I talked about how I was doing a whole Bookshelf Revamp project in the Spring and I just, this past weekend, finished step 1 which was culling my books.




It. Was. The. Hardest. Thing. Ever.

I mean, to be fair to myself, I was busy (and also lazy when I wasn’t busy) this Summer and Fall so it kind of took a while. BUT it was so agonizing to cull my books that every time I thought about doing it I just thought about how much brain power it took to try to decide what books I wanted to keep and what ones I didn’t. I’ve culled in little bits here and there before but NOTHING like this.




A few years ago I talked about my system for how I decide what to do with a book after I read it (I’m pretty ruthless about getting read of books I’ve read). My system is super solid for the most part though I do have these books that don’t fit my requirements for keeping that, thanks to Bookstagram, I want to keep just because I think their covers are pretty/maybe I want to keep for a picture. SO HARD trying to keep my shelves at bay….I really need someone to invent #4 on here because then I would just keep them all and have them at my disposal.

But here came the problem when I was doing this massive cull….

IT WAS SO HARD TO DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH UNREAD BOOKS….which makes up the majority of my shelves.

There were some I absolutely knew without a doubt I wanted to keep. And there were some easy ones I knew I wanted to get rid of in one second — that I had lost interest in or just knew I wasn’t going to read it ever.

Then there were ones in this grey area that I was like WELL I DON’T KNOW.





Some of them I had owned for MANY YEARS and they have gone unread. There were some I had gotten for review, as finished copies, that I put on myself but don’t know if I would have ever picked them out for myself to read. There are books I was REALLY excited about. Books that I knew nothing about. Books I wasn’t excited about but I wasn’t not excited about them.

I tried to Marie Kondo it and hold the book and ask myself if it sparked joy but it wasn’t feeling right. I was still being indecisive like “I don’t know if it sparks joy…? It’s a book…so it DOES spark some sort of joy in me?”




So then I just tried to think about things like:

  1. If I’ve owned this for this many years and still haven’t read it what is the likelihood I will read it?
  2. Why was it on my shelf in the first place? What made me excited about it? (ie did I buy it? Was it for review?)
  3. If this book was gone would I even know it was gone?
  4. What is this book even about and does it interest me?
  5. What are reviews saying about it and does it seem like something that would be a me book?
  6. Have you lost interest in this book? Or…this type of book? This genre? (That’s what happens sometimes when I have books on my shelf for 7+ years when my reading tastes change)

Logically I was like “really it doesn’t MATTER if I get rid of something I’m unsure of because I can always library it!!” But then I would just have my typical “but what if I want to read it and it’s not there feeling?” with a very practical thought that was like “what if I never end up picking this book up BECAUSE it’s not right in my line of sight?” Which maybe should have been an indicator some of these could go if I would not think about them again to get them at the library.

So I culled the best I could and accepted that I wasn’t interested in some of these anymore. Got over my guilt if it was a book I bought and never read by reminding myself I was donating them to teens who might actually read it. But then I put a stack of 8 books in my closet of books I really couldn’t choose whether or not to let them go and told myself if they don’t get read in the next 8 months they are gone.

Anyways, culling my shelves was not easy. What if I was passing on a book that could become a new favorite? If you haven’t noticed I am really good at convincing myself I need to keep things. I need to create a more foolproof system for culling my unread books like I do for my read books.


So let me know, guys….


How do you decide whether or not to get rid of an unread book? Or do you even cull? I want to know your system if you do/have one! Tell me how you do it!

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. My system is super simple….

    Is it Twilight? Yes, it stays. No, continue to next question.
    Have I read it? Yes. Is it a signed favorite? Yes, it stays. No, it goes.
    Have I read it? No. Do I plan on reading it? Yes, it stays. No, it goes.

    That’s it. Finished copies go to my local library, ARCs go to other bloggers.

  2. Wowww that sounds awesome! Congrats on successfully culling your books. It definitely sounds like it took a lot of effort and consideration. At least now you have more room for books that you LOVE and your TBR list has hopefully dramatically decreased…

  3. I’m like you, if I haven’t read it in a certain amount of time then I probably will never. It’s gotta go.

  4. I don’t keep a lot of books, especially now that I like e-books, but for me, I would base the decision on how easily I can access the book via the library if I DO decide to read it again, and the length of the book (for example, I have a copy of War and Peace that I may never read, but I don’t want to get rid of it because I know it will take me a year to read it instead of 3 weeks from the library ;)). I think it’s a good call to just give yourself a certain amount of time and then get rid of them!!

  5. This is some good stuff to think about. I just bought a house and I’m going to have a little library. All my books in one place and putting them on the shelves will certainly make me reevaluate if I want to keep some. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  6. When I began culling my home library due to lack of space, I found the best question for helping me let go of books was: “Does our library have it / can it be interlibrary-loaned?”. Knowing I could put my hands on a hard copy of a book without having to repurchase it when/if I wanted to read it in the future gave me enough comfort to pass along books from my home library so they could be enjoyed by others. This has worked like a dream for about 10 years now =).

  7. Yay for step one! The process you went through with the questions and deciding whether to keep or not seems like a really good process.

    One way I keep my unread books down is by having a dedicated place for them, and more importantly, no overspill. If it goes over that allocated space, I either need to read some titles within a given time frame (usually a month) or they just go – of course I try to do the first of those things.

    The cull looked like a big undertaking – go you!

  8. Oh cheese, wow, what a huge project. I know you kind of feel like you shouldn’t have taken so long, but it is a HUGE task, so really you’re doing a great job. I think setting a time limit on some of your “I just don’t KNOW” titles was a smart idea.

  9. I try not to have attachment to books especially the ones that I know for sure I’ll never read again, really, the only reason to keep a book is to reread later but who really reread books except their most favorite?

    I have no problem getting rid of books because of lack of space, I think if we all live in small places, we might actually be able to let go of many things

    have a lovely day.

  10. I’m super indecisive when it comes to getting rid of books. As in, I just can’t bring myself to do it most of the time. I’ve been able to donate a few without hesitation, but that was probably because they were $2 bargain books that I read and didn’t like, so I didn’t feel much guilt about getting rid of them.

    If you don’t mind my asking, how many books did you end up culling? And what do you do with ARCs you don’t want anymore? I’m planning a cull right now and have some ARCs I’d like to get rid of, but I don’t know what to do with them. I don’t think the library will take them since they aren’t finished copies and I feel weird about just recycling them or something. I’d love suggestions!

  11. Congrats on finishing your cull. Its so hard to do. I did a cull before I had my baby. It was hard. I gave away or donated books I’d read and didn’t want to keep, put some in little free libraries and unread ones were the hardest. Those I looked through and decided if it still interested me or not, was it an unsolicited book, does my library have this book that I can borrow later?

    It’s not so bad if your library has the books because the you know you can still read it another time. I made a wishlist at my library site of all the books I still wanted to read someday so that I could cull those from my pile.

  12. I am currently doing the same and I’M FREAKING OUT. I’ve gotten through the easy ones to get rid of, so now I’m just battling the gray area and it is IMPOSSIBLE. I just need a bigger house. That would solve all my problems.

  13. getting rid of unreads books is SO hard. especially when you have as many as i imagine you do. the books in the closet is so smart!
    for me, i don’t have *too* many unread (well i have like 60 ‘real’ books and like 300 ebooks but lets ignore the ebooks right now) but i regularly go through my goodreads TBR because i find it fun and weirdly therapeutic, but i ask myself the same questions. why did i add it (i normally see a review from a friend, and if i trust them, i keep it, it’s normally you lol) and if i can’t remember why i read the synopsis and skim reviews. the thing i struggle with is books i want to read vs books i feel like i should read. like popular ones or ‘smart’ ones. but eh. it’s ongoing i think. my theory is if a zombie apocalypse or the end of the world were to happen (but we still, you know, survive) i would be glad i kept real books. haha.

  14. Karla Wilkinson says:

    I added more shelves recently in place of a desk I didn’t use. However, they won’t be empty forever. I did a massive weeding about a year ago. There were several ARCs I got at a library conference, which were super easy to get rid of. After that it got much more difficult. I have accumulated a pretty good collection of books that are important to me. Many of them are signed, so that saves them from the donation pile automatically. Other books that I have just had get analyzed based on whether I have read them recently, memories surrounding reading them, and how I have grown and changed since they were important to me. I don’t think there really is a good method, but I have found myself buying fewer books. The books I buy now have to hold a special significance, such as being signed or completing a set. Really thinking before I buy new books has greatly cut down on my overcrowding.

  15. This is a great idea! I definitely need to do this, but I don’t have as many books as you do!

    I’m pretty good about not buying new books. They’re so expensive and I always tell myself that I don’t have space on my bookshelves. I don’t really need to buy new ones. I try not to buy used books either. I just don’t have the space. I guess I should take some of these ideas and try to get rid of some of my books. That will give me a good excuse to buy ‘new’ books, right? I have read most of my books, but I’ve kept them for certain reasons (books I can refer to later, books written by my favorite authors), but I do have several that I just haven’t read it. I definitely don’t want to get rid of those, but I should read them soon.

    I’m curious – Where do you get all of your books? I love that picture of them all piled up together. Did you buy all of those? Or are they passed down from others for you to read?

  16. I’m actually in the lucky position of having plenty of space right now, but I know there’s a major book culling ahead in the next few years and I don’t want to think about it. Like, I have one bookshelf full of kids books I loved and don’t want to let go, and a ridiculous number of books I haven’t read, but I don’t really want to get rid of any except the ones I actively disliked? I guess I have a dream of a giant home library some day and so I hoard like a dragon

  17. I literally have books just sitting around my room in the strangest places. I definitely need to do a solid cull. I have started using eBooks more so that I don’t have to worry about finding a home for them but I like reading physical books best. The library has become my best friend.

  18. A few years ago, while I was going through something, I did a major purge of books in my house. Suddenly books I was holding on to out of some sort of nostalgia, or whatever, held no more emotion over me. So I purged a LOT. Almost 400 books at once. I brought them all over to my old Parish for their annual bazar. This included books I’d bought that I hadn’t ever read. I’d read the summaries again and…nothing. No interest. Tons and tons of books out the door. The ARCs I’d tear in half and recycle, though I gave a few away to friends and family.
    Since then I have not bought many new books. My TBR is a lot smaller. Under 20 books right now I think. (Yes, that is still a LOT smaller!) and I have been trying to borrow books from the library when I can get an English edition (living in a French province doesn’t make that easy!) I don’t miss the books I got rid of, but I miss having a mini library in my home. Which is like, a dream. But also takes up so much room when you don’t have shelves to hold the books, and you don’t use them.
    I suppose this comment isn’t helpful at all. Hmm. If I haven’t read a book on my shelf in over a year I tend to rethink if I really wanted to read it in the first place. So I’ll offer it to friends, or it goes in the next set of boxes I’m planning to donate to the church bazar. 😉

  19. I really need to do this, so thanks for some guidelines that I can use when assessing my own shelves. My problem is most of my books were purchased by me with my own money so I feel such money shame when I contemplate giving them away, even if it is a book I no longer have any plans on reading… I’m such a book hoarder!!

  20. I did a bit of a book cull last year and it was hard. And the thing is it wasn’t even a true cull. I just piled them up and prepared them for swapping so I could get even more books with them! I did admit there were some books I wasn’t going to read, though. I mean, if it’s taking up my shelf for over 2 years unread that should be a sign, right? But I have so many books and I keep getting more so really it’s going to sit on my shelf for however long I want it to.

    I do think the line of sight thing is true. If you’re going to forget about a book because you can’t see it you probably don’t want to read it that much, you know? I think if you’ve not thought about it and don’ get around to reading it after a few years it’s got to go to someone who does want it.

  21. This is hard. It would take a lot to cull books from my shelf. A reason is that books are so expensive in Suriname. For example the US currency rate is 1 USD = 7.20. Shipping is not cheap either. I mostly only cull books when I did not like reading experience. If I had unread books in the hundreds I might cull more but I have only 30+ unread ones on the shelves.