Home Library Management: Heart Issues

Help! I have too many books!

home library management: heart issues

Is this a familiar concern?

Of course you wouldn’t want to blame the books. An abundant home library is a good thing…isn’t it? Isn’t the problem really not having enough shelves?

Like yours, my beloved bookshelves are painfully overflowing, and when our home library outgrows its boundaries, the shelves no longer invite browsing. Our family does not gratefully appreciate what the Lord has blessed us with, and I cannot maintain order in the midst of excess, even when the abundance is good books.

Libraries regularly “weed” the books that no longer fit their collection in order to make room for the ones that do. (Sometimes we wish they would keep the ones they discard, even though their loss is our gain!)

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 library. Do your shelves truly reflect the current and reasonable anticipated needs, priorities, and passions of your family?

When you look at your collection, do you feel delighted or burdened? Ask your spouse and children this same question. If this really is a problem for your family, where do you begin?

How can you glorify God in your home library? Where do you begin?

On your knees.

stack of books

Have honest dealings with your heart. Confess any greed and idolatry, the seeking of security in temporal excess rather than being content and trusting God to provide your literary bread. Ask Him to give you success in purging your collection and to show you what you have been hoarding and don’t genuinely need.

When we started this process years ago, the idea of reducing the picture books was initially hard for my firstborn. However, we learned that putting some of the excess away has made it much easier to flip through and find the current books we want, and to more easily put them away afterwards. 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 permanently 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. “Are you really going to read that?” we asked each other. 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 doubts about a book, it probably wasn’t essential.

Home library management

Here are a few questions I ask myself:

  1. Why should I keep this? “Because it was free (or $0.25),” is not a sufficient answer. “Because I paid full price 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!
  2. How often do I use it? Can I borrow it from the library or a friend if I need it in the future?
  3. Have I read it? Will I really read it again? Remember that your life is a breath!
  4. Is it beautiful? Books ought to be beautiful, if at all possible. Books that are attractive will appeal to readers. (There are a few “ugly” exceptions, library-sale treasures that are out of print but still have genuine value.)
  5. Do I have duplicates or comparable items?
  6. Is it falling apart? If it is worth keeping, consider replacing it or having it repaired or rebound. You can often improve the durability of hardcover books by covering the dust jackets.
  7. Can I find a replacement if I need it later at a library or used bookstore?
  8. Do I have space for it? (If not, return to question #1.)
  9. Is there someone else I can bless with it?

Heart issues

Keep praying for wisdom throughout the process!

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. Can you and the books breathe more easily? How essential are the remaining items?Are they worth the cost and space required for another shelf?

God’s image of orderliness

As God deals with me by grace, both my heart and my bookshelves gradually become unburdened. As I learn to reflect His image of orderliness in this corner of His universe that He has entrusted to me, He frees me from bondage to share our bounty with others.

This is part of a series on “Managing Your Home Library.” Look for further thoughts on in the coming weeks!

(This post is revisited from the archives.)

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Megan Saben

Megan is Associate Editor for Redeemed Reader, and she loves nothing more than discovering Truth and Story in literature. She is the author of Something Better Coming, and is quite particular about which pottery mug is best suited to her favorite hot drinks throughout the day. Megan lives with her husband and five boys in Virginia.

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  1. Sharon Henning on June 17, 2015 at 11:33 am

    My general rule is to keep quality hardcovers of my timeless classes such as Austin, Bronte or Tolkien.

    If the book was good information I feel obligated to pass it to others so they can benefit as well. Otherwise it’s just collecting dust on a book shelf.

    Then there’s the tripe. Sometimes the tripe comes in an attractive binding. I force myself to throw those in the recycle bin. There aren’t any good and no one else is better off reading them either. It’s hard to throw a perfectly good book away, but I think there is a moral obligation to do so in some cases.

    Thanks for the tips!

  2. Megan on June 20, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Thanks Sharon! I love reading the classics in print, and a beautiful copy is all the better. There are some neat craft ideas for recyclable books, either the bindings or the pages. (I haven’t had time to try them yet, but some of the ideas are great!)

  3. Carrie on August 14, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Thank you for this post! I am slowly working my way toward reducing all the “stuff” in my house. This is especially hard in regards to books. I love books. My husband loves books. Our kids love books! However, if we don’t tackle the pack rat tendencies now, we are headed for disaster. I have pinned this to my “minimalist” folder on Pinterest. (Yes, I’ve become a digital hoarder.)

  4. Carrie on August 14, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Lately, I’ve begun to realize digital hoarding is a problem, too. Yikes! Baby steps…

  5. Megan Saben on September 1, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Carrie, it’s an ongoing issue for me, too… 🙂

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