Photo credit: Ian Sane via Flickr
The disorganization of my bookshelves had been bothering me increasingly for years now. I hadn’t rethought my book organization since I dumped everything onto shelves when I moved in eight years ago, other than to designate two TBR shelves a few years ago. There was no order at all, and most of the shelves were double-stacked, hiding the row in the back. It took ages to find a particular book, and was virtually impossible to determine if I definitely did not own a book. So I made a vow. I would…
take charge and fight the chaos.
(I actually did this over the holiday break, right around New Year’s, but am only now getting around to writing it up. Maybe this post should be called, “Me Versus My Blog Post Schedule.”)
It took a few days but wow, it was worth it.
The first thing I did was get rid of four shelves’ worth of old academic books. Well, “got rid of” is a bit premature: they’re still in seven boxes in my living room waiting to be donated, but the important thing is that they’re off my shelves. As I sorted through all the rest of my books, several were added to the “to go” boxes, mostly duplicates (oops!).
I decided against doing the full-on Konmari style purging of books, just to speed up the process by not having to decide on each book. Saying goodbye to those academic books was all the emotional work I could deal with. I’ll do another round of purging sometime in the future.
The next thing I did was research personal library cataloging apps. I decided to try Libib, which is a great free app that lets you scan books into your database with your phone (more details on that later). I got that set up on my phone and computer.
I went through shelf by shelf, taking the books down one at a time, scanning them into Libib, and putting aside those that wouldn’t scan. Then I went to the computer and entered the non-scannable books, cleaned off the shelf (oh my, even I was surprised by how much dust was back there!), and put the books back for now.
There seem to be as many ways to sort your books as there are book vloggers out there, so figure out what works for you. Frankly I think sorting by color totally misses the point, which for me is being able to FIND the book later. I found some natural categories and some that had to be squeezed in, but so far it seems to work. Everyone’s categories will differ, but here are mine:
- Fairy tales, mythology, and children’s books
- Classic literature
- All other fiction, sorted alphabetically by author name
- Writing craft
- History and other nonfiction books I use as resources for my writing and world building
- Art and poetry
- Philosophy, science, and debunking
- Research methods and statistics
- Other nonfiction
- Cookbooks, not entered yet, and sorted by arcane methods only I understand
- RPG books, also not entered yet
With the exception of fiction and cookbooks, each category takes only one or two shelves, so I don’t both sorting them within group. The TBR shelves are also not organized, because they are still double-stacked and it’s a mess. My plan is to READ them and then organize them into the other shelves.
I got most of this done over the course of one weekend, with little bits added in later. Was it worth it? Oh yes! I love it! It’s so great to be able to tell what books I have and immediately be able to locate them. There were so many books I’d forgotten I owned, and also quite a few I was sure I owned but don’t! I also liked being able to identify which series I had started once upon a time but never finished, so that I can prioritize getting the later books and reading the whole series now.
A side benefit I hadn’t expected was that I gained greater appreciation of my books. Even though I didn’t do the Konmari thing (in fact, I hadn’t even heard of Marie Kondo at the time, and I have yet to see or read anything by her), just looking at each book and remembering that I owned it had a cumulative effect of sparking joy. For the last few years I’ve been buying books like crazy: seems like every time I see a new one, I just nab it, yay! But in sorting through my books, I was reminded of what amazing options I have waiting for me in the TBR pile, and also about all the wonderful books I’m holding onto and would love to read again. I’m so in love with what I have now, and so excited to read them, that I’m not as tempted to buy more.
This post is getting long, so I’ll write another post about my experience with Libib, but the short version is that it worked really well.
I would definitely recommend this process to anyone who’s feeling overwhelmed or lost in their piles of books!
Bookshelf chaos, take that!