20 Steps To Condense Your Book Collection

April 28, 2024

The greatest enemy of being an avid reader is one’s impulsive desire to keep buying more books. As a big reader myself, my list of books I want to read is endless, and living next to a Barnes and Noble does not help my case. With Spring coming around, a long reigning tradition by the name of ‘Spring Cleaning’ gains attention each year. Spring Cleaning is meant to be an event where individuals should challenge themselves to keep their houses tidy through the duration of spring. For normal people, this goal doesn’t seem too daunting, but for readers, this seems to be nearly impossible. Looking for some help? Read below to find 20 ways to condense your book collection!



1) Take The Books OUT

Yes, you have over 100. Yes, none of them are organized. And yes, you don’t want to do it. But how else are you going to start? If you have no idea where to find any books anyways, you may as well make the job messier. Sit down and take 30 minutes actually pulling out the books off your shelf. The only way to get cleaner is recognizing you have a problem. (Therapists tell you so.) 


2) Read Some of the Backs

With so many books, how will you even know what stories you’ll like? You may have heard about a book on TikTok and impulsively bought it along with another gallon of ice cream. With the novels you haven’t read, read the summaries on the back. That way, you’ll get a taste to see if you’ll even like the story or not. Online reviews are a great way to know if it’ll be interesting to you too— just don’t buy another book while you’re at it. 


3) Create a Yes and No Pile

Ok, the tedious part has come. Separate all of your novels into 2 groups, a Yes group and a No group. Any stories you know for a fact you won’t enjoy, put into the No pile” Don’t be nice about it, get rid of that one book you told yourself you’ll read for ages (we all know you won’t.) The stories you think you will enjoy, put into the Yes pile If you absolutely loved a story you read, then you can keep it, but if you feel others will enjoy it more, put the book into the No pile. You’ll see why in a second. 


4) Create a Complete List of Your TBR

Go through all of the screenshots, notes apps, and favorited posts on your phone. It’s time to end this madness. Look through, find any books on your TBR, and write them all down. At least now you actually have a solid list of novels you’re interested in and not a hypothetical one in your mind you add to daily. 


5) Repeat Steps 2 and 3

Now with all of those TBR books, look up summaries on all of them. If you’re too lazy to do it, you’re too lazy to read the story. Enough said. Find solid reviews on the books and cut your list down as much as you can with the “Yes” and “No” policy again. Narrow it down; you got this!


6) Compare and Contrast

Now, with your “Yes” group on your TBR list, and your “Yes” group of the novels you already have, compare each book to another and decide which one you want more. If you really can’t decide, you can keep both, but for your own sake, really try and cut the groups down. This will help you establish genres you’re truly interested in as well, which can help for future shopping too.


7) Analyze your Library Space 

Connecting back to Step 6, the more space you have, the more you can save!! If you have one shelf dedicated to books, try to fill it up with about half the novels you have now and save the rest of the space for your TBR and future stories. The same philosophy applies to greater spaces too. Unless you have unlimited storage, try to only fill up about half of your space with your current books. If it goes over a bit, that’s alright, but you’ll feel way better about yourself—trust me. 


8) Plan your Put Back Strategy

It’s time to reorganize! Whether it’s color coordinating, author orienting, or title basing, organize your books into a particular fashion you enjoy the most. For aesthetic appeal, organizing based on color is definitely the way to go. However, if you don’t care about that, filing the books by alphabetical order is another great approach. Regardless of what it is, plan the approach out BEFORE you put the books in, and make sure the strategy is easiest for you. 


9) Put the Book Away

Blast music, dance around, and make the most out of your situation. Go through your “Yes” books and put them ALL away. Try to knock the procedure out in one swoop, but if not, make sure you don’t lose track if you have a specific organizational tactic you’re using. Try to imagine you are Belle from Beauty and the Beast, reorganizing the endless bookshelves in the castle. Although our libraries are just a tiny bit smaller, the thought is nice to picture. 


10) Plan How to Get Rid of the Old Ones

Look back to the last sentence of Step 3. It’s time to start fresh! This part is actually fun, trust me. Whether it’s starting a book sale, gifting them out at parties, or donating them to libraries, plan out how you’re going to get rid of your old books. I recently started a book drive for underprivileged schools in San Diego, and I’ve loved the whole experience! You can get rid of perfectly good books other people may love just to make room for new ones you do love. Plan out the whole procedure and set a date (without a deadline; we all know you’re not gonna do it).


11) Go Do It!

The date has come, and so have the goodbyes. Hold them close one more time and get rid of those books! You could get some friends to help mediate the procedure, and turn the experience into a fun day! Sing some karaoke in the car and discuss your favorite books on your way to the library, donation spot, etc. Your new reading era begins now. 


12) Your Favorite Step

The part we’ve all been waiting for…take your TBR “Yes” group and BUY. Don’t go overboard obviously, get your top 5 on the list (max) and take them home! The most important thing with this one is to not get distracted by the other temping books on the shelves. I’ll tell you how to deal with that in a second. (See Step 16)


13) Follow Steps 8 and 9

With your new books and old habits combined, the idea of throwing the new copies into random places in your shelves sounds appealing. But come on, you know better now! Find their rightful places and put them where they belong. Whether the color matches the other bindings or the name follows next in alphabetical line, place them gently into their corresponding homes and leave them until they’re next up. 


14) Read

The step that seems the simplest actually turns out to be one of the most challenging. Taking the time out of your day to read seems difficult in our constantly changing lives, but it is so important. Even if it’s just 5 minutes before bed, read and get through some of those books on your shelf. Not only will you feel accomplished when you finish a book, reading is a great way to wind down as you fall asleep, and it will help you conclude yet another day.


15) Keep Track of the Finished Books

Congratulations, you’re organized now! For about a month. When your books start piling up again, the urge to fall back into your old comfortable cycle of old novels piling up will most likely occur. Whenever you finish a book, either mark or write it down somewhere. That way, you can keep track of your old ones and celebrate your progress!


16) Resist the Urge

Going along with staying organized, resist the urge to buy a new book. Whenever you pass a bookstore, fight the temptation to grab 50 and place them into your cart. Instead, whether you see a book online or in person, write the title down and close it shut. Only after you’re done with your current books are you allowed to even think about buying those new ones. Yes the process is difficult, but this skill set will help you for the rest of your life. Fight the urge!


17) Keep the Cycle Going

After you go through a good majority of your books, redo the process! You don’t have to take out each novel, but with the newly finished stories, create another “Yes” / “No” pile with your finished books and your new ones on your TBR! By now you know the drill, make a solidified plan on disposing of the old ones, make sure your list is finalized, and go get new ones! Remember to always follow the cycle, never lose sight of your desire to stay organized. 


18) Set Up Buddy Reading

Now that you’re nicely settled into your cycle, there are other ways to read more books as well! Join communities, clubs, and more to exchange books with other trusted individuals! Learn more about books you may have never even considered reading, and if you LOVE the stories, go add them to your collection. No space taken up on your shelf, no problems.


19) Remember to be Grateful

By now, you’re a book pro! Although you only want to continue reading, taking the time to be appreciative of all the books you are available to is so important. The task will motivate you to not only love what you have, but realize you don’t need to constantly go out and buy more. Donate as much as you can and spread your love around the world. If you can redo your bookshelf, you can redo your mindset too. 


20) Remember Why! 

Every time you find yourself unmotivated to keep organizing, remember why you started. You had a goal to stay clean that you were determined to follow, and you did it! Not only are you beyond capable of keeping your bookshelf tidy, but also you can always keep the same mindset up. You wanted a clean space in order to keep doing what you love—reading. The only way to keep the place spotless is remembering why you cleaned in the first place. 



There you have it. Spring Cleaning brings an endless world of opportunities, and you may as well focus on the one that revolves around your favorite activity.

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