How to organize your bookshelves

How do you organize your shelves? I subscribe to the “Lord of the Flies” school of organization: throw them all in together and see who survives. I would rather do, and literally have done, virtually any other home organization job than figure out how to deal with our hoarder-shame books. Even with all the mandated home time afforded by the pandemic, I can’t yet face the task. With numbers into the thousands, it’s so monumental a job that we decided we would rather clean the recesses of the unfinished part of the basement rather than start dismantling shelves and figuring out what goes where.

If you, like me, have spent a lot of time in recent months cleaning your home, perhaps you’ve reached the part where you’re reading to figure out how to organize bookshelves. But even if you haven’t been cleaning and weeding, sometimes a refresh of your bookshelves is in order. It can be daunting to think about how to organize bookshelves: do you do it by size? Alphabetically? By color?

The fact of the matter is, however it is you choose to organize your bookshelves, it has to be a system that works for you and one that will not only help you find the books you’re looking for, but also fit the space you have available. It might also matter that it’s aesthetically pleasing—it’s easy to laugh about that and call it superficial, but a good-looking bookshelf setup really does encourage reading. This is part of why public libraries weed their collections. If the shelves are crowded, with books that are askew and haven’t been borrowed in years, readers don’t find browsing pleasurable in the same way. Discoverability matters.

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