Are Your Books Excess Clutter or Beautiful Possessions?

Aaah, books, let me count the ways I love books.  I love to read books, I love to touch books, I love to look at books and I really love to organize books.  There is nothing more satisfying than spending a few hours pulling all the books of a bookshelf with a client, sorting them, giving away the ones no longer useful or beautiful, and then putting them all back.

Different people have different opinions as to whether excess books should be considered clutter or not.  If you ask a librarian he or she will say that books are not clutter, no matter how many you have.  However, if you ask someone who doesn’t read books they’ll look at you like you have ten heads and tell you how you can get any information you want by searching on the internet, so why on earth would you want to keep books?

Seems to me that somewhere in between these two opposing attitudes is a fabulous compromise.  I believe that books are both useful and decorative.  Perhaps books become clutter when you don’t have nice bookshelves to put them and when you have so many that you can’t find and enjoy them?

As I sit writing this article, I am looking at the bookcase in my living room and how I have organized and displayed my books.  They are grouped by categories such as: decorating and design, fiction, self help, sports, hobbies & interests.  Wait . . . can that be a collection of Columbia encyclopaedias I see on the bottom shelf?  Aren’t those forbidden?  They are certainly not useful anymore – I think my other half had those when he was in school and there they still are, taking up space.  I guess I’d better explain myself, right now.

You see, to the organized eye encyclopaedias are a beautiful thing.   They are all the same color, the writing on the spines is all the same and they are numbered sequentially – what more can you ask for?  They unequivocally have all the characteristics of any good organizing system so I’m keeping them no matter what anyone says about how out-of-date they are.

I am reminded of a bookshelf organizing job I did with a client a while back.  We started by grouping the books into categories such as history, art, fiction, poetry & writing, autobiographies, and so on.  Then we organized them on the shelves by the color and style of writing on the spines. We separated them into beautifully displayed groupings by strategically placing bookends, vases and photos in various places in order to keep them separated into their various categories.  We laid some of the larger art books horizontally on their sides and used that stack to hold up other books placed vertically.  With another client we grouped her books into categories and assigned them various bookshelves throughout the house and then sorted them alphabetically by author. Whew, that took some time I’ll tell you.  We also found that she had several copies of the same book – just goes to show what happens when they’re scattered all over the house with no particular organizing system – you buy duplicates and triplicates because you can’t find the copy(ies) you have.

There are obviously many ways of sorting and organizing books.  Do what works for you and what looks pleasing to your eye. Watch yourself, whatever you do, don’t start reading or your library organizing project will never be complete!

4 comments

  1. I love going into someone’s house and seeing what is on their bookcases. I think you can learn a lot about people that way – but not always. Once I was admiring someone’s collection of hardcover fiction and when I asked her if she read a lot, she said “not really.” I was so disappointed!

  2. I like alphabetical order by author for fiction… but than size comes into play. I love to make sure our over 300 movies are kept in alphabetical order – easy to find just the one you’re looking for. And I have close to 400 cassettes sorted alphabetically… ooops… cassettes. Did I admit that? OK so maybe it’s time to dump those!

    1. What, cassettes – you have some explaining to do my friend – ha! That’s somewhat equal to a collection of VHS tapes which I’m sure you’ve dumped in favour of DVDs? It all seems very wasteful somehow, doesn’t it. Enjoy your alphabetizing, Linda!

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