Imagine a neatly organized bookshelf. Every book is in its place. You know where everything goes and life is good. Your bookshelf organization is on point and you’re sure that nothing could go wrong. But a few months and a million purchases later, you are standing in front of said bookshelf exasperated. Every nook is stuffed with a random book. You can no longer find everything and your books come to haunt you in your sleep.

That’s exactly what happened to me a couple of months ago. Okay. Maybe it was a bit less dramatic, but the general gist seems about right. I’m normally not a big neat freak, but when it comes to my books, I develop a severe case of OCD.

So naturally, the whole concept of bookshelf organization has haunted me for a while. But I never did anything about it. Until this Monday. Something must have possessed me because I just started ripping books out of their places on the shelves. I quickly realized, tough, that I needed to have some kind of game plan or I would soon drown in books (thank you Twitter for being my frustration outlet!).

Bookshelf Organization Step 1: How?

There are so many different ways of organizing your bookshelves, but somehow you have to find what’s right for you.

You could organize everything by author. I had that system before and quite liked it. But every time I bought a new book (and let’s face it: that happened a lot), I had to move everything around again. I would usually do it the first couple of times. But then I would get tired of it and the whole chaos would start again.

So what about organizing your books by title? Been there, done that. It generally is a great system as it helps you find certain books quickly. But new books are a struggle as well. And you don’t want to make buying books a struggle, do you?

Maybe you could sort them by colour? My brother once did that and it looked cute and organized. But I bet finding books proves to be very difficult unless you know the exact colour of each cover.

Which brings me to organizing them by genre. This seems to be quite a sophisticated type of bookshelf organization. (That’s what libraries and bookstores do, isn’t it?) The only problem I have here is with genre allocation. I guess, I would have to just follow my gut, as I find the lines between genres to be quite blurred sometimes.

So maybe just differentiating between read and unread books is the way to go. It certainly seems easy. As long as you don’t have to find certain books again.

Long story, short: step 1 of mission bookshelf organization was taxing. And since I couldn’t decide which route to take, I finally settled on a combination of them all.

Bookshelf Organization, UnwrappedDreams

Bookshelf Organization Step 2: Getting Started

Now that I’d decided how to organize my bookshelf, I could continue my cleaning process. I still had to be organized tough, because I had limited space available and the books were piling up quickly. And that’s where the following game plan came in handy again.

  • Take out a book.
  • Hoover it.
  • Put it on a pile on the floor considering genre and read vs. unread.
  • Hoover the shelf.
  • Wipe down the shelf with a wet cloth.
  • Scan every single book with Libib. (I’ll do a separate post on this cataloguing app.)
  • Go through the piles and sort the books alphabetically by author.
  • Put the books back on the shelves.

The last part was the hardest, as I had to make a final decision about my system. It was hard work, but I managed it and am happy with the end result.

The way it is now, I have three main categories: German books, French books and English books. The latter being the biggest group. Within these categories, I managed to sub-categorize my books in Picture Books, Children’s Literature, YA Literature, Women’s Fiction, Classics and “Others”. All these categories now have their dedicated shelves. What is more, I also differentiated between read and unread books. The result was quite shocking and definitely encouraged me to do a no-spend month in March. But more on that in another post.

Bookshelf Organization Step 3: Admire your Work.

It literally took me an entire day to go through all my books, but it was so worth it! If you follow me on Twitter, you will have seen that I spent my evening staring lovingly at my neatly organized bookshelves.

I’m really happy with the end result and hope that my new system will make bookshelf organization easier in the future.

How do you organize your bookshelves? Do you switch it up sometimes? And most of all: what do you do with books that you know you’ll never read? Do you throw them away? Give them away? Store them away? I find it quite hard to part with books. But there is no place in them taking up precious space if you’ll never read them. Is there?

Bookshelf Organization, UnwrappedDreams

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