Help, I have too many books!
Even for a bibliophile, this is not only possible, it has been reality at our house. Lately the Lord has been convicting me that I cannot maintain order when excess is everywhere. Among other things, my beloved bookshelves are painfully overflowing. The truth is, when our home library outgrows its boundaries, it no longer looks inviting to browse and we do not enjoy what the Lord has blessed us with.
The purpose of weeding is to cultivate the quality of your home library. Having a lot of books doesn’t automatically mean you have a great collection! Do your shelves truly reflect the current and reasonable anticipated needs, priorities and passions of your family?When you look at your bookshelves, do you feel delighted or burdened? Ask your spouse and children this same question. If this really is a problem for you, where do you begin?
On your knees.
Have honest dealings with your heart. Confess the greed and idolatry, the seeking of security in temporal excess rather than being content and trusting God to provide. Ask Him to give you success and to show you what you have been hoarding and don’t genuinely need.
When we got started, the idea of reducing the picture books was initially hard for my firstborn. However, we learned that putting away some of the excess out of reach has made it much easier to flip through and find the current books they want, and to put them away afterwards. (We’re still working on making the latter a regular habit.) Even rotating ten or twenty out of 350 books makes a big difference in this area, and we did find a few books we could part with.
I took more drastic measures with my own collection, carefully evaluating whether a book was truly an important asset to our household. My husband helped immensely. We challenged each other to pull items that we didn’t think the other would read again. We both had the freedom to restore any books to the shelf, but it was enlightening to see through the other’s eyes.
By the end of the first week I had four boxes and three canvas bags ready to donate or sell. More boxes and bags followed. I only changed my mind a few times, and the shelves were becoming beautiful. I felt free! Looking at our bookcases was a blessing instead of a burden. I learned that if I had any doubts about a book, out it should probably go.
Here are a few questions I learned to ask myself:
- Why should I keep this? See if you can verbally make a decent argument for keeping it, with someone present if need be. “Because it was free (or $0.25)” is not a sufficient answer. “Because I paid good money for it” is not adequate either. If you don’t have space for it and can’t honestly justify it in your collection, let it go!
- How often do I use it?
- Have I read it? Will I really read it again?
- Is it beautiful? Books ought to be beautiful, if at all possible. Books that are attractive will appeal to readers.
- Do I have duplicates or comparable items?
- Is it falling apart? If it is worth keeping, consider replacing it or having it repaired or rebound. (If you’d like more information on this particular, email me and I’ll offer some suggestions.)
- Can I find a replacement if I need it later at a library or used bookstore?
- Do I have space for it? (If not, return to question #1.)
- Is there someone else I can bless with it?
Keep praying for wisdom throughout the process!
If you still find it difficult to make these decisions, it might help to be realistic about your limitations. Try removing everything from one shelf or one bookcase. After dusting the shelves, prioritize which items are most important and put them back without crowding. How much room is left? Do you like how it looks, perhaps with a little margin where your eyes can “rest?” How essential are the remaining item? Are they worth the cost and space required for another bookshelf?
As God by His grace is dealing with me, both my heart and my bookshelves are gradually becoming unburdened. I have been amazed, seeing His grace at work, freeing me from slavery to share our bounty with others. Increasingly I am learning to reflect His image of orderliness in this small corner of His universe that He has entrusted to me.