Q: How do I get rid of books accumulated over a lifetime? I can’t just throw them in the trash.
Remember the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast? The sexiest thing about the Beast was his amazing multi-story library filled with colorful classic books and gleaming brass sliding ladders.
Your dusty, moldy stacks of books, outdated or damaged, aren’t accompanied by singing silverware and are not as sexy.
If you are asking how do I get rid of books, here are your options, in order of my preference:
- Thoughtfully Give Away
If that already sounds like a lot of work, I get it. You lovingly acquired those books over a lifetime. They aren’t just information…books represents your hopes and dreams, your experience and memories, and maybe even memories of your parents. Books represent your better self.
TL;DR: How to get rid of books is straightforward, even though it may not be easy, but if it’s time, you can do this. If you are already overwhelmed, stop here and return to this article when you need the details below.
How Do I Get Rid of Books?
These are your options to get rid of books. Give them a try, in this order:
How to Sell Books
Search for “used bookseller near me” to find a dealer who might buy some of your books. Make a few phone calls. They will not buy all of your books, but they might buy a few gems. They might visit your home if your collection is big enough or has the books they are able to re-sell. Like all used household goods, you won’t recoup anywhere close to what you spent, and not nearly as much as you think you should, but you’ll give those books a fair chance at a new home.
There are very few places online where you can successfully sell books. As I’ve explained about selling online, it’s a time-consuming and frustrating process with relatively low payoff. If you download an app, use you smartphone to scan barcodes, and package and ship out your books, then you can make a few bucks and get those books back into the market. Don’t even think about it if those books aren’t in great condition. Search “where to sell books online”. Since these companies are always changing, I don’t have one to recommend.
Recent textbooks that are less than five years old, should be re-sold ASAP. No, you will not use that accounting or economics textbook again. Really.
How to Donate Books
Many places will take donated novels in good condition and some non-fiction like cookbooks. Check with your local library, larger charities like Goodwill and Greendrop, and local thrift shops. Check donation guidelines. Books are heavy, so transport in small boxes. Liquor store boxes are perfectly-sized and sturdy, and usually hold between one to two dozen.
Children’s books in great condition are always highly donate-able. Contact your public schools and nursery schools. Some urban schools still ask the public to donate children’s books, both for their libraries and to give to their students so they have books at home. (Pro tip: Include a cash donation, too, so they can buy current books on their wish list.) Charities like Cradles to Crayons distribute books to kids who have next to nothing.
If you are willing to ship books, connect with an international charity like BetterWorldBooks. You will need to pay shipping, but maybe it’s worth it to you.
How to Thoughtfully Give Away Books
Sometimes a few special books can get in the way of passing on any books at all. Find your special book in your collection, inscribe it with love, and give it to a younger family member or co-worker. Let the book go on to inspire another.
How to Recycle Books
Old textbooks with soft covers can often be recycled in your municipal recycling. Check guidelines locally.
Magazines are not books. They need to go in municipal recycling. Not even National Geographics. Sorry.
When to Trash Books
Old textbooks with hard covers are trash. Sorry. If you want to take the time to de-spine them, you can recycle loose pages in household recycling.
When your books are water-damaged, moldy, pet-damaged, missing pages, or just smell funny, it’s time to trash them. If it makes you sneeze, trash it. If it was eaten by bookworms (a real thing!) or other bugs, trash it. If you don’t want it on your bedside table, then one else will, either. You can almost always buy a new copy of a special book to pass down to a grandchild, rather than risk making your grandchild sick with a damaged book.
When NOT to Trash Books
*Just a note, this article is about published books. If your one-of-a-kind photo albums get damaged, don’t just toss them. They can be digitized, restored, re-printed and shared electronically so your unique family legacy can be preserved. More info here.
How do I get rid of books?
I know there are a lot of emotions here. Are you stuck on the idea of parting with any books at all, just some of them, or the physical work involved? The free online mini class for SORT and Succeed gives you a way to think about actually making progress on an overwhelming project.
Tell me about your books in the comments below.