In the last couple of years I’ve been trying to become minimalistic. Though I don’t mind a bit of a mess (in fact, I’m rather comforted by it), clutter gives me stress and anxiety, and there’s no denying the lifestyle saves money.
However, I’ll be completely up front in disclosing that I do not follow a minimalistic way of life when it comes to books. The more books, the better. Children’s classics? Bring them on. 10 copies of one book? No problem. Old, worn books? Uh, yes, please. My dream is to have an entire wall (or two, or four) of books.
However, not everyone wishes to hoard a huge collection. Here are a few tips for minimalists who don’t know where to start when it comes to keeping and discarding books in their lives.
1. Buy a Kindle or Nook. If you don’t want overflowing bookshelves, buy your books through Kindle. When you finish the book, delete it to keep up with electronic minimalism.
2. Purchase a library card. Limit yourself to a certain number of books per week to choose from your local library. You not only avoid clutter and build up of books but can choose carefully which books you then actually love enough to purchase.
3. Audiobooks. I think everyone knows about Audible by now; it’s a great option if you don’t want a pile of to-be-read books stacked up by the corner of your couch, but not so much if you’re looking to save money. I tried Audible for a month, and I was impressed with the selection and enjoyed the books I downloaded, but had to stop because the price was a bit steep. However, this is a great option to consider, not only for the space factor but convenience — how great is it to be able to listen to a book wherever you are, whatever you’re doing?
Tip: Check with your local library to see if they have an online library. With the purchase of a card, some libraries offer online access to audiobooks. This is definitely a cheaper option!
4. Keep sentimental books. I understand a substantial part of minimalism is going through sentimental items and deep cleaning, but in my opinion, what is a home without at least a couple of books? If you possess your favorite childhood read, the first book that made you love reading, the book you read to your child over and over, or perhaps a beautiful edition of a classic that someone special gave you, don’t be afraid to keep them. Display them proudly and neatly but don’t buy repeats.
5. Take note of what you collect. Spin-off series, novelty reads, multiple editions of the same book, etc. etc. If, for example, you prefer collecting beautiful, annual editions of your favorite reads, just set limits for yourself. Buy one special edition a year, or pick one series out of your favorite five to work on building the set.
6. Donate. Donate to your local library, Goodwill, a school fundraiser, prisons, or to a charity organization such as Books for Africa. Even though you may no longer want the books, there are so many others out there who would enjoy and benefit from the stories you once loved.
7. Give to a Friend. My best friend receives many of the books I decide to retire from my shelves — and she loves it. Plus, if your books are in good shape, they make great, no-cost gifts!
8. Upcycle/Recycle. Recycle your old books to make paper for new books, or get crafty with your worn books and try an upcycled book craft, like one of these.
9. Create a book budget. Set aside a specific amount of your monthly income to spend on books. Use the envelope system and keep that money out of the bank so you can be more aware of your spending. Determine not to spend over budget.
10. Keep a List. If you’re having a hard time with sentimentality, keep a list of the books you’re letting go or take pictures of the covers and keep them in a file on your computer. If you find yourself trying to remember a childhood favorite or realize you miss a certain book, you have an easy reference to find those favorites again.
If you’re struggling with minimizing your shelves, start small; put books in a box out of sight for a couple months and see what you miss and what you don’t, and go from there. Getting rid of books that have been on your shelves for years but remain untouched can be liberating, and you may even discover you start reading more. Going through your shelves once a month and donating at least one book will keep your minimalist goals in the forefront of your mind and provide opportunities to give back to others.
Let me know if you’re a minimalist in regards to books and what you do to maintain that goal. Happy Spring!