Sunday, March 8, 2009

Never read a book through merely because you have begun it…

I love books. John loves books. Mimi loves books. We love to read. However, we don’t like to get rid of books. I have actually turned the corner on my need to keep every book that I’ve ever read – a bit of an exaggeration, but not much!

In the past year I’ve discovered numerous ways to free up bookshelf space in our house.

But first I had to decide to let go of books.

Books that were particularly meaningful to me or that I could honestly say I might read again, or at least reference, I kept. What went out the door was mostly fiction and some once-is-definitely-enough tomes like Jerry Seinfeld’s “Letters From a Nut”, “Bridges of Madison County, “The Celestine Prophecy”. Books I bought but never read because they just didn’t sound that interesting after all. You get the picture.

Here are some ways I thinned my shelves:

1. Donated books to my local library’s annual book sale. I took several grocery bags over to the Patrick Henry branch of the Fairfax County Library system. That felt really good.

2. Donated books to my favorite, fabulous local thrift store, Unique. Yep, that’s the name of it, just “Unique”. This is the biggest, best thrift store ever! It’s the size of a grocery store and so well organized. Anyhoo, your local Goodwill will be happy to have your books.

3. Posted books on If you don’t know about Freecycle, you are missing out! It’s a nation-wide community of people who are trying to do their part to keep the flotsam and jetsam of our households from filling up landfills. It operates on the “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” principle. If you have something around your house that you don’t need or want anymore, I can assure you that there is someone in your Freecycle area (it’s organized geographically to facilitate the exchange of goods) who would LOVE to have it. You just post an “Offer”, briefly describing the item and wait to hear from other local Freecycle cohorts who would like your item. There are over 2,000 people in my Freecycle group which means a big audience for any posts. Of course, you might also find things that you want in your Freecycle postings. Go to for more information.

4. Another fantastic online service I’ve recently discovered is Paperback Swap ( It’s not just for paperback books! You simply set up a free account, post the books you want to “recycle” and wait for other “swappers” to request one of your books. Once you have sent out a requested book, you get a “credit” which can then be used to request books from among the literally millions of books posted. It has a great search function. It even creates a mailing label for you to print out to wrap the book you are sending. I’ve also taken advantage of the option to pre-purchase postage that is then printed right on the mailing label, saving me a trip to the post office (you can put the book directly into your mailbox for your mail carrier pickup). In essence, you are getting rid of books and, in exchange, getting books for the cost of postage. Check it out! BTW, my friend Darla has figured out the key to getting your books picked up quickly is to offer non-fiction. Her cookbooks have gone like wildfire!

5. Of course, one way to personalize the book thinning process is the think of a friend or family member who might enjoy one of your books and pass it along.

Now if I could just get John to lighten his book load we might be able to make some headway in organizing our bookshelves!

A few months ago I printed out the Library of Congress Classification system from Wikipedia. Yes, geeky, I know but wouldn’t it be great to be able to put your hands on a book pretty much instantly!? And it really appeals to my sense of order which is certainly NOT represented by this current photo of one of our bookshelves! Yes, I resisted the strong urge to tidy up before taking this pic.

Are you a book "keeper" or do you let them go? Why?

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