Sunday, February 11, 2018

That Time I Accidentally Organized My Bookshelves

Last weekend, I was looking at my shelves and realizing how many of them were precariously doubled up to such an extent that I couldn't see half of the books on many of them. I remembered I had a small, lightweight bookcase I hid away in a closet after I got tired of constantly re-shelving it. For some reason, my son was particularly attracted to tearing everything off those particular shelves. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. He still loves to pull his own books down, but for the most part, the "adult" books don't hold as much appeal. Nor does the simple act of pulling everything down just because he can (for the most part).

So this small bookcase was a $5 garage sale find many years ago. Instead of flat shelves, each level has two wooden slats that hold the books on a backward slant (hard to explain, but bear with me). It is the perfect setup for small books like mass market paperbacks. So I was indeed using it for my mass markets which meant it held a mishmash of genres. Sorting books by size doesn't exactly result in an efficient or logical organizational system. But there was one benefit of this system: it actually wasn't full -- in fact, it was only about half full. So I figured that just by using that bookcase again, I should be able to declutter my main shelves a bit, as long as I figured out what to put on it so I would be utilizing the whole thing.

I started thinking about how many Newbery books I have in my collection, how I want to read more of them, and how disorganized and hard they are to find and it hit me -- this could be my Newbery shelf! So I told my son we were doing a "project" and he helped me carry all those shiny medal-ed books from all the places they were haphazardly occupying all over the house. After I saw approximately how many there were, I made the decision to keep series and sequels together even if all the individual books were not Newberys.

Don't mind the makeshift quilt/blackout curtain.

Hardcovers and over-sized paperbacks fit as long as I put them on the top shelf. From the left, I started with stand-alone Medalists, followed by stand-alone Honors, then filled in the rest with series/sequels that include either Medal and/or Honor books. Boy, do I have a lot of Newbery reading to look forward to!

So once I had this Newbery bookcase all set, the rest of our books were even messier than before I started. The only other spot in the house with extra room was my nightstand bookcase. It had been housing a completely random assortment of old ARCs (::hangs head in shame::) and newly acquired books with no where else to go. I pulled those all off and decided I wanted to do another themed bookcase: poetry and novels-in-verse. 

Hey Julie, that top shelf is starting to smile! :)

I just love how both of these turned out! I can now so easily navigate two categories of books I'm actively interested in reading more of. I can actually see what all my choices are when I want to pick up my next Newbery or novel-in-verse, or I'm looking for my next poetry collection to dip into.

So the "accidentally" part of this blog post title comes into play because I really thought I was just going to fill up one bookcase (which turned into two!) that had some extra space so I could de-clutter the main shelves a bit. But once I was underway, everything just got messier and messier and I ended up pulling down almost all of the YA, Middle Grade, and Children's books from my main shelves, so I could do a revamp. I finally figured out where to stash away the rest of the Christmas books because as much as I'd love to keep them out, I just don't have room for all the seasonal stuff year-round. (A privileged problem to have, I know.) My shelves are not alphabetical, but they are back to being grouped roughly by type rather than like an archaeological site where you had to dig around for various piles grouped based on when they were added to the collection. There is still a lot of doubling up, but not so much that I can't see what's in the back layer anymore.

Once I had most of the books back on the main shelves, I realized there was still a bit of overflow if I wanted to keep the doubling-up in check. So I moved a few classic middle grade series (Paddington Bear, The Borrowers, The Moomins, and Enid Blyton), a random anthology that didn't fit anywhere else, and my short stack of library/read-soon books to this little shelf in the guest room.

Of course, everything now fits with basically no wiggle room, so I now need to: 1. keep myself in check with the book buying (hello, budget!) and 2. do a real clean out. I know the best way to organize any kind of stuff is to first get rid of some of it, but I did not have the brain power to make culling decisions that day, so I didn't even try. But a student at my church is running a book drive at the end of the month, so I'm thinking by then I will make a better attempt to see what books should move onto a new home.

* * * * *

How do you organize your bookshelves? I'd love to know!

Also, I'm so excited to see if any of my middle grade books need to migrate to the Newbery shelf when the winners are announced tomorrow (Monday, Feb 12th)! There will be a live webcast of the ALA Youth Media Awards, including Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and more starting at 8AM Mountain time. Are there any books you're rooting for?


  1. Oh, my goodness, I love this post so much. Organizing bookshelves is the best! I just did a total revamp of mine, and I know what you mean about no wiggle room. I have not a single spot to add new books, and I haven't yet decided what to do about that. Obviously I can't completely stop buying books (that's just not realistic). So should I start stacking and doubling up again when new books enter the house, or should I make myself get rid of a book so a new book can fit? Augh!

    I love your smiling shelf!! That means you're doing things right. :) And I'm jealous of that Newbery bookcase. It's so pretty and full! Most of my Newbery reads have come from the library, but I'd love to own all of the winners (at least) some day.

    Glad you had fun reorganizing your shelves! It's definitely one of my favorite activities! :)

    1. Bookworm problems! Good luck figuring it out :)

      I think my Newbery case is the most likely spot where I will need more room in the future -- it's amazing how many of those books I find at used book stores and garage sales -- must be something about kids having to read them for school!

  2. I love organizing my shelves! Every so often I look over at my bookcases and realize they are a mess and then I go crazy pulling them all down and rearranging them! I love that you now have a Newbery shelf. Good idea. :) I usually organize my shelf by genre, and what I think looks nice.

    1. They do get messy far more easily than I'd like... so I can totally see that happening! I'm not the most diligent housekeeper, but with books and my house in general, I hit a point where I'm like enough! OK I'm dealing with this now LOL


I'd love to hear what you think :)