Straightening Up The Bookshelves


library with organized bookshelves

My daughter came home last weekend from college and not only dropped off her dirty laundry but also a bag of books she had read. Before heading back to school she was scouring the bookshelves to find new books she hadn’t read yet. She only took a few because the shelves were in such disarray that it would have taken her hours to sift through the mess. When she was home the library was her responsibility and she enjoyed keeping it clean and orderly. Now that she is gone it becomes my responsibility. Everyone in our family is an avid reader so our collection is quite extensive and I had not realized how out of hand it had become.

We live in a two-story traditional home and converted the formal dining room right off the entry into a den/library. This is where our bookshelves are and as you enter our home they are clearly visible to all guests. I walk by it so many times in a day I guess I had ignored the mess. It is time to roll up the sleeves and dig in and organize.

I had my husband move all the furniture against the walls so I could have a clean, open space to organize all the books. One by one I removed the books and put them in categories. Some people organize by read, not read, author, alphabetize, color, size, paperback or hardback but we organize by categories such as fiction, travel, philosophy, religion, art, etc. No way it right or wrong, you just need to find what works best for you.

As I took each book off the shelf I dusted it and began creating stacks of books. With a sticky note and a marker I wrote the category so I didn’t become confused as the stacks grew and grew. While doing this I also created a pile of books to donate to the local library, the thrift store and a childcare facility down the street. Once I had all the books off and dusted, the knick-knacks were next. We had so many items including photos, family mementos, awards, and souvenirs from trips that this took forever cleaning them because I was also reminiscing as I cleaned. The items tell our story. They are things we have collected that have a meaning as well as creating decorative elements to the shelves.

The cleaning was finished and as I stood back and looked at the empty shelves and then behind me at the stacks and stacks of books I realized it was time to mix things up a bit and really create a fun and exciting library. To add interest I altered the height of the shelves and took time to put wallpaper on them so when the books were placed in front a decorative feel was also added. I did this with a few of the shelves, used different paper but all with the same color scheme.

As I began placing the books the bigger ones were placed against the side of the shelf and then according to height and so that all the spines would read the same. The books that did not fit standing up were placed horizontally which not only added visual appeal but also so that the title could be read without a problem. As the shelves started to fill up I made sure to leave areas on at least every other shelf for accessories that would complement the category and add interest. I didn’t want to overdo the decorative elements so placed a few small items together as a group.

Now that the last item has been placed on the shelf and the furniture is placed back in the room I took the time to appreciate what a wonderful room it really is. I have vowed to keep things organized, neat and clean. No matter how large or small your book collection is it is important to know what is on the shelves and take the time to arrange your books so they are a visual focal point in a room. Bookshelves are a wonderful addition in your home and the selection of books you have is a story that unfolds about who and what you are. So make the most of your collection and keep reading!

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