Sunday, February 18, 2007

Something for the Bibliophile: Bookins

With this entry I begin to discuss specific solutions that I found and have used for divesting myself of clutter.

Step 1: Identify

I'm sure many of you may feel like you have too many books. What?!?! Impossible! You can never have too many books you retort. Alright, so maybe you have more books than you have room for. This is my problem. My wall unit shelves are stuffed to the brim with them. Books are jammed in there every which way: upright, sideways, on top of the uprights, etc. They were also stacked in a couple of piles on the floor. As you can imagine this accumulation was an obvious decluttering target and one that I attacked first.

Having identified the general project to be undertaken, I then zeroed in a little deeper. I reviewed my shelves and piles for books that I thought I could possibly bear to part with, especially as some of my interests had changed over time. Another friend of mine, who's also got scads of books, shared the following technique. She asked herself:

"Could I readily get this book at the public library?" If the answer was yes, she would then place it in a mental Possible Discard pile. She then asked "Could I readily get this book at the [insert your choice of small or remote location here] public library?" Again, if the answer was still yes, she then moved it to her mental Definitely Discard pile, but with a clear conscience!

The point is, find the trick that helps your Inner Packrat to relinquish an item. This way it becomes more of a fun game than a traumatic chore.

In Getting Started, Pt.2 I talked about making sure you have an Exit Strategy for an item (or items), to avoid setting off a Klutter Krisis. So, before actually touching or moving one solitary book, I made sure to figure out where stuff was going first. I threw the terms "book" and "exchange" or "swap" into my favorite search engine and came across a number of such sites. However, the one that I liked the most and decided to try was Bookins. It was the site's appearance and simple interface which ultimately persuaded me to give Bookins a whirl.

Step 2: Gather

I''ve said this before, but it can't be repeated often enough: SOLUTIONS FOR THE PACKRAT NEED TO BE AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE. And, I found Bookins to definitely be that. It's free to set up an account, although there are also premium options available, with a few more bells and whistles. Once I took the plunge, I was up and running with it in a matter of moments.

Only then did I begin to gather my chosen titles so I could list them, also very easy to do. Once you've set up your account and are logged in, you simply type in a book's ISBN number, which now-a-days usually appears on a book's back cover over the barcode. For older books this information can be found on the verso or copyright page. In most cases, entering this information will retrieve an image of the book's cover. You then add additional information describing the book and certify that it is in good condition according to the following criteria:

  • books must be in like-new condition, or if used, have only minor signs of wear
  • all pages must be attached to the binding
  • have only a limited number of dog-eared pages, and
  • few if any small stains or minor tears
  • Finally, hit submit and POOF! It's listed.

    The Bookins site searches its database for someone who has put that title on their wish list, sends email alerts to both parties to facilitate the exchange and also provides either parties the ability to track the status of the shipment. Once the material is delivered to the recipient, points are credited to your account, which you can then use towards available books that you might like to request from the Bookins database.

    Step 3: Remove

    For my first go-round I was very fortunate. Almost immediately (within about 24 hours), I received requests for several of the titles that I listed.

    One of the Bookins features that I especially like is the ability to print a pre-paid US Postal Service Media Rate shipping label when you send a book. Note: Once you print the shipping label, you must send the book within 48 hours or you will be charged for it (at the moment $3.99) Otherwise, you are only charged when you request and receive a book (also $3.99).

    Anyway, as I received requests, I printed out the label, put my book in a mailer, attached the shipping label and dropped it in the mailbox. I didn't even have to set foot in the post office!

    Really, what could be easier!?!

    To date I have listed 11 books, but actually traded (or removed in twigg hugger parlance) 7 through this site. However, according to Bookins, certain categories of books, such as novels or best sellers, are particularly popular. So your particular success will likely depend on the titles you have to trade.


    Now some may ask, "How is using Bookins or a similar swap site different from borrowing a book from the Library?" Well for one thing, yes, you can borrow books from the library, however, the library may not be willing to take any of your unwanted books, which for our purposes, is a key point. Additionally, if they do take used books, they may only be willing to take very specific titles or types of materials. This is one of the problems I ran into when I first began to search for decluttering solutions-- lot's of generic lists with theoretical suggestions rather than ones that were practical or concrete.

    Another advantage of using an exchange site such as Bookins, is that as a book lover you probably don't want to stop acquiring books altogether. You may just want to divest yourself of those books you no longer want and replace them with others. By using a swap site, like Bookins, you can keep traded books for as long as you like and then re-list them for trade when your done with them, whenever that is, rather than whatever the library's borrowing term happens to be. In this way you control the ebb and flow of books in and out of your space.

    And that's the name of the declutter game. Exercising control over your clutter, rather than the other way around!


    My Half Of said...

    You're giving me some great ideas to get rid of all the stuff in storage without feeling bad about throwing it out...thanks!

    Jenny said...

    I haven't tied Bookins (it looks cool), but use Paperback Swap and I love it. We've given and received so many books. I wish there were more swap sites available.

    sestinaverde said...

    Hi Franis!

    Welcome to twigghugger. I'm glad you are getting ideas for getting rid of your stuff. That's great!

    Come back and visit often!

    sestinaverde said...

    Hi Jenny,

    I haven't tried Paperback Swap, but I think I visited the site not too long ago after seeing a link to it on another blog.

    Thanks for the tip. The more options the better!

    Stacy said...

    I just found your site through Barbara Sher's forums. Your ideas on decluttering are really helpful! My husband and I have been putting off decluttering because we want to get rid of our stuff without adding it to a landfill. I've bookmarked your blog and will come back to see what other resources you suggest. Thank you for sharing what you know!