It’s a common problem among book lovers: We have so many books — books we’ve read, books we plan to read, library books, books we’ve borrowed from friends — that it’s hard to keep them all organized. But bookshelf organization is key: Aside from making it look prettier, it may have a positive ripple effect on your mental and physical health. One study showed that women who had less clutter in their homes exhibited lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who had more.
Sure, you can organize your books in alphabetical order by title or author, by genre or even by the Dewey Decimal System. But there are plenty of more creative ways to arrange your books. Indeed, bookshelf organization has become trendy! People all over the world are organizing their shelves and posting pictures on social media with the hashtag #shelfie. So far, more than 3 million users have shared their neatly displayed books on Instagram. So we asked experts for their most creative bookshelf organization tips that solve all kinds of organizational problems. Keep reading for their advice.
To start: Clear your shelves
First things first: Professional organizer Millie Noar, founder of Bella Organizers in New York City, advises emptying your bookshelf and developing a plan. “Whatever the space may be, I pull everything off because I want to start with a blank canvas. This is also a good opportunity to dust the shelves off,” she says.
Indeed, books are a top dust collector, which is why it’s key to cut down a collection — a tough task for many book lovers! What can help: Just think of your bookshelf as “revolving,” says organizer Felice Cohen: “If you’ve had a book for a while and never read it, peruse the synopsis again: If it doesn’t trigger immediate interest, consider giving it away.”
For any books you’ve decided you no longer need, Noar suggests donating them to Goodwill, Salvation Army or even to local schools. (Tip: Before you pack up your books, be sure to call ahead of time to make sure they accept used books.)
Next, consider how you want to organize your books: “You can organize by category, size, alphabetical order or color,” says Noar. “Think about if you want the bookshelves to be more decorative, practical or a little bit of both. You want to have a vision.”
Noar explains that planning ahead is more efficient, can help you save time and will prevent you from having to organize twice. Here, expert tips for bookshelf organization.
To fit more books on your shelf: Grab an egg carton
While there are a lot of tips out there on how to organize bookshelves, we came across a clever bookshelf hack from TikToker @tiffany_collects that makes use of egg cartons. In a video that has since gone viral, we see Tiffany taking empty egg cartons and placing them side by side at the back of her bookshelf.
Next, she stacks a row of books atop the empty cartons and places the next row of books directly on the shelf in front of the back row. The final result? Twice as many books, with a “raised” look that allows you to easily see and access all your books without having to shuffle them around.
Watch the video to see this tip in action:
We spoke to Tiffany about what prompted this moment of genius, and she said she was just looking for a way to save money. “I was constantly looking for a way to not build a wood shelf. I kept seeing everyone using them, but I was at a point where it wouldn’t be cost-effective. It would take way too much time to build as well. I’d rather use that money for more books,” she says.
To find books fast: Arrange by color
Organizing your books by color is an on-trend technique that adds new levels of cheer to your bookshelf. It can also serve as a way to find books quickly.
“In addition to this trick being aesthetically pleasing, it also makes it easier for you to find the specific book you’re looking for, then quickly spot where it belongs when you go to put it back,” Rashelle Isip, also known as TheOrderExpert.com, explains.
Noar likes to start with lighter colors at the top of the shelf and then darker colors at the bottom. Her simple how-to: “I put all the books on the floor and organize everything white with white, everything that’s black with black, and so on. I do this according to the colors on the spine,” she says.
If you have books with multiple colors on the spine, Noar suggests grouping that book with whatever color is more dominant — or whichever looks best to your eye!
For Noar, organizing by color is a way to bring more joy to herself and her clients. “In general, people love feeling good in their space. When things are proportional and when they’re in color, you have a different energy in the space. You just feel better. It’s an emotional thing,” she says.
To fill in a sparse bookshelf: Add personality with trinkets
Sometimes, the issue isn’t having too many books — it’s not having enough! In the case of a sparse bookshelf, Noar suggests spacing out your books and adding decorative items between them to take up any empty real estate.
Consider adding both meaningful items and items that connect with the theme of the room. For example, if you’re a musician, accenting your shelf with items like musical instruments or sheet music would be a great way to express your taste, says Noar. “If you’re organizing your cookbooks, you could use some vintage measuring cups. For an office bookshelf maybe some decorative office supplies.”
“My general rule is to use things that you love to look at,” she says. “A lot of us have trinkets, framed photos, and small decor pieces. I would use those first,” she says. Also smart: Add framed pictures and decorative baskets that can be used to store clutter. Professional organizer Rachel Rosenthal, founder of Rachel & Co, does this beautifully in the photo above.
“If you’re working with one shelf, you can do three books, one decorative item and another three books. It doesn’t have to look cluttered,” says Noar.
“You can even put knick knacks there,” she says. The idea here is to organize and decorate your shelf so it still looks neat and not just storage space for extra “junk,” she explains.
Another technique Noar uses is laying books horizontally on the shelf between vertical books to take up more space. She then uses those horizontally laid books to place other decorative or useful items. She’ll top the books with items like crystals, framed pictures and other trinkets to create a cohesive look.
Once you’re done organizing, check out our Woman’s World Book Club for the best new books to add to your shelf!
For more organization tips, click through the links below!