the beauty of a bookshelf

Ok, I WISH the above picture was my bookshelf. I have yet to pare down my bookshelf to that level yet, but I thought I would offer some advice and use that pic as an inspiration to change.

I love bookshelves. If it were up to me, I would have them elegant, refined, full of interesting books and objects d’art and have ample, clean storage for anything that doesn’t fit. As it stands, mine are almost where I want them, but they are also full of books I don’t read, cds I don’t listen to, souvenirs I have from another life and too many of my husband’s textbooks to count (he’s getting better!). The very first task I need to set myself to doing is to start sorting out the books into categories: keep, donate and recycle.

Keep: my first feeling is to keep books I use all the time. The essential cookbooks that are used so often they have stains in them (nothing TOO gross!). The reference books that are still useful (my pocket Japanese and French dictionaries for one, camping books for my husband). The novels that I can read over and over again without getting sick of them (Thomas Hardy novels). Children’s book (the absolute essentials I want to pass on like “The Lonely Doll”).

Donate: Be vicious. I know I say this all the time when I talk about purging belongings, but it’s especially important with books. It’s so easy for me to hold on to something just because somebody gave it to me as a gift. I like to make deals and exchanges in my mind. “I can keep this vintage cookbook if I give up two poetry books.” That way I feel like I’m being fair. I also try to not be sentimental (as much as possible). I have to remember that they ARE just paper after all. Anything that I feel I can’t live without, but I don’t need, I can always get at the library (novels) or get online (recipes). If I have extra-special memories with a book, like my copy of “Little Women” that my dad and I read together, deserves extra space and attention. Remember that when you’re worried about keeping EVERY novel you’ve ever read. Plus, the bonus about donating is that I know my books are going to a good home.

Recycle: You can recycle books in many areas now. I save recycling for books with severely dog-eared pages, stains, torn covers, anything that somebody wouldn’t be able to read. I also try to sort through the bookshelf and books themselves for scrap papers, ticket stubs, magazine renewal cards, anything that really needs to be pitched. They can really start adding up and make a big mess come organizing time.

Now comes the sort. I took all the books I had put together in the “keep” pile and sorted them by category. I don’t worry about alphabetizing (yes, I normally do in other projects) or color or anything like that at this point. I would probably do another sort at this point. Just take a look at the giant piles and see if they’re going to fit with some space around them in the bookcases you have, not the ones you wished you had. I have two bookcases, but I also have a printer on one shelf and a giant stack of records on another. I don’t have a whole heck of a lot of room. I also have lots of picture albums. Don’t forget those! They need a home somewhere. A bookcase is a nice place to display them, I think.

Once I sort the books, I start thinking of pretty and meaningful objects that I could display and look for room for them. I have some things that I love having in my bookcase. Vases, a wedding gift, an African mask, a little Matrushka doll from Russia, things that are special. If I had more strictly decorative objects, I could find a home for those too, but I’ll have to wait on that. I also pull out the two or three books that I really want to be displayed, like my copy of “Little Women.” Now it’s time to decorate!

How about sorting the books, once they’re in categories, by color or size instead of title or author? That could look really cute. Or stacking them on top of each other on one shelf and up and down on another. That gives a lot of visual appeal. It might limit the storage space a little, but they definitely look more decorative that way. What about using one of those special items as a bookend? In my project, I decided to use few vintage cookbooks, face out, for a bookend. Just make sure it holds up! You don’t want to ruin a perfectly nice vase. You can also get nice bookends when you go to the Salvation Army to drop off the books you’re donating. Just don’t get more than one or two. The whole point is to DE-clutter the bookshelf.

My last little project was to remember to keep recycling books out whenever I get ones in, and to keep the display cute and interesting. Bookshelves are not a piece of furniture just to be ignored. The style on the shelves can be just as important as the style of the bookshelf itself.

Speaking of which, I got a few books for Christmas and have to work on my bookshelf again too. I also hastily threw some books and mementos in our second bookshelf when we moved here and they need some love.

I hope this helps you in your book storage a little. Let me know what you think!

1 thought on “the beauty of a bookshelf”

  • Aww the bookshelf. I love the look of it, but I love my books more. Dustin and I are avid readers. Someday we are going to have full on library. Until then my bookshelf will unfortunately be packed to the brim. Though one good thing is I always get rid of books I don't like to read. 🙂

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