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Make This The Year You Do a Pre-Holiday Book Purge

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Dana Staves

Staff Writer

Going through life with an apron tied on and a pen in her hand, Dana Staves writes about books and food. She also writes a little fiction. She lives in Maryland with her wife, their son, and their cat.

When my sister began having kids, I witnessed the phenomenon that is babies receiving gifts at Christmas. My oldest niece sat in a sea of wrapping paper and bows and boxes, opening present after present from grandparents who, let’s just face it, have zero impulse control. I swore to myself then and there, when I had a child, we would do a yearly pre-holiday toy purge to make way for new toys, yes, but also to instill the idea that the holidays are about giving and not just receiving and playing with the box the toy came in. But this got me thinking: what if I applied the same rule to my toys: books? I’ve got cluttered bookshelves, stacks of book that no longer fit on the shelves. What if I make this the year of the pre-holiday book purge?

There are a few reasons to do this. Perhaps you always get new books for the holidays and you have very little room for books as it is. Perhaps you have older books that you’re never going to read or re-read, and they’re just collecting dust. Perhaps you’re like me and hoping you get a Book of the Month subscription (ahem, hint, hint) for Christmas, and the prospect of at least one new book a month has you eyeing those bookshelves and wondering where they’ll go.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpWhatever your reason, it’s likely you can round up a few books (more than a few? that’s cool—you’re among friends). Maybe you can use the principles of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:  does the book spark joy for you? Are you happier by holding onto it?

Perhaps approach your bookshelves like a dinner party list. You can’t have all outgoing, loud people who drive the conversation; you can’t have all shy introverts who are just trying to figure out when they can leave and put on pajamas and watch Big Bang Theory reruns. You need a mix of people, and you need a mix of books. How do your shelves stack up? Too many nonfiction books? Make room for some novels! No short stories? Whoa—let’s make some room, shall we?

Whatever your chosen method, here are some ideas for what to do with those books you’re saying goodbye to.

Gift them!

I know you’re going to host a friendly holiday book exchange after my post about it—this is a great moment to pick books to give! But even if you’re not going the formal book exchange route, consider re-homing your books to friends. Take a look at your shelves, think of what Casey from the office might like to read, and tuck that book away for her.

Donate them!

You can donate books to your local library, check with your local school libraries, or research donating books to prisons. I have a coffee shop near my house that functions as a bookstore/coffee shop and takes donated books to fill their shelves. You could consider reaching out to senior centers, assisted living centers, or youth outreach programs.

Be a Book Fairy!

You may have seen the Book Fairies at work leaving books with a sticker and a lovely ribbon on them. Emma Watson is one such well-known fairy about town, leaving feminist titles for the world to find. And you too can join the fun!

Use Books for Crafting! 

I know some people cringe or become violently angry at the thought of dismantling books for crafting. Be that as it may, you can make lovely crafts out of books, and we even have some ideas already collected for you. Nicola gave us a run-down of great ideas of what to do with used books (as well as some real talk on donating books to charities and prisons). And Ashley laid out some craft ideas for repurposing old books as well as some, shall we say, other uses for books. (Ahem, toilet paper. Ahem, bird cage lining.)

But in the spirit of the holiday season, and a pre-holiday book purge, consider making Christmas ornaments, holiday greeting cards, or even bookish tablescapes for your holiday gatherings.

And when all is said and done, may you find yourself awash in wrapping paper and the joy of brand new books (and plenty of shelf space to put them on)!