This post is part of a series that I will be sharing with you over the next couple months, based on the 5 week journal that I’ve created. If you don’t want to wait for each post to come out, you can download the journal here: The Seattle Sparkle Method to Get Organized and Stay Organized
My first job was at a children’s bookstore, and in college I worked at the University of Pennsylvania Barnes and Noble, so I have a lot of experience organizing books. In my home organizing practice, there are two categories of people who I have helped with books. About half my book clients want to downsize their book collection. I help them sort through the all their books to separate out the books they want to keep versus the books they want to let go of before we organize them on the shelves. The other half of my clients know they want to keep all their books. I help them categorize them and place them on the shelves so that they can find them later. Are you curious about decluttering and/or organizing your books? If so, keep reading.
There is no “right” way to organize books. I do love looking at a beautifully organized bookshelf that’s organized by color, but that’s really not practical for everyone. Writers and researchers who need to reference their books on a regular basis are probably better off organizing their books by category, and then alphabetically within those categories. Using labels for the shelves helps people find the category of book they are looking for. For people who need to reference a lot of books often, I have helped them create a database of the books that contain several categories that they may be looking for, along with the location as to where the books are stored. Other people love the idea and look of color coordinated books, so we organize them that way.
A good home library is comprised of only books someone loves, NOT books they “should have” or “should read”. That guilt is no fun at all! Books collect way too much dust and take up way too much valuable space. Personally, I am a very slow reader, and have learned how much better I feel when I let go of books I know I will never read or re-read. People can experience a great joy when they finish a book and then pass it on to someone else right away.
Step 1: Identify what books are important to you, and when and why you would be looking for your books. When you can identify what your needs and challenges are, it will help you determine what will be the best way to organize your books.
Step 2: Once you’ve decided how you want to organize your books, start sorting them- either by color, by subject, alphabetically, by size, or however you want to do it. Be sure to declutter along the way. Use temporary boxes or bags to help keep your piles organized.
Step 3: In the previous step I said “declutter along the way”. Now give everything a second pass. Ask yourself if you’re really going to ever read (or re-read) each book. Don’t keep things out of guilt or obligation. Donate books to thrift stores or Little Free Libraries. If you’re someone who wants to repurpose books instead of donating them or throwing them out, there are lots of art projects you can do with them! You can turn them into boxes, lamps, paint on the pages, make a lantern with the pages, make a garland, and so much more! Search Pinterest or Google with “art projects to do with books” and you will find thousands of things to do!
Step 4: Decide where all the books are going to go. Do you need to build or install more bookshelves? Whether you’ve decided to group books by subject or by color, you may also want to then group books by size so that you can put them on appropriately sized shelves. Store books in a room that’s between 68-72 degrees (or slightly cooler) and is away from direct sunlight. The humidity should be at around 35-50%. Books should be stored upright to preserve their spine.
Step 5: Put the books in their new homes. If needed, label the shelves so you can find what you need.
Step 6: Maintain! Keep your books in pristine condition. Dust them regularly. Don’t fold corners or use paperclips or sticky notes as bookmarks. If you’re really concerned about your books, use an air purifier if you live in a place with poor air quality. Have clean hands before touching your books. If you’re really worried about your books, wear gloves when you handle them. And if you’re really interested in preserving your books, you can use archival wrapping. When handling rare books, in addition to all the previous instructions, open the book gently, turn pages one at a time (don’t flip through the pages recklessly), don’t bend the spine, and use archival quality bookmarks.
Declutter and organize your books and magazines. Will you really read or reference the books again? Or do they bring positive memories? Sometimes we keep books and magazines out of obligation or guilt. If that’s the case, it’s ok to let them go. How do you like to organize your books? By subject? Title? Author? Size? Color? Take some time to put your books in order.
What are you reading? Do you read too much? Or do you want to read more? Reading is a great way to keep your brain sharp, to consider new ideas and perspectives, and to practice focusing. Quiet time spent alone will also increase your self-attunement- the ability to hear yourself think, to feel your body, and to be able to differentiate what you want from what someone else wants. Read something that motivates you. Aim to live in “creative mode” by consuming (reading), but not to the point where you can’t do anything else.
Posted By Jean Prominski, Certified Professional Organizer
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