Deaccessioning: A sad post

… Not actually that sad.

Last night we laid out the space and we estimate that between the two of us we can fit in about 11 bookcases in the new apartment.

Currently we have 16 bookcases and 2 built-ins.


We’re still working on deaccessioning the relatively easy stuff. I’m down under 1300 books, from a high well over 1500.  My partner has at least that many, too!

We’re going through by areas of the house. Some bookshelves are just full of stuff that can’t go. Others are full of chaff. So we start with the chaff.

Gonna be a lean mean LIVING IN PARADISE machine.

I discovered there are some books I was keeping out of guilt, and now I feel great about letting go of them.  I have some “I’m never going to read this” and “I read this but don’t ever ever want to read again” and “why do I have this?”  (note that it took YEARS into our relationship before I EVER felt ok about getting rid of a book he’d given me as a gift.  But now I know we just have love and a stable relationship, and there will be more gifts.)  There are also books that I realized I can get rid of because I’ve internalized the knowledge that I need from them after many years.

At some point we’re going to end up having to make hard choices. Probably what will happen is we’ll bring way too many books anyway and have to deal with it there in some way.  I’m totes gonna overfill the bookcases we have with double-stacking and all. It gonna be all jenga up inside.  And then who knows?

We could add something moralistic about minimalism or money spent or what have you, but that would just be patronizing, so we won’t bore you with that.  I HAVE NO REGRETS.  Except the regret that downsizing comes with deaccessioning, but sacrifices must be made, and there’s a good library in walking distance to our new apartment.  In the meantime, onto the next quadrant!

#2 notes that they have 13 bookcases, including built-ins, but that’s only because her partner tends to get rid of books after reading them rather than holding on to them.  (Sometimes he’ll be halfway through a new book he just bought and realize he bought it, read it, and got rid of it years ago.)  Also most of her newly purchased romance novels are on kindle.

Bibliophiles, how do you deal with not having enough space for books?

54 Responses to “Deaccessioning: A sad post”

  1. Practical Parsimony Says:

    I had 1800+ books in my 8 bookcases (two built-ins) and some of those books were stored double on the shelves. I had a 7 foot dresser (not in bedroom) with books stacked on that, some books on tables, some on the floor and some in boxes. A few of the books I had had for 60 years. I needed to get rid of books but had a hard time doing it. I first made the decision that I could quit removing them from the house when every book had a home on a bookshelf. It did not matter if books were behind books or lying on top of books, but only those books could stay.

    I decided to purge 10 books each day until my goal of “no books except in bookcases” was reached. This was difficult, really difficult. Yes, it was a drawn out process. But, I could never have done all this in a short time or without guidelines for myself to keep me under control. I sold and donated books, trashed a few.

    Since I have allergies, some paperbacks that were disintegrating and unsightly went first. To start I went to one bookcase and looked at the rows of books and picked 10. They did not all come from one row in that bookcase. I put those in a plastic bag and took it to the trunk of my car, came in a tried to recover from what I had done. About five went to the trash because they were falling apart.

    When I had ample space in a bookcase, I started sorting books in boxes or on the dresser and put the keepers on shelves. My friends who did not share my love of books thought I was insane because they knew I cared deeply for books. .

    Having a BA and MA in English, I had plenty of classics. Plus, I had the marked copy we used for class, all paperbacks for class. All the class copies stayed, no question. However, all the Shakespeare left, along with Faulkner and many of my favorites. My opinion was I could find Shakespeare any time. I did keep strange books or out of print books. “Rat and Fleas in History” or something like that stayed. All reference type books stayed. I kept “The Ancient Engineers.”

    None of my sociology books had to go. Certainly, none of my Women’s Studies books left, either. I don’t think any book acquired for the BA in Social Science left. All my Rod McKuen books that my ex bought me because I asked for them for birthdays and Christmas went out the door. I can buy them myself. Foxfire series went for the same reason.

    Duplicates that I buy for a quarter to give away or sell at yard sales stayed–And, Ladies of the Club and Our Bodies, Ourselves.

    If for some reason (out of town, doctor visit) I did not purge ten books, I doubled up the next day and chose 20. Finally, 800 books had been sold or donated. And, all books fit on my bookshelves. That was five years ago, I think. This year is the first year I have brought another book into the house. I have won several or have received them for gifts.

    When I divorced long ago, my ex took his ten books.

    Getting rid of 800 books was the hardest thing I have ever done. 1000+ books seems about right.

    I don’t try to comment first on here. I was on my way to bed when I saw this post.

  2. TheologyAndGeometry Says:

    I’m not a re-reader so I don’t have much trouble parting with books. Plus, now that I have a Kindle, I just don’t buy and am not gifted with books. That said, I did do a book purge before we moved and got rid of anything that wasn’t a)something we use as reference or really really really know we will read again, b)a classic that we’d like our kids to have (we have all the Calvin and Hobbes books) or c)something with true sentimental value. Even still, we weren’t able to unpack everything in our new place so we have a couple boxes of books that are mainly my husband’s old cello music and “too old” kids books that we’re keeping like Redwall and Harry Potter.

  3. Leah Says:

    I have a rule: I don’t keep books one could reasonably expect to find in any library. My fav book is My Antonia, and my only copy of that is on my phone. Keeping only harder to find book that I’ll definitely read again helps.

    Most of my bookshelves are kids picture books, expensive books, or paperbacks from, say, England. It’s easy enough to obtain more if I really want something. We’ve got two built-in bookshelves and one free-standing Ikea one, and that’s enough. I do miss the library my family had in our house while growing up, but I still move too often for that to be practical. Books are heavy, yo.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Books are heavy, which is why we pay other people to hoist them…

      I need lots of books in order to feel at home in a new place. But since we’re moving to a place with a good library system, I can relax on that a bit.

      • Practical Parsimony Says:

        Since I have physical problems that preclude even handling or carrying ten of some books, I often carried ten books out to the car in two trips. At the thrift center, they wanted me to carry my offerings in until they realized I could not and would not try. Lately, I have been packing books five to a box in order to be able to carry them across the room! Usually, I just put the box where it goes and place the books in and tape it up right there. No carrying. I have friend who thinks I should use banana boxes to pack books. He places no value on books and could actually carry a banana box full of books. Books feel like home to me, also.

  4. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    At the end of last year, we got rid of the overwhelmingly vast majority of our bookes. It hurt to do it, but now I don’t even miss them.

  5. E Says:

    We don’t. We have 23 bookcases. I refuse to de-acquisition. We found the trick, when living in apartments, and it’s what my parents did as well, is wall mounting bookshelves. They were uni profs too and apartment-lived their full lives. You can install shelves on every wall above every piece of furniture: chairs, couches, even beds. No reason for blank wall space. :-)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That sounds amazing! (Except the over the head of the bed parts because of earthquakes. Maybe with straps…)

    • Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

      I would find it a little disturbing to have heavy bookshelves above my head wherever I sit.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It seems like securely anchoring that many books would put lots of big holes in the walls and lose the security deposit.

      • Monica Says:

        Check into the easy track system. You hang one track on studs and then hang rails down from there and add brackets then add shelves. There are a variety of brands, Lowes etc carries one. Pull the furniture a little away from the wall and have the books on shelves behind the furniture. You can always move the furniture to get to the books, these could be ones you want to keep but don’t need to access often. There are different depths of shelves.

  6. What Now? Says:

    I went through a similar process when I left my academic job and we moved to a smaller apartment in a more expensive (but way better!) city — much like you’re doing. In our case, we thought it might be a temporary move, and my mom let me store a bunch of books in her basement. So I inadvertently divided the process into two stages: First, I packed up all the books that I knew I wanted to bring with me to Adventure City, separately packed up the books that I didn’t want to give up but didn’t want to bring with me (those went into my mom’s basement), and got rid of the rest — so freeing to get rid of some books that I had dutifully gotten in grad school and had never read or hadn’t liked but had felt guilty about! And then, two years later, when we bought a house in Adventure City — but still a very small one because see above re: more expensive! — I went through those boxes in my mom’s basement … and for so many thought, “Why on earth did I keep this? I’ve been happily living without it for two years, and why would I need it now?” So freeing.

    However, we still have too many books for our space, even given the fact that I have lots of bookcase space in my classroom that is full of my personal books. Part of the problem is that my partner is unwilling to part with much of anything. I see a future project, perhaps one like Practical Parsimony detailed above.

  7. First Gen American Says:

    We are down to 6 bookcases but also have crazy amounts of comics. We purged the books multiple times over the years. We tend to pass books along to other people after reading them. I even purged all my old textbooks from my engineering days. I hate packing and unpacking books. The best thing I’ve done is I bought a couple of used barrister bookcases. That way I never have to pack/unpack those books again and they look cool in a Sherlock Holmes kind of way. It was awesome during our last move as they were setup in about 5 minutes. The other books took months to unpack. For those who aren’t familiar with them, they are modular. You just move the whole row of books in place from point a to point b. It probably wouldn’t work so well if you couldn’t move them in a car, but it was good for us. I would have all barristers if it were up to me but I have been spending my excess budget on things like insulation and windows of late.

    I don’t feel particularly bad about rotating the books in and out as I get a lot at yard sales. Especially the kid books. I tend to keep first editions and rare out of print books. Also, a good friend is a rare book seller so if I really want something, he can usually scare it up for me. My husband and I have totally different taste in books so there are loads of them I have never read and vice versa. We should find more things we like in common. The only thing we seem to both like is “historical mystery” like Sherlock Holmes.

  8. Liz Says:

    I haven’t acquired enough, because I’m at the stage in life where moving is still an inevitability. When I think of moving, the costs of acquiring a book rise considerably. I must add, however, that I’ve been in one place for 2 years, and my acquisition habits are loosening. I more than fill one bookshelf now.

    I try to use the library to test out books, and only buy the ones I really love. Not having tons of money to spare on those books also helps me limit buying, given my proximity to a good public library.

    I give away/lend out books that I love so that others can enjoy them, without the expectation that they return to me.

    My dad, an epic book hoarder, keeps books under beds, on bookshelves, and stacked on floors. All over the house. His strategy is to take a stack of books he has read to the public library to donate, where they’ll either shelve them or sell them to raise funds for other things. The rule is that he can’t bring more books in without taking books out.

  9. hollyatclubthrifty Says:

    You sound like my husband! He got to pick the books that go in bookcases in my office and our family room and the rest are up in the attic in totes. His collection is out of control.

  10. Steph Says:

    I cheat: at least half my books are still at my parents’ house in another state, and they’ll stay there until I’m settled in a permanent job somewhere. I still try to weed a few each time I go back, but it’s getting harder. Those are mostly classics, and kids’ books that I still picture passing on to my children someday, and I can’t quite let them go yet, though I occasionally give them as gifts to my younger cousins.

    Sometimes its easier for me to get rid of books if I can give them to a specific person. I started weeding my senior year of college, and realized I had ~20 books from a series/saga that I wasn’t going to read again. But I’d spent middle and high school slowly finding all of them at used book sales, and I couldn’t bear to scatter them back there again. So I emailed my ex-boyfriend, whom I was still friendly with, and offered him the entire collection, because I knew he and his brother would enjoy and take care of them.

    Before I moved to NYC, I stacked up all the books I hadn’t read yet (50+, I’m a used book sale junkie…) and gave myself the summer to read them. At the end, I kept 5 and donated the rest.

    In my apartment, I got rid of my desk to make room for an extra bookshelf in my room (My roommate, whose room is actually bigger than mine, uses our living room; she put a big Ikea bookshelf out there and filled it herself). Unless the shelves are set very narrow, you can get more paperbacks on the same shelf by stacking them up.

  11. Rosa Says:

    We had to get rid of a lot of books when kiddo started cruising, all those years ago, because some of our bookcases weren’t stable enough. It was hard at first but it got easier and easier. Some of the books, I’ve reacquired – our shelves make us look significantly less smart than they used to, because I realized that classics & Important Fiction will always be at the library but trade paperback issue genre novels are harder to lay hands on if I don’t own them.

    I still have about 2 shelf-feet of sentimental books, and a few language textbooks for that imaginary self who *really* buckles down and learns Spanish this time. And kiddo’s book collection keeps growing despite purging lots of little kid books as he gets into more advanced stuff. I shipped a whole crate of picture books with children of color in them off to an acquaintance stuck in the wilds of North Dakota with a mixed-race kid and few resources, which was awesome to be able to do (though I miss the Keats books a lot…I had them before I ever had a baby.) But overall I just don’t miss what’s gone – plus there are always more books coming into the house somehow.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We screwed our bookcases into the walls when we had DC1 (using brackets and mounts and instructions on child-proofing). (We’ve actually had a surprising amount of trouble finding classics and important fiction at our local libraries… I’m left feeling like even though this small town is bigger than the small town I grew up in, its library is far worse.)

      • Rented life Says:

        We need to do this. 2 of our cases are scary unstable and as it’s mostly my books, getting rid of stuff isn’t an option.

      • Rosa Says:

        oh, that is sad :( We have not just an awesome library system (big town) but it has an online-searchable catalog & reservation system. It’s like free book storage & retrieval outsourcing. I remember being a kid in a small town and having read Every. Single. Book. in the sections of the library I was interested in, or getting a copy of something and finding someone had ripped out pages or blacked out interesting words :(

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That’s really annoying when you’re a kid and you’ve read EVERYTHING in the library. I remember being frustrated that way.

  12. Tragic Sandwich Says:

    I don’t know how many books we have, but it’s a few thousand. We desperately need to cull those, and could definitely use the space–both for other use and as actual space. I do want to keep books that I want to re-read, or that have special meaning to me. The problem is figuring out which books I want to keep as reference volumes. That’s much trickier.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Back when I started grad school (like 15 years ago), there was significantly less info on the the internet about how to do certain statistical tricks and suchlike. These days I don’t need the books as much for reference since I only ever use a couple chapters.

  13. Perpetua Says:

    I love my books, but I never feel badly about getting rid of them. I’m a re-reader of the books I love, so that’s my criteria when assessing overabundance of books: Will I re-read it? If not, out it goes. I figure there’s no point for a book to sit on the shelf just to prove to an invisible audience that I’ve read it. (Or the books I haven’t read, though there are few of those on my shelves.) Work books are a different animal altogether and they sit in my office, and not my house.

  14. Debbie M Says:

    Jenga. Heh! My boyfriend does this.

    Hmm, now I’m wondering how many bookcases we have. Living room: 2 giant ones, dining room: 1, hallways: 2, bathroom: 0, bedroom: 2 (bookcase headboard, shelf above door), office: 3. Total = 10. I feel so minimalist now!

    Good job on dumping the guilt books!

    As I get older, it’s easier for me to get rid of what-if books, too. For example, I’m currently in the last job I’ll ever have. I can get rid of all the books that are just about me being a good social studies teacher–I will never be any kind of social studies teacher. (Though I’ll keep the math-teacher books; I plan on at least doing some math tutoring when I retire.)

    And another category is nonfiction things where I look on the internet now instead of looking into a book. I’m still hanging onto cookbooks for now–after I see how much use them post-retirement I may get better at getting rid of them. Not quite ready to get rid of home fix-it or home clean-it books, but maybe soon.

    Officially I keep only books I read over and over, books I lend over and over, and reference books. In reality, I’m good at not getting more books that don’t fit in these categories (I read mostly library books and other borrowed books, then only buy the keepers), but still terrible at getting rid of bad ones I already have.

    My boyfriend is starting to learn that though he may want to read every book by an author, he doesn’t need to keep every book–just the good, great, and excellent ones. (Plus a list of bad ones to not accidentally re-buy.)

    • chacha1 Says:

      I have been purging nonfiction like a madwoman since I realized that 99% of the research I need to do is easier to do on the Internet than in a stack of (out-of-date) books. I have a few cookbooks left which get the side-eye from time to time, but they are out of the way in a kitchen cupboard, so whatever. :-)

  15. J Liedl Says:

    As long as I have my university office, I don’t need to face the true extent of my book collection. Most of the shelves at home are devoted to others’ books – my partner’s and those of our kids. We’re all bibliophiles, sadly, so any purge is quickly negated by the influx of new books. I’ve wholeheartedly embraced the ebook age for light reading and even for teaching preps: it makes my life a lot easier to have my teaching texts highlighted in my tablet, ready to run with once I reach the classroom. I still have too many sentimental books at home, however, and should really cull the sixty-year-old random history books inherited from my mother.

    I try to donate any useful books – our library’s local branch will only accept new books published in the past year but we can donate older books at the main branch and frequently take boxes there. I donate useful academic books and random paperbacks to the university library to help our on-campus students, in particular, who don’t have a lot of entertainment reading options otherwise. I get tax receipts for donation credit for many of these!

    We’re culling our daughters’ books to send to northern Saskatchewan where two of my former students are teaching in a remote school with few books. There’s also always our local bank which does a charity booksale once a year, so someplace, somewhere, needs my old books. My husband, for all that he works in a library, will casually throw out his old paperbacks rather than donate. Drives me nuts!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Don’t recycle! Donate! I’m with you. Donate to a library (I’ve donated academic books to the university library too), donate to books for Africa, bring a big load to Goodwill. Even bring them to a used bookstore and get store credit… oops, there go more books though!

  16. Linda Says:

    Five years ago when the ex moved out I lost several bookcases. I had to box up books and make some hard decisions as to which I would leave out on the shelves I was left. That exercise led me to finally let go of some books. I do not need 99% of the books from undergrad anymore; they’re over 20 years old and much too dated, anyway. I also don’t need most of my books from grad school, so I’m letting them go, too. The books acquired for pleasure reading and reference are a bit harder to weed through, but I’ve been forcing myself to let them go in preparation for my big move. Most of the gardening reference books are in the “to sell” pile or have been given away. (I can find most anything I need to check online, and it’s very unlikely I’ll have a garden where I’m moving, too. At least for a few years.) The knitting books will go through a hard purge; the ones that have just a pattern or two that I like will go in the sale pile and the truly outstanding reference books (pattern dictionaries, special techniques, etc.) will stay in my collection. The pleasure reading books…well…there are some that I’ve held on to because they were not so easy to find in print and aren’t available in ebook format, either. (Playing the Jack by Mary Brown is one of those. I’m so glad I found a paperback copy years ago and will not give it up!) I’ll be sorting through those boxes in the coming weeks and have some hard decisions to make. Since I’m likely moving to a studio apartment, though, I think I can allow myself only one bookcase for books, and maybe another one for craft supplies and memorobilia. *sigh*

  17. gwinne Says:

    So the numbers here I find amusing, as I have NO IDEA how many books I have, as it never occurred to me to count. But I don’t have nearly that many bookcases, despite being an English professor, so I’m not sure what that means. Mostly I bring books from home to work, though now I’m at a point the work bookcases are full, too, so I’ll need to purge probably old periodicals and go from there. I’m trying to let go of the guilt books. I do donate to the library. And I got rid of a ton of things when we moved buildings a few years ago.

  18. Rented life Says:

    7 book cases plus piles of books that don’t fit in book cases (probably enough to fill 1.5 – 2 book cases). I have no idea how many as we haven’t ever counted. Ages ago husband created a massive spreadsheet of his books and I noticed my books were ending up on there too. I have no idea if he got them all. Last few times we weeded out to move were getting rid of books we never want to read (husband is becoming more discerning in what books he wants to keep, yay!) and books we read and didn’t like. He has more books as I’m far more picky about what I want to actually spend money on and own.

    Last week I started rearranging some shelves to accommodate new books and realized I have a lot of books I keep out of guilt, feeling like I’m supposed to have them and someday read them, or worry “what if I want to look at that again someday?”

    My grandma double stacked all her bookcases. We had no idea how many books she really has until she died! It was a never ending stash.

  19. MutantSupermodel Says:

    When I got divorced, I went on an insane give away all the things spree and books went too. I don’t know why, I just wanted to feel light so I got rid of books, books, and more books. Since then, I mostly use and abuse the library system although lately I find myself in bookstores more often. I have one bookcase and there are books elsewhere. The kids have some bookshelves too.

  20. Practical Parsimony Says:

    As someone mentioned, I don’t look so smart anymore. Visitors immediately went to my bookshelves and were impressed with the authors and breadth of my reading. Now, well no visitors so much now. I did keep first editions and signed first editions and signed anything. I took the purged books to a thrift store run by a church. I took a silly book in about a minister, The Trouble with Heaven, I think. There was a cartoonish drawing of a women in pasties. The guy immediately removed it from the stack and said it would go to the dumpster. I snatched it back from him. It turns out that he decides which books are fit to put on shelves. He remarked that sometimes church members buy the books that he has headed for the dumpster. “So, your church members read the filth not allowed on the shelves?”

    I asked him how he determined what was fit to read. It turns out he reads just the information inside the back of the cover or dust cover. If there was anything licentious (sexual only) in that information, the book was trashed. So, I set aside books for the mother of a friend who worked there who had no such qualms. Believe me, I have no books I would not let a child read. But, I let them read anything I would, just tried to steer them away for maybe a few years…lol.

    He threw Sons and Lovers in the dumpster because of the title. It was a strange book but I recall no passages of love-making that would cause anyone to raise an eyebrow. The book made me nauseous because it reminded me of my mil and her two sons.

    The library also recycles books. I wanted people to read the books! If they don’t sell at the semi-annual books sale, the go to be recycled. Actually, the library does not get the money for recycling as some guy does them a favor and hauls them off and collects the money. The used bookstore said some of my titles were “too old.” How can Shakespeare be “too old”?

    It is hard enough to get rid of books without knowing they would be wasted. I could have kept them for coasters!

  21. Leigh Says:

    I don’t have nearly as many books as you do and I haven’t reread the vast majority of them, so I’m debating donating some of them to my public library. I learned about this recently and it seems like a great idea! It always saddens me when I see books in an apartment building’s recycling bins. Donate them, don’t throw them out!!! We are still trying to figure out where my boyfriend’s collection of something will go in my apartment, but moving in progress is happening!

  22. chacha1 Says:

    When I last updated my library index in 2013, I had 1183 titles (including my ebooks, also including a good proportion of DH’s books). This has certainly changed by now as I’ve been continuing with a years-long deaccessioning. I am due for a revision of the index but have a few more things to get rid of first.

    I have three big glass-fronted bookcases in my bedroom.
    I have two gigantic glass-fronted bookcases in my living room.
    Plus books inside an antique Chinese cabinet by the front door.
    Plus another glass bookcase in the corner of the dining room.
    Plus books inside a small vintage Chinese cabinet by the kitchen door.
    There are books (almost all DH’s but some of mine) in our linen closet.
    DH has two 2×4 Expedit shelves in his office, plus boxes of books in his closet.

    I used to have books in the bedroom closet, in the vintage Mongolian sideboard in the den (now my craft hoard container), on one of those folding wood bookcases by the bar, and in several cupboards in the kitchen. I think at my high point I had around 1400 books, all DTBs. Because I’ve never stopped buying books the number has not gone down significantly. :-) Also I added DH’s books to the index after my first, and biggest, purge.

    High-quality color scanners (at my places of employment and now at home) helped me get rid of approximately a half ton of art, craft, & design books. My reading journal helped me get rid of many other books. The Kindle has been my “security blanket” re: getting rid of treasured paperbacks or genre fiction, nearly all of which I can now get again in e-editions if I really truly positively MUST have ’em again. (Hello, Carla Kelly & Jennifer Crusie & J.D. Robb)

    I give books to our library store or Out of the Closet by the boxful, trade art & mystery books.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Your paragraph about the scanners, etc., is a really good one. Those things all help me, too (although I’m not a crafter).

      • chacha1 Says:

        I used to have a little hoard of magazine clippings too. :-) Scanned the best stuff and then consigned it all to the dumpster. Less clutter! Easier to find what I was looking for! Win!!

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