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How to declutter a bookshelf

The top tips for sprucing your bookshelf during the annual spring clean.

As the new season approaches, it’s time again for the annual spring clean.

It may however pose a challenge for booklovers, who want to declutter the bookshelf but struggle to part with pre-loved novels.

We have some tips on how you can spruce up your bookshelf and even give your favourite books a second life.

Get reading

It’s an obvious but a foolproof tip. If you’re looking to declutter your bookshelf the best way to start is by tearing through the to-be-read pile so you can then pass them on to friends and family or store them away.

If you need some motivation to start reading, author of Raising Girls Who Like Themselves, Christopher Scanlon, has some tips.

He suggests reading in micro-bursts in the same way you read a news article on your phone, scroll through social media or glance at your emails during the school pick-up.

‘[Read your book] in the same bursts that you would have previously looked at social media,’ he says.

Nick Earls, who has just released his new book Empires, says people can also motivate themselves to read by booking time in the diary like you would a work meeting.

‘Tell family members in advance you’ll be doing it, and that the diary entry committing to reading has the same weight as a concert ticket,’ he says.

Regift and donate

We all have books on our shelf that we’ve been meaning to read — but let’s face it — you keep getting distracted with new books and are failing to ever get around to it.

Maybe you’re just not that into it, and it’s time to regift it to a friend or family member.

Alternatively, give the books you’ll never get around to reading a second life by donating them to charity or your local library.

Reorganise the bookshelf

Maybe you don’t have to part with any books at all to give your bookshelf a spring clean.

Put some thought into restoring some order to your bookshelf — grouping your books by genre or alphabetising the titles or authors could be a good place to start.

By reorganising your books, you’ll still feel a sense of accomplishment and introducing a new system for your home library could help make things feel a little less chaotic.

Embrace technology

If you really can’t say goodbye to any of your paperbacks and you have run out of space to fit another bookshelf, perhaps it’s time to consider other options.

Keeping your books within the confines of your smartphone or tablet will ensure no more novels are being jammed into any vacant nooks and crannies.

Perhaps it is time to give an audiobook a go while you’re out for your daily stroll or read an eBook instead.

Upcycle your books

There are ways to keep your books close to you without having them on the bookshelf.

You could consider transforming them into an artwork by framing your favourite covers and pages or repurposing binders into bookmarks.

How to get motivated for a spring clean

Create Space, written by Dilly Carter, details the importance of decluttering your home to clear your mind.

It teaches you how to reclaim your space, improving your relationships and enhancing your wellbeing in the process.

The guide to organising and decluttering your home is packed with ideas, advice, tips and techniques that are functional, as well as beautiful, and is the perfect buy just in time for spring.

More spring cleaning inspiration

How to declutter a bookshelf

How to declutter a bookshelf

Create Space Dilly Carter

Streamline your possessions with simple sorting and storage solutions and discover the mental health benefits of living in a clutter-free home

How to declutter a bookshelf

If you’re a book-lover like me your bookshelves are perpetually bursting at the seams, overflowing with cherished books and serving as the consummate conversation starter in your living room. Maybe bookshelves are the staple in your living room and maybe you’ve decorated your home around the number of bookshelves you’d need to keep (most of) your books out of boxes. Sound familiar?

Friends walk into your living room and comment on the sheer volume of books (“Have you actually read all those?!”) and marvel at the diversity (“Wow, you have both Rush Limbaugh and Al Gore on your shelf?”). Maybe you’ve even seen true friendships forged in shared book love (“Really?! My favorite author is Gene Stratton Porter, too! Let’s be best friends!”).

I am currently redecorating my living room (goal: buy matching furniture for the first time in my life!) and am forced to acknowledge that books and their shelves are standing between me and my decorating dreams. Bookshelves are the reason I have pragmatically decorated my living room, focusing on the function of bookshelves rather than the fashion of furniture decor.

Can you imagine the world of possibility that unfolds once “I’m a bookworm” is not the only statement in your decor?

But how on earth do you decide which books to keep and which to remove from your collection?

Using four simple questions, I just halved my bookshelf collection and made room for fashionable decor.

How to declutter a bookshelf

1. Have I read this book?

If I’ve already devoured the wisdom, humor, story, or insight of the book the chances are high that I can cull it from my collection without ever missing its existence on my shelf.

2. Will I read it (or read it again) this year?

If I’m not going to read or re-read the book this year (I gave myself a twelve month window, rather than sticking with the current calendar year), I might as well not have it clutter my shelves.

3. If I later decide to re-read it, will I be able to easily find a replacement copy?

Especially in the world of eBooks and Amazon Prime, most books are easily found again online. So just in case I regret my decision to discard the book, having a safety net is always helpful.

(If I probably won’t be able to find a replacement copy, then I should probably keep the book. Rare books are worth keeping on your shelf!)

4. Is there sentimental reason to keep this copy of this book?

Just because it is replaceable doesn’t mean it should be replaceable. I will probably never discard the books that my great-aunt bequeathed to me and I will always cherish the marriage book I made notes in during premarital counseling.

How to declutter a bookshelf

How to declutter a bookshelf

How to declutter a bookshelf

How to declutter a bookshelf

How to declutter a bookshelf

How to declutter a bookshelf

Bookshelves are the catch-all for things that don’t quite have a place or storage for things you intend to put away later. Let’s declutter your bookshelves and make them #shelfie worthy.

How to declutter a bookshelf

Much like kitchen countertops and junk drawers, bookshelves can easily and quickly become cluttered. Here are 5 ways to easily declutter your bookshelves and keep them that way!

5 Ways to Easily Declutter Your Bookshelves (and Keep Them That Way)

Before tackling the decluttering process, you’ll first want to get an idea of what you’ll be using your bookshelves for.

Are you a reader and want to turn one into a mini library? Are you more into visual art and would like to use a bookshelf to showcase some cool pieces?

Decide beforehand so you’ll make the process much easier. Now let’s get to those steps!

Step 1. Remove everything from each shelf.

It may sound more ideal to work one shelf at a time, but for this project you’ll want to start with a completely clean slate. Not to mention, depending on much stuff you collected, your bookshelf could most likely use a good cleaning.

Once you’ve removed everything, give your entire unit a good wipe down. Don’t forget areas that may not be seen such as the very top, the backside, and underneath each shelf.

Step 2. Establish cleaning piles.

Same as most decluttering processes, it’s best to set up cleaning piles. Create a “keep” pile, “throw away” pile, and a “give away” (or donate) pile.

In some cases you may want to have a pile for items that simply need to be stored somewhere else. Make sure you look at each and every item and ask yourself a few simple questions before making a final decision:

  • Is this something I currently use?
  • Do I really need this?
  • Does this belong somewhere else?
  • Could I sell this?
  • Would someone else benefit from having this?

How to declutter a bookshelf

Step 3. Clean up the piles.

It can become difficult trying to restyle your bookshelves without having the other piles out of the way, so before you put things on the shelves, get rid of the other piles.

Bag up the trash pile and throw it away. Bag up the donate and/or sell piles and put them in another place. And last but not least, take items that need to be stored elsewhere to their new locations.

Now all you’re left with are the things you need to put back on the bookshelves.

Step 4. Replace the items.

Now you’re ready to decorate your shelves with the items you’ve kept behind. If you’re using the shelves for books, consider adding just a few per shelf, filling it to about three-fourths of the length. This will leave room for a stylish decor piece that can double as a book stopper.

Bookshelves are also great for storing cute bins, boxes, and picture frames. The overall goal is to not re-clutter the shelves, make them usable, and appealing to look at.

Step 5. Keep them clutter-free.

This may take a family meeting or mental notes to self if you live alone. Remind yourself and everyone who lives with you what the bookshelves are intended for.

Kindly set some cleaning boundaries and make sure everyone sticks with them. Make cleaning the bookshelves part of a weekly chore to ensure they are wiped and decluttered more often than not.

If tackling all your bookshelves in one run seems too overwhelming, use the steps above to do one bookshelf at a time.

Another idea is to work in chunks of time. Some people find that working 15 minutes at a time usually helps them get a big job done sooner than later.

How to declutter a bookshelf

Here’s to decluttering your bookshelves and keeping them clean!

More On Decluttering

  • How to Declutter Your Kid’s Room
  • Declutter Your Closet Fast with These 5 Steps
  • 5 Storage Solutions to Declutter Your Home

How to declutter a bookshelf

Michelle is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of several Amazon best-selling nonfiction books. Her work has appeared on sites such as Yes I Can Help You, JustinaFord, Mom For All Seasons, Christian Marriage Adventures, and Proverbs 31 Mentor. She has worked side-by-side with well-known business women such as Wendi Schenkel, Carla Du Pont and Dr. Radisha Brown. It is Michelle’s desire to make your words become a reality through her gift of writing. You can share her passion on her blog, The Healing Life, and acquire information about working with her at Michelle Huddleston Services.

How to declutter a bookshelf

Today’s mission is to declutter bookcases and bookshelves throughout your home, of books or whatever else you have stored on them.

This mission is designed to be done while working on the Organize Books Challenge here on the site, which is one of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenges.

Of course, this task can be done at any time, whenever you feel it is necessary in your home.

We’ve been working on decluttering books here on the site for a few days, and several days of the Declutter 365 missions are devoted to this task.

Yesterday I provided you with 5 questions to ask yourself when decluttering books to help you identify which books you should keep versus those to get rid of.

You should use those questions again today when dealing with shelves and bookcases.

How to declutter a bookshelf

Depending on the number of bookcases you’ve got (I know in our house we’ve got a lot of them!) this task will take you more than 15 minutes. That’s OK!

Instead, do this task one shelf at a time, 15 minutes at a time, and keep going, stopping when necessary and restarting when you can, until you go through all your shelves.

The key is to focus on only one shelf at a time. If necessary, you can also do one pass through your bookcases and then after removing some of the books, if you still need to

get rid of more, you can do another decluttering pass through them.

Keep only the amount of books that will fit comfortably on your shelves, with a little bit of room to add or remove books easily. Don’t leave stacks of books without a home, that won’t fit on the shelves. Either you’ll need to find a different place to store those books, or have less books total.

In addition, I’m assuming that most of the items on your bookshelves or bookcases are, in fact, books. However, I do realize that you may have decorative items, or other items you want to display.

If that’s the case, make sure to spend time focusing on these items as well, deciding what you’ll keep versus get rid of. Remember, these are the types of items you have to dust, a lot, so if you don’t want to dust it, perhaps it’s not worth you keeping!

Also, as you clear off your bookshelves, at least temporarily while working on this mission, it’s a good opportunity to dust the shelves well, and perhaps the outsides of the books themselves, to keep everything in good condition.

Scroll below for some photos from readers who’ve already done this mission to give you some inspiration, and get you motivated to tackle this task for yourself.

How to declutter a bookshelf
Top photo in mission collage courtesy of Nina Hale, and the bottom photo courtesy of a reader, Wanda