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Virginia Wells

Organising your “Books-to-Read”

Is it time for organising your “Books-to-Read” pile? If you have a bunch of books waiting to be read, it might be time to review these books and declutter and organise your ‘future reading’ list. 

To-Read Lists Everywhere

Some of us will have several reading lists. They might be: 

  • Books on the shelf  
  • A list in our phone 
  • Wish lists online book shops 
  • Written wish lists
  • Audible downloads 
  • Online library book hold lists 
  • Tabs open in our browsers… 

“To-Read” lists crop up in all sorts of places. 

This blog posts focuses on physical books, because they take up your space but the other lists also take up mental space so it is worth applying these steps to those lists too. Okay, let’s look at steps for organising your “Books-to-Read”. 

Organise Your Books 

Step 1: What are your reading habits? 

The first question to ask yourself is, “How much do I read?”. Are you an avid reader who reads several books each week or month? Or are you a slow reader or don’t read a lot of books? Do you read just one book at a time? Or do you have multiple books on the go? I am, for instance, usually reading a novel, a self-help book, a business-style book and, possibly, a spiritual book all at the same time. 

The answer to this question will guide how many books it is reasonable to have on your to-read list or shelf. If you know you will read five books a month, sixty books on your shelf is a year’s worth of reading. If you only read one book a year however, well, that could be a lifetime of books! Realistically, you’re not going to get through all those books so that might help you decide to let go of some of them. Also consider how frequently you purchase or come across new books to read. Is your reading keeping pace with this? 

Apply the same principles to any magazines that you read for pleasure or for work. 

Step 2: Where will you keep them? 

Firstly, where will you keep the items that you are currently reading? Think about where you read. You might want them on your bedside table or beside your lounge chair. Magazines can go into a magazine rack by your chair. This has the added benefit of having a storage limit. You know that once it is full, you need to sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy some reading time. 

Think now about the space you have and how you want to manage and maintain the number of books you keep to read later. You could buy more bookshelves but let’s work for now under the assumption that you want to manage what you already have rather than grow your collection. Decide how much space you want to dedicate to books-to-read. This will help you understand how many to keep. Will you dedicate one (or more) shelves on the bookcase for books-to-read? 

I know some people like to organise books on their bookshelf by colour, in alphabetical order or by genre. Organising books-to-read into this order might work, perhaps by locating them at the end of the colour or genre. However, you may find a dedicated shelf just for books-to-read works better. This way you’ll be able to see exactly what you have coming up to read and access them easily when you’re ready to choose your next book. 

Step 3: Gather 

Wherever your physical books-to-read have accumulated, gather them all together. Unless you have just a few books-to-read, the decluttering process might take some time so collect them all somewhere where you can leave them to deal with over several sessions. If you have a lot of books, you might get overwhelmed if you attempt too much too quickly. Plan to do a few books in each decluttering session, perhaps for a few minutes a day, an hour a week. Work out a timeframe that will work for you

Step 4: Assess 

Okay, with those questions answered, the next step for organising your books-to-read is to assess the books you have. For each book, ask yourself, “Do I really still want to read this?” Pick up the first book in the pile and read through the blurb on the back or inside cover. Give each book some time. Is it still something you are actually interested in reading? It might also fall into the category of “I need to read this” (for example, for work). 

If it isn’t, it can go in the give-away (or give back) pile. If the book belongs to someone else, make sure you return it. Perhaps put it in your ‘Transition Station’. 

If it is, put it into one of these categories: 

  1. I have to read this. 
  1. Can’t wait to read it. Will be in the next ten books I read. 
  1. Pretty excited to read it. It has great reviews, or someone recommended it highly. 
  1. I’m sort of keen to look at it and I’m not ready to let it go. 

If you find you need to cull more books to fit your space or habits, having them in these categories will help. 

Sidenote: A subsection of books on our bookshelves is sometimes books borrowed from other people. You might need a separate way to deal with these. You might choose a specific shelf or part-shelf for them and have a way of keeping track of them, such as a sticky note in the front of the book with the name of the owner and the date you borrowed it. If you haven’t ready the book within six-months, return it. 

Step 5: Cull 

Once you’ve gone through all the books, put the ‘I have to’ and the ‘Can’t wait’ books on the shelf. Do you have room for more? Put the ‘Pretty Excited’ books away and finally the ‘Sort of Keen’ ones. But, if you don’t’ have room, you need to cull further. Start by removing the ‘Sort of Keen’ books and work your way up until they fit your allocation. 

If you have a lot of books, you might need to break down these categories further or put them in priority order. Perhaps you have a lot of books on a particular subject which might mean there is duplication you can get rid of. Or maybe you want to delve deeply into some topics more than others. Perhaps you can let go of topics you are less interested in. 

Reassure yourself throughout this process that if you do get rid of a book you later want to read, you’ll be able to get hold of it again, perhaps through your local library. You could take a photo of it or add the titles to a list so you don’t want to forget them. This is also a way to manage the ‘overflow’ of books you still want to read but that you don’t have room for. 

Step 6: Get Help 

If you run into trouble with this process, you might like to get some help. You could hire a professional organiser like me or you could join the WellSorted Facebook group where you could share your dilemma and we can try and work through some further steps with you. Please do also share any tips you have for organising your “books-to-read”.

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