How to organize books

If we have a lot of them, it can be hard to organize books properly. Or if you need allot of books and reference material for your work, life can be pretty challenging trying to organize all your frequently used resources. 

Organizing books tends to be a nice, safe organizing project in which you can hone your organizing skills.

A past organizing workshop student contacted me, she needed help to organize her books for her teaching work.

Let’s look at the current situation:

How will we organize these books and references?

It isn't as hard as it looks, provided we go through a step by step process.

Organize books - Step 1 - Declutter

Firstly before we organize,  we need to declutter. Are there any books that are of no use to us anymore? Pass them on, books are some of those great treasures to pass on to others. If you really enjoyed a book why not give it to your local charity shop and spread the love, the book has now the potential to be enjoyed by many people.

Organize books – Step 2 - groupings

The second thing to do when organizing our books is grouping

We need to group our books in (for us) logical groups. This could be by size or colour but for most of us “not so organized people” we think in overall concepts. Like study books; past or current study books. Other examples are; books belonging to my hobbies, novels, cookbooks etc. the list is endless.

Organize books – Step 3 – easy access

Third step when we organize books - easy access

If we have a range of different books for work or study that are frequently used, we need to make sure we have easy access to them. This means, that for a lot of us, our books should stand on their sides, or lay flat on top of each other. This way we can see the books, they are already categorized (see step 2) and we can easily access them and put them back (very important!).

 We need to look at the volume of books and the shelving we have available.


If we have sufficient shelving as is shown in our situation above, I would use some form of markers to section of different areas and different groups that we already organized earlier in step 2. I like to use canvas boxes as they are so versatile and come in different shapes and sizes. The benefit with canvas boxes is when you put only grouped books together you can pick up all related books in one movement- just lift out the box. Some magazine holders can possibly also be used, if some of your material is either not that much to make a big group of items, or if it is flimsy material.


If certain books or references look messy you can use the canvas box as a way to hide the (organized) messy area (yes there is such a thing as an “organized messy area”) The book area tends to look calmer with some books stored in boxes. 

If you know exactly where items are that you need - you are organized.

An additional idea to canvas boxes is have some books horizontal and some books vertical so you can still see a clear distinction between your groupings.


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