Good reasons to keep books:
1. You actually read it. For instance, we have several cookbooks we use frequently, and I reread the Outlander series every now and then.
2. It has deep sentimental value to you. For instance, a picture book from your childhood, or a copy of Richard Bach’s Illusions given to you by a mad crush of yours in high school (*sigh*)
3. You are really planning, and looking forward to, reading it – let’s say, within the next year or two.
4. You need to have it around for reference just in case, e.g., a manual for a computer program you currently use.
5. It’s a book you feel obligated to keep (e.g., it was written by a relative, you’re mentioned in it, etc.) but will never read, or have already read and don’t plan to read it again. (Put it in storage; don’t leave it out on the shelf in the good real estate.)
Good reasons to get rid of books:
1. Is the information outdated? (And even if some of it is still accurate, would you use this book if you needed it, or would you buy a new one?)
2. Is the information all (or mostly) available online now?
3. Does this book represent a hobby or interest you used to have? How long ago?
4. Does it represent a hobby or interest you wish you had?
5. Does it belong to someone else? Can you take steps to get it back to that person? (I recommend media mail.) If you’ve lost touch with the person, let the book go.
6. Is it a book you “just couldn’t get into?” What makes you think you’ll be able to “get into” it now? Even if “it’s a classic,” that doesn’t mean you have to like it.
7. Does it have bookworms or mildew? (Even if you can’t bear to throw it away, you must isolate it from the other books to prevent spreading.)
8. Do you have more than one copy? (Often when I start organizing people’s books, we find duplicates and triplicates.)
9. Is it a book you’ve been meaning to lend/give to someone in particular? Make it happen.
10. Have you been meaning to lend/give it to someone in general someday? You can always recommend the title and the person can get his or her own copy. You are not a library.
11. Does this book hold unhappy memories for you and you’re keeping it as a memento of that time? Give yourself a break and ditch it!
Books can be recycled. Paperbacks can just go into the bin as they are. Hardcovers need the covers ripped off and discarded first. Libraries are generally thrilled to get your old books. Exceptions: Old encyclopedias, Readers Digest Condensed books, textbooks. Recycle all these. You can also bring your books to a used book store, and they will give you store credit, so you can buy more! (but the overall number goes down).
See how much open space you can carve out for yourself.