Home Library Management: Weed out the M.U.S.T.Y. titles!

NOTE: This post is an expansion of the previous post, “Analyzing the Situation.” If you feel like the MUSTY acronym is helpful for you or you would like advice about what to do with the books you remove from your collection, then read on! If you feel like you have a handle on it, you are welcome to move one square forward on the board and wait for the next installment in the series.


Um, yes…this is also known as “culling” or “weeding.” A painful subject for booklovers, but it is true that some books outlive their usefulness to you. The purpose of weeding is to cultivate the quality of your collection.

Whether you are holding a book you currently own or are considering a new or used purchase, give yourself permission to not own a book. (Remember those heart issues?)

Why Weed?

There are good reasons to weed and not to weed. Personal considerations to weigh: quality, shelf space, cost of maintenance, usefulness, value, etc. Libraries weed for good reason, and although you may have taken advantage of their castoffs, it might be time to improve the appearance and usability of your own collection.

Evaluating What to Keep

My primary rules for evaluating a book to keep (or acquire) are:

  1. “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
  2. “You shall not covet.” This puts everything in perspective.

My secondary question is: Why do I have this book?

  1. “Because it was free (or $0.25)” is not a good answer. Is it valuable enough to you that you would have paid at least half price for it? Is it worthy of taking up shelf space? Does it validate buying new bookshelves (or renting a self-storage unit) to make room?
  2. “Because I paid good money for it” (half or full price) is not adequate either. Have you (your tastes, interests, circumstances, etc.) changed since then? Have you acquired a comparatively superior item? For example, when I was looking for a Shakespeare retelling to read aloud, I discovered that I had three options. I chose one and removed the others to make better use of the shelf space.

If you are unsure, sort and evaluate. You do not need multiple collections of H. C. Andersen’s fairy tales unless they are either especially unique or you are an avowed collector of his works, which should be stated in your personal policy. If a book does not meet criteria, put it in the “donate or sell” pile.

The M.U.S.T.Y. Model

In addition to the questions above, you might try the MUSTY model by Patricia Wagner (the comments are mine):

M- Misleading, inaccurate, out of date. Unless you’re an official depository for books containing scientific theories that have since been disproved, don’t feel guilty about discarding books about NASA from 1975.

U- Ugly. Books ought to be beautiful, if at all possible. Books that are attractive will appeal to readers.

S- Superseded. If a better book comes along, don’t feel obligated to keep a former edition or favorite unless you are sure it has lingering value.

T- Trivial. People know I like books, and with the best of intentions they sometimes give me volumes that I really have no use for. Remember their thoughtfulness, thank them sincerely, but find a better home for those books–you will all be better off.

Y- Your collection: This book is no longer appropriate for your current passion. If you are finished learning everything there is to know about raising orchids and have moved on to quilting, donate the orchid books to a local club who can use them before they grow misleading, inaccurate and out of date for anyone else. Consider whether you have read it already and intend to do so again; or, if you haven’t read it, will you? Really and honestly?

Now What?

So, having torn out your fingernails and shed a few drops of blood, what do you do with these books before you change your mind?

  • Donate: Your local library for the Friends of the Library book sale, local ministry, or local thrift store.
  • Sell: Selling them at a used book store is honestly not that lucrative; you’ll earn pennies. Unless the books really have value, you’re better off donating them. If you have certain titles that are worth your time to try selling online, you can list them on Ebay or Instagram*** (but then you have to decide whether it is really worth the space and time to store and manage shipping).
  • Host a book swap: Include food! Set up tables where you and your friends can take first pick of each other’s castoffs; be sure to donate the titles left at the end of the swap.
  • Give them as gifts: true book lovers do not mind a gently loved book if they know and love the giver and respect his or her taste in books.

Don’t overthink your decision.

Once you have limited your collection to what you really want to keep, it’s time to decide how to rotate and manage the collection. Stay tuned for the next post to learn my secret for storing books that still allows me to put my hands on titles I need with minimal effort.

In the meantime, we would love to hear from you! Did you decide to donate ten boxes of books to charity? Host a book swap? Try selling on Ebay or Instagram, or simply experience the freedom of letting go?


Wagner, Patricia Jean. The Bloomsbury Review Booklover’s Guide: a collection of tips, techniques, anecdotes, controversies & suggestions for the home library. Denver: Bloomsbury Review, 1996.

***The Instagram link goes to an account that was set up for my mother’s overflowing library since it is necessary for her to downsize her collection. I expect the options to grow exponentially! In the meantime, you can perhaps get some ideas for how you might redistribute certain volumes after you give away as much as you can.

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Get the information you need to make wise choices about books for your children and teens.

Our weekly newsletter includes our latest reviews, related links from around the web, a featured book list, book trivia, and more. We never sell your information. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

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. Ellie Taylor on September 23, 2022 at 2:12 pm

    My family just cross-country moved, and as we packed, we realized that we definitely had too many books, and didn’t want our new house to be crowded or cluttered. These posts helped so much! It was freeing to know that we were only going to keep the titles we loved, and that others were experiencing the same situation of too many books. We loved hearing tips for which ones to donate, and we’re excited to read more posts and perfect our home library! Thanks!

    • Megan Saben on September 27, 2022 at 8:53 pm

      Ellie, I’m so glad you find these posts helpful! May settling into your new home includes finding plenty of space for the best books you have room for.

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