How to recycle and dispose of books in the Netherlands?

In my last blog post, I mentioned doing a whole series of articles on recycling and re-using stuff in the Netherlands. I encourage homeowners to declutter responsibly, hence I am trying my best to answering your question

“How to get rid of all of this stuff without contributing to landfills?

Today we’re going to have a look at books. As a professional organizer, I am hearing some of my clients say, “I just don’t have the heart to throw away books into a bin.” Well, I don’t have the heart either, and the great news is that you don’t have to! So let’s have a look at alternatives…

“MINIBIEBS” FOR DUTCH AND ENGLISH TITLES

Luckily for us, the Dutch are great at encouraging people to re-use books and get second-hand ones. If you live here, you couldn’t have missed all the mini-libraries on the streets. They are called a “minibieb” (from the Dutch word for library = de bibliotheek). It’s not exactly a library per se, rather a place where you bring your books if you no longer want them, with the option of taking something new. The good thing is that in the more international cities, you’ll find titles both in Dutch and English.

So if you do have any books in these languages, just bring them there! Here is a great website that has a locator of many mini-libraries. Type your postcode, your street name, or allow to track your location. The map is full of minibiebs, but if you find one that’s missing on the web, you can add it (preferably with a photo) and contribute to the website.

You can also check with your local school to see if they have a similar going system. I know that the International School Haarlem has a minibieb at the upper primary campus just at the entrance (check if it’s still available due to the covid measurements).

OTHER LANGUAGES BOOKS

If you own and wish to declutter books in the less common languages, minibieb might not be the best home. *Although that depends a lot on the neighborhood. I’ve seen some places with German, Spanish, or Turkish books, so check first, and use your common sense.

What I advise is to turn to your mother tongue community on FB (or elsewhere). I am a part of at least five FB groups from the Czech and Slovakian nationalities, so I bet everyone will find some of their mother tongue groups there. Giving away your books to the same language community will higher the chances of them reading your books.

Of course, if you have friends, schools, or clubs that speak your language, FB isn’t your only option. 😉

SELL YOUR BOOKS

Just as with the clothing, you might want to consider the pros and cons of selling. How much are you going to earn vs. the time and energy you’re going to spend dealing with the sale. Whichever platform you want to choose, check for how much books are sold there. And I am saying sold, not offered! Make sure that when putting a price, you maximize your sale change and minimize the rude comments and insults for a “too expensive” offer.

I’ve seen many people selling books on FB or Marktplaats for friendly prices around 1-5€/book. Usually, it makes sense to offer a selection of books with the possibility of selling all at once to minimize your effort. You may sell a series ( like HP, LOTR, etc…), books of the same author, genre, or age group/ (reading level for kids). It’s going to be much easier to deal with 1 buyer and get rid of 7 books rather than 7 buyers selling 7 books. Time efficiency is everything!

Another alternative to selling your books is The Book Exchange – a second-hand bookshop focused on English literature and social sciences. They’re based in Amsterdam center and happy to buy books from people. So if you have a big and valuable collection of books, and don’t want to waste it on the internet hassle, get in touch with them. You can either bring your books in person or send them a picture first. After reviewing which titles they need, they’ll send you an offer.
I don’t have any personal experience with this shop. However, it sounds and looks wonderful as far as their website tells. I’d welcome to hear your experiences to add to this article if you have any comments to share 🙂

ANTIQUE BOOKS

I am happy I recently run into a FB post of someone asking about selling valuable antique books. The Netherlands is full of antique places and bookshops, so I can imagine the changes are quite high to sell something. I have no personal experience with antique books so far, but after researching the options for Amsterdammers, Antonbooks.com is buying old and rare books in good condition. Then they re-sell it online, shipping these rarities worldwide (with brilliant Google reviews).

If you have any personal experience with selling antique books (or other antiques), please comment below or message me to expand our common well of knowledge together.

MAGAZINES

Paper recycling will be obviously the simplest way to get rid of magazines, and yes, even if it has a slightly glossy cover, it’s said to be fine for recycling. (What you can not recycle in the paper container is photo paper, but magazine covers are good to go).

Don’t you have the heart to throw your magazines away? Could they be used by another pair of eyes? Sure! But first, let’s review what kind of magazine you have…

If you subscribe to the “latest news and gossips” kind of magazine, let’s face it. By the time you’d try passing it on, it’s mostly outdated. Try offering it to a friend or a neighbor, and if you’re not successful there, part with it by the recycling bin.

However, magazines with more “durable” information, interesting content, and beautiful images can have a second life! Many people still appreciate a year-old National Geographic, Vogue, House & Garden, and similar.

Here are few ideas on how to pass it on:
Kringloop – check with your local second-hand store if they have a magazine section because many of them do!
Waiting Rooms – when visiting a dentist, doctor, or waiting for a haircut, keep your eyes open for the collection of magazines lying around…start a conversation with the people at the desk and ask them if they’d be interested to get few of your latest numbers.
Shelters – there are many shelters in the Netherlands for victims of domestic abuse, refugees, or homeless people. If you know any of these, and have some Dutch inspiring magazines, try giving them away in there.
(Art) Schools – magazines with beautiful pictures are the best source of collage making, or fun colourful art. If you have magazines with child-appropriate content, ask your school whether they’re interested to take in some of your pieces as their crafts materials.

Lucie Krobova
Founder of Your SPACE by Lucie
Professional Organizer
Amsterdam, NL


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WOULD YOU BUY THIS AGAIN?

Let’s talk decluttering strategies today. How do you declutter? What’s your method? Do you follow “Does it spark joy” from Marie Kondo, or think about the practical “Do I need it? Do I use it?” of the minimalism advocates? There seems to be no one method that works for everyone. And even the methods that do seem to work for you won’t work in all areas of your life/house.

That is why when people ask me what method I follow my usual reply is “none and all“. I find it important not to stay in the dogma of one approach, but to keep a flexible and intuitive approach based on listening.

However, there has been one question that seems to work for a good portion of my clients! And even though it won’t work with the sentimental category, it tends to answer both the practical and the aesthetical questions you might ponder.

“Am I buying it again?

To ask this question means to reverse the process of losing into the process of gaining. If you hate getting rid of stuff and love shopping, this might work especially for you.

Just as all the books recommend, we pull out everything from the area we’re decluttering. Why is that? Because it lets you have a fresh look at things! When you have your book on the shelf for ages, you won’t even see it. That’s how automatically it’s built into your environment. That’s why pulling it all out is a very important step (and a practical one as it allows you to dust off the unattended years).

Once all is out of its home, the fun part can start. I get you to imagine you’re in a shop. A clothes shop, a book shop, a cooking utensils shop…where everything has no label and you can buy as much as you want.

Go through the shop pile piece by piece and see for yourself which items you wish to re-buy because they’re handy, pretty, awesome, or something you always use. You don’t have to feel cruel for getting rid of the rest. Just the way you wouldn’t feel sad for the pieces you left behind in a usual shop. If you dispose of your decluttered stuff responsibly, it will get another life and perhaps become the very favorite piece of its new owner.

The magic of this approach lies in the fact that you’re doing a positive activity (=gaining) in the now. Basing your decisions on who you are now, what you like now, and where would you like to go in life from now. It lets you reset all previous hopes, ideas, plans, and identities and create a fresh base for your future steps.

This question eliminates the pieces which were part of your environment just because:

– Someone gave them to you (and you politely accepted it)
– You won them or got them for free (as a special present with your purchase, extra offer, loyalty reward, etc..)
– You used to pursue a certain identity, hobby, look, or career (and needed the accompanying stuff for that)
– You used to love it at the time of purchase (when it was fashionable)
– You were in a bad mood and needed a shopping fix (even though it was a bad purchase)
– You got tricked by an advertisement (yet the product is just not for you)
– You used to use it (in a different house, different country, different situation, …)

The sentimental category

As I said, this process doesn’t work for sentimental items because we hold onto them not because we like them for what they are, but because we keep them for what they represent. When you come across a sentimental object, just set it aside and come back to it after you go through your “shopping”.

For storing sentimentals, it’s important to realize their purpose. Are they just sentimental, or do they still serve a practical function? If they can be both sentimental and functional, that’s wonderful! However, that doesn’t happen all the time so make sure if they are purely sentimental, they’re not in a way of your practical life, but get displayed or stored in their appropriate manner – with care.

Watch my video to have a better idea on separating sentimentals from the rest of your stuff.
The “can’t get rid of it” category

It might happen, that with some objects that you don’t want to re-buy, you’ll still feel like you want to keep them. You don’t like it, you don’t use it, it’s not sentimental. But there’s still something pulling you back from letting go.

Here we come to the realization, that decluttering is an emotional and mentally confronting process as well. For now, I am just going to tell you, that the most probable reason you keep this piece is GUILT. Try investigating a bit deeper into your reasoning and see if you can find that familiar feeling within.

I wish to keep this article short and on point. Hence I will end it right here, and invite you to read on guilt and self-confrontation in my next blog post coming out in two weeks’ time.