Solutions for Books

Books – and all reading material – can pile up around our homes and cause a traffic jam of good intentions. If your nightstand, shelves, and surfaces are bulging with books, you will love these tips to organize books that will help you manage the pile-up, corral the visual clutter, and actually enjoy your books!

Divide and Conquer to Organize Books

If you’re really overwhelmed with your TO READ PILES, you should “zoom out” and conduct a MACRO sort. That means breaking down ALL your reading material, since it all clogs our surfaces.

While I’m only dealing with BOOKS in this blog, nearly all homes our professional organizers visit have the following reading materials on hand:

  • Newspapers – some community editions still exist!
  • Newsletters
  • Catalogs
  • Magazines
  • Journals
  • Books
Portland Professional Organizing Services - Home Organizing

Presumably, while you’re sorting all that reading material, you’re likely to find items you can recycle, pass along to a friend, or donate. This pruning process is valuable to slim down your reading material to a more manageable level.

Next, it’s time to get after those beloved books.

If you don’t have a library in your home (who really does?) you have a couple of options to organize books:

Create a library!

You can use hallways, alcoves, guest rooms or even the walls in your bedroom for this purpose.

The advantage of having ONE space that all your books are stored is that your nightstand and coffee table won’t be so burdened. You can simply be reading a handful at a time, and then “return” them when not in use to your own library.

This is an approach to organize books, but many people simply don’t have adequate room to pull this off in their homes.

Separate your books by category and store them in distinct locations throughout the home.

I store my health, spiritual books, and journals closer to the hub of our home, where I spend most of my time. I do this because I reference them more often. Then, my business books and farming books are stored in our office.

Since you’re already going to be storing books-of-a-feather together, you can demarcate each category of books by making each section artful….

Store Books Artfully

To make each category of books “come alive,” I like to decorate within the shelves. Since I store similar books together, I “dress up” each section with related items to signify and beautify the space. 

Pictured here are just a few shelves of my children’s vintage books. Oh, how I love my vintage books.

Solutions for Books - Childrens Antique

Most of these were mine, and some of these were my mom’s and even my grandmother’s books. I’m the girl who sifted through aisles and aisles of resale book shops as a teen, seeking my missing editions. And, after all, Nancy Drew is practically responsible for my organizing career of detective work!

Reading one of my antique Bobbsey Twins books to my boys

I’ve decorated amongst these children’s books with common treasures that kids collect: marbles, buttons, and bottle caps. I’ve tucked in some vintage toys as well. This technique brings more depth and history to each section.

With your science books, you could tuck small plants, botanical prints, or a solar system model amongst the sub-categories. To amplify your history or geography books, you could add a globe or map or even your family coat-of-arms.

The point of displaying your books thoughtfully is to treat them as ART, not just reading material. When you think of your books as art, you will give them dedicated, thoughtful real estate in your space.

The next idea is to place books based on frequency-of-use.

Keep Favorites Handy

Blame Pinterest for this one: I needed a bookshelf within a coffee table, and my Pinterest rabbit hole led me to something like this. So…my amazing husband Trevor made me this awesome custom roll-about because I wanted my books-in-progress near where I read.

Solutions for Books - Round Rolling Bookshelf

He actually made two – a his and hers edition! His is in the office and this one is in our family room with books I’m reading.

The point is: store your most-often used, or books-in-queue at the POINT OF USE.

The problem happens when ALL of our books are in piles, on nightstands, and covering every known surface. In that case, every book seems important. It brings comfort to our minds to know that our books are neatly organized and stored so we can focus on enjoying the books on the top of our reading list first.

Speaking of neat and tidy, nothing seals your library of organized books better than a LABEL….

Label Categories

If my tip about storing your books artfully seems “too much,” then at least label the category of organized books as you’re storing them together.

My Mr. Marvelous (aka Trevor Norris) made these aluminum ledge covers that serve as a shelf label. I love the cute card holder and pop rivet – it labels the shelf as if it were a storage box!

Solutions for Books - Label Categories

Even if you don’t have official “shelf labels,” you can use a labeler to make a sticker label for your shelves. I like using CLEAR label tape when doing this so that only the words show. You can buy clear label tape with white labels and the words really pop!

Be advised, however, that eventually sticker labels will peel back and may damage the finish of the wood. If you’re using plastic, metal, or artificial material shelving then you might not mind. But if you are using fine, real wood, you may want to go with a label that rests on the shelf, rather than sticks to it.

Labeling prevents “stashing” when you’re in a hurry. It also makes clear to your other family members the proper destination for each type of book.

(For expert labeling tips, check out my blog “How to Label Like a Pro!”)

In the process of categorizing your books, you will likely find some that you don’t need or use anymore. When that happens, it’s time to cull….

Cull for a Cause

When I culled my own books, I bagged them up for donation.

Solutions for Books - Donations

Our professional organizers have found that donating books is tough for people. Books represent an investment of money. More importantly, books represent something we wanted to do (read it!) and oftentimes, never did. Therefore, parting can be difficult because we can feel like we let ourselves down or wasted our money. And if we DID read the book, and enjoyed it, we may have positive memories associated with the book.

Deal with your resistance to let go by imparting your belongings to those who could be blessed by that which you’re offloading!

I wanted the proceeds from my 12 bags of books to go to charity.

I found a local charity called The Media Foundation that takes many forms of media, catalogs and resells it, and then donates the proceeds to a charity of your choice. They not only took my books, but also a bunch of CDs and DVDs! They also take vinyl records and video games. What a great solution to offloading books I don’t need! The best part? The Media Foundation came to my home for a PICK UP!

Solutions for Books - Donate to charity

Oftentimes, libraries, churches and homeless/recovery facilities are grateful for book donations.

Do your research and find a worthy cause you care about to impart your books.

“Giving well” means taking your time to impart your belongings – that are weighing you down – to someone else who would be thrilled to have them. And giving-to-others lightens your space, your mind, and your heart!

Road Map to Priority-Based Living

We’ve compiled a list of worthy donation locations for all types of home wares to help you give well. If you’re in the Northwest, you can find those resources here.

Here’s to reclaiming your beloved books!


Solutions to Organize Books

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