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Jennifer Jones  by Jennifer Jones

With the New Year, many people resolve to clean and tidy their homes, while some decided to relax more with a good book especially during these colder months. As you settle down with a classic piece of literature or the newest issue of your favorite magazine, you notice the bookshelf has a thick coating of dust and has been cluttered with knick-knacks, papers and randomly placed novels. Why not put both these resolutions to good use? Organizing and displaying these special treasures can have a large visual impact in your room, in addition to making it easier to locate your favorites.

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Bookshelf organization is so much more than just storage for books. It becomes a decorative element, and sometimes the focal point, of the room. Be sure to reflect on the overall look that you want to display. Practical organization may not be the only route to take for your bookshelf. It is important to take into consideration the type of shelves, colors, styles and how the books relate as a whole. Here are some tips for arranging your shelves to maximize the décor of the room.

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First things first, clear a large area on the floor around the area of your bookshelf to make space for cleaning and organization. As you empty your shelves, clean and dust the shelves, books and other treasures. This is a good chance to part with some books that are not read anymore. You can resell or donate them to a thrift store. This will help with the de-cluttering process as you continue to organize the rest of the items.

Categorize your books as you place them in piles on the floor. Some homeowners create a filing system by title, author and subject. Others keep a more general division by paperback, hardback or other categories. If you wish to have a more decorative look, try to group them according to color or height. To help remember your categories and avoid confusion, write the group name on a slip of paper and keep it on top of the pile of books that fit the description.

Oversized bookcase is focal point of great room


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If you only have a few books and have chosen a specific color scheme for your room, some people will paint the inside of the bookshelves a complementary color. This will add contrast to the space and set apart the objects being displayed. Choose colors and themes that will match the room’s surroundings. For a creative edge, try affixing pieces of wallpaper, fabric or other items to the backdrop of the shelf. If you have lots of books, consider devoting an entire room for your collection. Since the shelves will be incredibly full, design a simplified room that is rid of clutter and allows the books to be the focal point. Your vast collection of books will definitely stand out against a space with neutral tones and minimal surroundings.


Now that you have decided the overall look for the bookshelf, you are ready to start putting them back on the shelves. To help avoid dust on the pages of your books, align them exactly with the edge of the shelf. Keep in mind the heights of some books may not fit on certain shelves. Since they will likely have fewer places they can fit well, return your bigger books to the shelves first. If you only have short shelves, there are two options for tall books.  You can place them on the top shelf or organize them horizontally on your shelf with spine facing out so they can easily be read. Arrange all books with the spines facing out to ensure ease when searching for a particular book.

tall bookcases with accessories mixed in

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For the more aesthetic appeal, you will want to add accessories. This is the perfect route if you only have a few books to organize. Layering the items will add dimension to the space. Picture frames can be propped off center behind a stack of books or other items. This will add visual interest to the shelf. Try to keep books and accessories within a particular color palette that matches the existing space. The shelves can be more than just storage for books. They are the perfect place to display prized mementos to show off to your guests.

For a library with mounds of books, remember to balance the space. Arrange most of your books vertically to save space, but incorporate a few horizontal stacks to spark interest.  To help break up the monotony of book after book, be sure to add accessories for a visual punch or leave some space on each shelf free to give a sense of spaciousness. If there are certain books you need to access often, keep them in a spot that is easily retrievable.

bookcases flanking a window in a bedroom


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Reorganizing your bookshelves should help to avoid the cluttered feeling. Just a few visually interesting items can make a big statement, so no need to fill up your shelves with decorative items. Open space is your friend when creating a visually interesting design. Be selective and do not feel like each shelf needs an accessory. If you have two or more sections to your bookshelves, your arrangement will appear neater and cleaner by keeping things symmetrical. Flanking bookshelves that are arranged as mirror images will be more appealing and feel organized. If you only have one bookshelf, start by arranging the books so that they are pleasing to the eye. When adding accessories, try the “zig zag” approach. On one shelf, place an accessory on the right, then on the next shelf down put an accessory on the middle. Continue down and place an item on the left, then middle and then right. The staggered look will definitely add visual interest to your shelves.

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So before winding down to a good book, take some time to dust off and rearrange your shelves. Do not let the clutter get the best of you. You can spend just an afternoon surrounded by your favorite books and collections. Take a little time to make your bookshelves appear refreshed, clean and uncluttered. Your new and improved bookshelf will definitely steal the spotlight.



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