6 ways to address your book collection without going pure Kondo

Heather Ford Unsplash busy book shelf
Category: Reading

Unless you’ve been living under a pile of rarely-worn clothes, old magazines and tealight holders for the past few years, you'll have heard of Marie Kondo.

The one-woman boost to community recycling centres gained fame for her simple advice on how to keep your home tidy in an age whern we buy more stuff than ever before. Her bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was first adapted as a Manga graphic novel and then a Netflix series. It was the latter that brought worldwide infamy, when Kondo advised that we should keep no more than 30 books in our home.

For booklovers – many of whom struggle to keep the pile on their bedside table to under 30 books – this was sacrilege, and the response was predictably frenzied.

With a few months of hindsight, perhaps we all over-reacted. When your home’s floor becomes your largest book shelf, perhaps it is time to act.

Only 30 books is too draconian for us, however. That's why we've sought to establish some more realistic guidelines for all of our book loving friends out there. Friends whose bookends are in boxes because they take up valuable bookshelf room. 

With that in mind, here are 6 reasons to keep or remove books.* 

*And remember: if you are saying goodbye to a large amount of books in the Central Belt, support out work by contacting our friends at Better World Books.


1. REMOVE books that you’re only keeping because they won a prize

Is there a prize-winning book that really helped you to nod off in the evening? A story that heralded a huge spike in your phone usage? And yet, there it is, still on your bookshelf simply because other people said it was good. It’s time for some honesty. Will you really go back for more or are you keeping this weighty tome around to impress people? Maybe it’s time to borrow some wisdom from Marie Kondo. Pick the book up. If it makes you feel full of shame or angst, get rid.


2. REMOVE unwanted gifts

Receiving a book as a gift is never less than magical, except when it's not.

“I know you don’t climb, but I bought you this book because you said you watched that climbing documentary on Netflix. It’s about a guy from the 19th century who was, like, an early pioneer of climbing or something. I’ve not read it but it looked good, eh.”

It’s thoughtful but (1) you’re not really into climbing – it was just a good film; (2) you don’t really read much non-fiction; and (3) the average reader only gets through four to 12 books a year - will you really devote one of these precious slots to a book you don’t fancy? 


3. KEEP unread books simply because they are pretty

This is totally justified. If you already own a silly amount of books then the chances are you value them as decorative objects. Keep the pretty even if it will go unread.

There shouldn't be shoulds in reading. Your bookshelfs should spark joy and antipation, not guilt and excuse making.


4. REMOVE vague notions of collecting a full series

Are you keeping a few titles from a vast series by a prolific author just because you have more than one of their books? If you're not aiming at completing the full set, and the author isn’t in your top 5, consider trimming down to your collection to one or two books of theirs that you really loved.


5. KEEP brilliant books you’ll never re-read

You've read and loved a book. Five years and two house moves later, it's still on your bookshelf and you've no plans to re-read it. Why keep?

For booklovers, this is a hard behaviour to justify, and it certainly wouldn’t be Kondo-ned (in fact, Marie Kondo suggest that we will carry great books around with us in our memory). Perhaps we keep these books like rarely looked at photos of our past. We occasionally take a moment to gaze at them and remember different times and different selves.

Besides, a booklover never knows when they will meet a person who will absolutely love a title they've read. Introducing a book to someone who truly loves it is often more satisfying than finding treasure for yourself.  


6. REMOVE the ‘shoulds’ from your genre-scape

Some people won’t read fiction as is ‘didn’t actually happen’. Some people can’t read non-fiction as it leaves them cold. Whatever your bias, you’ll no doubt have books in genres you know you should explore more. There shouldn't be shoulds in reading. Your bookshelves should spark joy and antipation, not guilt and excuse making. Why not pick two or three titles that really interest you from a lesser-explored genre and donate the rest to people who will truly treasure them.

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