Why you should get rid of your books and probably stop buying them too

Surely books are an investment into our intellectual development? Literature has the potential to change our perception, teach us and open our minds. How could somebody own too many books? The truth is that many of us are buying books with personal growth in mind, and I’m here to tell you that accumulating many books could be having the opposite effect.

  1. Clutter is damaging your health

I used to be in awe whenever I saw somebody’s huge library of books. I would think they must be intelligent, even wise, because books are filled with knowledge and knowledge is power, right?


We’ve all heard of the Japanese term “tsunkondu”: buying too many books and leaving them unread. Nowadays, I see this as less a sign of an intellectual, and more a sign of a hoarder. The knowledge we gain from books is something to be treasured but it isn’t an excuse for hoarding. Hoarding anything is bad for our mental health as it clutters our physical, and therefore mental space. We all know that clutter has the potential to result in limitations in our creativity and productivity. A cluttered home leads to stress and compulsive hoarding generally can even be linked to OCD. Having too many books in your home is visually distracting and a study at Princeton Neuroscience Institute has found that clutter constrains our visual cortex’s ability to process information. Not every book owner is a hoarder but if you are accumulating a lot of books, it’s time to reassess whether the extra clutter in your home is necessary or whether your books can just as easily be accessed in a library.

“person carrying backpack inside library” by Darwin Vegher on Unsplash

2. That book you bought 2 years ago and haven’t read? You’re not going to

We all have that item of clothing in the back of our wardrobes that we haven’t worn for years, nor are we ever going to. It’s the same with books. If you’ve owned this book for years and still haven’t read it, it’s time to part with it. Getting rid of something potentially valuable is not a loss, as we can always seek it out in the future, if need be. We should all learn to recognise empty space as valuable and by giving something away that we no longer use, we are gaining in mental clarity.

“three books leaning on glass window” by Faith Enck on Unsplash

3. That book you’re looking for is in the library

OK, not always, but you’d be surprised. University and public libraries are home to millions of books and if they don’t have what you’re looking for, you can just ask to have it ordered in. Many people buy books under the false conception that the book they are looking for is too niche to be in the library, but that’s often not true. Even books like travel guides (looking at you, Lonely Planet) can be easily found in the library and returned after your trip, rather than buying an entire new book that you’ll only use once.

“Everything you need for better future and success has already been written. And guess what? All you have to do is go to the library.”
- Henri Frederic Amiel
“library signage” by David Clarke on Unsplash

4. You will be saving money

Generally, books are very inexpensive but if you are buying many books, the cost definitely adds up. We live in an age where information has never been as free and accessible. If you are part of an academic institution, you will have access to many free online and physical books. By joining your local library, you have access to hundreds of thousands of free books. And of course, the internet is a fantastic source of information.

I know that money isn’t an issue for everyone, but if you are on a tight budget, your priority should not be buying new books, but consulting the world of free information you have access to. Many people who are looking to transform their lives decide to splurge on lots of business and self improvement books. These are often people who perhaps aren’t in a great place financially, and are looking to change that. If this sounds like you, there are wiser ways to spend your money, when this information is so readily available in libraries.

There is also, of course, money to be gained from selling your books. We no longer have to set up a car boot sale in order to sell our old stuff; it’s as quick as downloading an app. Amazon, eBay and Music Magpie are all great ways to offload your books for cash. If you don’t need the money, the best option is to donate to charity, so the money for your book can help someone in need.

“person getting 1 U.S. dollar banknote in wallet” by A L L E F . V I N I C I U S Δ on Unsplash

5. Your old books are going to a good cause

The reality is that most books are one-time reads. Sure, there are a few that we keep coming back to, but we usually take information from a book only to dismiss the book soon afterwards, allowing it to collect dust on our shelves. We don’t need the book anymore because the ideas are ingrained in our minds. By selling or donating your books, you are sharing knowledge and helping to open up someone else’s mind. This is particularly true when donating books to those who are unable to access or afford books easily and therefore improving literacy. The book swap system in London’s tube stations is just one example of the local schemes which are working to eradicate illiteracy. Next time you are finding it difficult to part with an old book, keep in mind the fact you are helping someone else out by gifting knowledge. If your books are damaged or in an unacceptable state, choosing to recycle them is a great way to help the environment.

“person's hand” by Billy Pasco on Unsplash

For avid readers, buying every book we read is unattainable.

Maybe you clicked on my article thinking I am against reading (apologies for the click bait!). Oh, on the contrary. I love to read. In fact, I read so much that my turnover of books is fast enough to make buying books unattainable. It wouldn’t make sense to spend such a big portion of my money on buying books, only to finish them and start a new set of books soon after. Not to mention, my house would be overflowing with books! For any avid reader, it is simply impractical to do this and would inevitably result in clutter and unnecessary expenses. Having a few favourite books that we often return to is great, but reassessing our book buying habits is a crucial step in living a more minimalist life. Owning less things and donating the things we no longer use is a great way to cultivate a healthier mind, help others and work towards a creating a better planet.

So do yourself a favour, and continue reading all the books you can. But next time you go to read a new book, check out your local library first. It could save you a lot of clutter and even some money.

“silhouette of child sitting behind tree during sunset” by Aaron Burden on Unsplash