How To Ruthlessly Cut Down Your TBR

It’s a problem known to all bookworms: the out of control TBR! Today, I wanted to go through some of the methods I use to get my TBR down. I’m not claiming that my TBR is under control at all, but I’m making progress on it! The progress I can make with my physical TBR is limited during lockdown as half of my books are at my dad’s house, and obviously I can’t read or unhaul those. I have made an attempt to delete any that I want to unhaul from my GoodReads TBR, but I haven’t got all the way through doing that yet. When I can go round, I’ll try to take a load of the ones I want to unhaul back to my house, so I can get on with getting rid of them! My aim for this year is to get my owned TBR down to 50 or below, through reading and unhauling. So, here are the methods I’m using to cut down my TBR!

Owned: Physical

Let’s start with (for me), the big one. The one I’m trying my hardest to make a dent in. My physical owned TBR. I estimate that this is probably around 200 books for me, but without access to a lot of them, it’s a tricky guess to make. So, how do we get that number down? The first method, obviously, is by reading them, and not buying more! Pretty simple, right? But when your TBR is over 200 books, that’s a slow method.

The other option, of course is unhauling. Whether you donate them to charity, pass them on to friends, or sell them online, this pretty firmly gets rid of them, and has the added bonus of clearing up shelf space. But how to decide which to unhaul? I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m really reluctant to get rid of unread books. What if I change my mind? These kind of thoughts need to be thrown aside because if you listen to them, you won’t get anywhere. Make a list (I make a mental list, but you can write them down if you want to) of genres you read, and genres you don’t. Any books in the genres you don’t read, pull off your shelves. Next, any books that have been sat there, untouched aside from shelf reorganisations, for over 3 years. You may want to adjust this time period to suit you better. Again, pull them off the shelves. Also pull off any books if the title doesn’t ring any bells for you and you don’t know why it’s there, or if there are any authors that you no longer want to support.

Hopefully, you now have a good pile of books pulled off your shelves. Feel free to add any others you’re not sure about to this pile as well! Now, to sort through the pile, because there may be some you want to keep. Ask yourself the question: if you were shopping for books now, would you purchase this book again? If I answer no, then it has to go. I’ve been working through my shelves steadily, because I can’t do big charity shop drop offs at the minute, and I don’t want piles and piles waiting somewhere until they can be got rid of, they’re much better off on my shelf. I find that I’m more likely to decide to say goodbye if the alternative is returning it to the shelves, hence this tactic. There’s one shelf left at my Mum’s house that I want to go through and unhaul. It’s going to be one that I unhaul a lot from, hopefully. I’ll provide my stats below…

Total books on shelf: 95
Total TBR books on shelf: 44
Books pulled off shelf: 36
Books to unhaul: 33
Any read books unhauled? 5

I’m happy with that! There is another series of about 15 books on there that I will probably also unhaul fairly soon, but the thought of having 15 books to get rid of in one go is quite scary to me, so for now I’m leaving them on the shelf.

Owned: digital (ebook/audiobook)

Again, to get this down you either read faster than you buy, or you unhaul. Unhauling isn’t as straightforward with digital editions, because you generally retain the option to redownload items, which I would suggest makes this process much easier! Filter by unread, and use the same “pulling off the shelf” process as before, but just… delete the downloads. (Note: check you will be able to redownload before you get too trigger happy with the delete button). If you then find yourself thinking about a title, and regretting your deletion, go back and hit that download button. The downside to this is that it may be easy to get the unread books on your device down to a manageable level, but as they remain in the cloud somewhere, it’s also very easy for it to get back out of control, so be sparing with your redownloads. Maybe only redownload a previously deleted book if you plan to read in the near future. I have to admit, I recently got a new ereader (the Kindle Paperwhite), and so I did a digital clearout about 6 months ago, and I’ve not bought many new ebooks since, so my digital TBR is under control.


I did a massive clear out of this list around this time last year, and I’m so glad I did it! I wrote a post on my process here if you want an in-depth look at how I did. It’s going to help massively if you have a “to buy” list. I have mine on GoodReads, so I went through the “to-buy” shelf. I did a few passes, using the following criteria to remove books each time. Pass 1: removing any that I did actually own, but hadn’t removed from the shelf. Pass 2: removing any that are genres I no longer read. Pass 3: being brutal! I was honest with myself about whether I actually remembered what it was, and whether I would actually read it. If the answer to either question was no, it got removed. Apparently, I started back then with 315 books on that shelf. Today, I have 106.

How did you do with cutting down your TBR? Were you honest about whether you’d buy it now?

13 thoughts on “How To Ruthlessly Cut Down Your TBR

  1. Great post, Ellie!
    I have to admit, I’m always kinda confused about other people’s tbrs. I don’t count the books I’m just interested in, only the books I actually own. They are a lot. Maybe I should really take a look and try to delete some of them. I think it would be nice to have it all cleared. That’s good advice, thank you.
    Sometimes I’m really mad at myself for having bought so many books that I might never read. It all comes down to impulse control. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have my TBR lists and “to buy” lists separate, but technically the books on my to buy list are ones I want to read so I can see why you’d include them but also why it’s handy to keep them separate! Right now I’m definitely focusing on the books I own ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh I really should do something like this, I’ve got so much sitting unread. I think a book is lucky if it gets into my hands three years after buying at the moment, which is so bad. My method seems to be trying to speed up my reading, although that could be just because I’ve come out of a reading slump, aha. Good luck with the final few shelves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 3 years sounds about right to me too 😂 can’t wait until restrictions are lifted and I can get to my room at my dad’s to do a big clear out!!


  3. I emptied out my Goodreads list so that only books that I actually have ARCs for or actually own and want to read, or have borrowed, are there. For books I want to buy I put them in an online store wish list. For ARCs I’m trying to get, they go on my spreadsheet!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a good idea! I really need to do this, especially with my ebooks because they are quickly getting out of control 😂

    Liked by 1 person

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