white books with no dust cover and interior page edges showing against white background

Organizing Books: Decluttering and Ordering Your Book Collection

Calling all book lovers!

This is the best post for learning quick tips for organizing books you can implement today!

How Many Books is Too Many?

Let’s start off with the obvious, just how many books is too many?

Since you’re reading this, I’ll bet you’re wondering if you do have too many books and if that’s the reason why its so hard for your to keep and organized home!

Take a peek at where you are storing your books. 

Are any on the floor, stacked up in a corner? 

Is your bookcase absolutely stuffed with books making it difficult to even pull out a book to read?  

How about this, are your bookcase shelves bowing under the weight of your book collection? 

Do you feel emotionally connected to most of your books and get overwhelmed at the thought of parting with your books?

If you answered yes, to any of these questions, you probably have too many books!

Today, I’m going to teach you how to pare down your collection with practical and realistic strategies!  

These book organizing tips will help you get things in order quickly!

The Goal of Organizing Books

If you’re still reading this, then chances are you already know your book collection is a little out of hand.

So get ready for a hard and fast rule that’s admittedly a little arbitrary, but is a great starting point!

Pare down your bookcase so that 75% of the space is taken up by books and 15-20% is decorative items and 5-10% is free space. 

Why these proportions? 

Your bookcase will be well balanced and will be more pleasing to the eye. 

Plus you’ll actually be able to see what you have.

And you want to leave yourself with a bit of room to grow too.

Another new rule: no books piled up in the corner.

Books must fit in their designated homes: on a bookshelf or on your night stand.

Sticking to these rules will help you keep your space free of clutter by establishing a limit.

Staying within these limits means you won’t let your book collection get out of control!

A Balanced Approach to Organizing Books

In order to pare down your collection to meet this book organization goal, you’re going to have to let go of some books.

Here are some suggestions for easy candidates to leave.

Think of these suggestions as decluttering rules:

Books in Bad Shape

If the book isn’t in readable condition, be practical and let the book go.

Because let’s be honest, broken bindings with pages falling out are hard to read!

Books Contaminated with Mold and Mildew

Letting go of books with mildew or mold on them is a no brainer!

They’re making your space smell weird and you’re putting your health at risk by keeping them around.

Look for mold on the book cover as well as the edges of the pages.

On the cover, you might see white powdery substance that might at first glance look like dust.

Sometimes the mold is in circle shaped spots and sometimes it spans across the entire cover.

Check the book page edges for darker spots of mold.

Even if you don’t see visible signs on mold, give the book a whiff and if it doesn’t pass the smell test, either trash it or treat it.

Sometimes mildewy books can be saved by putting them outside in the sun, but usually not.

If you’re dealing with an entire musty collection, it’s best to let them go.

Books you’re not Actually Going to Read

The next category of books to let go of are those you won’t read.

If you’re no longer interested in the topic, or you watched the movie and aren’t keen on reading the book now, it’s time to let the books go.

Same with gift books.

You shouldn’t feel guilty about letting these types of books go.

You’re just being realistic about how you want to spend your time.

That’s not something to feel guilty about.

Books You Didn’t Like or Aren’t Favorites

Similarly, ditch books you read and didn’t like!

This should be the easiest type of book to let go of.

Same with books that you’ve read and we’re just ok.

Sell them to a used book store or donate to your library.

If you didn’t love the book, you’re not going to re-read it, so why have it in your home?

Books You No Longer Need

Do you have books you’re keeping around for “reference?”

When’s the last time you actually referenced those books?

Take your textbooks from college.

I’ll bet you’ve not ever looked at those since you graduated!

But you’re keeping those because you’re not confident that you know what you need to know to do your job.

But you do!

And you know that because you’ve not ever looked in those reference books since you finished your degree!

So live into your newly realized confidence and let those old college textbooks go!

Same with parenting books.

If you still have a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but your kids are in college, it’s time to pass that book along to someone who needs it!

Outdated Books

Books with outdated information, as well as information you can easily find online, are also really good candidates to let go of.

Duplicate Books

More than one copy of a book?

Let at least one copy go.

This goes for hardback and paperback versions as well – pick one to keep and let go of the other.

I’ve had clients who had more than one copy of the exact same book about how to get organized! 

If only they’d called me earlier! Ha! 

What Books to Keep

I’ve just covered a bunch of books that you absolutely should be getting rid of sooner rather than later.

But I’m really not advocating for a complete clean out of all of your books!

Instead, you should be keeping a select few types of books:

  • Your absolute favorite books that you enjoy re-reading
  • Books you reference frequently
  • Books you plan to read within the next 6 months (be realistic!)

In order to organize anything, it’s important to be realistic.

If life has become busier, or you migraines when you read now, then it doesn’t make sense to hand on to a bunch of unread books with the intention of getting to them “Some Day.”

In this context, “Some Day” means never.

Be honest with yourself on what you have time for and let go of what you don’t!

What to Do with Valuable Books

But hang on, you say!  

The First Edition of The Baby Sitter’s Club book I have is worth a lot of money!  

Listen,  I loved that series too, but I’m betting it isn’t worth what you think it is.

Instead of guessing on a book’s value, head on over to Biblio.com/book-value or eBay to check out the real numbers. 

Search eBay’s complete listings for the amount your book is worth on the open market.

Seeing the actual value may make it easier to let go of some books you thought were worth more than they really are.  

Bad news for Baby Sitter’s Club fans, I’m guessing…

In all seriousness, check out the true value of your books that you think have a decent monetary value to see if your perception matched with reality!

What to Do with Decluttered Books

Now that you have a big ol’ stack of books you’re ready to party with, what comes next?

This part is pretty straight forward:

Sell or donate!

Selling Books

Depending on the book title and it’s popularity, selling unwanted book clutter is a great way to get a little return!

This guide will walk you through the process to get top dollar.

You can also take your books to a used book store to see if they’ll buy them.

Donating Books

If you’re not interested in selling your books, then donating them is a great option!

Find a Little Free Library near you, or drop them off at your neighborhood library.

Organizing Your Book Collection

With the remaining books , it’s time to put them into some sense of order!

Use the rule shared at the beginning of this post for guidance: Leave 20-30% of the space designated for books open for growth or decorative items.

Within those limits, order your books like so:

Put Like with Like

Just like organizing everything else in your home, grouping like with like is key to making your books easy to find!

This means you’ll group all of your travel books together or all books by a certain author together.

Group Unread Books Together

Designate one shelf or a portion of a shelf, for the unread books you intend to read.

Grouping them all together will make it easy for you to snag one the next time you’re ready to start a new read!

Resist the urge to display all books if you want a clean and uncluttered look.

Sorting by size

The next tip for really tidy looking book shelves is to order the books from tallest to shortest on each shelf.

It’ll give your bookcase a more cohesive feel!

Sorting by color

Some people prefer to sort their books by color, but I’m not one of them.

This works if you have a collection that’s pretty static, and doesn’t change often.

And this really isn’t reality for the vast majority of readers I know.

They’re adding to their collection too often to keep up with the system.

It does look nice, but nice in a magazine sort of way and not in a practical and realistic way!

Finishing Touches

Once you have your books on the shelves, it’s time to add in the decorative elements.

Breaking up the shelves with memory items can make the space feel more personal and intimate, and much less library like.

Over to you!

And now you have some fantastic book organizing tips that you can use for years to come.

The thing about organizing books is that it isn’t difficult, but it is time consuming, especially if you have a large collection.

Tackle to project one shelf at a time and soon you’ll find you’re done with this organizing project!

Scroll to top