Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Living With Less: Books, Books, Books

Think about Disney's Beauty and The Beast.  Think about that library that the Beast gives Belle.  Now think about your own home.

It's never going to happen.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm all for literacy and reading.  All for it.  And I strongly believe that children should be forever surrounded by good books.  But that doesn't mean you have to own them.  If you live in a really rural area without a good public library system, it may be more practical to have your own home library.  But for those of us who live in regular cities with good public libraries, owning a lot of books is--quite frankly--a waste of money and space.

Bryan and I both felt entirely different about this even just a year ago.  We were book buyers.  Book hoarders, you might even say.  Because you can't just get rid of books, right?  Wrong.  You can get rid of books.  And I strongly encourage it.  In fact, I think you'll find, once you get started, that books are one of the easiest things to get rid of.  Why?  Because it's so easy to get your hands on another copy, often for free.

So make the switch.  Let your library do the buying and storing for you.  It's way more fun to go to the library and pick out a "new" book than to shop your own shelves.  And you'll find that going to the library is not only a great outing for kids, but also a great way to read a wide variety of kids books without having to pay a cent for it.  Public libraries are a win-win-win-win-win situation.

So are you ready to de-stash your own stash?

Here's what you do:
Go through your entire book collection (because, in all truth, it is a collection, just like stamps and porcelain figurines), and sort your books into the following piles:

  • To keep
  • To sell
  • To give away

Now let's discuss each of these piles in a little more detail.

To Keep: The books you love love love

Novels: Only keep books that you know you'll continue to read again and again.  If you've only read it once (or less), it does not deserve a permanent place on your bookshelf.

Craft/Hobby Books: Again, keep only the ones you keep coming back to again and again.  If you find you're tired of the projects, let it go.  And the sooner the better.  Styles and trends change so quickly that you're much more likely to get a few dollars out of a book if it still has ideas that will be fresh and new to somebody else.  The out-dated books?  Not so much.

Children's Books: Only the really high quality, timeless, sentimental books that you and your kids will love forever and that you'll all enjoy reading through again and again and again and again and again deserve a place on your shelf.  If your kids book collection is out of control and you need a rule: choose twenty.  Thirty if you happen to have a particularly good collection.  You do not need to own things that you can get and store for free at the library.

Church Books: I can understand why these get to be such a collectors item for many people.  You want to be able to highlight things and then remember the things you highlight.  But, again, keep only the ones that you come back to time and time again.  Just because something is uplifting doesn't mean you have to own it forever.  (But, you know, keep the scriptures, of course.)

Cook Books: Honestly?  You use the same five all the time.  Get rid of the rest.  When you get the hankering to try something new, look it up online or check out a fun new cookbook from the library.

Magazines: I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but, again, keep only the ones that you keep coming back to over and over again.  Nobody should have boxes and boxes of old magazines lining their basement walls.  I don't care if it is the National Geographic.  Furthermore, "collectors editions" are exactly that.  They are things to add to your collection.  They are not going to make you millions of dollars one day.  They are Junk.  

To Sell: The books that are worth something to somebody else

New Books: Was the book published or purchased within the last year or two?  If so, you'll probably be able to sell it.  Try creating a sellers account on Amazon (it's not that hard) or selling them at your own yard sale.  These books are the ones that you're likely to make the most money off of.  So feel free to be a bit of a stickler on your price tags.

Edited to add:  I thought of this right after I clicked "publish" and then my sister mentioned this in the comments too, but you can also sell used books to Powell's Books.  It's an awesome, huge bookstore in Portland, Oregon.  So if you're local to that area you can just drop by with the books you want to sell and they'll tell you which ones they want to buy from you.  Alternatively, you can also sell used books to them online.  Apparently they'll even cover the cost of shipping.

Classic Books: Dr. Suess.  Little House on the Prairie.  The Chronicles of Narnia.  Jane Austen.  Maybe these made it into your "keep" pile, and for good reason.  But if you personally don't love re-reading them all the time, they're ideal for selling or giving away because there will always be somebody who wants them.  Just know that the physical condition of the book will matter when it comes to selling.  If it's beat up, you may need to settle with giving it away.

Old Paperback Novels: The cold, hard truth is that you're probably not going to make any money off these books.  Look them up on Amazon.  They're selling for a penny.  It's not worth the cost of shipping.  Feel free to set them out at the yard sale just in case you do have a buyer, but don't be overly disappointed when the majority of them make their way to the thrift store.

To Give Away: It's okay to be charitable

Everything else: Whatever you're not going to keep or bother trying to sell should probably just be given away (or recycled if it's in really bad condition).  Here are some ideas for people/places that might appreciate your donation:

  • Your local library!
  • A local elementary school (for kids books or for old magazines to cut up)
  • A local middle school or high school (for non-little kid books)
  • A local thrift store

Of course, you can always pawn your unwanted books off on other people.  But I didn't want to mention that here as a main option since you've probably already thought of that.  And, let's face it, it's not always nice to give somebody else your junk.  They say that one man's junk is another man's treasure.  But a lot of the time, it's just another man's junk.

Best of luck sorting through your books.  When it starts to get hard, just imagine that they're porcelain dolls.  That tends to help.


See the entire Living With Less series HERE.


Jennifer said...

The porcelin doll comment is pure genius.

Kathy Haynie said...

Oh my. I think I collect - hoard books because it proves I'm smart. "Look at all this stuff I've read (once)!" You are so right. There are a handful that I come back to over and over again. Just yesterday I had to rearrange a bunch of books to baby-proof my "library"--and I thought to myself as I was doing it, "I should be getting rid of a bunch of these"--but I was short on time and I didn't. Plus I was weak. I like looking SO smart. But the purge is coming. Soon.

Kendra Last-Bookartist said...

Another good place to sell books is Powells. Either in person or online. I last sold a bunch of books and got about $100. Now a couple were newish text books, but they even pay to ship the books to them, so go ahead to my friends.

alee said...

All I have to say is "good luck" when it comes to getting rid of books and Nicholas. Good luck my friend.

Lisa Lou said...

I had the HARDEST time being ok with throwing away old magazines - especially church ones. Until I realized they are all archived in digital format. And all the manuals are there too. Guess it's time to donate those (it's kind of funny how many copies of past RS manuals are at DI...)

Polly @ Pieces by Polly said...

Hahahaha...we are definitely book collectors/hoarders. In part because my kids are into easy readers now which our little library is short on and are what my kids need for reading these days. I do need to go through and do a purging...although I'll be honest that the majority of them will not be leaving our house. ;)

Dorothy said...

I often go into bookstores and then write down the titles of books I want to read....then go to the library and find them. I'm a total cheapskate. :)

Liz said...

I am not very good at parting with books, but this year I have instigated a 'one in, one out' rule, which at least stops the numbers increasing.

twobutterflies said...

Another great thing to do with books that you no longer want is list them on - it's a free book trading website. I use it all the time. It's especially great to trade up for books my kids have outgrown and get "new" books at their current level.