Organizing a Book Collection

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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Drowning in books

May 2011

I have literally thousands of books that I would like to sell and donate. I am paying over $100.00 a month for a storage unit where many of them are housed.I would need someone to come to see them as taking them all to a book store that buys books would be an overwhelming task.I know that some of them are valuable.Thanks. too many books

I highly recommend Katherine Korlacki. She is an excellent personal organizer. She will not only help send books away for donation or for sell, she can also help you sort through and keep the books that are still meaningful to you. Her number is 510-525-3310. or email her. Lan

In reply to your posting about your books, I'm assuming you are a lover or a collector of books. If so, depending upon the quality, demand and subject, you may be able to sell some and donate others but you will first need to sort through them, getting rid of those that are damaged or moldy. As a professional organizer, I work with many clients who share your interest in books. I would recommend you start by sorting through your books separating out 1)those that are damaged from 2)those that reflect your current interests and 3)those that are in good shape but that you would be ready to let go of (either through sale or donation) - I'm guessing you got the storage unit for this purpose. If it all feels too overwhelming, call me. Lis at letsmakeroom

Too Many Childrens' Books

May 2007

I love books, my husband loves books and now my twin 2.5 year olds love books. I have NO complaints about their love for books, reading to them almost whenever they want or their apparent above average language development (due to reading & talking to them a lot, I believe). (Just so you're not too worried, we play outside A LOT and they play with their kitchen, blocks and dolls A LOT).

HOWEVER! We have children's books in every room, we have books in the car, we go to the library so we can find seasonal books, we get books as hand-me-downs and we get books as gifts (MUCH better than plastic crap so I shouldn't complain about that either). Books are everywhere!

My question is this: Considering their age and developmental level, can they have TOO many books? Can this be overwhelming to them? Is there a good number to aim for? Its overwhelming to me to find books under feet all the time (they aren't quite ready for major house cleaning yet). When do you get rid of board books?

The books they read are varied in ''level''. They love their simple board books, vintage golden books (torture to read, ugh), and are reading picture books aged between 3-7 including House on Pooh Corner etc. This is part of what makes it so difficult to weed out. As we all do, they seem to have different ''literary needs'' at different times.

I have already weeded out junk books that were given to us (TV characters, Disney characters). But everytime I'm ready to put away a book or two, I find it in one of my kids hands in the next moment (when they haven't looked at it in a month!)

I'd really appreciate some feedback to see if I'm a loon for worrying about this. Thanks! marwoo

1. Books are good. Overwhelming clutter is not. Just my opinion. Maybe that's what's really bothering you. If so, I suggest

2. If you are worried about clutter, the library is a nice place to get a bunch of books you don't have to keep.

3. I think it is a little too early to be worrying about the level of the books your kids are reading, unless you are giving them access to Stephen King. Board books are good, picture books are good, so as long as they like them, who cares?

4. No, there is no magic number of books you should be aiming for.

5. Many people on this list may be very happy that their non-book-loving toddlers will pick up a book featuring Elmo or a princess, and therefore may not consider these ''junk books.'' Just something to think about.

6. If this is really one of your biggest worries as a parent you are very lucky indeed. anon

We have a lot of books but only one 2.5 year old. I am sure it is harder having two to go around and mess things up but I hope my advice can help. First, 2.5 is not too young for housecleaning, especially if housecleaning entails putting books in a basket or on a shelf. Is your problem that you really don't have room for everything to be put away at once? In that case, you really have to make room or get ride of some. Then, they don't all have to be accessible all the time. My child has a small bookshelf in her room and another one in the playroom/office/living room. All the rest are in bookcases with doors from Ikea to which we added a little hook-and-eye latch. When we want some new and different books we open that up and get them and put a few of the other ones away. So I really recommend having some in a place where the kids can't get them by themselves. anon

Can you have too many Children's books? no. Can there be too many books in your house? Yes. If you need to clean up or cycle them in and out of the attic, that's fine. My dad supported our family running his bookstore in Menlo Park. We had A LOT of books and any book I wanted, I got. There can't be too many books. Roy Kepler's daughter

You have a terrific, wonderful problem! Books are great! Yay, reading! One thing we do when our house starts looking like a used book depot is have the kids retire some, me and my partner retire some, and we cart them all off to Childrens' Hospital or some other place that seems to attract the junky-Disney stuff. I also try to use the libraries, which helps both pocketbook and storage. By the way, we just picked up ''Writing Magic'' by Gail Carson Levine, which is a good book on how to help good readers transition into good writers. That one is a keeper. anon

From my experience working with children this age, I believe that you are correct. Yes, too many books can be overwhelming, both for your son and for your house. But no need to worry. Just get a bookshelf that is small and low to the ground so that your son can access it. This also helps you to support your son in the clean up of the books when he is done because there is a definite place for all of them. Keep only the books that can fit on that shelf and put the rest in your basement or garage or whereever is out of the way. Then, every couple of months, you can rotate in new books. Once books get too overused or you notice that your son no longer goes back to certain books, give them away or recycle them. Lynn

Is this a joke question?

I don't see the problem. If you're afraid of your children growing overwhelmed by too many books to choose from, try a rotating collection, just as you would with toys. If you're tired of the mess, they're not too young to be taught to stack books into bins at the end of the day. If you're tired of books underfoot in every room of your house, you need book storage in every room. If you're actually worried about this, you probably have a little anxiety disorder going on. Nicole R.

Sounds like heaven to me! If only every house were overflowing with books like this. We are almost at your point, and I love my son's interest in books and all the books all over the place. Keep it up!

I don't know about loon - but you are at least outnumbered and won't win this fight. Your future reads like this - furniture = bookshelves, spouse and children in trance-like reading states so they don't hear you, questions coming at you out of nowhere about a variety of odd topics, bright interested kids - with the world unfolding for them right in front of your eyes.

Your best hope is periodic gleaning. Only you'll have to disappear the books without them seeing you or you won't get away with it. Or the one book in, one book out rule. Or the all books lying around not in bookshelves go into cold storage rule.

Best of luck! fellow book worm


As an English teacher, I must confess I can't possibly understand the concept of too many books! However, I can understand having too much stuff. I remember one technique I read here or heard somewhere that I thought sounded good. Maybe this could help?

Use a bin or box to create a ''transition'' space for rarely-used books. Put a stack of books in there for a week, or two, or however long you want to give the kids. Whatever books don't get touched in that length of time, get tossed. Anything that they felt was worth digging out they can keep. If you help them decide what goes in, what stays, and what leaves, they might be more inclined to let the books go.

That said, I must confess that some of my favorite books as a kid were those that were old and dusty, so maybe only get rid of enough to make you feel comfortable again. bookie

Sorting and purging books

Jan 2007

I am a reader and a writer partnered with a reader and a writer. Recently, we moved into the house I inherited from my father, a bibliophile. We have so many books now-- contemporary and old, art, literature and science books . . . We really need to get rid of a bunch of these books, and I would love some guidance on how to make choices! (This problem does extend beyond books, so general advice about how to decide to get rid of something is welcomed.) ''Rules of thumb'' that I can repeat to myself would be particularly helpful. --From a family of packrats and bibliophiles.

These are my book purge rules. First, I have defined a finite amount of shelving on which to keep books. I don't let them pile up anywhere in the house. When trying to decide what to keep on those shelves, or what to do when I've accumulated new books and need a place to put them, I ask myself if I like the book enough to want to recommend it/loan it out. If not, it goes. When I am tight on space and want to save a new book, I have to make room for it by giving away another that I liked less (even if I would recommend it). anon

Ask each book:

Will I re/read you in the next year? (No? Out it goes!)

Are you irreplaceable? (Yes? Keep it.)

Can I check you out easily from a library nearby? (Yes? Bye bye book.)

Are you beautiful to look at and to flip through? (Yes? Keep it.)

I had to get rid of 90% of my books a couple of years ago when moving to a smaller house. There's only one book that I really regret getting rid of (it was in the ''beautiful-to-look-at category).

Probably not helpful: You can trade books with people. But, um, that will just get you *different* books, not fewer books so forget I mentioned it! Molly G

My own rules-of-thumb for thinning down the books is

* Do I really want to read it again?

* Was it good enough to lend out to a friend?

* Is it something I can't find in the Library if I really need it years from now?

* Do I want to read it but it's been sitting on the shelf for ages and I never seem to find the time to get to it?

If the answer any of these is no, out it goes! But that's just my methodology - maybe it will be of some help. mike

Contact Green Apple books in San Francisco or Black Oak in Berkeley--they purchase entire libraries in some cases... go through the books and trade them--you'll have the possibility of new other books before you, and know that they will find other lovers...

I don't quite know if Saint Vincent dP or goodwiill really know what to do with books. crunchymama

We recently did a book purge as well and it was very difficult. But we followed two rules: we only kept books that had deep personal meaning or books that made us want to grab people by the shoulders and force them to read. I loved ''The Corrections,'' absolutely loved it, so it stayed. I thought Franzen's first two novels were fine, totally pleasant to read-- so they went. I'll never read them again, and I'll never be desperate to loan them to a friend. It's hard to do, but it's worth it. I look at my parents unpurged bookshelves, full of absurd, dated novels from the '60's, books that haven't been touched since Eisenhower was in office, and it helps me feel fine about getting rid of everything but the ones that I truly love. just let it go

I went through this recently after many years of hauling around and storing boxes of books that I didn't have room for.

1. Get enough bookshelves, and then decide firmly that you are only keeping as many books as will fit on those shelves.

2. Start filling the shelves, putting aside the books that you can part with.

3. When the shelves are full and you still have too many books, start to prioritize. It suddenly becomes much easier to dump that boring textbook you never read, when it allows you to fit something onto the shelf that you really DO love.

4. Donate all the purged books to the Friends of the Library ( They sell them to raise money for the library, they are so nice and friendly, they give you a receipt that you fill out yourself for the tax write-off, and you feel like you are leaving your books in a happy book-loving place!

Good luck! So glad I've got no more boxes of books!

If you are looking for a place to donate books for a charitable cause, please consider the College Prep School's Book Fair, which will be held March 7 and 8. We're taking donations now through that date. You can get a tax receipt if you want one. You can either leave the books at the school or arrange for a pick up. Feel free to call or email me for more information. The proceeds from the sale go to scholarships. And if you want MORE books, please attend the book fiar. The school is located at 6100 Broadway in Oakland, near Lake Temescal. Linda

How to organize children's books?

Jan 2006

I'm looking for advice on how best to store the multitude of flimsy little children's books at home. I'd like the books to be stored neatly, yet still be easily accessible, and stored in a way that my children can easily put books away. I discovered a few years ago that storing books like The Berenstain Bears vertically on a bookshelf just doesn't work so I purchased some plastic dish tubs for those books. However, we just keep collecting more and more books (including comic books) and now I'm looking for another method. I don't want dozens of plastic dish tubs all over the house! (and even if I did, should I have a bin for each type and is it reasonable to expect children to sort through the tubs?)

We do try to purge the collection once or twice a year and donate them, but we're really book fanatics so it's difficult. I still have children's books that I've saved since I was a child myself!

Any storage suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! -- loves loves loves BOOKS

I also have all my books from childhood (lots of those paperbacks) and the way we stored them then and now is just on a regular bookcase. The trick is to have them in there tightly so they will stand up. If you don't have enough of the paperbacks to fill a shelf, put some hardbacks in there or use book ends. Alternatively, the dishpans could work fine too--after all, it is not like you can see the titles on the bindings anyway. Juvenalia Archivist

I store children's books at home the same way I store them in my classroom, by using magazine files (they're super cheap at IKEA). I group them by genres or characters (like Clifford or Franklin)and they look nice and neat on the shelves. They are also easily accessible to children. The designated file boxes makes it easier to put them back and find the book that they want. Hope this was helpful! Good luck! Elaine

My advice would be to keep going vertical...I just purchased two very tall Billy bookcases ($59-$79 each, depending on color) at Ikea for my kids' room. The top shelves are much too high for my 5 and 3 year olds, but with a folding stepstool they can reach over half of them (Be sure to use earthquake braces or straps). The upper shelves are used for ''display items'' like delicate china dolls and stuffed animals they're not ready to part with, but really don't play with anymore. We also have books in the living room, on a couple lower shelves of another bookcase. With the smaller houses in this area, I've found that using more wallspace vertically is the best way to maximize floor space. heidilee