What To Do With Old Books When You Declutter

Diane Hoffmaster
by Diane Hoffmaster

Posts feature partner companies & may be sponsored. Post contains affiliate links & I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Wondering how to get rid of books? If you have a ton of books, I have a few tips to help deal with them. From donating them to libraries to making upcycled book crafts, learn how to cull books from your stash and what to do with old books when you declutter.

Table of Contents

Is there such a thing as too many books?

Books are the one thing that I don’t mind spending money on, however, after a while the bookshelves just get a bit too full. As I look around my house deciding what areas to declutter, I wonder what to do with them all. There are only so many shelves on them, right? But I would never throw one away…that just seems like sacrilege!

✯Don’t want to miss the next post?✯

Follow Turning the Clock Back on Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Or join the private Facebook group for simple tips on going green!

As we strive to reduce clutter in our lives, we need to take a long, hard look at how much stuff we really need. But, how do you decide which ones to keep or get rid of?

Getting rid of books is hard. Here are a few easy tips to help you thin the collection this month.

  • Series don’t have to stay together. If there is only one story of a series that you really like, ditch the others.
  • Copy recipes from cookbooks if you only use one or two. No need to keep the whole thing if you don’t use most of the recipes.
  • Don’t keep old textbooks. They might remind you of your glory days as a college student, however, do you really need them? If you don’t use those textbooks in your current profession, recycle them, or donate them.
  • If you finished it, ask yourself if you will read it again. Do you really want to read the biography of your favorite sports figure more than once?
  • Transition to an e-reader. You can get many of the classics for FREE as an e-book. Ditch the paper version if you really think you will read them again. E-readers can be green alternatives to actual paper books.

Book Donation Tips

The written word is precious. Don’t let it end up in landfills! Of course, not all books are worthy of a second home. Sometimes, your old school textbooks just have no further value.

How do you know whether you should look for book recycling bins or sell it on eBay? Here are a few book donation tips that might help. Throwing them away s is NOT a good way to deal with them! If you want more sustainable decluttering tips, check out my post on recycling resources

  • Don’t donate books that are water damaged, smell like smoke, or are otherwise damaged. No one wants them, trust me.
  • Most book donation programs accept only BOOKS. Not photo albums, used sticker books, or old newspapers. In addition, don’t donate old library books. That’s just not cool. Give them back to the library if at all possible.
  • Ask yourself if it’s out of date. For example, old encyclopedias (more than 5 years old) do no one any good.
  • Have questions? Call and ask. Contact your local book donation center and ask about their acceptance guidelines. Don’t waste their time donating things that they don’t need or want.

Should you throw away books?

Throwing away books is a crime, in my opinion! There is no reason for a beautiful story to end up rotting in a landfill somewhere. If you absolutely have no way to re-home or reuse old books, at least recycle them.

Paperbacks can be recycled, binding included. However, if it has gotten wet or the pages have turned brown, they should be thrown in the trash. You can’t recycle pages that have aged to the point where they are turning tan.

Easy ways to recycle old books

Make sure your books don’t end up clogging the landfills. Wondering what to do with books after reading them? Here are some tips that will help you learn how to get rid of books without tossing them in the trash.

Sell your old books on eBay

It’s easy to do…all you need to do is set up an account. Once you have that, enter the ISBN number of the book you want to get rid of and all of the details about it will pop right up! This is a great way to make a little bit of money if you have some best sellers that need a new home.

Where to donate books

Many thrift stores, including Good Will accept books. You can use this as a tax write-off so make sure to get a receipt or proof of donation to include with your tax paperwork.

Donate to places like local hospitals, homeless shelters, adult literacy programs, and nursing homes. Look for book donation bins near you.

Sell them at consignment sales.

I used to do this with the kid’s books quite a bit. Our sales have a ‘bag of books’ section where you can put 5 or 10 similar books into one big zip lock bag and price it as one piece. Saves lots of time!

Donate your books to someone on Freecycle.

This is a great website for trading with others in your local community! You donate a science fiction thriller and maybe someone will give you some garden stuff you need this spring!

Find a second-hand bookstore in your area.

Wondering what to do with books that can earn you new books? Earn credit for your donations at most second-hand book stores. Use that credit towards purchasing other books in the store.

Use them for a social good project.

Encourage your library to get involved in the Better World Books program. They work with over 3000 libraries across the US, Canada, and the UK to keep used library books out of landfills and put them in the hands of people who need them. There is no charge for participation in this group.

Host a neighborhood book swap.

This is a great way to get to know your neighbors while finding some great new reading material at the same time! Check out Book Riot for tips on how to host a book swap.

Ask about book donation programs:

If you have a lot of children’s books, talk to your local library or school media center and see if they are interested in accepting them as a donation. Maybe your elementary school could hold a fundraiser with all the donated books?

Do a random act of kindness.

Join Bookcrossing.com and make someone’s day a little brighter with a random act of kindness! All you do is slap a label on the inside of your book, leave it in a public place to be picked up by random strangers, and track it’s progress online! How far will YOUR favorite mystery go?

Look for libraries in need.

Check out Adopt A Library They have a long list of libraries in schools, on American Indian reservations and even in prisons that need all types of books.

Looking for cool things to do with old books? Make Book Crafts

There are tons of crafts that turn your books into new creations. Here are a few that caught my eye:

What happens to books that aren’t sold?

Do you remember when Borders Bookstores started having financial trouble and they began closing stores? There was a huge backlash against the company when it was discovered that they intended to tear the covers off of perfectly good, brand new books and throw them away.

Add in libraries and publishers to the mix and the number of books being tossed in the trash every year gets rather staggering. This article from National Public Radio takes a rather in-depth look at library system and it’s disposal policies.

Approximately 30 TO 40 PERCENT of books that are shipped to bookstores for sale are returned to the publisher every year. Between 65 and 95 percent of them are pulped (AKA destroyed by publishers). That is a HUGE number of books that get trashed, simply because it is cheaper and easier than finding alternative solutions.

Keep Used Books Out Of The Trash!

While it is certainly understandable that libraries and retail stores want to keep their stock fresh and offer the most current titles, there are a lot of people in this world who would love to be given the chance to read our ‘castoffs’!

Try as I might, I could not find a single organization, petition, or environmental group working towards getting publishers to stop pulping brand new books. You can read more about the industry’s dirty little secret and if you find any information on how the public can help put an end to this policy, PLEASE let me know! Have any other tips on what to do with excess books?

More sustainable decluttering tips

Don’t want to throw your books away? I get it! I don’t like throwing ANYTHING away if I can help it. If you are trying to declutter the house, here are some more tips for eco friendly cleaning:

Best Tips for Decluttering Your Child’s Room Find the best tips for decluttering your child’s room. Keep reading and see what I have learned over the years!

What Can You Do With Old Hangers? Decluttering the house this month. Have you cleaned your closet and realized you have way too many hangers? What can you do with them? I thought I would share a few ways to repurpose hangers.

How to Recycle Household Items That are Creating Clutter in Your House! Sart decluttering your home! First, learn how to recycle household items and reduce your carbon footprint as you clean.

Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire and has worked in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging and freelance writing to share this knowledge with others. Learn more about her HERE.

Diane Hoffmaster
Want more details about this and other budgeting & minimalist living ideas? Check out more here!
Join the conversation
2 of 145 comments
  • Gayla-Gary Richmond Gayla-Gary Richmond on Mar 16, 2024

    Please, please, please consider using eBay or Etsy and sell/give them for craft projects! I am an avid reader and it kills me to rip up a book, but it is better than throwing them into the dump - maybe even a school could use the pages for projects - ASK! If you give to a thrift store/GoodWill - let them know if you have removed pages for crafts so they sell as a craft item, not a book. I use old book pages in crafts all the time and even old childrens books and turn them into something else for kids!

  • Donna DiLauro Lillard Donna DiLauro Lillard on Apr 26, 2024

    I have some of my daughter’s college books - I believe 2 psychology ones from 15 years ago so probably outdated. Any suggestions for those?