Organize Your Bookshelf With These 7 Simple Tips

Lauren Murphy
Written by Lauren Murphy
Updated December 20, 2021
Teenager seated in window working on tablet
Photo: Raymond Forbes LLC/Stocksy / Adobe Stock

Play around with bookshelf organization to find your fairy tale ending

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Bookshelves do more than house your favorite reads; they offer a cozy, comforting feel to your space. But at a certain point, they can look a little too busy. 

Organizing your bookshelf on a regular basis helps it stay stylish and functional. These useful bookshelf organizing tips will help you transform a messy bookshelf into a dreamy one.

1. Start Fresh and Remove Everything

The best way to begin any organization project is to start with a blank slate. Not only does emptying your bookshelf allow you to assess what you have and what you can get rid of, but it also gives you room to clean. 

Dust off your books and wipe your bookshelf down with a damp towel. If you have kids and pets, dirt and hair have probably gotten into every crevice, so consider a thorough clean with an antibacterial spray.

2. Donate Books You Don’t Want

Once you remove all the books from your bookshelf, sort through them to determine which ones you want to keep and which ones you no longer need. Make a pile of books you don’t want anymore and donate them—schools, daycare programs, and thrift stores near you may accept them. You can also consider giving them away to friends and family members who may be interested.

3. Create an Organizational System

Home library with arm chair
Photo: Carla Nichiata / Adobe Stock

The best part about organizing a bookshelf: there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Choose a system that works best for you—here are some examples. 

Organize by Genre

Make your bookshelf feel like your own personal library by separating your books by genre. Keep classics in one section, mystery novels in another, and nonfiction in another. If you have kids, section out their books so you can easily grab one when it’s time for a bedtime story. Keeping your bookshelf organized this way will help you find the book you need quickly. 

Group by Color

Organizing your books by color can make your bookshelf look like a work of art. Go for a rainbow theme or choose a pattern you like. If it makes more sense for you to organize by genre, you can still arrange the books in each section by color.

4. Place Bigger Books on Lower Shelves

No matter how you organize your personal library, always keep those hefty encyclopedias and 1,000-page novels to the bottom shelf. They may have stylish covers that make you want to keep them at eye level so you can look at them all day, but keeping them up high is risky—they can easily fall or even pull over your shelf. 

5. Stack Books

a shelf unit with books
Photo: Pixel-Shot / Adobe Stock

One way to make your bookshelf more visually appealing is to make one (or a few) stacks of books instead of arranging them all vertically. Book stacks are decorative, but they still allow you to grab the books you need. They’re a great way to visually break up your bookshelf and make it look more interesting.

Just pick out a handful of books and stack them one on top of the other. Choose the largest book for the bottom and the smallest for the top. Voila!

6. Decorate Your Bookshelf

Place more than just books on your bookshelf. Bookshelves are great places to display a variety of decorations. But keep in mind which ones are heavy and/or breakable and avoid putting those ones on high shelves where they can fall and break or hurt someone.

Some bookshelf decorating ideas include:

  • Houseplants

  • String twinkle lights around it

  • Display your kids’ artwork

  • Decorative bookends

  • Baskets and storage bins

7. Experiment with Shelf Spacing

Just because your bookshelf came with equally spaced shelves doesn’t mean you have to keep it that way. Most store-bought bookshelves have hardware that allows you to customize the shelving system. 

Play around with shelf spacing to make the piece more stylish and functional. If you have a collection of big atlases, they probably won’t fit in a standard bookshelf. Adjust the shelf height to accommodate it. For smaller books, you can reduce the height and keep them all there. Place the books that you use most often on an easy-to-reach level

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