3 Reasons to Unhaul Your Bookshelves

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Pink Bookcase

To tell the truth, it’s not often that I unhaul my books. I’m not into the idea that I’ll pay money for all these books, only to end up giving them away. Plus, I love books, and I feel guilty for not appreciating each and every one of them for the rest of my life.

The “unhaul” was a concept unknown to me until I dove into the rabbit hole of BookTube. Far more often you’ll see a regular book haul–usually monthly–but the unhaul is a rarer beast. (I think all book lovers are low-key hoarders, don’t you?) To first see one was both startling and refreshing because even though used bookshops exist, and even though I’ve gotten rid of some of my own before, those were mostly old college textbooks, and the concept of consciously giving up books that were maybe once loved was pretty unimaginable to me.

I think unless you’re a minimalist–and maybe even if you are–it can be emotionally draining to cull personal items, for any reason. Sometimes I’ll argue against it with Dan or myself, arguing that books can be decoration too or that I might read it again or sometimes that I haven’t actually read it at all yet. Once in a while, though, the necessity of cleaning out the space and letting go begins to form a seed in my brain, and while it can still take a few weeks or months to take the big step, it happens, and I start to feel a little bit better for it.

So if you’re feeling skeptical or anxious about unhauling your beloved books, what are some reasons you should?

You’re sending books to a new home. / Because if they’re sitting on your shelf unread or even without a passing glance in their direction most days, are they really getting all the love they deserve? Unhauling, especially by giving to a used bookstore or donating them to the library, can help your book find a new home and help someone else find an affordable copy of a book they maybe couldn’t have gotten before.

You’re making some pocket change. / A lot of used bookstores–if not all–will pay you for the books you bring in, so if you’d like to try your luck before donating to the library, it’s worth checking to see if your local used shop does this. If not, they might at least offer store credit or even an option between the two, making it worth a shot. If not, there’s also the option of selling used on Amazon, although that won’t clear your shelves quite as quickly.

You’re making room for new books! / When you start clearing out books from your shelves, you’re bound to start noticing gaps in your collection, which you’ll inevitably want to refill right away–which is great! In the process of sending your no-longer-needed books to a new home, you’ll be making way for new books in your own space. Everybody wins!

It can be a challenge to get started with your unhaul, much like the cliche of ripping off a Band-Aid, but just as they can both be painful, they’re also rewarding. So as you’re working on your spring cleaning this year, consider an unhaul. Maybe you don’t need one–but maybe you do.

April 17, 2017
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  • Kay

    I just started unhauling books last year. Until that point I basically still owned every book I ever had in my adult life (and even some from teens/childhood years). But I had SO many I knew I wouldn’t pick up again. After a few clear out sessions, I feel much better about the books I own. When the shelves start getting really full again, we’ll probably go through again!

    • The only reason I don’t have dozens of books from my teens/childhood is because they’re all in my parents’ basement. I know they’re around, though, and I do plan on taking them out at some point and going through them, if only to keep myself from repurchasing something I already have (which almost happened with Alice in Wonderland one time until I thought, “Wait…don’t I already have this???”).

  • I’ve gotten rid of books in the past whenever I wanted to make room for new ones and that was before it was called “unhauling” lol! One of my goals this year is to read the unread books on my shelf in order to see if I want to keep them or not. I gave two books to Goodwill today that I didn’t like. I agree that it sucks to spend money on books only to give them away, but they’re going to a new home!
    ~Sara

    • That’s one of my goals this year too! I made a whole separate shelf in our living room for my unread books…and it’s overflowing because I’m still buying more. (Oops!) I honestly don’t think I ever get rid of books if it’s not the end of a school semester, but since I don’t have those anymore, I have to start being more disciplined about it, I think.

  • I really need to do this. I was thinking about leaving them in the Little Free Libraries around my city. Making room for new books is great motivation to get started ha!

    • That’s a great idea! I don’t know if we have any LFLs around here, but I did see one in another town we frequent, so maybe I’ll pick a couple to leave there the next time we’re around.

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