Organizing a bookshelf – 15 ways to keep on top of your tomes

1. Edit Your Book Collection

A common mistake when organizing a bookshelf is to try to fit in your entire book collection. This often results in a haphazard arrangement that makes it impossible to create orderly book storage ideas. Set yourself up for success by starting with a good decluttering session. Empty your shelves completely and give them a good clean.

2. Order Books Alphabetically

There are several ways to order books, so think about what makes the most sense for your home library ideas. If it’s a bookshelf that you frequent regularly, we’d recommend an alphabetized system. It might not be the most creative way to arrange and organize books, but it certainly makes it quick and easy to find what you’re looking for. If you’re alphabetizing based on the book’s title, you’ll likely have quite a few books that start with ‘A’ and ‘The’, so you’re best of leaving out the first word and organize based on the second word in the title instead. Be sure to let everyone in the household know to avoid any confusion. Another option is to arrange alphabetically based on the author’s last name, like they do in bookshops and libraries. The only downside is remembering who wrote what… but if you’re someone who has a few favorite authors, this might be the system for you.

3. Group By Genre

Whether you’re designing a home library, or you’re the sort of person who often picks books based on your mood, organizing books by genre is a great idea. You could keep it simple, fiction and non-fiction for example, or break things down into general categories: action, mystery, romance, fantasy and so on. There’s likely to be some cross-over, so keep a log of where you’ve filed your books for ease.

4. Create A Rainbow Effect

Organizing a bookshelf in order of color is not the most practical method but it’s certainly the most aesthetically pleasing and one way to style a bookshelf. Unless you’re someone who remembers books based on their covers, we’d recommend reserving it for bookshelves you don’t access very often.

5. Reserve Prime Space For Favorite Books

If you're considering reading nook ideas, this is the perfect opportunity to create a smaller group of your favorite books, or those you need access to most regularly, separately from your primary organization system. Position them within easy-reach (middle-section shelves for most, depending on your height) to save you having to find them each time. Keep them separated from the rest with book dividers or use objects and book stacks either side.

6. Organize Books By Height

Grouping books of a similar size and height together will give your collection a clean, streamlined look, perfect if you are looking for smart living room bookshelf ideas. However, depending on the look you’re going for (and how functional you want your organization to be) you could have a little fun with different arrangements. Maybe keep tall books on the edges and go shorter in the middle, or alternate shelves starting with the tallest book, then the shortest, and so on.

7. Stick To The Two-Thirds Rule

Ensuring your books have space to breathe is not only good for their shelf life, but also the functionality and style of your display. ‘Crowding books tightly on shelves make them impossible to pull out, while overcrowding can make for a cluttered feel,’ says home organizer Ben Soreff.

8. Build Stylish Stacks

Oversized hardbacks can overpower a bookshelf arrangement when arranged standing up, not to mention take up space. Stack them with spines facing outwards, starting with the biggest book at the bottom. If your shelf is at eye-level, choose a book with an attractive front cover to go on the very top. Stacking is also a good tactic for differentiating types of books, such as non-fiction, recipe or reference books, for example.

9. Leave Space For Other Items

Bookshelves aren’t just for books. Family photos, heirlooms, vases with flowers… anything that brings you happiness when you look at it deserves a designated place. ‘Styling can often be an undercover organizational tool for shelving,’ says Heather Hoerzen, design editor at Havenly. ‘Creating a little vignette with a tray, diffuser and pretty faux plant not only sparks joy, but it can also serve as a reminder to put things back as you found them’.

10. Prop Up Artwork

Adding your favorite art pieces to your bookshelf adds visual impact, turning it into a stylish focal point rather than something that’s purely practical. A propped collection comes with the benefit of no nails, so can be effortlessly transformed on a whim for a whole new look. Position your most prominent pieces in the center of the shelf and then work outwards with smaller pieces. Combining different styles, sizes and colors of picture frames creates a lovely lived-in look, along with postcards and canvases to break it up. Pick out key tones within your prints, or maybe even a theme, to ensure your display feels considered.

11. Arrange By Style

While most libraries like to organize a bookshelf alphabetically, and this tried-and-tested system works wonderfully for those wanting to find a specific author with ease, we sometimes like to throw the rulebook out of the window by arranging our books by the style of the spine. For example, those of us who are more visual might be inclined to remember a book by what the cover or spine looks like, rather than wanting to search alphabetically.

12. Match Books To The Color Scheme

Are you a particularly visual person? Us, too. That is why this space works so well; the books seamlessly color coordinate with the rest of the room. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to ensure that your scheme remains cohesive and tailored, especially when covering your books with the same color jackets is so easy to do. The result? A space that looks like something out of a story book.

13. Leave Empty Spaces

Just because you have the space, it does not mean that you need to fill every nook and cranny. This bookshelf is a perfect example of letting a space breathe; hugely important in a home office or bedroom.

14. Use Art To Divide Books

Rather than just simply arranging your books on a shelf, think about breaking up the space between genres, authors, colors or styles with art. Use prints, objects and vases to add interest and visual break points to rest the eyes and draw attention away from old or tattered books.

15. Place Lesser Used Book On The Top Shelf

If you have books that you've read but just can't bear to part with, then consider placing them on the top shelf, just high enough to admire, but also ensuring that they are well out of the way. Keep the lower bookshelves free for books and other objects, like vinyl, and more regularly used items.

Follow us on Social Media