In Normal Times, many of us would donate uwanted books to local charity shops. These are now closed. Social distancing means that so many events have been cancelled, that you are unlikely to find a local Scout or Guide jumble sale, to donate them to. Many people are self-isolating and cannot leave their homes.

Less clutter would be good for most of us, cooped up in a house or apartment with others. Less dusting to do, for starters. Decluttering, gives an opportunity to rearrange shelves in a new way. Jack Monroe, author of ‘Cooking on a Bootstrap’ and ‘Tin Can Cook’ (among others) has rearranged the books in her office by colour, during lockdown.

A quick search online, using ‘books as decor’ , for example, will pull up ideas like stacked books as a side table. There are other ideas too, which use deconstructed books, such as book balls or flowers.

Educationalists often say that it’s important for young children, to have books which are easily accessible to them, at their level, so that they can engage with them, themselves, from an early age.  The Great Little Trading Company specializes in storage for children. As at 25/04/20 there’s a spring sale on, with up to 50% off. Face on bookshelves aren’t just for children, they can be used to store cookbooks. This makes them a decorative feature. The narrow width means that they can slot into an unused corner. Add a stool or chair and you have a space to peruse cookbooks and find inspiration.

Bookstores clean books to keep them in saleable condition. There is a right way and a wrong way to remove spine-out books from a shelf. The wrong way, is to just pull it out, as this will cause shelf-wear on the bottom edges of the spine, cover, pages and dustjacket, over time. The right way is basically any variation on lifting the bottom of the book up with a finger and supporting it, while tilting the book towards you with a finger towards you. Then remove, keeping the bottom of the book, supported.

A clean paintbrush, kept just for dusting books and intricate items, is key, to brush dust from the tops and page side of books.. It’s also good for any old tooling on old books. Brush downwards and away from you, to avoid sneezing.

Non-asthmatic children and/or grandparents, without dust allergies, could do this in the garden, with a table, chairs and sun protection eg parasol rather than sunscreen.

Step Two for cleaning books with shiny dustjackets and shiny paperbacks ONLY, is to use a normal everyday general spray polish with silicone and a couple of dusters. Put the tiniest squirt on the dustjacket and wipe front, spine and then another tiny squirt on the back. Get any fingermarks or grime off with this duster and a bit of ‘elbow grease’. Use the second duster to polish off. You (or they) will learn by feel, when the dustjacket or paperback is done, because the duster will glide over the surfaces, which won’t feel sticky. Cleaning books like this, keeps them in better condition and allows them to slide out of your shelves more easily.

Please DON’T use this cleaning technique on old books. Unless you are sure that the matte surface of a paperback is sealed, don’t use this cleaning technique. Be extra careful to avoid areas on paperbacks or dustjackets where the laminate film is coming off.

Now that the books are clean, and looking better visually, the owners of said books, be they the adults or children, can decide what is to be kept.

In Normal Times, there are lots of options for disposing of unwanted books. Charity shop or Goodwill, jumble sale donation, boot fairs and selling them to secondhand bookstores.

If you live in the USA and have an eBay account, USPS is still picking up from most locations. Elsewhere, please read any community guidelines and emails received, for more information.

In the UK, We Buy Books will pick up boxes of books using Hermes. There’s a downloadable app for phones, which can be used to get a price guide on books with an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) in advance.

Cleaning and then selling books during the lockdown, can keep children and/or grandparents occupied and getting some fresh/er air and Vitamin D from sunlight. It will teach children that books should be looked after. If, at the end of the cleaning process, you have some to sell, that’s some easy money, into your bank account. Plus, a decluttered and rearranged home. as a bonus.

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