Books Gone Wild? How to Organize Books

stack of books on table
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Organize books so they don’t get out of control and make a statement in your home. Here are some fantastic tips from organizing expert Donna Smallin Kuper

Are your bookshelves overflowing? You might think that the solution is to buy more bookcases or put up more shelves—and you might be right. But before you do that, consider culling your collection to free up some space.Books Gone Wild? How to Organize Books and keep them in order

I know, I know! It’s hard to part with your “friends.” But remember this: If you let go of a book and later wish you hadn’t, it’s generally pretty easy to get another copy.

Start by giving away books you aren’t likely to read again. Pass them along to a friend or donate them to your local library or a charitable organization. Or, sell them to a used bookstore for cash or credit. You can also sell books online— Powells is my top pick.

Now you’re ready to put your books in order! Organize your books in a way that makes sense to you; after all, it’s your collection. Organizing simply makes it easier to find books and return them to their “homes” when you’re finished with them.

If you’re stumped, here are three of the most common ways to organize books in your home library.


  1. Librarian Style

Books Gone Wild? How to Organize Books and keep them in orderTake a cue from libraries and bookstores and separate fiction from nonfiction. Organize fiction alphabetically by author. If you have a very large collection, you might want to organize first by genre, such as historical fiction, romance, and mystery, and then by author within each sub-category. Organize nonfiction by type: biography, history, gardening, and travel, for example, and then alphabetically by the author if you wish. Use bookends as needed to separate sections. I often use a stack of books with spines facing out as a bookend for a row of books.

  1. Stylish

Books Gone Wild? How to Organize Books and keep them in order

A less traditional way to organize books is to group them by color. This might work best for you if you are a very visual person who is more likely to remember the color of the book as opposed to the author. If you decide to try this, keep in mind that you can remove jackets to expose the solid color of hardcover books. For even more visual interest, mix books with other objects such as framed artwork or photographs, vases or bowls. (Of course, you can add accessories if your books are shelved librarian style as well.)

  1. Functional

Books Gone Wild? How to Organize Books and keep them in orderYou may decide to organize books in “his and hers” fashion—and “theirs” if you have kids. Keep children’s books on lower shelves to make them easier to grab and put away. However, bookcases aren’t just for books. You can also shelve CDs and DVDs, magazines and coloring books (in magazine files), photo albums, scrapbooks, games, and toys. I also love placing decorative boxes and open bins on shelves to serve as containers for clutter, such as photos that need to be sorted, crafting supplies, even bills to be paid! If you place a bowl on a shelf above eye level, anything placed in it—such as remote controls, reading glasses or a deck of cards—will be cleverly hidden away but easily accessible.

Still out of space on your bookshelves?

Move children’s books to their rooms. Store cookbooks in the kitchen, where they will be handy when needed. Use a shelf in a cabinet or pantry or shelve on top of your refrigerator with bookends at each end. Here’s another way to free up space: Pull out those oversized books and stack them with the spines facing out next to a sofa, chair or guest bed to create a makeshift end table! Set a tray on top and perhaps a lamp or vase with dried flowers.

Whatever method of organizing books you choose, arrange books so that spines are aligned with the outer edge of the shelf. This will prevent dust from settling on shelf edges. That way, you can spend less time cleaning and more time reading.

Donna Smallin Kuper is a renowned “uncluttering” expert who writes on organizing and simplifying home lifestyles for The Home Depot’s Home Decorators Collection. Donna’s latest best-selling book is Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness. If you are researching bookcases and bookshelves to help organize your own home, you can find a great selection at Home Decorators

One Response

  1. Awesome tips Kelley! My books aren't novel. We just have too many educational books such as encyclopedia, dictionary, etc. Your tips are very helpful. Giving these books away is both a win win solution for me and to the recepient. By the way, which style do you like to organize your books with?

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