Ok, fine. True, books do not technically constitute a room. At least not for everyone. But books do hold such a special place in so many hearts, we felt the implication was justified. And also…who doesn’t secretly dream of a home library?
For book lovers, letting go can be much harder than anything else in the home. Where you were when you read a book and who gave it to you might trigger a reflex to keep it even though you don’t have the space or the need. As a result, it is important to dig a little deeper when you are organizing your books. Ask yourself a few tough questions to help you declutter, and then set up a system that works for you.
Ok, let’s get started!
First, pick a day and time when you have availability to actually get the job done. Keep in mind that it takes time to properly organize books. Make sure you do this activity during a period when you have a second day to finish the job in case you don’t on the first day.
We recommend that you find a cozy spot to sit. A low chair is good if you have one; sitting for long periods on the floor organizing books can be hard on the body / booty! Grab a dusting cloth and some sturdy SMALL boxes for books donations before you settle in.
First, Ask this Question
As you begin to sort through books, ask yourself this question for every single book: will I read it again?
My entire current book collection virtually still exists in my home due to an affirmative answer to this question. I first re-organized my books about five years ago, and asked the question for each and every book I own. Since I did an English Lit degree, a lot of them were books I read for class, but didn’t totally love (I’m looking at you, Moby Dick). This answer determined what I kept.
Now, after I finish a new book, I automatically ask the question. If the answer is no, I take it to the little free library down the street so that they don’t build up again. With this system, you will never have to reorganize your books ever again.
I Won’t Read it Again, But…
If the answer is no, but you still can’t bear to part with it, ask why. If the book is memorabilia, put it on a memorabilia shelf. Seeing it next to other like titles might make you re-think your choice – or just feel glad to see them all together! If you are keeping it to loan to someone else, read on.
Separate Action from Reference
We apply this rule when helping clients with their paper and office organization, and it applies to books as well. As you sort through books, make sure to separate ones that you want to read from ones you’ve already read. Keep the “to read” section in it’s own area. This helps you know what’s on your list, and can help you to avoid buying more until you are ready.
If there are books you’d like to loan to someone (or think you might in the near future), keep those in a separate place too. This will make finding what you want MUCH easier. Better yet, stick a Post-it on each book you’d like to loan, write the name of the recipient and put them near your front door or in your car so that you can get them to the person right away!
If you want to loan books out and keep track of who you’ve loaned them to, we recommend a great app to keep track of them. It’s called iBookshelf. We use this in our OrgNW library to keep track of which organizer has which book. You can sort by title, author, genre or status, and the status options are wanted, owned, lent out, borrowed, and removed. This app is free and has worked well for us!
Once you have separated the books you are ready to let go of, you’ll want to take them to donation. Most local libraries take books donations – check yours before bringing them in to make sure you know what they take. Many prisons also organize book donations for inmates. Again, call ahead! You can always take books to Goodwill if you aren’t sure where else to take them.
If you are in Portland, check out our donation resources guide and click “books”
Create an Organizing System
Having an organizing system for books is key if you are a book lover. You are much more likely to enjoy them if you do! Here are some ideas for creating an organizing system that works for you.
- Put each genre on a different shelf. I know someone with each genre in a different room, and the rooms are named by the books contained in it! My favorite room in their home is Feminine Science Fiction, obvy.
- Rainbow organize by spine color. Good if you are a visual person and remember the book’s cover and spine. Bad if you have lots of series with non-cohesive colors.
- Alphabetically. This is the most vanilla way to organize your books, and works pretty well. You can do it by author first name, last name, or book title. Start with the second word if the first letter is “the” or “a”.
- Chronologically, by publishing date. While this method is admittedly bordering on pretentious, putting books together based on publishing date actually makes a lot of sense. Keeping time periods together means that all new books (the majority of your incoming items) will go to the same spot. It will also clarify where in history books belong together, making your whole collection blend seamlessly.
Do you have any ways to organize your books that are not mentioned? Please comment and we will add your idea!