5 Ways to Reclaim Your Cluttered Bookshelf

As an avid reader, I’m certainly pro-books. I love having books in the house, even once I’ve read them. Just seeing a book I’ve read setting on the shelf can bring back wonderful memories of the tantalizing tales or lessons within. However, too many books can make an otherwise clean-cut room seem heavy. Read on to see how you can keep your books AND polish your look.

Don’t Fill Out Each Shelf

A major no-no is cramming each shelf of your bookcase to capacity. This will give off a cluttered look, no matter how the books are arranged.  Instead, fill each shelf ½ to ¾ full and place little knick knacks in the empty spaces. The extra space makes it look like your intentionally kept those particular books to showcase and are not simply using the bookcase as a storage unit (even if you are).  

As for the knick knacks, consider items such as small plants, photos, candles, or any other decorate pieces that fit your style. Refrain from putting these items in front of your books. Only use the empty space to the side! Putting any decorative items along the shelves of a full bookcase will only make it look more cluttered, not less!

Purge the Books That No Longer Serve a Purpose

I said you can keep your books, but maybe not all your books. Chances are, you haven’t taken the time to consider the value of your books recently. Or maybe ever! Rare editions, trusty cookbooks, your favorite novels… feel free to hang onto those.  

On the other hand, you may own books from an old college course, beach-read novels that didn’t leave a lasting impact, how-to books you’ve never once opened… you get the picture.  Let them go! Send these books on their way to a new home where they can be appreciated! Donate them or take them to your local resale store and trade them in for a small amount of cash. Specialized books such as college textbooks can be sold for a higher price to certain online sellers. Check around online to see what yours might be worth. Make some room and some money while you’re at it.

Alternate Sides

So we talked about not filling out each shelf. You’ve got that down. On top of that, alternate which side of the shelf your books are on. So, say you’ve got a bookshelf with 4 shelves. On the 1st and 3rd shelves, have the books start on the left and go across with room to spare on the right side. On the 2nd and 4th shelves, have the books start on the right side and go across with room to spare on the left. This will give a more balanced look to your shelves and your room.

Keep Your Current Reads in a Separate Place

I like to think about books in two different ways: by decor and function. Most of our books on a day to day basis end up serving the purpose of decor. However, in any given month, there are likely several books you’re using on a weekly basis: your current novel, your Bible, your favorite cookbooks, your book club read.  

Keep together on one shelf, basket, or table the books that you are accessing frequently. You don’t want these mixed among your “decor” books, because every time you grab for one, you’ll mess up the arrangement. But these books still need a home! Pick a place (you might have a few different places for different family members) where your current reads will belong for the time that you’re using them.

If All Else Fails, Relocate!

If you’ve reached the end of this post and are shaking your head, thinking, “None of this will work for me,” this last section is for you. Perhaps you don’t want to get rid of any of your books. You think knick knacks are stupid, and you just can’t (or won’t) create any space in your shelves to make the room appear more clean cut. That’s okay. I’m not here to force you to get rid of anything. However, at this point my best suggestion for you would be to put your books elsewhere.  

If you’re trying to make your living room or office look less cluttered, but aren’t willing to downsize your book collection, perhaps it’s time to put some of it in a less seen location.  Transfer half (or more… probably more) of your books a cabinet with solid doors or even a closet.

If all of your books are currently in one location, you could also consider splitting them up throughout the house into smaller batches that look less overwhelming. The name of the game is minimalism. If you don’t have a minimal amount of books, create the illusion that you do.