The Book Lovers’ Guide to Purging


Over the course of a year I amass a lot of books. I attend lots of book launches and have an endless appetite for new books, used books, novelty books, books I intend to use for research purposes for novels I want to write…and so on. What I don’t have is a lot of space. Perhaps the only thing I like as much as books is a tidy, well-ordered apartment.

Can a girl have it all, a massive library and a neat, efficient living space?

Yes, but it does require some purging. Like most book-lovers I am quite attached to my books; In fact, I am a secret sentimentalist. As a child I used to fret over which stuffed animal I would choose to sleep in my arms every night, worried I would deeply offend the others, relegated to the cold, lonely, end of the bed. Similarly, an irrational part of me worries that the author will somehow know I have not kept their book and by removing it from my personal collection I am letting her down. This is nonsense. The best way to support an author is to buy her book– which you have done. The next best thing is to spread the word.

Don’t think of purging your shelves as throwing your books away, think of it as passing them on to another reader who will love and appreciate them. You are a benevolent benefactor of books gifting someone her next best read. You can of course drop your books off at Goodwill, Value Village, or a used bookstore, but I find the following alternatives allow me to sleep easier at night, even without a well-worn stuffie.

 Little Free Library


These book boxes are popping up all over the world and might be the most charming way to donate your books. Check out the map on their website to find the location nearest to you or to register a box of your very own. I have dreams of building a Hogwarts Little Free Library one day. Check out the variety of boxes on instagram (@littlefreelibrary)

Visit your Local Library Branch


Increase the reach of your books ten-fold by donating to the library. Some branches will accept recent books in very good condition. Not all libraries accept donations-don’t leave books in the drop-off bin or in a box outside the door. Ask to speak to a librarian at your local branch and allow him/her to go through your selection.

The Children’s Book Bank


In Toronto we are lucky to have this wonderful organization that allows children in lower-income areas to take a book home with them- for keeps- every time they visit the bank. They are currently accepting books for children up to age 12. You can visit the bank or leave your gently-used books in the drop-off box at Mabel’s Fables. They also run programming and have a great trivia contest on instagram (@thechildrensbookbank).

Start a Gift Box


Find a nice box or storage container that matches your decor and store books you think would make great gifts. Invited to a dinner party? Bring a book instead of a bottle of wine. Last minute baby shower? That signed picture book you got at a launch would be perfect. Heading up to someone’s cottage for the weekend? Everyone appreciates a new addition to their summer library. While this does not get books out of the house immediately, it does clear up shelves. Finding a nice storage box to keep them clean and tucked away is key.

Be a Book Fairy 


Everybody loves mail. Select a book you love and send it to a friend or a friend’s child who you think will have a particular interest in that book. Even better, include a letter explaining why you chose this book for them. This gives you an excellent reason to invest in the fantastic new Alice Munro stamps.

Local School


There isn’t a public school in Canada that isn’t strapped for cash. Library and classroom budgets are getting smaller and smaller, what better way to encourage a love of reading within your own community than donating to a local school? Make sure you are in contact with a teacher or librarian and allow them to select from what you have. They understand their students’ needs better than you will. Don’t treat a school like Value Village- a place where you can unceremoniously dump what you don’t want.

Summer Camps


Like schools and libraries, camps are another great hotbed of reading. I have fond memories of trading novels with my fellow counsellors and reading aloud to the girls in my cabin. Look up your old sleep-away camp or ask a friend who has a child in camp if they could use some books. Some camps have reading rooms or lending libraries that operate out of the tuck shop.

Purging makes you feel great. So does donating books.

Where do you like to take your gently-used books? Let me know in the comments!

14 thoughts on “The Book Lovers’ Guide to Purging”

  1. Some wonderful ideas in this post, Vikiki! Thanks for reminding me about summer camps and about the joy of being a book fairy. I’m in the midst of a purge at the moment (2 boxes a week is the goal), so this was an excellent motivational read 🙂
    Any suggestions on what to do with ARCs? I love them, but try to purchase the finished copies and end up having extra copies to share. So far I’ve had a ‘come and go tea’ – come for the tea, leave with a book – for friends with kids that was fairly successful. I’ve pretty much maxed out the local hospital long-term care and children’s wings, and the women’s shelters in the area can only take so much. All suggestions are welcomed!

    1. ARCS are tricky- they really are not intended for re-sale despite the fact that some used bookstores blatantly ignore this and sell them. I love the idea of donating them to long-term care and children’s wings in hospitals. I think school book clubs might be another good place for ARCS as well as other blog reviewers. Hold an ARC swap or start a chain-letter ask mailing program among your fave reviewers!

  2. Hi Vikki. I saw your article in The Toronto Star. and as a book-lover myself I enjoyed it thoroughly. However, one thing I noticed is that Book Ends and Book Ends South were not mentioned. These book stores are operated by Friends of Toronto Public Library, North Chapter (Book Ends) and Friends of Toronto Public Library, South Chapter (Book Ends South). We sell withdrawn library materials as well as books donated by the public at very low prices – most 50c – $1 and even less expensive when we have 1/2 price sales. Since the stores are operated by volunteers almost all of the money we make goes back to the TPL for library programs. The North Chapter, with which I am involved, has been operating since 1993 and as of 2014 we had donated over $1M to TPL’s children’s literacy program, “Leading to Reading”. Last year alone we donated $75,000. We have also donated books to developing countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, Jordan, and others. Book Ends has a Facebook page (Book Ends North) and is also on Twitter.

  3. I love your post! I’m always trying to give books away. And I struggle with the conflict of trying to buy everything second-hand or pass things on vs supporting authors.

    But in the end, they’re not being read on my shelf so they might as well be passed on. Here in the UK many books go to charity shops. Our libraries take book donations and make money by selling any that they can’t put on the shelves for whatever reason. Some of the Canadian organisations mentioned sound fantastic.

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