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How to Organize Your Bookshelf and Remove the Clutter

There's little else that compares to the pleasure of escaping into a good book. Sure, there are a number of good TV shows and movies out there, but it's just not the same. Whether you're into adventurous tales of climbers and explorers, the precision of a great short story, or novels with intricate plots and numerous characters, you've likely collected a good number of books over the years. The question then becomes, how should one organize their bookshelf, or in some cases, bookshelves?




30 minutes

Read on to see our tips on how to get your book collection in order. Is your bookshelf looking a little sparse? Not much to organize? Don't fear. Check out our favorite 13 Stephen King books ranked. Not a Stephen King fan? No worries, here are 20 great books to read this year.

Stacks of books with poetry sign.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

By Genre: The Bookstore/Library Way

Think back to the last time you visited your favorite bookstore or the library. Maybe you went with a specific book in mind, or maybe you just went to browse and see what you could find. Either way, hopefully navigating the store was easy because the books were organized by genre. Fiction was with other fiction, poetry with poetry, children's books together, and so on.

Sure there are bookstores where the books are stacked together in no apparent order. There's usually a cat wandering around. When you finally find a book you might like, you have to Jenga it out of a precarious stack. While this type of store has a lot of charm, finding the single book you're looking for is like finding a needle in a haystack.

So, begin by organizing by genre. If you're the type of person who reads a little bit of everything and has multiple bookshelves, this could be the best organization system for you. It's also a nice system to begin with, and then you can further refine your organization, say with alphabetization.

Step 1: Make a list of the different genres in your book collection.

Step 2: Evaluate your shelf space and how it will align with the different genres in your collection (e.g., the big bookshelf will fit all my fiction and the smaller shelf could be for essays/nonfiction).

Step 3: Take the books off the shelf, organize them by genre, and then put them back on the shelf. Now when you're looking to read some poetry, all your poetry collections will be on the same shelf or section and easy to find.

Bookshelves organized alphabetically.
Ugly Duckling Press


If you have a lot of books, it can be hard to find the one you're looking for. With two or three bookshelves scattered around the house, you'll spend more time looking for the right book than reading. That's where alphabetizing comes in. Though at first it might seem nerdy or a bit over-the-top, it's really helpful.

Step 1: Instead of taking all your books off the shelf and then putting them back in alphabetical order, start by organizing the top shelf of your bookshelf. Arrange the books in order of the first letter of the author's last name.

Step 2: Then, begin slotting in books from the shelf below.

Step 3: When the top shelf is full, bump a chunk of books down to the next shelf and keep working through.

Step 4: If you have a lot of books by one author, you might even consider organizing those books alphabetically by title to further refine your organization.

By Size

This may be dictated by the height of your bookshelf more than anything else. But if you have larger books, like art and photography books, they'll need taller shelves than those tiny mass-market paperbacks.

If you're not able to adjust the height of your shelves, oversized books can be stacked on their sides and provide a nice contrast to the vertical spines of the rest of your books.

Step 1: If working with one bookshelf, use the pegs to make the lowest shelf large enough for your largest book.

Step 2: The shelf above can be spaced closer to accommodate hardbacks.

Step 3: The next shelf or shelves can be for paperbacks, which for many of us is the bulk of our book collections.

Step 4: Mass markets can then be arranged on the top shelf.

Shelves with books and objects spaced between them.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

With Other Objects

This one is less about organization and more about decoration.

While you're surely proud to show off your book collection, it can be easy for bookshelves to look cluttered and crowded and not actually align with the aesthetic of your home. When thinking of how to organize your bookshelf, consider not just the order of the books but the visual appeal of the entire shelf. By adding objects like photographs, art, and collectibles onto the shelves, the overall appeal of the shelf will be greater and will draw the eye in.

Step 1: Gather up a few of your favorite photos, collectibles, knick-knacks, or pieces of art that will fit on a shelf.

Step 2: Use bookends or a stack of books to create space on your bookshelves.

Step 3: Place items in the empty space you've created. Bonus points for thematic connections between the objects and nearby books.

Well, there you have it. And remember, any of these methods can be combined with others. It's really all up to you. Hopefully applying one of these methods will you help you get your (ever-growing) book collection under control and help you find the book you're looking for faster.

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Nate Swanner
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Nate is General Manager for all not-Digital-Trends properties at DTMG, including The Manual, Digital Trends en Espanol…
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