Thursday, October 15, 2009

BTT: Weeding My (Book) Garden

Today's question:
We’re moving in a couple weeks (the first time since I was 9 years old), and I’ve been going through my library of 3000+ books, choosing the books that I could bear to part with and NOT have to pack to move. Which made me wonder…
When’s the last time you weeded out your library? Do you regularly keep it pared down to your reading essentials? Or does it blossom into something out of control the minute you turn your back, like a garden after a Spring rain?
Or do you simply not get rid of books? At all? (This would have described me for most of my life, by the way.)
And–when you DO weed out books from your collection (assuming that you do) …what do you do with them? Throw them away (gasp)? Donate them to a charity or used bookstore? SELL them to a used bookstore? Trade them on Paperback Book Swap or some other exchange program?

My answer:

Just like the garden, my bookshelves require weeding. Although they don't get the attention as regularly as the garden, it is still a necessity.

I tend to think of it as part of my spring clean-up. Books accumulate faster over the winter, so each spring the collection gets weeded. My husband and I are both readers (although his collection is mostly history), and space is the primary motivator. It's hard to buy new books when there isn't anywhere to put them!

Books that get weeded are those I won't read again, those I don't think my daughters will read, and books that have no special sentimental value. This criteria is not foolproof and, once in a while, a mistake is made. Among this year's "weeds" was a copy of Balzac and The Little Chinese Seamstress (a book I read years ago with my book club and enjoyed, but didn't love). Last week, Twin A selected it from her list of this quarter's AP Lang free reading choices, and we ended up buying another copy at B&N on Sunday. At least I got to console myself with a pumpkin spice latte!

The spring clean-up books are packed in boxes or bags and donated to the library. The Friends of the Library will sell them at their annual used book sale. My goal each year is to donate more than I purchase. This year, I'm happy to report, that goal was met!

Read more answers to this question at Booking Through Thursday.


  1. My books are static for the last 18 months. I keep giving as well as adding!

    Booking Through Weeding

  2. What an interesting BTT. This subject has really been on my mind at the moment as I have pretty much run ut of space. I really sympathise with you about having to buy another copy of a book; that is my nightmare! On the plus side my boyfriend isn't a reader, and is quite happy with his small collection of books and the books that I borrow for him from the library so at least there are only my books!

  3. Great response! I like the idea of weeding as part of spring cleaning. You're right, more books tend to pile up in the chilly winter months.

  4. I do not like the job of weeding. I'm always scared the moment I let a book go, I will want it! What I really need to do is weed (with my husband's help) all the old textbooks and reference materials that are years out of date. To make room for my ever-growing collection!

  5. I need to weed, but it's hard to do as I like to keep books. I'll wait until my basement can't hold any more.

  6. I've given and sold books then wish I hadn't. So I'm a book packrat.

  7. I am terrible at weeding, btw love the new header photo.

  8. Great for you Joanne. Sadly I donated a lot of books when we moved in April, and now 40 more, but last year I owned around 550 and this year I was up about 90 books. I have dwindled that some recently though.

    It is always a huge challenge.

  9. Gautami - That's great! Even with yearly weeding, the number of books remains about the same here, too.

    Verity - Buying another copy of a book I just gave away, especially one I didn't love, was very difficult. I even tried to convince her to read a different book!

    Amy Reads Good Books - Glad I'm not the only one that seems to accumulate books during the long winter!

    Sandy - That's only happened to me one other time. I weeded out a book, then it got chosen by my book club! I borrowed it from the library to skim again. The outdated text and reference books were the first to go.

  10. Anonymous - I'd do that, too, except we have a crawl space and not a full basement!

    Book Bird Dog - Having to buy another copy of a book is what I'd been afraid of all along...and I finally did :-(

    Zetor - Thanks. I think I zoomed in a little too much, so it's not quite as crisp as I'd like. Hope we get another sunny day to try again before all the color is gone - lol!

    Diane - It is a challenge! There's only room for a certain number, so I try to keep the books that really matter to me.

  11. I love your weeding analogy.

    Lately I've only given away cook books - but maybe, in hindsight that might have been a mistake! LOL

    Here are my answers for Booking Through Thursday


  12. Gee, I don't find it hard at all to buy new books when there isn't anywhere to put them! That's my main problem. I really need to follow your example and set a specific time of the year for "weeding." Makes a lot of sense.

  13. I get rid of the ones that I absolutely don’t like, the ones that I rate as “Toss” in reviews. I tend to keep books that are of literary artistry.

  14. I have weeded things I've regretted- and then gone on Bookmooch or something to find another copy! I'll think I'm done with it, and then like a year later think, you know, I'd really like to read such and such again. oops, it's gone! What can you do? :-)

  15. I can't give away books. And also, on the infrequent occassions where I have for some reason decided to give a book away, I always want it for something after it's gone. So now I just hoard and never's a recipe for overflowing shelves and a stressful amount of unread books.

  16. One of my favorite non-book blogs is called Unclutterer and one of its main themes is how excess possessions can clutter up your life and cause stress. Unclutterer isn't about asceticism or anti-consumerism; it's about reducing things to clean up, keep track of, worry about, etc.

    They definitely go way too far in their advice about de-cluttering books, but I was inspired to really go through my bookshelves. I only have about 250-300 books, but they're all books that I enjoy and will likely return to. I've found that two of my biggest categories of "books to get rid of" is "books that I think I should like but don't" and "books I don't really like but just seem cool to own." Kafka was in the former; William s. Burroughs was in the latter.

    3,000 boooks?! Where do you keep them all? Where do you plan on keeping them in your new house?

  17. Sassy Brit - I could *never* give away cookbooks!

    Jlshall - I guess it's a good thing I stop buying books when there is no more space!

    Matt - Those rated 'toss' are the first of mine to go, too.

    Marie - That's the biggest problem with weeding. I should be happy it's only happened to me once!

    Rachel - But at least you're surrounded by books!

  18. You have a terrific system for weeding. It's quite funny to hear about the different weeding habits of librarians throughout the branches. Some are hoarders, we have a ruthless weeder where I work. Great post, lovely garden and fabulous new header photo!

  19. E.L. Fay - I've always thought that clutter causes stress, and will definitely check out the blog you mentioned. Love your category - 'books that I think I should like but don't'. In my last round of weeding, there were several that fit there.

    I'm not moving with 3000 books (thank God!), the person that wrote the Booking Through Thursday question is...and then started thinking about weeding.

  20. Very pretty garden!

    It sounds like you do a better job at weeding your book collection than I do. Even when I know I won't read a book again, I still keep it, unless it was really bad. I need to work on that!

  21. (love your new lake picture)

    I buy paperbacks and give away the least favorite books when I need the space for a new book. Very rarely will a I read a book again when there are so many new choices out there. I still keep them, tho, if I really like. It's a hobby.

    Wow...with that many books, Do you have a labeling system for them?

  22. Perhaps if you donate more than you purchase then you will end up with none (the horror!).

  23. Darlene - I've always wondered about librarian's 'weeding habits'! Some books I've come across really need to be weeded due to poor condition.

    Reviewsbylola - It's taken years, but I have gotten better at weeding.

    Kim - Thanks. I don't have quite that many books...the 3000 is from the writer of the BTT question. Wouldn't mind being surrounded by all those books though!

    Novelinsights - Now THAT would be a nightmare - lol!

  24. After years and years of hoarding, I have finally begun to weed. For a while, I was very noble, charities, schools; now I'm just waiting for the next FOL book sale. I just want them to have a good home...

  25. DS - I was a hoarder until just a few years ago. Wonder if it's age-related...

  26. I would love to live near the library you donate your books to!! I'm glad that you met your goal!!

  27. Staci - LOL! We must have many more readers than I'm aware of around here...the sale always has such a great selection.


Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! Be sure to check back, I always respond. Due to a recent increase in spam, all comments are moderated.


Related Posts with Thumbnails