31 Tips to Level Up Your Bookshelf Organization
Updated: Sep 22
This blog post will give you 31 tips for better bookshelf organization, and break down how bookshelf style is different than organization. Let's begin!
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Check out our bookshelves and how I organize books by genre in this video.
Reasons to organize your bookshelves
Find the book you know you have quickly
Shop your own books by author or genre for your next read
Create a To Be Read stack
Great way to show off your book collection
Take the opportunity to declutter some books
Gives you a chance to donate books you will never read
Why organizing books is different than styling bookshelves
The process of organizing your book collection involves managing and tracking an inventory of your books in an efficient way. Organizing all your Stephen King books on one shelf, for example. Bookshelf organization is a functional and practical method of keeping track of the books you own.
Bookshelf styling stimulates visual interest using books in different ways. Styling can be paired with bookshelf organization, but styling is more about the aesthetic of bookshelves. The Home Edit offers a rainbow color palette for bookshelf styling. In my opinion, that makes it hard to find certain books and therefore is not the best way to organize books.
I want to be able to find a particular book I have in mind quickly, so I need to organize my bookshelves logically. All the history books together or all the art books together is an easy way for me to accomplish this. The rainbow look doesn't enable me to find books quickly.
Where to organize books
Certainly, a bookshelf is a great idea for organizing your books. We have five of these bookshelves in our home library, and they are created by interior designers (the Nathan James team).
We keep puzzles, large books, and photo albums on the bottom shelves of these bookshelves. With three children, ages 8 and under, we like to keep certain items easy to grab in that available space.
Accessibility to books is important to our family and to encouraging our children to read independently. On that note, I recommend floor baskets for toddler books. Keeps your bookshelves from appearing messy and offers fun ways for toddlers to dump books.
I’m joking, of course. Kind of. Toddlers dump baskets. It’s just life at that age.
Smaller bookshelves may work well in your living room or home office. These $40 white bookshelves have stood the test of time and many moves for us.
Consider other flat surfaces of your home that could substitute as bookshelves. Fireplace mantel, console table, entryway table, or china cabinet could serve as a place for two or three books positioned decoratively.
31 Tips to Level Up Your Bookshelf Organization
Identify problems with your current organization and think through solutions. Do you need a bag or box near the front door to keep track of library books? Do you want all your science reference books on one shelf?
Visualize the usage of your bookshelves after you have completed your organization. Do you want to shop your shelves by genre? By author? By topic like travel books, history books, or science books?
Use this Decision Tree for Decluttering Books to ask yourself the right questions.
Use your local library and save money on buying new books.
Develop a habit of returning books to where they belong.
Use apps (such as GoodReads) to manage your inventory.
Gather all your books in one spot, like your dining room table, before organizing.
Feature your sentimental books as special on your shelves. We had a 161 year old family bible restored, and it sits on the top shelf with a 100 year old prayer book.
Sort by author, genre, first edition, collectors books, or by author’s last name. This could make it easier to organize back onto different shelves and find books quickly in the future.
Declutter books. Owning less can simplify your bookshelf organization. Here are 27 ways to declutter books from your home.
Create a To Be Read stack.
Be ruthless about what you return to your bookshelves.
Respect the boundaries of the shelves.
Stack books of the same category (or author or series) with decor, like plants or decorative jars to organize and style at the same time.
Use baskets instead of shelves to organize books.
Touch every book during your organization process. Coming in contact with certain books may help you visualize organization or even declutter them.
Keep seasonal books stored with your seasonal decor.
Shift to an e-reader and embrace the open space on a bookshelf.
Consider accessibility of your favorites or often read books. Make it easy to read.
Set a seasonal reading challenge for yourself to get through your To Be Read stacks.
Create a “maybe” pile of books you may let go of.
Ask for help to organize books back onto your shelves.
Forget the PAST versions of YOU that bought books you don’t want TODAY. (I had to tough talk myself with #23 during a recent declutter of books.)
Spread organization around your house in smart ways. Coffee table books have their nickname for a reason. They simply look fantastic before you even crack the spine. You want to pick them up and flip through them. Coffee table books are terrific conversation starters with guests while also acting as decorative items. Cookbooks near your kitchen may make more sense than on your bookshelves in your living room.
Decide what to keep and return them to your shelves. Evaluate what remains in your gather and sort piles… ruthlessly. Leaving empty space on your shelves is a minimalist approach.
Try the one in - one out “rule” of minimalism. For each new book brought into your home, find one to donate.
Strew books around your house, especially if you have children. See what sparks interest. Books set at their eye level will get noticed more often. Giving books new homes to catch the eye of children (or guests) is a creative way to get books off your shelves and into your home.
Invest in great looking shelves to level up your bookshelf organization game. Setting up little vignettes on your shelves is a great way to style your shelves. Stacking a book series together with a few other items is a good idea to level up the visual interest and appeal.
Think about books as decor. Pop an empty vase on top of a stack of two large books on a table. Turn the books with the book spines facing out to level up the style.
Try to leave ⅔ of your shelf empty to be able to easily grab books and put them back.
Use bookends to style and organize series on a shelf with other items. You could even stack other books horizontally to use as bookends. Usually odd numbers like 3 or 5 would work well aesthetically when using a stack as a bookend.
There are many clever ways to organize books. and ultimately style them onto bookshelves. Which of these 31 tips are your favorites?
27 Ways to Declutter Books
I've offered 27 ways to declutter books in this blog post.
FAQs about Bookshelf Organization
How do professional organizers style bookshelves?
Home Space Harmony says:
Vary the placement of books on left, right and center of shelves. Try a mixture of vertical and horizontal arrangements, like using a vertical stack to buttress a horizontal one. A general guideline is to organize 60% of books vertically and 40% horizontally to create balance.
Should I organize my books in alphabetical order?
You can organize your books in alphabetical order by author’s last name if you remember the author of every book. Otherwise, arranging by genre, author, or series may make the most sense to find the book you want in the future.
How do you organize bookshelves with lots of books?
When you have a lot of books, take advantage of the vertical and horizontal organization method for books. Consider stacking books in other locations if you have more books than shelves. Consider placing a few of your favorite books in other locations and utilizing your shelves to store less referenced books.
What is the purpose of dust jackets?
Dust jackets protect books from spills and damage. Some collector books are more valuable with the dust jacket.
What types of decor can I put on bookshelves with my books?
Consider balancing the look of your bookshelf with items found at an antique store. Additionally, picture frames create a streamlined look when balanced with stacks of books.
What do I put on the top shelf of a bookshelf?
You could put more books, taller books, or decor that balances the appearance of your bookshelf. We store our globe on top of one of our shelves.
What do I put on the bottom shelf of a bookshelf?
Consider putting your heavier books or decor on the bottom shelf of your bookshelves. Another idea is to store books and items you wish to be accessible to young kids.