Quickly Declutter a Collection of Books

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While it may take time to build clutter, it is beneficial to find ways to quickly declutter. My personal challenge is cookbooks. I have an abundance of them. They have now spread to four different locations in the house—a serious case of cookbook creep. It is fair to say my collection has gotten out of hand. It is time to rein this in. I made a first pass of obvious cookbooks to donate and then got stuck. I still have more cookbooks than will fit in the kitchen shelf I have designated as their home. 

Here’s my strategy to quickly declutter.

I collect all cookbooks from their random locations and sort by cuisine. Pull out the best in class to save. Once I’ve collected my clear winners, I then get out a coin and use the coin toss method to select which are the keepers until the space is full. Tails it goes, heads it stays. The rest go in the donate box and into the car. This is the best way to quickly declutter any space!

Why does this work? Once you’ve pulled your clear favorites that you’d never part with, then it boils down to how much space you have to store the rest. There is no need to agonize. Just let the coin make the choice for you. Donate the rest without a second thought.

A minimalist would stop at the favorites, quite sensibly. But if you have extra space and want to keep more, where’s the harm in that? On the other hand, it isn’t really worth your time poring over the remaining selection because those books aren’t in your ‘hot’ list anyway. Let the coin flip decide for you, and you’ll save time deliberating. If you have a strong reaction (think, “Oh no, not that one!”), then it’s a clear sign you should keep that particular cookbook. So, sacrifice another in it’s place. 

If you feel this method is too draconian, fear not. Box up the books the coin rejected. Put a date on the box for three or six months in the future. If you haven’t opened the box by that time, then you clearly didn’t miss those books. When the date comes, donate directly to charity. Don’t open the box! Once you realize you never go into the stored box, you’ll be able to skip this step the next time and donate immediately. I don’t bother selling books, but do ask friends if they want any first. 

I do have one caveat: if you have one or two good recipes in the whole cookbook, just photocopy those pages and store them in your own personalized cookbook. Get a 3-ring binder, input plastic sleeves and divider tabs by category. Then it becomes your book of favorite family recipes! This saves space and may end up being the cookbook you use most of all. It is also easily adaptable as you can always add extra plastic sleeves and tabs as needed.

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