Organizing Books with the KonMari Method
Learn the KonMari Method of organizing books and declutter your bookshelves by tidying up!
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In 2015, Donnie and I read Marie Kondo’s best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Like most people who’ve read it, it sparked an immediate urge to “tidy all the things,” and we ended up doing a major clear out of our stuff!
Marie’s KonMari Method prescribes a very specific order for tidying up your items. We started first with clothes, getting rid of any pieces that didn’t spark joy, folding the remaining items using Marie’s famous file folding technique, and hanging the items that shouldn’t be folded.
The second task in the KonMari method’s specific order is organizing books, an area which makes many people– including myself– a bit nervous!
For me, many books seem to create an emotional connection, making them hard to part with. Fortunately, Marie offers practical advice to make the process simple and as painless as possible!
How to Organize Books with the KonMari Method
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Step 1- Gather all books and put them in piles on the floor.
As with every category of the KonMari Method, Marie instructs students to gather every single book we own in one spot, piling them on the floor. She emphasizes that in order to make informed decisions about what to keep and what to discard, you need to “take your things out of hibernation” (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, page 87).
If you would happen to have so many books that putting them all out at once would be difficult, Marie recommends taking out one category at a time:
- general books (books read for pleasure)
- practical books (cookbooks, reference books, etc.)
- visual books (coffee table books, art books, etc.)
- children’s books (She doesn’t mention this category specifically, but I know it’s one that many people deal with, including us!)
Step 2- Handle each book and decide which ones spark joy.
With the KonMari method, the basic idea is that you assume that you’re getting rid of everything, and then you go through, handle each item, and make a deliberate decision to keep only the items you truly love, that “spark joy.”
When dealing with books, Marie warns her students not to start reading them while they are handling each one and deciding whether or not to keep it! This will make the process take forever and will make the decision making more difficult.
“But what if I want to read it someday?”
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for us (and for many other people as well!) is worrying that we may want to read the book someday, so we are hesitant to part with it.
To this, Marie says “sometime” means “never.” She argues that people rarely pick up a book that has been sitting on their shelf for a while and either re-read it or read it for the first time, and because of this, it is okay to get rid of the book(s) in question.
In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie goes so far as to say, “The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it” (page 95). Her thought is that after the initial window of encountering the book, someone is unlikely to go back to it.
While I think this is true to some extent, there have definitely been exceptions to this in my life.
In fact, ironically, I owned Marie’s book Spark Joy for over a year before I made the time to read it. But I did end up taking it off my shelf and reading it all the way through, even after all that time.
For most books though, I have found that I rarely miss them once I get rid of them. And at this point, if I do find that I want to read them after I’ve discarded them, I would probably get the eReader version instead anyway.
Step 3- Discard all books that don’t spark joy.
After our initial “tidy” of our books in 2015, we ended up discarding quite a load– an entire trunk full and an entire large plastic tub!
We’ve discarded our books in several different ways. We’ve donated them to our local library and to our church’s garage sale. If they’re books we wanted to sell, we’ve taken them to our local Half-Price Books and also sold some using Amazon’s FBA program.
Even though we really love to read in our house, it did feel like a weight lifted when we got rid of all of the books we didn’t truly love or read often!
Step 4- Store remaining books neatly.
Once we were left with only books that sparked joy, it was time to put them back on the shelves.
Marie recommends storing books by category and standing them up rather than stacking them.
To be honest, I don’t always follow the “standing up” rule because I think a mix of standing up and stacked books can look nice if I have the space for it, but to each his own! 🙂
A Connection Between the Books You Own and Who You Want to Be
In Spark Joy, Marie makes the point to mention a connection between the books we decide to keep and the type of person we’d like to become (page 130).
She encourages students to look at the titles of the books they’ve kept and see whether they match up with their goals and plans for the future. For example, if they’d like to get married but own several books that focus on life for singles, there is a disconnect there that they may want to examine.
So those are the ins and outs of organizing books with the KonMari Method! It can feel like a daunting task, but being able to look at my bookshelf and knowing that I love each and every title that I’ve kept is a great feeling in the end!
If you’re going through the KonMari process and this post has been helpful, be sure to pin the image below so you can reference it later!
[Psssttt… Don’t miss our top 100 tips for organizing every single room in your house!]
Have you tried the KonMari Method? How did you like it?
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
Wow, what a cool idea! Definitely going to look into this , I have a lot of clutter myself. Thank you for sharing!
I loved this book and have been using its principles as well to declutter. Books were one of the hardest things for me to tackle as well. I’m the book hoarder in my house. I’ve gotten rid of a ton, but I’m really bad about buying them after I read a review and then never get around to reading them. Too many books and too little time!
I thought I was bad with keeping “stuff” until I met my husband! Maybe I’ll buy the book and make him read it. My 8 year old daughter is a challenge too! I know we’d all be happier with less stuff, it’s just trying to get the whole family on board is so tough!
I own the Harry Potter series too! Love those books so much!
Anyone that is cleaning out magazines, please check in with local day cares and schools to see if they could use them. They often use magazines for learning activities, art projects and even jewelry making! Of course some issues of Cosmo may not be appropriate! However, kids mags and home/cooking themed are great for these projects.
Ooh great tip! Thanks so much!!
I have a Little Free Library in my front yard. As the steward of this “Take a book, leave a book” building, I always welcome book donations especially children’s books. If there is a Little Free Library in your neighborhood, that steward would welcome donations too!
I have had The KonMari method on my list of books to read this year. You’ve inspired me to put it at the front of the line! Oh, and if you think your husband is bad at hoarding books, try living with a PhD candidate who is writing his dissertation this year 🙂 Some days I think we are literally drowning in books…
Wait until he finishes his PhD! The book collection keeps growing, becomes his personal/professional library, and must move with you to every house you ever live in. Speaking from experience…
I need to do this with my books! I have a bunch that are just taking up space on my bookshelf. And I have several boxes full in storage… time to purge!
Oh my goodness, I would struggle with this so much! I’m a massive book lover – yep, probably a bit obsessed. My dream would be a floor-to-ceiling library with a rolling ladder… That’s my excuse as to why I can’t get rid of too many books, because what would I put on my imaginary dream shelves??! LOL!
I love books. I mean really truly love them and they do spark joy. I started with over 1000 books. Yes!! I love to have full collections of my favorite authors. And I love art and science. Going through my books I cut my books more than in half. I started with over 80 science (science fair, science projects . . .) books and kept just the best of the best, 14 books. I emptied full book cases. That felt great. And donating the books to the library knowing that the people who chose to buy my books would be excited to find them and they would spark joy in those people. I look at my shelves now and love my books even more. I keep buying more and more all the time, but I will keep giving away more than I gather!
Thank you, Dannie! Your mention of science books, especially science fair, has helped me to jump in and do this. We homeschooled our six kids, the youngest one graduates this next month, so… I really don’t need those books any more! Time to bite the bullet, get rid of my thousand books and clear up some space for this new life beginning soon. I never thought to count them, though!
I had heard of this book but until you explained it’s theory, I really didn’t understand its method. Thank you for making it so clear to me. I am finishing 5 years of college (Bachelors and MPA next month – yea!!) so I had so many books. So. Many. Books. My local library has an annual book sale of donated books so off they went to them. It feels so good to get that weight off my shelves (and back). Thanks again for the post.
Is it bad that I just got rid of approx 60 books this past week? x_X And that’s after I had gone through my books a few months ago and gotten rid of another 20 or 30-something! (the semi-annual “fill a bag for $5” sales at my local library have been my bane over the past several years, lol). It really did help this time around tho to use the Konmari method and collect ALL of our books together – it helped us have less mercy on what books we kept. I found myself asking the same question too – “why do I still have this book?!”. Oh goodness, it felt so good to donate those books! Thanks again for doing this series and giving the call to action! 🙂
I’m so glad you’re doing this! So inspiring. Keeping a small house organized and decluttered bugs me constantly. We went through books today, and the current give-away count is at 260. There are still a lot of books on the shelves, but it’s nice to look around and know that we LOVE all of them, and we’re not just being literary hoarders. I still don’t know if I can part with the Norton Anthologies though.
I just started reading this book the other day and I cannot wait to tackle our home! This picture makes me excited to start ‘tidying’
I’m really loving your journey with the Konmari Method. I wrote about purging books last year (English major here, too!)
For me, the hardest books to part with were the ones that I hadn’t read yet… but a year later, it seems so natural to have purged and I’m eyeing my cookbook collection with fear, LOL
I just organized my office and was brutal about what I kept. I realized that I was “stuck” because I surrounded myself with so many business books that I had not touched. I just kept buying baskets to put them in — I felt I could not move forward until I read what everyone else was doing — Wrong!! I donated 4 shopping bags and kept what I use for reference — BUT I am going on my own instinct now and know that I have the tools to take action. I just found your blog and love your honesty and simplicity.
I am 100% going to try this method Abby. We have been working on organizing our home as well, and books abound for us more than anything as well. And it’s mostly my daughter’s books! She has hundreds of them! And she’s 3! Adding this to my to do list for a few weeks out. Glad you’re seeing great results with this method!
I think this might finally be the method that could work for myself and my husband! I also am a former English major. I love the Norton Anthologies as well. I am still kicking myself years later for selling my Shakespeare Anthology so I would be able to get a pizza the last week of college 🙁
I had to laugh when I read that you thought you had a lot of books and then saw the picture of your books! That is such a small amount! I have more than that in each of my categories of teaching, cooking, and crafting. I don’t think I could do books as the second thing to downsize. I’d much rather do memorabilia (because I don’t keep much of that, because I don’t live in the past.) I have enjoyed reading your posts on all thing kondomari though.
What did you use to actually physically store the books after you went through them? I recently found KonMari and just got done with my clothes and now I’ll be on to books. I’m just not sure the best way to store them.
Thanks for sharing what you’re doing! I’m loving the whole KonMari concept!
Hi, Stephanie! We’re boring– they’re all on bookshelves, lol! The kids’ books are in the cubbies of their toy shelves, and my husband and I each have bookshelves in our offices where we store our own books. If they didn’t fit one of those places, we got rid of them! Happy organizing! 🙂
I appreciated reading your post! I read the book a few weeks ago and committed myself to KonMari’ing my life (haha!). I finished clothing without too much pain but I’ve been so afraid of tackling books!! I too was an English Lit (and Theater) major and have some pretty deep-seated attachments to books. I need all the encouragement I can get before I tackle this category this weekend. Thanks again for the inspiration.
Today is my books day. I’m excited, yet filled with trepidation. I love KonMari and the philosophy behind it. I finished clothes yesterday and it feels so good. I had gone through most of my clothes a couple of months ago, but still had a large pile. And the jewelry! I didn’t realize how much I had. Still have more but it will go with sentimental items when I get there.
I love the KonMari method. However, I skipped the book part. I guess we have at least 25 times the amount of books in our house that you had. It’s just too overwhelming 🙁
I gave away about 50% of my books, under much duress, and now I am back having read and learned about Konmari to get then down by another 50%. I am planning to move overseas and while I love books like everyone here, there are heavy, voluminous, and expensive to ship and store..good to learn from others who have gone through this and survived 😉
Oh I know– it can be so tough to let go! But you can do it!! 🙂
Wow! Way to go! It can be tough to let them go, but it really does feel great afterwards! Hope you’re having a great week! ~Abby =)
I love that you’ve shared the method in so much detail, and now are sharing your process – I feel like I have the gist of it down without needing to buy the book now.. saving space already! 😉 haha the clothes I’m going to try, but books? Will probably never happen for me. I love books so much, and I re-read them a lot, they’re part of my decor.. yeah, pretty attached! But thank you for sharing your process, I can’t wait to see what the next step is! 🙂
I saw the book on Amazon (it just kinda popped out at me), but rather than rushing to buy it, I renewed my local library card and am on a short waiting list to check it out 🙂 How’s that for refusing more clutter?
Love that idea!! Marie Kondo would be proud. 🙂 Happy decluttering, Dawn!
We are downsizing – again – and the book stack is a challenge. I loved loved your John Calvin on the top of the pile!
I have no trouble with most of the decluttering, but the books – now there’s my weakness. I do go through periodically and try to purge some more. Several years ago I got rid of, yes, really, 1000 books! And I still have books double on shelves all over the house. I keep the ones I refer to the most often in a little bookcase in our bedroom or in my “work” room (computer, sewing, genealogy work). But in our basement we have floor to ceiling shelves that run about 25 feet in length. They are filled with books, some doubled. And no, I can’t part with them. Many are out of print. They aren’t in the local library. They aren’t available as e-books. But they have valuable information that is needed at various times for various purposes. (And there are some that are on my “to read list – books that I pick up for 25 cents at the semi-annual library book sale and that I re-donate after I have read them.)
There are many things that can be replaced if necessary. But too many times in my life, I have found that a particular book is not one of them.
Sorry, Marie Kondo. You can’t have my books.
I agree! They were the hardest for me too!
I have been going through my books. It was tough to get rid of. I found out our local library if they do not distribute to other libraries–they place books, DVD, CD’S, and VHS in their book shop to sell to raise money for the library. I felt great knowing the books will be re-used.
That’s so awesome! Love that!
We have so many books in our house!! Definitely need to declutter and especially before we move in April, will give this method a try.
Dear Abby, my name is Kerry and I had to laugh when I saw your pile of books you had collected. I have more than that many in my backpack. Well not really but if I put all my books in 1 room you wouldn’t be able to see anything from floor to ceiling except books. Do you think that this method will work even when I have enough for an entire library? And that isn’t taking into account anyone else in my household. I am happy trying this method for other things but I think I will have to give books a miss until I have at least read this whole book.
Kerry from Australia.
Hi, Kerry! I think the method will work, but I’m guessing your final pile of books will be bigger than my final pile! 🙂 Everyone seems to have their “thing” that they love and that is meaningful to them, so naturally more of those items will, in Marie’s words, “spark joy” for us and we’ll end up keeping more. I think of one of the episodes of Marie’s show, Tidying Up, where one of the guys collected shoes. He started with around 140 pairs and decluttered his collection down to 65 pairs. For some people, 65 pairs would be a ton, but for a person who loves shoes like he does, 65 pairs was just the right amount. There isn’t a “one size fits all” solution for everyone, but at the heart of the KonMari method is just wanting to only hold onto the things that are truly meaningful to us so we actually use them and appreciate them, rather than forgetting about them or not appreciating them as much as we could because they are mixed in with so many things we feel “meh” about. I hope this helps! Best of luck with your project!
Yes, books out of print PLUS our library purges all the time, as the users of the library have diminished so much. How to get rid of stuff I know I will never find again….old sewing books, biographies, many many kinds.
I went a few wks ago to get a quilting book from the library, which use to have several shelves of them. Now they have it down to 1/4 of one shelf. I tried to get e book with my new reader. I searched for 12 books before I found one that the library had. Not a good start for purging of my book supply 🙂
Oh, no! I hope things improve for you! 🙂 I know books can be one of the hardest things to get rid of!
This method worked very well when we were moving house. If a book didn’t spark joy or wasn’t on the must-read immediately pile- it was donated to the local library. We felt a million times lighter and more joyful in our new home.
Aw, love that! I totally agree… it made our moving process so much easier, too! Hope you have a wonderful week, Debra!
Ah, books! Such a challenging place to declutter. 🙂 I love, love, love books, so it’s been a learning experience for me in this area. I did go through the act of cleaning out all the books that I “thought” I would read and realized that no, I probably never would. Now, I’m focusing on building a collection of books that I love and use. Thank you for the helpful tips, Abby! I can always count on your offering actionable advice.
Books really are the hardest, aren’t they?!? AH! Definitely tough for me. I’m so glad the tips were helpful for you, Janette! Hope you have an awesome week! <3
Books are so amazing, it’s hard to part with them. But i do know for me personally I have a lot of books that have sat on the shelf unread for years. I don’t like to admit I’ll never read them again, but it’s possibly true. I’m going to have to try this method for trimming my bookshelf soon.
So glad it will be helpful for you, Amanda! Hope you’re having a great week! <3
I have a lot of books that have sat on the shelf unread for years. I don’t like to admit I’ll never read them again, but it’s possibly true. I’m going to have to try this method for trimming my bookshelf soon.
Books are so difficult for me too! I hope this is helpful for you!