Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring Cleaning--Books

Hi all, and welcome to the Spring Cleaning series!  This is a quest for a cleaner, better, and more fun sewing room.  The introduction to the series is HERE if you'd like to read some about the goals of this series of posts.  If you're ready to clean out some of your things, too, come on along!  I've found that an attitude of adventure really helps, along with just a bit of ruthlessness, so let's get started!

Today we are tackling books.  Who doesn't love a good quilt book?  They're colorful, fun, and helpful.  They're full of patterns, good advice, and new and interesting techniques. 

I know I've learned a ton from them, but I also know that they can become overwhelming, just sitting there taking up valuable space and (for some people) causing guilt and sadness.  Many of my books were just outdated, with patterns I no longer wanted or techniques I'd already mastered or given up.  But I still found it hard to get rid of them because they seem so permanent--and because many of them cost a pretty penny. 

**One thing before we start--there is no hard and fast rule about how many books you have to get rid of or a limit on the number you keep!  You make your own rules and decide what makes you comfortable.**

For this step you'll need a place outside your sewing area to sort through the books. Ideally, you should be able to leave the books there for a couple of days, even a week or more.  Don't expect this to be a super-fast process, especially if you have a lot of books.  You'll also need a box or two to put the books you no longer want.

A small portion of my books.

Start by pulling out every book, including the ones on the shelves, the ones in other areas of the house, and the ones in a box in the closet.  Don't forget the ones beside the bed (or under it).  Pile these up in your designated sorting area. Your goal is to get all of the books in one place so that you can deal with them all at once.

Once you've got them all in one place, take a break!  Books are heavy, and you're going to need some energy.

When you're ready, roll up your sleeves because it's time to sort.  Start by going through all the piles and pulling out the books you absolutely MUST keep.  There's no question at all in your mind that these books stay.  For me, these were my block books, the Brackman Encyclopedia, and my books on color theory.  I also kept my first quilt book and a couple of other sentimental books.  Gather these up and put them right back in your sewing area (or wherever you're keeping your books).  They need to be out of the way for the next step.  You'd hate to accidentally give one away!

Must keeps.

Next, take each of the remaining books and put it into one of three piles--"keep," "maybe," and "go."  Put the "go" books straight into a box so that they're out of the way, and separate the "keep" and "maybe" piles.  If you can't decide, put the book into the "maybe" pile.  If you're like me, this will be the biggest pile.

This is a good time to take a break, or even leave the books overnight.  You can change your mind on lots of things overnight!

Keepers on the left, giveaways on the right.

When you're ready to get back to it, go through the "keep" pile again.  Do you really want to keep each of these books?  Why are you keeping them?  What do they each bring to the party?  Its likely that several will migrate into the other piles.  When you're satisfied that you want to keep each of the "keep" books, it's time to put that pile away.  Move those back to wherever you're storing your books.

Now for the hard part--the "maybe" pile.  Everyone will have their own decision-making process about these books, but I suggest making two piles from this one--"leaning keep" and "leaning go."  In the "leaning go" pile should be books that are outdated, those that you once intended to make a quilt from but never did, those where you've made all the patterns that you intend to, anything torn up, and books you've lost interest in.  "Leaning keep" should be those books that are still interesting, that showcase a technique you might need to refer to again, and books you just generally find useful (or pretty!).  When in doubt, lean toward letting it go.

Hmmm. . .tough choices.

**What about a book with one pattern that you want to keep?  Here's a radical idea: pull that pattern out of the book to save, then recycle the rest of the book.  What?!  You can do this!  It's yours, and it's not a first edition of Dostoevsky, it's a craft book.  It will be fine!**

It can take a long time to get through this pile, so give yourself time to think about it.  When you're satisfied that all of the "maybe" books have been through the wringer and are all either "keep" or "go," put the "go" books into a box and move the "keep" books back to the book space.

All of these are out of here!

Congratulations!  You've sorted out all your books!  This felt really momentous to me, like a real step forward.  I hope it does for you too.

Now, what to do with those books?  First, the keepers:

--A bookshelf is ideal for storing books!  Even a shelf in a closet or cabinet can store books well.  The key is to keep the books together so you can find what you want when you want it.

--No bookshelf?  Try a decorative crate or box that you can leave out and admire.  Some large baskets might also work, depending on how many books you have.

--How about a storage ottoman or other storage furniture? A deep dresser drawer?  Again, the key is to keep them together.

--If all else fails, you can store them in large clear tote boxes in a closet, under a table, or even under a bed.

What about the books you're getting rid of?  There are several options:


Books are a bit like cars--they lose a lot of value once you bring them home.  Craft books are especially volatile as they become outdated very quickly.  If you want to sell them, you could list them on your blog or in an Etsy shop if you have one.  This is probably the cheapest option, but also very slow.  Other selling options:

--Become an Amazon Marketplace seller.  (Scroll all the way to the bottom to become an individual seller.) Some fees apply, but books are listed by title and author, so someone looking for that specific book will see your listing.

--Abebooks, a site just for selling books.  Much like Amazon, but fewer pictures and lower fees.

--Half-Price Books  and other used bookstores that buy books.  Be aware that these stores generally pay very little, but the books would be out of your home.


--Your local library is a good bet.  Most have "Friends of the Library" book sales and gladly take donations for those.  You may have to store the boxes until a few weeks before the sale, then take them to the library.

     **If you're up for it, take a look at the library's quilt book offerings and consider making an appointment to have a conversation with a librarian about adding some of your books to the lending collection.  It's just a conversation, and they can say no, but they might say yes!  Many libraries are cash-strapped and take these kinds of donations.  They generally want new-looking books that are very gently used, perfect for the book that your wonderful aunt thought that you would just love but isn't your style at all.**

--If there is a technical school near you, they may be interested in some of the books for their library as well.  You could also ask at high schools that still have sewing classes.  (Some still do, including some private schools.)

--Your local 4H, Girl Scout troop, Boy Scout troop, or other youth organization may have some ideas about specific people who would be able to use some of the books.

--Ask your friends if they would like some of the books!  One person's trash is another's treasure!

As a last resort:

Your local Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul store, or Goodwill will take book donations, plus you will get a donation receipt for your taxes.

What I did:

I got rid of about two-thirds of the books I had.  I sold a few through the blog (very few), gave a few to friends, and donated the rest to the Friends of the Library.

My finished bookshelves!

This was a long post, but I hope it was helpful!  Next week we'll tackle the magazines and other paper.  I hope your sorting goes well!  Remember to be gentle with yourself.  No guilt allowed!  And if you have suggestions for others, please share in the comments!

Sharing at Let's Bee Social.


Danice G said...

Very helpful advice. However, I actually want (need) more quilting books, lol. 'Not many in my collection. I can certainly apply this to other books though. After graduating college, many had accumulated. Donating to colleges and local libraries are both excellent ideas :)

Quiltdivajulie said...

Some quilt guilds have libraries as do some assisted living facilities (for use by their residents - especially coffee table type books). The Little Free Library network is another good way to send your "go" books out into the world (a few at a time).

Judi Smith said...

I have been trying to sort my books one at a time. This idea of sorting into piles first is awesome. It's a great way to tackle my overflowing shelf of books. My local guild takes quilt books and magazines and sells them at a really low price during the annual quilt show, so I have a place to recycle. Thank you! I needed this post!

Laura said...

My LQS has a swap area. You can leave your old sewing/quilting magazines and books and take others. But the you must leave more than you take, or your sewing room doesn't get any less cluttered!

Jen said...

I actually don't have many books at all. Like 2 or 3 and I have only browsed those. I do have a pile of paper printouts and magazines that needs to be sorted though. There is some great advice here. The library in particular is a great place to donate.

JanineMarie said...

I like how you keep dividing those books until you've made the final decision of what to keep. I also like your idea of taking the one pattern you want out of a book you no longer need. To keep a book intact to give away, I think (hope?) it's also okay to just photograph the pages you want to keep and keep them in a digital file for your personal use. Our local guild accepts books/magazines and has a freebie table for ones they don't need/want in their libraries.

Lorna McMahon said...

The cleaning series is a wonderful concept and we can all use the motivation. I can't work in a cluttered room. Thanks for sharing all these great tips and ideas!

Chopin - A Passionate Quilter said...

I cleaned out all the years of stashed magazines. It felt good! My books? Yes I would love to get rid of the ones I will never use, so if the mood strikes me, you have provided a great way to either sell or giveaway or donate and someone else will use them. I never destroy books. There is a home for all of them - just need to find them!

moosecraft said...

Great advice! I remember when I did this with my books... I did the "take one pattern out and recycle the rest" on quite a few... you should have heard by hubby groan when he went to roll the recycle bin to the curb... he said "cleaning again?" :-) I did gift some to friends and brought some to my rug hooking guild (some quilt too) and let them take what they wanted. And naturally, I sold some too. Amazingly enough I still have about 40 books? *blush* Maybe I need to revisit this procedure again... lol! Anyways, thank you for this series!!! It's been a BIG help!

krislovesfabric said...

I won't say how many books I kept in number :0 when I did this but I will say the 1/3 ratio kept is probably about right. I had the great fortune of getting a small design wall installed in my room and had to scale down my bookshelf from a huge one to a small narrow one to make the space...I used Half Price Bbooks and my friends to unload the 2/3 I no longer have room for. It's been about a month and I have had no regrets and use the design wall daily now, yay!!

Jo said...

It is such a hard thing to do but well worth it. If ever I have someone visit and they show an interest in something I don't use/need I let them take it home... It's always good to see others enjoy what you have loved.

The Joyful Quilter said...

WAIT!! Does that mean that ALL of the books in the TO GO box are already gone?! There was one that I would have gladly purchased. :o((

Sara said...

Excellent process. I also take some crafts books to my quilt guild sometimes - to give away. Same with my quilting magazines once I'm done reading them.

PaulaB quilts said...

If I'm interested in a book I've heard of, I request it from the library, especially if it is part of a large regional one. Then I can read it, use what I want or decide to buy it. I even request back issues of Quilting Arts by issue number or date. I've been a confirmed library user since I was a child and it's paid off in tons of savings.

Kate @ Smiles From Kate said...

This is a great series. I decluttered my books somewhat when I fitted out my new sewing room over Christmas, I parted with some but it is so hard. Recently someone I knew was starting up so I parted with another three beginner ones too. I have a narrow Ikea bookcase with three shelves and they are all just about full, yet I keep getting books, more often from my kids who peruse my Amazon wishlist. I like your method though and you are so right about next to the bed, under the bed, etc. That's it, I'm doing it, your method is much better than mine was.

Nandhini said...

Being new to the blogging world I feel like there is still so much to learn. Your tips helped to clarify a few things for me as well as giving..

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