KonMari Part Three: How to Declutter & Organize Books

. 7 min read

In my last post, I tackled all things clothing: the process of decluttering, organizing and folding your clothes the KonMari way. Now our drawers are in order, we'll move onto the next category which is BOOKS.

Related: KonMari Part Two: How to Declutter & Organize Clothing

(Be sure to pin this guide so you can refer back to it later!)

How to KonMari Your Books

What if I want to hold onto all of my books?

Before we get into it, the first thing I wanted say about books is that that they can be a very personal and emotional thing. Some people may get upset at the thought of discarding any at all, as each title is like an old friend. I know it can be difficult to stay open-minded about this process, but please hear this: if you hold every single book that you own and want to keep them all, that is perfectly ok as it is 100% your choice. Guess what? Marie Kondo is not making you get rid of anything.

The true and underlying purpose of this process is to be certain that everything in your home has been chosen, and in order to do that, you need to go through the process of choosing. If you end up with the same number of copies at the end of this category it doesn't matter one bit, as long as you have intentionally made that decision to keep them because they add value to your life. At the very least, your books and bookshelves will get a thorough dusting and you may rediscover some old favorites that you want to reread!

How do you declutter books using the KonMari method?

For this category, you'll need some good sturdy boxes for your "discard" pile—we chose to donate all of our discarded books but you may wish to have separate boxes for donate/sell/recycle—depending on how you choose to do it.

The process begins in much the same way as the clothing category: empty all your bookshelves and anywhere else you might be storing books (don't forget to check the attic!) Take each book one by one and ask yourself if it sparks joy. Be careful not to start reading any of the books—just make an impulse judgement! Decide whether to keep or discard each book depending on how each one makes you feel as you hold it. Keep working through the pile this way until you have made a "yes" or "no" decision on every book that you own. Again, try not to overthink decisions—work quickly and don't draw the process out too long!

piles of books on the floor

The most surprising thing for me was how many of my books were connected to a negative emotion or feeling. I headed into this process thinking we would breeze through it as we don't have that many books, but I found out that there were a lot of books that I needed to let go of: books from college that made me feel like I'd wasted my degree, parenting books that made me feel like a bad mother, books that I never quite got into and made me feel unintelligent...you get the picture. I definitely was NOT expecting to experience that, and it reaffirmed the importance of going through all the steps in the order that Marie Kondo prescribes—because you never quite know what's going to come up.

How do you Konmari kids books?

Much like we did in the clothing category, we involved our kids in the decision-making process. There were a few books we vetoed as parents though—the ones that we dreaded reading to them because they were badly written or tedious (parents—do you relate??) On the whole though, we supported their decisions and they did really well. We actually kept most of the pile because children's books are my favorite! It's hard to let go of stories that you have read over and over with so many memories attached, and they definitely spark a lot of joy for us so they were mostly keepers. We did end up recycling a few worn out copies, but we either already had duplicates of them or ordered a replacement there and then, so that wasn't a lot of downsizing.

Related: How to Declutter, Organize and Style Kids' Books

What about books that I haven't read yet?

These books get treated the exact same way as any other book. If they spark joy, they get to stay. If not, they go—even if they are brand new. Kondo says that the chance is that if you haven't made time to read it yet, then you probably aren't going to read it at all. I definitely know that to be true in my own life! To make letting go easier for me, I told myself that I could always buy another copy or borrow it from someone if I realized that I'd made a horrible mistake further down the line.

How do you organize the books that you are going to keep?

Once we had gone through every single book that we owned, we decided on where to put the ones we were keeping. Previously, I had them in the girls bedroom, in the playroom and in the living room. It had always bothered me that the living room bookshelves didn't match the color scheme of the room because of our eclectic book collection, and so I decided to relocate the "grown-up books" to the bookshelf in the hallway. The other reason for the move is that I am a distracted reader and find it hard to stick to one book. I generally read in the living room, and will often grab books off the shelf before finishing the six I already have on the go. I now have a small basket under the coffee table in the living room for my "in progress" books, and this helps me keep focussed on just a few at a time!

basket under the coffee table

I purchased a bigger book caddy for the girls' bedroom from the Pillowfort range at Target and that was plenty big enough to store all of their picture books.

book caddy for children

My seven year old is getting into chapter books, and we happened to have a couple of spare shelves in the closet after our clothing cull, so we put the remaining chapter books plus the heavier collections tucked away in there.

closet with books and bins

In her book, Kondo advises not to scatter storage spaces, and by moving our books into the hallway and the kids books into their bedroom they ended up being all closer together in proximity which made more sense to me than having them dotted all over the house.

Organizing books by color: yes or no?

Books organized by color seems to be such a controversial topic. It makes me laugh that people can get so worked up and passionate about the way books are arranged on a shelf. I think the main objection to organizing books by color is that in doing this you are essentially ignoring what is inside the book, so you will end up with books that have no relation to each other sitting side by side. Although organizing by color might be more aesthetically pleasing to some, I do agree that it doesn't make much practical sense when you come to look for a book and have to try and remember what color the spine is. However, I decided to give it a go with our little bookshelf. With a smaller library of books, it wasn't really a concern for me that I wouldn't be able to find the book I was looking for, and I think it has cheered up our little hallway!

black bookcase with books arranged by color

Ultimately, it comes back to the same concept of what "sparks joy" for you—if the thought of rainbow books makes you shudder, then don't do it. If it makes you happy, then go for it!

Have our bookshelves stayed organized?

I'm pleased to say that we've managed to keep our bookshelves in order over the last nine months or so. We tend to buy a couple of books a month and the kids get a huge influx at Christmas and for birthdays, but I'm now in the habit of quickly passing on books that I don't resonate with or know that I won't want to read again, rather than letting them sit on the shelf gathering dust. Up until now, there hasn't been a need for a serious cull, but if we ever outgrow our storage, I'll probably use the same KonMari process again—knowing that it won't be as difficult as it was the first time around.

Coming up in the next post is PAPERS!

I'll admit that this category was not my favorite as it was so tedious but I feel less stressed just looking at my filing boxes now that they are in order!

Catch up on other posts in the series:
KonMari Part One: 10 Tips to Prepare You for KonMari Success
KonMari Part Two: How to Declutter & Organize Clothing

How to KonMari Your Books



Jude Green

Hi! I'm Jude, an English girl living in Jax, FL with my husband and two little girls. I'm a self-confessed homebird (that's the word we Brits use for a homebody!) and my home is my happy place.

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