Unclutter Diaries: Rules To Dispose Of Books By

Unclutter Diaries: Rules To Dispose Of Books By

There’s all kinds of stuff which I need to sort in my house as part of the Unclutter Diaries, but there’s no doubt that books are the dominant problem. Here’s how I’m going about sorting and redeploying them.

The good thing about books is that, when all else fails, I can chuck them into a recycle bin (after removing hardcover bindings in extreme cases) and know they’ll have a better fate than being landfill. However, that’s still very much a last resort. Here’s the categories I’ve found my books naturally falling into as I’ve sorted them over the past couple of weeks. (The pictured sample books fall into each category.)

Books by authors or on topics I collect: Even if I’ve read these dozens of times, they won’t be going anywhere (other than a specially designated shelf where they’ll be sorted in chronological order of publication).[imgclear]

Reference works I can imagine using again: These might not be cherished as much, but I’m still pretty confident that they don’t contain information I can easily access via a simple Google search, so I’ll also find shelf space for them.[imgclear]

Books I’ve read once but don’t imagine I’ll read again: In the past, I’ve tended to hold onto books with a reverence bordering on the insane, but the clutter factor (and the fact that I’ve had them locked in a garage for a year and haven’t cared) means I’m now ready to pass them on. My current thinking is that I’ll gather these together and distribute them with BookCrossing tags — a subject I’ll revisit in the near future.[imgclear]

Books I’ve never read but which still appear relevant or possibly interesting: On the whole, I’m seeing these as charity shop fodder. If there was something really interesting or unusual I might contemplate eBay, but in truth if I know that much about the book, it’s more likely to belong in the first category.[imgclear]

Out-of-date reference works: While these might have minor interest for social history, they’re the hardest ones to deploy in a meaningful way. They’re a waste of space for charity shops, and I can’t imagine passing them on to anyone else. This is where I suspect the recycle bin is the only option.[imgclear]

Any adjustments you’d suggest to this scheme before I start flooding ferries, cafes and Vinnies with my unwanted tomes?


  • I’m really interested in what other people think is the best approach for reference books, both out-of-date and note; I’ve got a ton (well, 150kgs, anyway) of old Uni & work-related technical books that I’d like to remove from my life-space responsibly…

    • I’ve been a fan of Freecycle in the past for disposing of larger items, so yeah, I should throw them in the mix. I doubt anyone is going to want the wedding etiquette book though!

  • +1 Freecycle

    Whenever I had something else to be picked up by a Freecycler, I’d also offer them the pick of my box of books-to-go.

    I spent some months working in a used book store and the stuff that we hated getting was:
    * old textbooks and manuals of a technical nature
    * encyclopaedias
    * sweat-stained Lonely Planet guides and their brethren which backpackers would try to offload at cover price just before heading to the airport
    * hardback fiction ( a plague on Bryce Courtenay and other Father’s Day tomes )
    * anything that one can obviously buy in mint condition from a book remainder store for 99c

    Used book stores are not halfway houses for recycled paper!

    • One exception to the ‘old textbooks suck’ rule: if the bookstore is within 10 miles of a university campus, they can make a killing on reference books.

      Of course current editions of current course textbooks are in demand, but past editions also do well – most students will put up with a few paragraphs of missing information scattered throughout a book if it costs half the price of the current edition – as well as books that aren’t on the ‘recommended reading’ lists, because the students get extra credit for reading around their subject.

      Obviously use your discretion. Some subjects date considerably faster than others!

      • We were within a half a mile of a university campus and hardly ever got students looking for technical references. I was careful to say “technical” as texts for arts references tend to stay useful for decades.

        I’m guessing that ebook readers will kill the technical reference deadtree editions sooner rather than later. It makes much more sense when an iPad weighs a fraction of just one big old textbook and the reference can be updated, hyperlinked and embedded with multimedia didactive aids.

  • Try BookMooch.com.

    It’s a free international online book swapping service.

    I’ve been a member for a couple of years now and have swapped 35 books. Most of the books I’ve had back are novels filling in gaps in various collections, but I’ve also found some interesting non-fiction. You wont’t get many up-to-date computer or business books, but everything else is there.

    You can donate money to help pay for BookMooch, but I prefer to donate my surplus BookMooch points to one of the good causes listed at the site.

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