Week #26 Organized Home Challenge
How To Organize Books

This week, in the Organize Books Challenge, we'll declutter and organize this type of reading material in our homes, using the step by step instructions below.

organize books challenge

We've already tackled some other types of reading material in our homes in previous challenges, such as cookbooks in Week #5, and magazines and newspapers in Week #14.

But books pose a special challenge for many people, myself included I will confess.

I am a bibliophile if there ever was one, and to top it off I married a man who loves books perhaps even more than I do. That means we have lots of books in our house.

Whether you've got a few or a lot of books though, you've got to keep them organized so you're able to find what you're looking for to read it when you want to, or these items aren't serving a useful purpose in your home, just taking up much needed space.

Are you new here? The Organize Books Challenge is part of the 52 Weeks To An Organized Home Challenge. (Click the link to learn how to join us for free for future and past challenges if you aren't already a regular reader).

Step 1: Declutter And Donate Or Sell Unwanted Books

The first step in the Organize Books Challenge is to gather all your books from around your home, and really assess what you have and whether you actually want, or need all of them anymore.

Since my husband and I love books so much, we had a bad habit for a long time of collecting them. We really figured out we had a problem when we moved, and had to lug all those books around.

Therefore, since then we've decluttered a lot of them, on several occasions. This can be tough to do, especially when you're an avid book collector like we were. However, I can honestly say I haven't missed the books we let go of, and our home is less cluttered because of it.

You can only have as many books in your home as you have room for on bookshelves or bookcases, typically, so you need to either make room for more of this furniture or get rid of some of the collection until it fits in the space you have for it.

You should not have high stacks of books in your home, and if you do, you know you've got clutter. Tall stacks readily topple over, making a mess and potentially can harm someone, especially small children.

getting rid of media and entertainment clutter hall of fame

Further, I feel pretty strongly that books should be read and enjoyed, and not just used for decoration or display in your home. If you find you're keeping a book because it "looks nice" but you never plan on reading it -- let it go.

I personally like to donate my used books to the library when decluttering, since I think it's a great community service to give to them for their library book sales. However, some books are pretty valuable, so for these few tomes you may want to consider selling them instead.

I also use the library to cut down on clutter (and save money) in the first place by borrowing many books there, instead of buying them.

Step 2: Organize Books In Logical Manner

Once you've winnowed down your book collection to a more manageable size the next step in the Organize Books Challenge is to place them in a logical manner on shelves, and bookcases so that you can find the one you're looking for, when you want it.

So what is a logical manner? That is really up to you, since it is whatever way makes sense to you, since it's your collection.

Some people are very concerned with the way that the books look on the shelf (and I'll discuss this more in a moment), but to me the way they look is a secondary consideration. I think you need to be able to find them first, and organizing them by size or color, while it may look pretty, does not help you find the right book when you want and need it.

So here are some suggested "logical" ways to organize books. Feel free to pick and choose what methods and groupings work for you, or to do something completely different as long as it makes sense to you and anyone else in your home that needs to also be able to reference the books:

  • Separate fiction and nonfiction into different sections
  • Fiction can be organized alphabetically by author, or by genre
  • Nonfiction books can be organized by subject

Ways To Make Shelves Look Pretty While Still Organizing Books On Them

bookends to organize books

Once you've got a logical order to your books, you can take some additional steps to make them pretty and look nice as they're displayed. Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep the spines and titles facing out, with all titles able to be read in one direction.
  • You can alternate rows of books that are standing upright, with some that are lying down horizontally in a small stack, which can visually break up a long line of books for a nice display.
  • Further, you can use bookends both to break up subjects or categories, but also to allow you to place some other decorative visuals on the shelves, such as a photo or knick knack to again add visual appeal to the shelves.

Where To Store Your Books: Home Library Versus Throughout House

Some people are blessed with a home large enough to have a room devoted to reading and storing their books -- a home library, but not everyone is.

Whether you've got such a room or not though, it can be nice to place categories of books in the area where you'll need them.

For example, as discussed in a previous Challenge cookbooks that are used often make sense in the kitchen, but cookbook collections, which are seldomly used shouldn't waste space in there, but instead should go on a shelf elsewhere.

As part of the Organize Books Challenge look around your home and note where people enjoy reading. These are prime areas to place a bookcase if there is room.

Additional Organizing Tips For Children's Books

sling bookshelf for kids

I think it is very important to have books available for your kids to read, whenever they get the urge. That's why I think anyone who has children should have a bookshelf or designated area in their home just for their kids' books.

However, you can't store and organize kids' books in exactly the same way as you would books for adults.

First, consider that small children need to have a shelf for their books which is low to the ground, so they can reach them themselves.

Further, young children can't stack books on the shelves upright very well at all, and also tend to pull large numbers of them off shelves. That's why I love specially designed bookshelves for kids, such as the sling bookshelf shown above. The pockets make it easy for a child to put away and pull out one book at a time, and to reach them easily.

In addition, if you've got a climber (or small children in general) seriously consider bolting or strapping all of your bookcases to the wall, so they are less likely to tip over and harm a child.

Finally, if your child like to carry some of their books around, or loans them to friends, I suggest getting some custom bookplates or book labels for kids so there is more of a chance of getting your books returned.

Step 3: Consider These Book Organizers & Storage Solutions

When deciding how to organize books in your home, consider these types of book organizers and storage solutions, depending on the type of book you're organizing.

Storage Solutions For Physical Books

The main way to store and display books is, of course, on bookshelves and/or bookcases. There is quite a variety of sizes and shapes of this type of furniture on the market, including ones made just for kids.

Be careful if you purchase particle board shelves, with the amount of weight you place on each shelf since they will bow and break if overloaded (ask me how I know!)

If you do have particle board it may be worth investing in extra shelves and stacking one shelf on top of the other for added strength (again, ask me how I know!)

Consider These Digital Solutions For Reading Books

A great way to declutter your collection, or keep physical books from entering it in the future is with an e-reader, such as the Kindle or Nook.

If you'd asked me even a few years ago if e-readers would take off the way they have I would have told you no.

However, one of my daughters got a Kindle for Christmas this year (the most basic model, but without the ads) and her father and I use it as much as she does. It's wonderful, and stores so many books in one small space.

Especially now that libraries have created a lending system for these e-pub books I get them all the time this way, and in my opinion you just can't beat it!

Step 4: Create System To Keep Track Of Library Books

Speaking of libraries, the last step in the Organize Books Challenge is to create a system in your home for keeping track of library books.

I've hinted at this before, such as in the Mudroom & Entryway Organization Challenge, but in this Challenge if you haven't already made a place for your library books do it now.

The reason you need a space in your home to keep track of your library books is because they otherwise get lost or misplaced, leading to paying fines and/or buying these lost books.

In my family we go to the library weekly, at least, and are still experimenting with the best system for keeping track of these books since my kids like to wander around the house with their books, reading them in various locations.

The ideal system for you will vary depending on your circumstances. For sure though, you should have a place to hold and collect library books so they don't get mixed in with your own books, and are accessible when its time to run errands and return them to the library or a drop off box.

If everyone is relatively responsible with their library books in your home this may be as simple as having a basket that you place them in as you're finished with them.

On the other hand, if you check out large numbers of books, CDs and/or DVDs, or they seem to scatter all over the house, never to be returned, you may want a more elaborate system, such as a check out system within your home to keep track of the books, letting only one out at a time to a family member.

This is honestly an area where my family is still struggling, so I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments, or in the Home Organization Hall of Fame for how you do it.

Tell Me How The Organize Books Challenge Is Going For You

I would love to know how this week's Organize Books Challenge is going. You can tell me your progress or give me more ideas for how you've organized these items in the comments below.

I also would love to see before and after pictures of your organized books, once you've completed the challenge. Submit your pictures (up to four per submission) and blog posts and get featured in the Creative Storage Solutions Hall of Fame. You've worked hard to get organized, so now here's your chance to show off!

Sneak Peek For Next Week's Challenge

We're working on our homes slowly, one area at a time, so don't get too distracted from the Organize Books Challenge this week. However, I know some of you love to know what's coming next, so I'll tell you. Next week we'll tackle a biggie when we deal with CD and DVD storage and organization.

We're Halfway Through The Challenges Now! Make Sure You're Also Doing The Decluttering Missions

Since this is week number 26 of the challenges, we're officially half way through the year after this challenge is complete!

Can you believe it? Many of you have been with me from the beginning of the year, and many others have joined us since then. Either way, I'm so glad you're participating in the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge. We just recently hit the 41,000 participant mark, so how awesome is that?

Are you still feeling as committed to the organizing process as you were at the beginning of the year when many of you made this your New Year's Resolution?

declutter your home in 15 minutes a day

Whether or not you're not feeling as much enthusiasm as you were before the thrill of the resolution wore off, I've got an exciting announcement that should hopefully get you reinvigorated about the challenge.

I've come to realize as we've worked through the Decluttering Your Home Series that getting rid of the clutter is an integral part of each week of the 52 Week Challenge, and something many of us need some help with.

Therefore, each month I share a monthly decluttering calendar which will roughly correspond with the 52 Weekly Challenges, with a decluttering task that should hopefully take you about 15 minutes to complete each day.

If you choose to do these tasks they'll help you complete the weekly Challenge, meaning you really shouldn't be biting off more than you can chew even with your committment to the Challenge.

Plus, if you do it consistently you'll seamlessly work in about seven and a half hours of decluttering in your home each month! Wow, just think how much you can accomplish when you combine decluttering with the Challenges?

If you're interested in learning more, here's a link to the Declutter Your Home In 15 Minutes A Day Missions.

Plus, if you're signed up for the emails and newsletter your monthly decluttering calendar (which is also available as a printable) comes in a special email a couple of days before the new month begins, each month. Therefore, make sure you sign up for the newsletter below if you haven't already, so you don't miss anything!

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