My Thoughts on KonMari-ing Your Bookshelf

When the year first began, Netflix released a new show called “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” a reality TV series where famed organizer Marie Kondo comes to your house and cleans it for you. She uses her very famous method of taking everything out of your closets and shelves, holding up each thing, and asking yourself if this thing sparks joy. It sounds like a dream; the kind of thing you want to do at the beginning of the year.

However, at some point in the show, Marie Kondo takes on someone’s bookshelf. She talks about cleaning the shelves and only keeping books that spark joy. This brought up some controversy especially in the reading community.

For voracious readers like us, books are life. We spend more money on books than we do on food or clothes. We stock our shelves to the brim with titles we’ll want to read or have read. I’ve got bookshelves that are double stacked, triple stacked. I have bookshelves where the middle of the shelf is bowing because of the weight. But I have a confession: I do KonMari my books.

To be completely honest, I’ve actually suggested in the past that people KonMari their books as well. I constantly re-evaluate my TBR shelf and see what I want to read eventually and what I know won’t ever go through my hands.

Every year, at the beginning of the year, I review all my books from my TBR as well as what I read over the course of the year and I ask myself “did I love this book enough to put it on my shelf? Do I see myself reading this book again in the future?” From that, I make the decision to keep the book or donate the book.

Perhaps it’s because I’m rarely sentimental about things, but one thing I know for sure is that I don’t want to keep books that I didn’t like. My tastes are my own and if I didn’t like something or it didn’t wow me, then I want to donate that book to someone who may benefit from it.

And there are downsides to this method. I recently went through my TBR list to find more nonfiction novels to read this year. Amongst them was a book I thought I had, but it turns out I had donated a while back. I KonMari’d a book that didn’t suit me at the time, but now makes sense to read.  I smacked myself on the head for that one.

Despite all the mishaps of KonMari-ing your books, I think the one piece of advice you should always consider is what will make you happy; what will spark joy. That’s what Marie Kondo is trying to say when she tells you to organize your bookshelf. It’s not about getting rid of your books, but looking at your reading life and seeing what you love and what you don’t love. You’ll find a lot about yourself from discovering those mysteries.

If you can’t part with any of your books, don’t. Perhaps if you do have a cluttered mess of books it’s time to buy a new book shelf. Perhaps it’s going through your shelves and removing the ones you know you’ll never read. But your reading life is your own and let your personal guiding principles dictate what you do with your books.

However, if you’re looking to organize the other parts of your life, I highly recommend Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It’ll really change the way you live your life.

21 thoughts on “My Thoughts on KonMari-ing Your Bookshelf

  1. I love this! I’ve been living a pretty minimal lifestyle since I moved to New Zealand and realized I could live for over a year with two suitcases (granted the NZ climate is pretty mild – I definitely needed more stuff when I got back to NY winter!). But I take the same approach with my bookshelves. I’m not a rereader, so I don’t ask myself if I’ll reread it, but I usually ask if I’ll lend it/reccommend it to a friend, and if having it on my shelf a) brings me joy and b) demonstrates my thoughts and tastes to guests in my home. This works pretty well for me!

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  2. These are pretty much my thoughts too. What sparks joy…that is my basis for keeping or giving away just about anything especially with books. And, it wasn’t something I consciously decided to start practicing. Every year, at this time, I too go through my books. It amazes me how many boxes full of books I can give away each and every year. This year I opted to part with 100 unread books, I am keeping 143. This year I did not go through my already read books—I’ll probably do that next year (or half way through this one).
    Good post. 👍🏻😁👍🏻

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    1. I’m the type of person who finds joy in seeing the spines of books I’ll love to read or have loved reading. And that’s why I purge a lot. I also think that other people will benefit from a book I won’t read and I don’t like keeping it from them.

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  3. Editing my bookshelf is one of my goals for this year! I want to purge 1/3 of my unread books from my shelves; ones I know I won’t read and am just holding onto because I feel guilty for getting rid of them, which obviously is not a good reason to keep them. I think it’ll help me feel less stressed and overwhelmed. Plus, it’ll help put those books into people’s hands who will actually read them haha

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    1. I saw how happy you were after you did your purge! Good for you! I fully support unloading books you won’t read, but also support if you want to keep them all. Whatever works for you as long as it makes you happy. 🙂

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  4. I generally try to only keep the books I know I’ll reread. There are some where I was like “that was good and I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I’ll reread it” and to me, they’re not worth taking up space. I also just think it’s kind of wasteful to have all these books you don’t like or are never going to read when someone else could be enjoying them

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    1. Absolutely! There’s an opportunity for someone else to really enjoy the book. I’m totally about donating books I won’t read. It’ll be better suited for someone else than me keeping it on my bookshelf.

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  5. I really only have books that I really loved on my bookshelf or books I’ve yet to read that I’ve picked up at library sales or used book shops for cheap. I went through a phase where I wanted nice looking bookshelves to stare at, but I’m not really a physical book reader. I much prefer reading on my Kindle or reading books from the library. I’m also not really “settled down” yet so knowing that I’ll be moving in a year or two makes me hesitant to buy new things when in all likelihood they’ll probably end up being donated when I move.

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    1. Absolutely! I think maybe people’s lives are a little cleaner when they read ebooks or borrow from the library, but I think people kind of went haywire with Marie Kondo’s advice. I hope people continue to enjoy their books.

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      1. Haha, yes. Everyone I know is cleaning their house now. I’m sure people will keep their books, and if they don’t, hopefully they’ll go to new homes where people can enjoy them.

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  6. I think it was completely blown out of proportion. She doesn’t want you to get rid of all your books – she’s not forcing you to get rid of everything. It’s about what brings you joy and what you want to take into the future. It’s about organising the things you have in the best possible way. I definitely unhaul books occasionally.

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    1. Oh yeah, I feel like it’s healthy to unhaul. Keeping a mess of books you intended to read but never did feels like a burden in itself. I’m the type to donate books I won’t read but others prefer to keep them all. Do what feels right for you!

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  7. I think her concept of discarding was completely misunderstood by some. They think that you should get rid of your books instead of you keeping whatever sparks joy. I declutter my TBR and my shelf regularly and like you, I’m not too sentimental as well so it’s easier for me to discard. I also feel that some people who reacted strongly against it are just being defensive about their book materiality. I can literally feel my burdens lessened when I konmari my books (or life in general)!

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    1. I totally agree! I think that saying “Keep about 30 books” applies to people who may read more casually, but when reading is your main hobby then I’m pretty sure it’s okay to keep more than 30. Just keep the ones that bring you joy.

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  8. I agree with you, I “KonMari” a few times a year. I find it keeps my tbr under control, but also makes me more aware of what I have have. Each person is different and they handle their TBRs differently. Using this, or not, is going to be up the the person as well, but her idea of does it bring joy does not mean getting rid of everything and starting from zero. When I first read the book when it came out I saw she suggested getting rid of all my unread books, well that idea didn’t spark joy for me so I left it in the book. The whole approach to me is take what you need and leave the rest, if it sparks joy keep is close.

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    1. I totally agree and I believe in the “take what you need and leave the rest.” I’m not the type of person who wants to keep books just because I bought them and had the intention of reading them. I know my reading life is a dynamic one that needs to be reviewed every once in a while. Using the KonMari method to organize your unread bookshelf is a way for me to declutter and make space for books I want to read.

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  9. I just read the article and agree it totally was blown out of proportion. Funny that the lady quoted says the KonMari method wouldn’t work for her as all her books spark joy …um well fine then isn’t that exactly the point?!

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    1. I mean, I think Marie Kondo says it’s ideal to keep about 30 books. But her method is about finding joy so yeah exactly. Spark joy in 30 books or in 300 books.

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