Why can't I weed out my unused stuff?

marie26September 6, 2009

A few years ago, I completed a major organizing of my entire house. Then I moved to a much smaller, old house with no place to keep me organized.

But circumstances are forcing me to weed out all my stuff so that I only keep what I really need and use.

I've decided to start with 6 bookshelves that hold all my personal books. The books are organized into the following categories: medical, decorating, diet, how to start a business, how to write, organizing, legal books and self-help books.

I hardly ever open these books although they are facing me on the wall behind the monitor. I need to give away to the library the ones I never look at or have already read and won't need to refer to again. That's so easy to say but the fact is that I can't figure out which ones of those I don't refer to often enough to get rid of. Should I decide by cost of book if I'm not sure? Some are quite expensive. How do you decide which ones stay and which ones go?

I feel like my life is tied to those books. They represent who I am. Is that why it's so hard for me to weed them out?

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One thing that helps me (sometimes) is I have a new consignment store that will sell a good variety of items. She only charges either 20 or 30%. Our local library has no room and sometimes the larger library just leaves them in boxes then tosses them. People don't read like they use to. Yes it is hard to let books go that you pay $$ for because so much information is on the internet now. Maybe a church will take some to send overseas to a 3rd world country.
Did you check with any assisted living homes in your area? Nursing homes?
I know what you mean, I downsized from 2600 feet to 1400 and started new hobbies.
Marie from ND

    Bookmark   September 6, 2009 at 10:35PM
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I feel like my life is tied to those books. They represent who I am. Is that why it's so hard for me to weed them out?

Yes, that *IS* why it's so hard for you to weed them out. You don't want to let go of all of those identities. Thinking through that issue may help you.

Are you *really* someone who will start a business? Or are you someone who will pipe-dream about it only (that's acceptable, btw; are don't need to act on every dream).

I would say, don't go by cost. (do a Google search on "sunk cost"--the money is spent, don't worry about how much it was, bcs it's never coming back)

Go by, "how much difference would it make in my life if I wanted them but didn't have them?" Will you be able to find info like it, in a book from the library? (even if the ones you donate aren't there)?

Starting a business--there are tons of books in the library about that.
Organizing--personally, I find doing it to be more useful than reading about it.
Medical--I'd have said keep the ones you'd look in if someone was sick or injured in the middle of the night or weekend, but honestly I find very credible info on the Internet now, in just as much detail as you'd get from most of those books.
How to write--are you writing? might you look up a grammatical turn of phrase? I might keep reference books.

Diet--are there any details in those books that isn't covered by: "eat less, move around more"? LOL

I would bet that you could get rid of nearly all of them.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2009 at 11:23PM
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I've found that living a disorganized life keeps me from DOING all the things about which I have books! My husband and I recently finished our third floor into a fourth bedroom and small rec room. This process forced us to go through everything we had stored up there and decide what we NEEDED to keep, and what we didn't really need anymore. It was really painful weeding through all those books, but when it was done suddenly I had a comfortable space! I've started quilting again - just as I got rid of excess fabric and pattern books. I'm even writing more often now - just as I released some of my writing books. All because I now have a serene, uncluttered place away from the bustle of the rest of the house in which to pursue my interests.

If you want to be a writer, write.

And keep in mind - some of those books you're keeping are so out of date as to be detrimental to your hobby health. How many Writers' Markets do you have? Are any of them newer than 2005? No? Then all they're doing is taking up space and stressing you out. Believe me, I know. :)

Think about what you're gaining, rather than what you're losing. You can always replace a book if you find later you've given it away by mistake, but you can't get back the time you're wasting being distracted by too much stuff!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2009 at 10:19AM
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Marie, you hardly ever use those books, by your own admission. Do you really think you'd miss them?

Can't you just borrow a book from the library the next time you actually need to read one? Can't you get the same information from some other place?

You are not going to get enough money back out of those books to satisfy yourself. You'd have to become a full-time book seller in order to get rid of your unused books for maximum cash. Are you willing to do that? Or are you willing to take the leap of faith? Can you just give those books away for free, and not look back, trusting our advice that you'll be so much happier without them?

I must sound like some kind of evangelist, but it is true! I am so happy with less stuff in my life.

Don't let mere STUFF weigh you down!

MaryLiz in Michigan

    Bookmark   September 7, 2009 at 12:36PM
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Don't go by the cost of these books. "Sunk cost" is an organizing term referring to what you spent on an item. It should not be used in determining its present value to you. Value means you use it and love it. The fact you spent $100 on it means nothing today. You can't get that $100 back. By the way, don't worry about the books you give away. If you miss your books, just visit your local public library. If you really need a book, you can buy plenty on Amazon or Alibris.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2009 at 1:59PM
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Righto, try to get a sense of which ones are or are becoming obsolete.

Also--are these bookshelves the biggest priority for you? Meaning, do you have an alternative function for the bookshelves or have other books and want to pare down so that all fit on these shelves? Because when you're stressing, sometimes it means you should leave that area for now and focus on something else.

I'm a book lover and have always in the past thought I would just keep every book I ever bought. My DH certainly does. The biggest amount is fiction, but also a lot of cookbooks, gardening, help, etc. Finally I realized that I could look them over and pick out ones that didn't really "speak" to me and get rid of them--a novel that was tolerable, but ho-hum--if I ever want to re-read it, I can find it in the library. The garden book I thought I couldn't live without, but on reflection, has nothing new to say? Someone else can enjoy it. It may only be a few here and there, but in the past few years that has been enough to sort of stay even and then I do a lot better about keeping the books organized on our shelves and not lying all about. Also trying to use library more, but we are notorious about keeping books past due so we kid about how much the library costs us!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2009 at 6:37PM
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Sounds to me like these books are no longer books for you but instead they are memorabilia. If that is the case, I would be careful about eliminating them.

One method I used when trying to decide which gardening books to keep was to rate a book on a scale from 1 to 5. I tossed (or gave away) all books with ratings less than 4. It felt good that I was being relatively systematic.

With gardening, having beautiful photographic pictures can be really a delight for me. Downloading and viewing from the web does not give the same pleasurable experience for me.

So bottom line - think about memorabilia value, and pleasure viewing quality pictures. As has already been said, I doubt anything with information these days is that valuable if it is very old especially since there is so much on the web.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2009 at 10:44AM
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One of my decluttering mantras is, "There is someone else out there who can really NEEDS this item."

Check around--maybe your library or another local organization is having a sale. With so many libraries (or charitable groups) in financial difficulty these days, wouldn't you feel good giving them some items that you don't use that could help them earn some money for worthwhile programs?

Another recommendation: paperbackswap.com. Let those unused books go free--and get credits to get some new ones!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2009 at 1:41PM
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I'm the last person who should offer suggestions, but...

Your books sound organized. What do you desperately need the six shelves for? New books? Canned goods? Shoes? Knick-Knacks? Even if you seldom open them, they are yours, they are there when you want them, and they sound organized (or at least they can be.) Some will say that once you get rid of them, you'll be glad you did, but then again, you may not be. You like them. I'd keep them right where they are unless there is a real need for the space.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2009 at 12:53AM
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one area i would be able to give away would be reference books on stuff that i would likely look up on line..like medical

    Bookmark   September 22, 2009 at 7:35PM
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