How To Declutter Books And Organize Bookshelves

stacks of messy books

In this bustling digital age, where screens dominate our attention, there is something undeniably magical about holding a physical book in your hands, flipping through its pages, and allowing yourself to be transported to different worlds.

Who doesn’t like peace?

Decluttering and organizing your book collection brings a sense of clarity and peace to your space. As you sort through each book, you will experience a profound sense of liberation as you let go of titles that no longer resonate with you or that you have a sentimental attachment to.

By curating an entire book collection that truly reflects your tastes and interests, you create a harmonious environment that nurtures your mind and spirit.

Benefits to decluttering book collections

The benefits of decluttering and organizing your own book collection go beyond the physical realm. It has a profound impact on your mental health and emotional well-being. A cluttered space can contribute to feelings of overwhelm, stress, and even hinder creativity.

By freeing your space from the burden of stacks of books and organizing them thoughtfully, you create an environment that fosters clarity, inspiration, and a sense of calm. It’s like a breath of fresh air for your mind and soul.

Get ready to rediscover the joy of reading, embrace the magic of a well-curated collection, and embark on a path of intentional living through life-changing magic of tidying up, decluttering and organizing your books as we demonstrate tips for both your home library and work environments.


It is important to sort through books before organizing. I find removing all the books from the bookshelves the easiest way to do this. Of course some of us may not have bookshelves and have piles of books to be sorted.

To keep or not keep?

If you’re having trouble deciding which books to keep and which to donate, consider working with a professional organizer (source: New York Times). They can help you identify which books are truly important to you and can facilitate the donation process.

So find a spot and one book at a time decide if it you will keep this treasure to read again and again or gift to a friend or a library or sell. Facebook Marketplace and used online book stores make this process manageable. A garage sale is always an option as well. 

I am a book enthusiast and avid reader. As such I have personal thing about throwing books away. If I had books that were in very bad condition I would incorporate books into an artistic creation.

Common obstacles to decluttering and how to overcome them

Decluttering can be a transformative process, but it’s not without its challenges. Here are a few common obstacles you might encounter and some tips on how to overcome them.

Emotional Attachments 

Letting go of items that you have an emotional connection to can be difficult. To overcome this try focusing on the memories associated with the item rather than the physical object itself. Take photos or create a memory box to preserve the sentiment without the clutter.

Decision Paralysis

Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of belongings can make it hard to make decisions. A great way to begin the first time is to start small and work in short bursts, tackling one area at a time. Break down the process into manageable tasks, and celebrate each small victory along the way.

Pick up one book at a time and decide what you will do with this book and then do it. Repeat.

Fear of Missing Out

The fear that you might need an item in the future can hold you back. Ask yourself if you’ve used or needed the item in the past year. If not, consider letting it go. Remember, decluttering is about creating space for what truly matters to you right now.

Lack of Time

Finding time to declutter can be a challenge in our busy lives. Set aside dedicated decluttering sessions in your schedule and stick to them. Even 15 minutes a day can make a difference. Enlist the help of family or friends to make the process more efficient and enjoyable. Or perhaps you will enjoy drifting solo through a lifetime of memories

Lack of Systems

Without proper organization systems, such as an organized bookshelf, clutter can quickly accumulate. Create a designated place for each item category and label containers. Establish routines for regular maintenance to prevent future clutter buildup.

By acknowledging these obstacles and implementing strategies to overcome them, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the decluttering process and create a space that reflects your values, supports your well-being, and brings you joy. Remember, decluttering is a journey, and progress is more important than perfection.

With the right mindset you can have a large collection of books and maintain easily on a daily basis. 

Organizing at Home

Organizing at home is a rewarding endeavor, but it can also come with its fair share of challenges, especially when there is not enough space or you have a shared living arrangement with others. Here are some common obstacles you may encounter and practical tips for overcoming them:

Limited Space

Small living areas, compact apartments, or cramped rooms can make organizing a daunting task. However there are many creative ways to store books.

Maximize your space by utilizing vertical storage solutions, such as wall-mounted shelves or hanging organizers. Invest in multi-functional furniture that provides storage options. Optimize closet space by using organizers like hanging shelves or shoe racks.

Decluttering regularly is essential to ensure you’re only keeping what you truly need and love.

Shared Living Spaces

When sharing a home with roommates or family members, organizing can become more challenging due to varying preferences and lifestyles. Start by establishing open communication about organizing goals and expectations.

Designate shared spaces and clearly define each person’s responsibilities for maintaining order. A good idea is to consider implementing a system, such as labeled storage bins or color-coded shelves, to keep individual belongings separate and easily identifiable.

Time Constraints

Busy schedules and hectic lifestyles can hinder organizing efforts. Break down organizing tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Set aside specific blocks of time each week for decluttering and organizing. Prioritize tasks based on urgency and impact.

Consistency is key, even if it’s just dedicating 15 minutes a day. Utilize weekends or holidays for more extensive organizing projects.

Lack of Motivation

Finding the motivation to take that first step to start and maintain organizing habits can be challenging. Set clear goals and visualize the benefits of an organized space. Break tasks into smaller, more achievable goals and reward yourself upon completion.

Involve friends or family members in organizing sessions to make it more enjoyable and productive. Follow social media accounts or join online communities focused on organization for inspiration and support.

Resistance to Letting Go

Holding onto unnecessary items can hinder the organizing process. Overcome this challenge by practicing mindfulness and asking yourself if each item serves a purpose or brings you joy.

Set criteria for what you keep, such as “Have I used this in the past year?” or “Does it align with my current lifestyle?” Consider donating or selling items that no longer serve you.

Books are sorted, how to organize?

One effective strategy is to organize your books like a library, in alphabetical order and/or by genre. This makes it easy to find the book you’re looking for and also creates a visually appealing display.

Another strategy is to sort your books into three piles: keep, donate, toss and sell. Keep the books that you love and that have sentimental value, donate the ones that you no longer need or want, and if you can – toss any that are damaged or beyond repair or turn them into little creative works of art like I do. Do a search and look at all the cool things you can do with a recycled single book!

Some Questions to ask yourself

Why should I keep this? 

“Because it was free (or $0.25),” is not a sufficient answer. “Because I paid full price for it,” is not adequate either. If you don’t have space for it and can’t honestly justify it in your collection, let it go!

How often do I use it? 

Can I borrow it from the library or a friend if I need it in the future? 
Have I read it? 
Will I really read it again? 

Is it beautiful? 

Books ought to be beautiful, if at all possible. Books that create visual interest will appeal to readers. There are a few “ugly” exceptions, library-sale treasures that are out of print but still have genuine value.

Do I have duplicates or comparable items?

I don’t know how I had so many duplicate copies of books. It was fun though gifting to friends!

Is it falling apart? 

If it is worth keeping, consider replacing it or having it repaired or rebound. You can often improve the durability of hardcover books by utilizing dust jackets.

What friend of mine would love this book?

Finally, it’s important to find a specific home for each book you decide to keep. This could be a coffee table, bookshelf, a storage bin, or even a decorative basket. By giving each book a designated spot, you’ll be able to keep your collection organized and easy to navigate.

Decluttering and organizing your book collection takes time and effort, but the end result is worth it. A well-organized book collection can bring joy and inspiration to your life, and can even help you develop a deeper appreciation for the books you love.


Here are some additional tips for people with overflowing books in their homes and offices.

Embrace digital books

Consider switching to digital books to save physical space. Most popular books are available in digital format, and there are a variety of e-readers and apps available to read them on.

Donate or sell books 

If you have books that you no longer need or want, consider donating them to a local library, school, or charity. You can also sell them online or at a used book store to make some extra cash.

Create a reading nook

If you have a lot of books that you love and want to keep, create a cozy reading nook in your home or office where you can display and enjoy them. What could be better than curling up on a rainy day and devouring a favorite read. Yum.

Use bookends and shelving creatively

Using bookends and shelving creatively can help you maximize the space you have for your books. For example, you can stack books vertically and horizontally to create a visually appealing display.

Keep your books organized

Once you’ve decluttered and organized your book collection, it’s important to maintain it. Consider using a system like the ones mentioned earlier, such as organizing alphabetically or by genre, to keep your books easy to find and visually appealing.

Decluttering and organizing your book collection can be a process, but it’s worth it to create a space that is functional, aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable. By implementing these tips, you can make the most of your book collection and the space you have available.

Happy reading!

Marj pic

Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutterer and artist. Less is more are words Marj lives by in everything she does except collecting dogs. “Dogs are like potato chips! Can’t have just one.” says Marj. Marj wonders if growing up with a fanatically clean Jewish mom means her decluttering and organizational skills are in her blood.

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