Need To Spring Clean Your Bookshelves? These Tips Will Make It Easier Than Ever

As a self-described recovering English major, my shelves have always overflowed with books (it’s not really a surprise that my kids have developed the same habits). With our latest “Spring Cleaning” effort, we are reducing, reusing, and eliminating all unread or (really) unwanted books from our shelves. So, here are my personal tips for spring cleaning bookshelves. 


How To Organize Your Books

The first step to spring cleaning bookshelves is to gather all our books into one place. The goal is to quickly and easily determine which pile to shuffle each book into, without overthinking the process.

The books to donate fall into a few categories: 

To-Be-Read (TBR) Books: These TBR books are ones that I bought ages ago and haven’t managed to read yet. 

Duplicate Books: In college, I had marked up and tattered reading copies as well as better editions. I’ve also gathered duplicate copies of favorite titles. 

Outgrown Books: Some of the books are from when my kids were young, or they are from when I was a kid. 

Tattered Books: Some of the books in the stacks are well-worn and/or loved. In some cases, I’ve read and studied the book. In some cases, I purchased the books from second-hand bookstores when I was a college student.

With the bulk of the books sorted, the next step is to clean the shelves with a duster and then a damp cloth. Then, when the shelves are completely dry, dust off each book before returning it to the shelves.

Take this opportunity to organize the books by author, title, or category. But don’t forget to add some styling to your shelves. 

Parting Ways With Books 

It’s not always easy to say goodbye to books. They’ve been like old friends through the years, and they are imbued with memories. One tattered book reminds me of lectures on Emily Dickinson. Another was a gift from a friend. Some of the books found their way into my life when I needed them the most. But as precious as they seem, they’re also clutter in my life.

One of the lessons this pandemic has taught me is that some things are worth hanging onto and some are not. While I can’t bear to part with all my books, I don’t need them all. The donated books may make their way into the hands of other readers when they need them the most. So, I gather my stacks to give away. We take some to the local library and some to the school.  

Here are some other great ways my donations can make a difference:

Books for Soldiers: With this charity, I can browse through the list of requested books and send off a book that matches.

Books for Africa: This charity ships fiction, nonfiction and textbooks books to students in Africa. 

Kids Need to Read: I can send “like new” children’s books to Arizona for their donations. 

BookMooch: You can send off books and get points, which you can use to ask for books. 

We also have a Little Free Library just down the street, where I can drop off giveaway books. With so many worthy causes, I know our books will not go to waste, and I also know that they will go to individuals who need them more than I do. So, it’s out with the old, but with the assurance that those volumes won’t be forgotten.


Have you been thinking about Spring Cleaning your shelves? Or perhaps you’ve been focusing on the rest of your house? Let us know in the comments below!

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