Today, let’s discuss how to declutter and organize books! This is the second decluttering category of the KonMari Method. In this post, I’ll walk you through the process of decluttering books, which is notoriously difficult! But once you conquer your books, you’ll be able to conquer the rest of the clutter in your home with ease.
I’m also working through the KonMari Method as I write this series, so be sure to read to the end to see how my book decluttering went!
Let’s review once more the order in which Marie Kondo recommends items to be decluttered:
- Komono (miscellaneous)
- Sentimental items
If you are following along with this blog series, then hopefully you are done with the first category and are ready to move on to books!
Owning a large collection of books (whether you’ve read them or not), is often considered a positive thing, and might help a person portray themselves as intellectual, studious, or well-read. But books, like anything else in the home, can accumulate to the point of becoming clutter. Having too many books that do not spark joy can actually detract from one’s quality of life.
Books are a significantly more difficult category than clothing because they usually hold more sentimental value. During the decluttering process, people often get distracted by the potential a book holds, which makes it difficult to know whether a book actually brings joy and value to their lives in the here and now.
How to Declutter Books
Thankfully, the process for decluttering books is basically the same as decluttering clothing, so we won’t have to reinvent the wheel today.
Step 1: Pile all of your books on the floor.
Just like with clothing, it’s important to pile all of your books into one spot so you can grasp how large your collection really is. It’s easy to ignore how many books you have when they are sitting neatly on a shelf, but seeing large unruly stacks on the floor will make you think twice about how many you own. It’s a slightly annoying process to pull heavy books off of their shelves and stack them all up, but it’ll be worth it if it helps you to thoroughly declutter this category of items.
Marie Kondo likes to “wake up” the books by clapping loudly or by tapping the books. I don’t know if it has any real effect, but I will say that seeing and touching your books in a new place (on the floor) at a new angle (in stacks) is quite refreshing, especially when it comes to books you haven’t seen or handled in a very long time.
Before you begin discarding, you can sort your books into general categories to help keep the process streamlined. Marie Kondo divides them into four categories, as follows:
- General (books you read for pleasure)
- Practical (references, cookbooks, etc.)
- Visual (photograph collections, etc.)
If you have a very large collection, you may need more categories or subcategories. For example, you may want to separate your Spanish textbooks from your German textbooks, or your novels from your comic books, and so on.
Step 2: Pick up each book one by one and ask yourself, “Does it spark joy?”
This is the actual decluttering process. It’s time to pick up each book one by one and ask yourself whether it sparks joy or not. I recommend starting with the books that you know you love and cherish without a doubt, so that you will have a better grasp on what a “spark joy” book feels like.
Marie advises not to read the books as you go and to just focus on how the book makes you feel when you pick it up. Reading clouds your judgement, and obviously, stopping to read each book will slow you down.
She also advises against keeping unread books or books that you are hoping to reread again someday, because in her experience, “someday” actually means “never.” It’s a harsh stance to take on books, especially for book lovers, so I would just recommend that you try to be honest with yourself about whether you will actually read these types of books in the future. I myself own many unread books and I’ve chosen to keep them because I honestly have interest in reading them later. I’ll explain more about the books I’ve kept later in this blog post.
Overall, the goal of the book decluttering process is to keep books that bring you so much pleasure to read or look at, that they are worthy of your personal “Book Hall of Fame.”
Many book collectors love to gripe about the fact that Marie Kondo only has a measly 30 books in her collection, and like to dismiss the KonMari Method because they could never imagine owning so few. They refuse to be told how many books to own! But the truth is, Marie Kondo has never once specified how many items a person is allowed to keep, or how many items one must discard. As always, the rule is to keep as many items as spark joy for you! You are allowed to keep as many books as you want! So don’t measure yourself by Marie Kondo’s book collection size.
Step 3: Thank your books before you discard them.
As with the clothing category, make sure to thank your discarded books before you send them off. Especially with emotionally-charged items like books, it’s very healing to acknowledge the part each book played in your life, whether you read them or not.
You can thank books for what they taught you about life, or what they taught you about yourself. You can thank books for the joy you felt when you first received them. Or, you can thank them for teaching you about what types of books you don’t like!
How to Organize Books
Amazingly, Marie Kondo has offered very little advice on the proper method of storing books, although she briefly recommends keeping books in cupboards or closets if during the decluttering process you find you no longer have need for a bookcase. Or if you are keeping your bookcase, you can move it into a closet to free up floorspace.
Since Marie doesn’t have much to say on the topic, let me tell you about how we store books in our home.
My husband and I store books in two places. The first is the TV stand in the living room which has a small shelf. This is where I display our most attractive and interesting books. I try to keep books of similar color and size together for the most visual appeal. If you have particularly beautiful books, feel free to display them in a place of prominence!
The second place we store books is on our computer desk which has built-in shelves. Here I keep my language textbooks on their own shelf, and the rest of our books together on another. I sort them by type (fiction and non-fiction) and then by height. Organizing by height is what works best for me and my tastes, but I know many people enjoy organizing their books by rainbow order, and some like to organize alphabetically.
Since there are no KonMari rules about organizing books, follow your heart on this one!
I was a little apprehensive about this category because a couple of years ago I accepted a huge collection of used books, classics mostly, from one of my husband’s work colleagues. I knew when I took them in I wouldn’t be able to read all of them right away but, living in South Korea, I was grateful to have access to so many great books in English. But according to Marie Kondo’s philosophy, if you don’t read a book when you receive it, then its moment has passed and you should get rid of it, so I wasn’t sure how I would fare this time around.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to adhere to her teachings 100%, but I still tried to be honest with myself about which books I was actually interested in reading someday, and let go of the books that I would likely never get around to. To make it harder, I had recently gotten rid of two bags full of books and I just didn’t know if I would be able to discard any more.
Unlike with the clothes category, I did actually get all of our books off of the shelves and pile them onto the floor. I didn’t get a picture of them, but I separated my husband’s books into their own pile and let my husband look through those himself.
It was really easy to pick out the books I loved or was really excited to read, but there were quite a few books that ended up in a “maybe” pile, and I sat on the floor for a really long time contemplating whether or not they were worth keeping.
In the end, I made some tough decisions and decided to discard approximately ten books and a magazine. My husband, who is more decisive and less sentimental than me, quickly scanned his much smaller pile and picked out four more books to discard. Together, we filled up yet another bag of books to get rid of.
I feel a bit lighter, and we have quite a bit more shelf space now! I’m sure the additional storage space will come in handy when it’s time to declutter and reorganize other items on our desk.
The next category we will tackle together is paper clutter! I’m not really looking forward to that one 😅 but once papers are out of the way, we can finally move on to ALL of the other items in the home, which I am greatly looking forward to decluttering!
I hope today’s overview about books will help you as you declutter and organize your book collection! If you have any questions about how to deal with your books, feel free to ask in the comments.
Thanks for reading!