How to Organize Your Bookshelves

I recently came across this fantastic video (props to Real Simple for originally posting it).  It’s the perfect inspiration for this week’s blog post about two of my favorite things – books and organizing.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you might have one or two cluttered bookshelves in your home.  Or maybe you’ve flipped through a design magazine and asked yourself – why don’t my bookshelves look like that?  If so, keep reading these tips to organize your bookshelves in a way that would make even Nate Berkus proud.
Step One:  Define the purpose.   A dumping ground for odds and ends is not a suitable purpose!  Instead, decide if you want each shelf to serve a functional purpose, like a place to display and store your stationary or your jewelry.  Or decide if you want each shelf to serve a more decorative purpose, like a creative display of your books or your favorite photos.  It’s fine for the shelves to be a combination of both functional and decorative as long as they remain clutter-free. You might want to check out design magazines for inspiration.  Here are some of my favorites that have been featured in Real Simple.
Step Two:  Clear and Sort.  Remove the items from each shelf, and group similar items together in piles (or in boxes) on the floor.  For example, books with books, photos with photos – you get the drill.  If your bookshelf includes paperwork as well as a random assortment of stuff, then you’ll want to sort items or papers into boxes:  to file, to trash, to shred, to recycle, and to move to another area in your home.
Step Three:  Purge.  Now it’s time to really give some consideration to items you have left in piles to go back on the bookshelves.  Your goal is to purge items that don’t support the purpose you’ve determined for each shelf.  As you review each item in the piles, ask yourself: 
  • Does this item support the purpose I’ve determined for any shelves?
  • Do I use this item?
  • Why am I keeping this?
  • Is there another place it would be better stored than it’s current location?     

Remember to only keep books that you truly enjoyed and know you will read again.  Also, determine how much space you want to give to books on the shelves and only keep books that you have room to display.
Step Four:  Dust and Decorate.  Before you start to decorate, dust the shelves and the items you’ve removed. 
Decorating is the fun part where you get to show your personality through the items you showcase on your bookshelves.  As you start decorating, keep in mind the purpose you’ve determined for each shelf.
If you are a book lover, think of creative ways to group books together.  It might be based on color (see video), alphabetical by author, genre, or by size.  Or if you’re anything like me (ummm, insanely diversified reading taste), Teddy Roosevelt’s biography will be right next to Chelsea Handler’s memoir.  I keep my non-fiction together based on size.  It’s all about what’s right for you. 
Here are a couple other basic decorating tips: 
  • Use different containers, like decorative boxes and baskets, to keep like items together and out of sight.
  • Remember to use large accessories with colors that complement others in the room.
  • Small accessories tend to look cluttered and collect dust. 
  • Group items in odd numbers.

Step Five:  Schedule the donation. It’s likely you’ve decided to get rid of a number of books and other random items.  Pick your favorite charity (almost all take books) and make an appointment on your schedule now to drop everything off.  Rest assured someone will enjoy the books as much as you did!