How To: Organize Bookshelves

I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project (the book and the blog — you can never have too much happy happening in your life, after all) and one of the first goals Gretchen undertakes is a personal purging and organizing of her home, closets, and life. Now I’m pretty good about regular closet clean-outs (much to the delight of my similarly sized cousins), but there is one area of my home that seems to just collect clutter: my bookshelves.

A charming architectural detail and plenty of added storage, the wall of built-in bookshelves was one of the biggest draws of our tiny apartment. Unfortunately, it turns out that it practically pulls in clutter like a magnet. On top of its hefty share of books, it collects ignored mail, papers, games, nicknacks, winter hats and gloves, and an astounding amount of old magazines.

So the other night I took the opportunity to organize the bookshelves in a major way — tossing, cleaning, re-organizing, and stylizing. If your bookshelves are like mine and you need to edit down before you can set up, I recommend taking everything off the shelves, putting things in piles around the room, and throwing out or recycling as much as you can. Once that’s all done, it’s on to the fun part!

Steps to Organize Bookshelves
1. Start with your regularly size books (read: novels) and stand them up in rows starting at each end of the shelves.
2. Instead of traditional bookends, use items you already have that mean something to you. I’ve used artwork, a cute mug, an antique hand statue I found at a flea market, and a vase full of seashells.
3. Next add in some horizontal books for a layered look. I’m a huge sucker for coffee table books, so I’ve stacked up some of my favorites along a middle shelf.
4. Sprinkle in personal times like family photos, travel treasures, and other odds and ends that add visual interest.
5. Create two or three focal points with larger items like a framed piece of art, a pretty basket, or a house plant.
6. If you need to use your bookshelves for storage (like me), make sure to keep it orderly and tucked away along the ends or bottom shelves. If you have organizer bins or baskets — even better!
A Few Tips for Extra Style
For this type of lived-in look, it’s best to stagger the height of different sections and add in some horizontal stacking. If you can, make a color statement with a few of your accent pieces — I went for blues and turquoises with touches of corals (one of my favorite color schemes). While, I’m not 100% happy with the final result, I think it looks much better than the before and I’ll take that for now!

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