How to ‘Marie Kondo’ Your Little Free Library

By Margret Aldrich

Unless you’ve been living under a stack of books, you’re probably aware of organizer-extraordinaire Marie Kondo and her mission to declutter the planet. To achieve that mission, Kondo—author of the bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and star of the Netflix series Tidying Up—encourages us to keep only the items that “spark joy.”

Recently, though, she’s had to deal with backlash for suggesting people get rid of something too precious. Books.

Although Kondo tries to keep only thirty books in her own home, don’t worry—she’s not demanding you clear off your bookshelves:

“The point of the KonMari method is to figure out your sense of value,” she told the New York Times’ Katie Rosman. “What do you hold most important? So, if you’re angered, if your reaction is anger that you have to let go of books, then that’s great—that means for you, books are invaluable.”

So, keep every single one of your books, if they bring you joy. And for the ones that don’t, consider sharing them in a Little Free Library, suggests Chris Taylor of Mashable and John Warner of the Chicago Tribune.

‘KonMari-ing’ Your Little Free Library

Here at the Little Free Library nonprofit office, we’re kind of obsessed with Marie Kondo and are in the process of organizing everything from our desk drawers to our kitchen. We wondered if Kondo’s philosophy could be applied to Little Free Library book exchanges, too.

We support you organizing your Little Library however you’d like, of course—but if you want to try the KonMari method, here are some tips!

1. Give yourself a fresh start

First clear everything out of your Little Free Library. This will help you see each item you have in your book-sharing box, from the tattered romance novel that’s been in there for a month to the brand-new hardcover of Where the Crawdads Sing that won’t last 24 hours. Clear out other materials like bookmarks and guestbooks, too.

2. Does it spark joy—in someone?

Look at each book you just pulled from your Little Library, one by one. Are the books in good condition? Can you envision someone being excited to discover them and take them home? The books in your Little Free Library don’t need to spark joy in you personally, but you should be able to imagine them sparking joy in another reader.

3. Say goodbye with gratitude

For each book you feel needs to be removed from your Library—books in poor condition or that you don’t foresee anyone reading (like a computer manual from 1995)—try Marie Kondo’s method of saying “thank you” for the service they’ve given. Then, recycle the mildewed or ripped books and donate the ones you think can find good homes elsewhere.

4. Tidy by category

When you add books back to your Little Free Library, organize them by category—children’s books, YA books, adult novels, cookbooks, etc.—so that they’re easy for visitors to browse through. This will also help you see if you’re running low on a particular kind of book.

5. Everything in its place

Do you keep other materials in your Little Library, like free bookmarks or pamphlets on how the book exchange works? Keep them neat by storing them in something simple like small boxes or envelopes.

That’s it, you’re done! We hope your tidy Little Free Library sparks joy in you and everyone in your community.

Each week, we share Little Free Library hacks and heartwarming stories in our popular e-newsletter. Sign up to receive it here!

Images: Netflix (top left), Little Free Library (top right)

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