Closed September 2017

Your House Is Not a Library!

Librarydrawers-flip One of our members just was saying in our message boards that she threw out a big stack of cooking magazines when she realized that every time she wanted to look up a recipe, she looked it up online anyway!

Her story is a great opportunity to remind you that your house is NOT a library.  You are NOT responsible for keeping everything for future reference, nor is it even possible. How could you ever find anything specific anyway if it's not indexed, and are you planning on doing that indexing? And what is better for indexing than the Internet? So there you go. Google it, baby!

Let's just accept this fact right now: No matter what your area of interest or industry, there is more information out there about it than you could ever possibly digest in your lifetime. Consider blogs, websites, magazines, videos, newspaper articles, and even tweets. It's staggering. Accepting this fact is crucial if you are ever going to reduce the number of books, newsletters, printouts and magazines in your physical environment (and electronic documents and bookmarks in your digital environment). And accepting this fact is also crucial if you're going to reduce the time you spend attempting to consume and manage all of this information.

I have written two posts previously about what I call "Information Gluttony"–original post and another one to revisit the topic. Instead of thinking of information as a giant all-you-can-eat buffet, think of it as a room service menu that you can order exactly what you want from as you need it. Breathe for a second. The information is all there. You can search for it and find it when you want it, either online or in an actual library.

Dots Here's a strategy for books, binders, and magazine files full of older issues:  Get some small dots with removable adhesive like these (here's a link to this product from Staples®, who provided this photo). "Dot" every book on a visible place like the spine, and note the date that you applied the dots. Write the date down on a sticky note if you want to, and put it on the inside of the first bookshelf or another significant place so you can remember.

Now, wait. Every time you actually access something for information or touch it for any good reason, you can remove the dot. As time goes by, you'll see how many dots remain. (It's probably going to be a LOT of dots.) At some point, maybe a year later, maybe more, you are going to feel very comfortable getting rid of those items because you'll have absolute proof that you have not touched them in all that time. I would ask that when you are ready to discard your books, please remember Goodwill®! Every 10 books you donate represents 17 minutes of resume preparation, or 12 minutes of career counseling, or 19 minutes of on-the-job training for someone who really needs it. Find out more with our Donation Impact Calculator at

So, give up trying to be your own librarian, and make more room for what matters most. Are you an "information glutton?" Share in the comments!

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Christy Smith

Guilty! As I looked over at my shelf full of “reference” material, I realize that if I applied the dot test, I probably could get rid of the entire shelf. A truly fabulous tip- thanks!


I agree! When our budget tightened up, we started checking out movies from the library rather than renting or buying them. And I’ve found that with these, like with the books, we are more apt to read and watch what we check out than what we have around the house. I’m slowly shrinking my stash of books and it’s a good thing!


First time to visit here. I’m from Japan. I’ve been decluttering books, but there are more and more that I cannot throw away. Cooking books!! Some of them were from my mother when I got married. I couldn’t throw them away, though yes, I’ve been googling recipes only these years. Thank you for this article. I made up my mind today. I’ll say good bye to those cooking books soon.


I too collect too many cooking magazines and I get a copy of
Womans World Magazine every week and have not thrown any of those away for over 3 years (over 150 issues). I need to just toss and not look back, literally!


I usually save my Woman’s Day and Family Circle magazines for my daughter but since I am behind, she does not want the old ones. Instead of just tossing them, I put them in a bag to look at “later”. I need to be brutal and toss them. How many ways can you make meatloaf, anyway? 🙂

Joanne Schmidt

I know that the “dot idea” will prove to me what I already know – that I like to “know” my books are close by – but certainly don’t need to use then very often. The thought of getting rid of many of them is still hard to accept, especially since I was a high school teacher-librarian for many years.
but I will try – really try … to do it. I would have so much more space in my home, and I would feel much better. (And that is very hard to admit.)Thanks.


Magazine ,books are my problem. I took all my Victoria magazines that I kept for the last few years. I put them in the hallway to move them out. Then I took a big black garbage bag and tossed them all in and put them in the garbage. It took me a few days to actually make the move but I have to admit I don’t miss the magazines I wasn’t reading anyway. Now cooking magazines are going to be harder but I think once I do this it will get easier. I wish someone else could use these great magazines :O(


For books that we found to difficult to get rid of we decided to donate them to our local area or school library. In both cases we were told that we were welcome to “visit” our books as often as we like. In addition, many other people would also have the chance to share the joy we had when we read them.

Lorie Marrero

Elaine, ask around in your area to find out if nursing homes or other charities would like to have your magazines, if that would make you feel better. And does your city have recycling, vs. throwing them in the garbage? I am very glad you got rid of them… but I want to add that in the future if you (or others reading this) are looking for such a charity, don’t let that quest slow you down too much, especially finding any kind of perfectionistic, ideal home for the magazines… the idea is that you make an effort and then move forward. – Lorie


How can I get rid books and magazines if you are a teacher and your spouse a librarian?! It’s impossible!

Lorie Marrero

Elena, if you say the word impossible, you are creating that belief in your mind. It’s not impossible, it’s just more challenging. In those professions you are going to have more influx of books coming in. As with anything, it’s about what you actually use and need… if you use it and need it, by all means, do keep it if you have the space. It’s the “I might need it someday” stuff that is typically the clutter and can be discarded. I would argue that books are much more important than magazines– magazines are really temporal snapshots of information, not meant for long term constant use. Does that help? – Lorie


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