says:

    I am not any good at getting rid of books either! And I totally get the classics thing, tho I don’t have multiple copies of any 😂😂 When my mom and sister get rid of books they give them all to me 😂 so I have a ton of books I am never planning on reading haha

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I’m glad someone else gets the whole classics thing. I tried to explain it to my sister and she just shook her head at me, lol.

  13. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction
    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says:

    I’m pretty good about only holding onto books that I loved, but that’s because I have SO many unread books on my shelves that I would never have room for any more if I kept all the books I read. I definitely hold onto classics more, though—just one copy per classic, but I’ll hold onto even ones I wasn’t crazy about. I never really thought about why!!

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I have a real storage issue when it comes to unread books too. I used to try to keep them all on two shelves, but now they’ve stretched on to 3 1/2 shelves, lol.

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