Shelving My Books

On shelving my books and carrying out the biggest decluttering exercise of my LIFE, I discovered that there is in fact a Japanese word for this which even has an entry in the Collins English Dictionary.

Tsundoku:

The constant act of buying books but never reading them so that they pile up in one’s room“.
From the Japanese “tsumu” – to pile up- and doku- to read, reading. (Noun).

I’m a voracious reader and would never have considered parting with as many books as I now have. But it finally imploded last autumn when I realized I’d put two books I already owned on my birthday wishlist. It was time for a serious decluttering exercise.

photo of our main shelf after the first major declutter

Shelving My Books: Paperback to Kindle

In 2014 we were living in what would be our last rented property (although we didn’t know it at the time). As ever, we were paying for a storage unit for the possessions we couldn’t crowbar into our home. Most of my books had been carted back and forth to the various storage units we’ve had over the years, so I adopted a no new fiction policy and only read books on my Kindle in an attempt not to accumulate more. I guess I must have been in the early stages of honing my decluttering sensibilities but it’s taken for four years and two moves during which I continued to buy more books than I read.Shelving My Books: Life After Paperbacks

When it came to culling my beloved books, far from feeling sad and bereft as I expected so I felt great so much so that I’ve been even more ruthless since. Looking back there was definitely an element of relief at having a valid reason to kiss goodbye to those books I thought I should own, in other words, aspirational purchases. They were also a permanent reminder of how much money I’ve spent on them over the years.

Shelving My Books: Culling The ‘Must Haves’

My husband and various lovely family members converted our third bedroom into an office complete with wrap-around ceiling height cupboards. Prior to this, my many ‘office books’ had resided in our tiny, unused conservatory. But, instead of cramming them onto the new shelves, I culled those I hadn’t read but felt I should own. They’ve now either been sold on Amazon, eBay, Music Magpie, Mazuma Mobile, We Buy Books or Ziffit or given to charity. And I haven’t once missed them.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever

Marie Kondo’s book was definitely an aspirational purchase, the kind of book I felt I should have on my coffee table. I bought it in March 2016, five months before we even moved into the house. But by the time I read it, we were already fully immersed in decluttering and doing much of what she suggested. Nevertheless, it’s a great book and I love many of her ideas and insights. It really is a great motivator if you’re finding it hard to get going.


I now appreciate that I don’t have to own every book I read or buy everything I want to read; e-readers, book groups, libraries, family and friends with similar taste in books all help. The person I am chose those books, they do not define me. Nor should I feel the need to display them in my house to validate this.

Read the books you want to without cluttering your shelves 

If you have an e-reader, Kindle 99p books are great value. There is also a myriad of websites where you can swap books with other readers. It’s free and you can potentially save yourself a significant amount of money.

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