Now that the weather is warming up and we have more sunshine than snow, is anyone else feeling the urge to clean up your home from all the clutter that has accumulated over the winter?

I know, I know, the whole Marie Kondo kerfuffle from January is still fresh in people’s minds. But, before you go off about “how dare you tell me to keep only thirty books” – she was only using the number thirty as an example of what works for her, not what you should or should not do.  I’m simply going to share some ideas of what I like to do periodically, so that there’s room on my shelves for the books that matter to me.

I have a house, but it’s not huge. I have three Billy bookshelves from Ikea and a little book cart. That’s it. That’s all the space I have for storing books. I love books and I love reading. I love books as décor too. But I also like my space to not be super cluttered. When my house isn’t tidy, it stresses me out to the point that I can’t write and I can’t even sit and read or watch a movie. I have to tidy first.

I buy books, I get them from the library, from publishers for review, and as gifts. My books accumulate. Fast. So where do I put them?

I don’t have space for more bookshelves. So I must clean out my shelves to make room for the new books.

The best way I’ve found for keeping my bookshelves tidy is to strike a balance between continual maintenance and occasional cleaning.

 

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Continual Maintenance of My Bookshelves

When I get or buy a book, I shelve it appropriately.

  • My immediate TBR (now on my book cart, previously it was on a certain shelf on the book case) or
  • My eventual TBR (a specific shelf on the book case).

When I finish reading a book, I decide if it’s one I want to keep.

  • If it’s a book I want to keep (either because I really enjoyed it, feel a special connection to it, or think I’m likely to want to read it again), I shelve it with similar books on my bookshelves. Middle grade books go with middle grade books, graphic novels go with graphic novels, romances go with romances, etc.
  • If I didn’t like the book a ton, feel no special connection to it or don’t think I’m likely to read it again, I add it to the bag beside the bookshelves for donating.
  • A third option here is if I know someone who I think will love the book. In that case, I plop a sticky note with that person’s name on it to the book’s cover and put it on the little wall shelf in my kitchen beside my key rack so I can take the book to that person the next time I see them (or mail it to them if they’re far away).

If the book is a library book, it goes to my immediate TBR and when I’m finished, it goes to the kitchen shelf to be returned as soon as possible so other readers can enjoy it.

By following these guidelines I’ve made for myself, I’m able to keep my books from overflowing and getting out of hand.

 

Occasional Cleaning of My Bookshelves

At least once a year, I try to dedicate some time to clean out my bookshelves and make room for new books. I was once a huge book hoarder. When my husband and I got married and moved, I donated a hockey bag worth of books and still had 27 boxes of books to move into our three-storey walk-up. (Yeah, he wasn’t a happy camper carrying those in…or back out when we moved again.)

Now, I try to keep my shelves a little less cluttered by only keeping books that I love.

 

So how do I spring clean my bookshelves?

Step 1: Take all the books off the shelves.

Pile them on the bed, on the floor, on the table, wherever there’s room.

 

Step 2: Sort the books.

Choose the categories that work for you. I usually do a two-fold sort at the same time. I sort the books by genre and pile them with other books that I will shelve them with (no matter how much maintenance I try to do, the shelves always end up getting messy) and while sorting them for shelving I also decide whether each book is a keeper or a donation. The same guidelines as above apply: Did I love it? Is this edition special to me? Will I reread it? If no, it goes in the donate bag.

 

Step 3: Reshelve the books.

Reshelving them according to their genres or colours or size or alpha or however you want to do it takes time and tetris-skills. I love making my shelves look beautiful, and so sorting the books and deciding where each category should go and which order the books should go in takes me a long time. But it also help me do one final cleanse of the books. As I shelve them, I once again consider each book and if I want to keep it. Often, I kept a book because I loved it and thought I’d read it again, but now that it’s three months or two years later, I no longer feel the same way. So I allow myself to donate that book.

 

Donating Books

After my spring cleaning, I usually have a huge pile of books to donate. I’ve found reusable tote bags bags are a handy way to collect the books and are good sturdy carriers for getting those books to their donation point.

My favourite places to donate books include

While I know some folks are very hesitant to get rid of any books, I’m a huge believer of the importance of clearing out your shelves every once in a while. Reading tastes change, and you might no longer be interested in reading a certain genre or style of book that you loved ten years ago. So, rather than a book sitting alone, forgotten and forlorn on your shelf, give it a new life with a new reader by taking it off your shelf and donating it.

How to tidy up your bookshelves - spring cleaning, bookshelf edition - photo of a tote bag next to bookshelves

  1. Nicola Cameron says:

    Aaah! Raw spot here! I have 8 book shelves and 4 of them are double stacked. I arrange by author and tend to buy as many of one author as I can. The only books in my shelves that are published after 1950 are from authors I know, who have signed them.
    The oldest book I own is about 150 years old. There is no publication date on it.

  2. Okay, one, a book that is that old is really cool. But two, girl – get yourself some newer books! There are so many absolutely amazing books being written these days. And if you want to write stuff that will get published today, read what’s being published today. 🙂

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