If you’ve got ten minutes to spare, you can maximize the organization and aesthetic of your bookshelf.

This is the first installment in our new blogging series called “Ten-Minute Tackles”, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re going to cover everything from how to declutter your bookshelf to how to create a unique bookcase that showcases your personality. Organizing your bookshelf will be easy, quick, and rewarding!

Here we go!

Books are a bit of a tricky thing. They fall somewhere between decorative and function, and most often err towards the former in that. We tend to hold on to books for long after we’ve read them. Sometimes we don’t end up reading them at all!

However, organizing your bookshelf is super rewarding and worth the ten minutes you’ll spend to do it!

There’s no issue with keeping books as a decoration. They’re handy to have around. They’re nice to look at. They tell a lot about your personality. They also act as a great insulator if you have wall bookshelves on one of the outer walls of a room. Neat, huh?

Even after many of us opt for audio books and e-readers, books remain a staple of our home’s landscape. So, how do you keep that harmony of décor and function on your bookshelf and prevent your books from taking over your living space? That’s exactly what we’ll go over.

The Golden First-Step

With any organization project, the first step is always to declutter. When it comes to under the bathroom sink or in the pantry, this is usually a breeze. However, decluttering book shelves is another story. Often our books are sentimental to us. We have a history with them. That makes organizing your bookshelf often one of the harder projects to tackle in the home. How do you sort through that?

First you should thin your collection of anything that is an obvious space stealer. That includes easy tosses like:

  • Reference books and textbooks you haven’t touched in at least a year.
  • Cookbooks for diets you no longer follow.
  • Travel books you’ve already used or are outdated (read as: at least 3 years old).
  • Fiction and nonfiction books you don’t like.
  • Books you’ve finished that you likely won’t read again and that don’t hold sentimental value.

Then you should only have a few types of books left. That includes:

  1. Books you haven’t read yet
  2. Favorite books,
  3. Sentimental books
  4. Useful books and maybe a few other miscellaneous books that you just feel you should hang on to.

You should have enough books to fill approximately 50% of a bookshelf. That is the same ratio whether you have a small bookshelf in your bedroom or one of those giant wall bookshelves in your living room.

About half-full is a great place to be because it doesn’t overstuff the bookshelves and leaves plenty of room for you to put your own unique twist on your bookcase with any shelf décor ideas you may have.

Please always consider donating your books to a local school or library. If not, you can recycle them. Throwing away books isn’t very environment friendly.

Making a Plan for Organizing Your Bookshelf

Here is where your bookshelf ideas start to shine. You need to plan out how you’re going to begin organizing your bookshelf. The first part of this is a simple question: How do you want to categorize your books? Here are some ideas:

  • Genre
  • Size
  • Color
  • Alphabetical Order
  • Language

Once you have that figured out, you have to assess your bookshelf situation. Where are you storing these books? Do you already have a bookshelf? Is it big enough? Do you need to get a new, or larger bookshelf? If those questions have a “no” in the answer, you can be creative with your space if you don’t have a designated bookshelf and don’t want to get one. Some creative pseudo bookshelf ideas are to store books in separate rooms. For example, recreational reading books can be stored in a nightstand cabinet, cookbooks can be stored in the kitchen or put on display, larger more conversation starting books can be stored on a coffee table, and so on. However, the focus of this article is for those that have a designated bookshelf.

Assembling Your Bookshelf

Organizing your bookshelf by genre

Author’s Personal Home Bookshelf

This is the fun part. Now, you get to bring all of your organization plans and bookshelf décor ideas to life. From there, you can play with things like alternating between spine and pages showing, using stylish bookends, and adding trinkets and plants to your shelves. If you look to the right you’ll see my bookshelf’s current state.

As you can see, I opted to organize by genre and aesthetic. While the vintage looking books at the top could fit into a number of categories, I put them front and center of the bookshelf because they look nice and give off the vintage/witchy vibes that I keep throughout my entire home. The rest of the organization by genre is very straightforward. Utility, by the way, are any books that are regularly used for a purpose. There are language workbooks, coloring books (adult coloring rules!), gaming guides, and more.

The shelf décor ideas are personal to me, so yours will be too. The candelabra in the middle and the amethyst at the top are decorative, as are the majority of the items at the top of the shelf which help show my style and personality. However, some of my décor is also practical which is a huge space-saving and utility plus. Organization 101: Always aim for your décor to do double duty as a utility item. So, the skull on the bottom middle shelf is actually holding all of our dice sets. The vintage wooden box beneath it contains my sentimental items (I limit myself to whatever I can fit in that box). And finally – plants. I keep a lot of plants in the home because they help purify the air as well as work to reduce echo and high frequency sounds. They also look nice.

Detail & Variables

As for individual book organization, I decided that color and alphabet aren’t as important because I don’t really have that many books anymore after I’ve decluttered. I keep my books organized by genre/category and then try to mix up the heights so that they look nice and even (as opposed to a slope from highest to shortest). However, in the past I have experimented with organizing my books by color and have also assembled them on the shelf with a mix of horizontal and vertical stacking. It looked fun and made for a great display!

How you go about decorating and organizing your bookshelf is a decision that is totally in your hands. As you can see, three of my entire shelves are book-free and then are used for decorative purposes. Ideally, it’d be four, but I’ve been slow to read through the rest of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, so I have to dedicate an entire shelf to “fiction series” for now. If you keep the shelf from becoming too full of books, it will always look fresh, clean, and will have space for a home for new books should you end up buying more.

Sustaining an Organized Bookshelf

The goal of any organization project is making sure that the end result is sustainable. If you’re buying a lot of new books on a regular basis, you’re going to have trouble sustaining your bookshelf. If you have multiple people using your bookshelf such as other family members and guests, it’s going to get out of whack as well. Then, there’s the issue of dust. Dust and bookshelves are mortal enemies. How do you combat it?

One key to staying organized period is to limit how much you’re buying. Consider making a rule for yourself that for every new book you buy for yourself or somebody in your home, you get rid of one (donate or recycle!). That way you can keep your shelf from becoming cluttered and disheveled again. Beyond that, the best way to keep your bookshelf in tip top shape is to assess it every week. Then add it to your chore list. Just check up on it and make sure everything is still in order, fix it if need be, and then give it a nice dusting. Once you get this habit going your shelf will stay organized.

Electronic books and audiobooks haven’t made paper books yet obsolete, and they likely never will. Bookshelves make a home feel homey and warm, and the items contained on them give a home a whole lot of personality. What you have on your bookshelves will give people a good idea about who you are, it’s what makes your home unique to you and your family. As great as books are, it’s important to make sure your bookshelves are tame and orderly. Organizing your bookshelf will brighten and liven up your home. It’ll be the best ten minutes you spend all day!