Learn How To Declutter Books The Right Way

How To Declutter Books

Being a book lover comes with many advantages for your body and mind. From stress relief, to more knowledge and being an overall better human being, reading can literally change our lives for the better. 

It does however come hand in hand for most of us with owning a lot of books, which at some point will inevitably become a cluttered mess. Learning how to declutter books is one of the essential skills you need to learn in order to become a better and more organized reader.

When can you consider that your books are cluttered?

Before we start learning how to fix the issue, it’s important to have an in-depth understanding of the problem. So what’s book clutter exactly and how does it affect us and our reading habits?

A clutter, in general, is defined as any space that isn’t well organized, a place filled with things you no longer need or even forgot you own or a small place containing more things than it would need to contain in order to remain usable. 

If we apply this to books, it’s easy to figure out that a book clutter can mean anything from a disorganized shelf filled with books in random order to a stack of books you never get around to reading sitting on your nightstand, gathering dust.

The negative impact of clutter on our reading habits

While the negative effects of clutter in our home have been extensively studied and have been found to be quite serious, no studies have specifically focused on book clutters. But even so, some of the effects that readers and decluttering experts (yes, they exist) have reported are:

  • You will read less
  • You will be unable to focus
  • You will start feeling the pressure of your reading list
  • You will not be as effective reading

As they say, a cluttered desk means a cluttered mind. The same is true when it comes to your bookshelf. 

How to declutter books?

Getting rid of books clutter can be a challenge. Luckily, there are several ways we can go about fixing the problem and we know all of them and soon you will too! Finding the best way to declutter books is a process and it will require a certain level of determination, but it will definitely be worth it once you’ve done it.

There are many tips for decluttering books out there, but we created a curated list of the most important ones. 

Decide to let go

Starting the process of decluttering your books will be an emotional journey for most of the part. We tend to get attached to our possessions in general and books take a special place in our hearts especially because we tend to associate them with feelings we had and events that took place while we were reading them. Even if we don’t realize it at first, books have very deep roots in our lives.

That is why getting rid of books clutter needs to start with a strong decision on your part. You need to be convinced that you need the book declutter and that you are willing to see the whole process to the end. 

Think realistically about the books you actually need

Once the decision has been made, you need to start planning your declutter and start visualizing the end result. There’s a couple of questions to ask when decluttering books. 

What are you decluttering? A single bookshelf, a nightstand or the entire book collection in your bookcase?

How to decide what books to keep? Start thinking about what you would like to keep at hand, what can be put in a less visible and accessible place and what you need to throw out. 

Our recommendation is to reserve the place on the accessible bookshelf for books you are planning to read, to keep the books you’ve read, loved or planning to read again out of sight and to simply get rid of the ones you’ve finished and have no plans to revisit.

Move your book collection online

Living in the 21st century comes with the benefit of always having the power to own things in a digital format. If you feel that owning physical books puts too much of a strain on your day to day attempts of keeping a decluttered home, buying your favorite titles in a digital format is a great idea. 

Buying an e-reader and e-books actually comes with even lower costs than physical ones and keeps your home 100% clutter free. 

Speaking of the 21st century, another great tool you can use to enhance your reading experience and declutter books is a reading tracking app like Basmo.

Among other things I will explain further, Basmo allows you to create virtual bookshelves in the form of book collections or reading lists. This means you can create limitless collections of book titles you read in the past or plan to read in the future, without cluttering your home at all. 

Basmo App
The Basmo App for iPhone

Additionally, Basmo and all its features will always be available anywhere, anytime. You just need to reach into your pocket or bag to pull out your phone and everything it has to offer will be reachable in a couple of taps.

Not only that, but it will also make the process of getting rid of paperback books a lot easier for you since you will always have their titles and the notes you make within the books saved on your mobile device.

Give Your Reading Experience
An Extra Boost With Basmo

Track the books you read, monitor the time you spend reading and keep notes on your reading habits and how it makes you feel. You can set yourself targets for the time you spend reading and you can get notified whenever you’re behind on your reading time. 

Download on the App Store
Get it on Google Play

Set limits for the number of books you keep

Once you’ve made your decision about the places where your new and old books will be stored, you will obviously realize that the number of books each can hold is limited by the space you have.

Determine how many books can be stored on your visible bookshelf and how many you can store out of sight without making a mess. 

Organize your books

It may sound counterintuitive, but you will need to make a huge mess before you can actually declutter your books. It will need to get worse in order to get better.

That being said, you should gather all the books you own, sit down next to a huge pile of books and take each one and decide its fate. Create smaller piles for the books you want to keep in a visible place, the ones you will keep out of sight and the ones you will throw out or give away. 

Remember to take into account the predetermined number of books that fit into each section. 

Use a reading app

One thing that can be of amazing help when it comes to decluttering books are, perhaps surprisingly, reading apps like Basmo. There’s a lot these little wizards can do and some of the features can be of great help for organizing your books and even your reading habits.

For example, Basmo allows you to create personalized book collections where you can add the titles you own. This virtual way of cataloging books will allow you to keep your book collection under strict control and avoid the infamous book clutter.

Another feature from Basmo that is particularly helpful in keeping a clutter-free house is the reading list creation tool. You can simply search for books by title and add them to the virtual reading list. You can then arrange your bookshelf to match the titles of your reading list and keep the clutter under control.

Take a break from buying new books

As obvious as it may be, it needs to be said. Buying new books while the decluttering process is ongoing is clearly a bad idea. You should refrain from purchasing any new titles for a while, until you’ve successfully decluttered your book collection. 

Give away books you no longer need

Now, the decluttering process has left you with a pile of books you no longer want to have in your house. You could throw them away, but that would be incredibly wasteful and disrespectful. Books need to be passed along, never thrown away.

Ask your friends and family if they want them, donate them or even resell them if you think it’s worth it. Your trash may be somebody else’s treasure and since books are knowledge, it’s never a good idea to just throw them out.

Think about the future, not the past

An important thing to remember throughout the whole decluttering process is to always think ahead. Don’t allow yourself to stay hung up on the past and on the value of your possessions. 

It’s a lot better for you to let the way you organize your books symbolize that you live in the present and the future, not in the past. Unless you absolutely loved a book and really plan to read it again, it has no place on your bookshelf. That place is reserved for what you plan to read in the future. 

Use the MUSTIE method

If your book collection is particularly extensive, the suggestions we made above for decluttering bookshelves may turn out to be insufficient. If that is the case, there is a tried and tested method used by libraries for years now, called the MUSTIE method. MUSTIE is actually an acronym for:

M = Misleading (for old books presenting outdated information)

U = Ugly (for books that are no longer presentable and cannot be on display)

S = Superseded (a more recent, updated edition has been released or the book can be replaced by a superior one)

T = Trivial (no longer bringing any value to your book collection)

I = Irrelevant ( of no interest to you)

E = Elsewhere ( this one does not apply to your personal book collection)

While this may seem excessive for most of us, people with valuable and extensive book collections will find this method extremely effective and useful.

How does Marie Kondo declutter books?

If you don’t know who Marie Kondo is, you should know that this Japanese writer and consultant has managed to make a name for herself by teaching others how to better organize their homes and declutter them. She published several books on the topic, including a best-seller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, and she was listed as one of Time magazine’s “100 most influential people” in 2005. 

Her philosophy, also known as the KonMari method, consists of taking all of one’s items from a specific category (clothes, books and any other belongings) and handpick only the items that “spark joy”. The original term in Japanese describing this is “tokimeku”, which roughly translates to “flutter, throb, palpitate”. Every item that doesn’t fall in the tokimeku category needs to be thrown out or donated, eliminated from one’s home. 

While the method has been tested by millions of people all over the world and claimed to have changed many lives, the principle applies to books only to a certain extent. As I was explaining earlier, there is a lot more emotion involved in owning books or having a book collection than items of clothing for example. And that is not a bad thing, our emotions are partially responsible for where we are as a species and we need to understand and embrace them rather than eliminate them. 

Here’s a step by step guide to applying Marie Kondo’s Konmari method for decluttering books:

  1. Gather all your books in a pile in the middle of the floor or split them into categories if your collection is too extensive:
    • General books
    • Children’s books
    • Magazines
    • Art books/Coffee table books
    • Practical books
  2. Take each book and decide if it sparks any joy
  3. Get rid of all the books that leave you indifferent
  4. Neatly arrange the ones you decide to keep 

That being said, while some principles from Marie Kondo’s method can be applied to the book decluttering process, our recommendation is to stick with the way of doing things we presented above. 

Using a reading app like Basmo can be a lot more effective than the Marie Kondo decluttering method. You can create reading lists, book collections that can be adapted to the space you want to allocate to your books, you can edit the lists anytime from anywhere and update them according to your purchases or desires. Cataloging books comes easier than ever before and that is one key aspect of the book decluttering aspect Marie Kondo’s method mentions nothing about.


Learning how to declutter books is essential if you want to be effective and organized with your books and reading habits. With help from reading apps like Basmo, you can achieve the results you always dreamt of a lot easier than you would expect. All you need is a little determination and a strong desire to curate your book collection.

Ready to take your reading game to the next level?
Try Basmo book tracker today!

It’s 100% free to download, so what have you got to lose?

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