Organizing 202 – Beyond the Basics: Are You Running A Used Book Store?


By Sophia Noll


“Books, like clothes, cars, and homes, are reflections of ourselves—so the first step to making over your library is looking not on the shelves but in the mirror.” ~ Unknown


Do you have towers of books by your bedside that threaten to fall and do fall each time you get in and out of bed? I have to confess that as I write this article there is one of those teetering towers of books by my bed. Yes! Me the “Organizer” I have good intentions of reading them but by the time I get into bed at night I am too pooped! Plus how can I read six or ten books at a time? I guess I have great expectations but the reality is I can’t. Can you relate?!


HomeSpaceBooks play major roles in our lives, like clothes, cars, and homes. They are reflections of ourselves and may construct our identity. They can take us to far away places without having to leave home, teach us new skills, help us repair a broken washing machine, and bring us entertainment to name a few. Yet they can also rob us of our peace of mind because like the “Blob” they are slowly threatening to take over our home!!! The real challenge is knowing where to put them. They’re like candy to some and quite addicting. Let’s see if we can get a handle on our collections of books and free up some time to actually read them for a change!


Here are a few questions that might help you determine if you have too many books:


1. Does it take you half an hour to find the book you are looking for?


2. Do you have more than one copy of the same book because you couldn’t find the original?


3. Do you find that you purchase book shelves often?


4. Do you rent a storage unit to house your overflow of books?


5. Do your friends come to you for a book instead of the library?


Like clutter in your home the method to sorting books is the same: Keep/Store/Give Away/Sell/Library/Re-Cycle. Here are some tips on how to make the decision for keeping books:


1. If you are no longer interested in the subject it’s time to release these books.


2. Say good-bye to the books you’ve been meaning to read for the past 10-20 years or have no intention of reading.


3. Was it a gift and had an inscription but you no longer want it? Tear out the inscription, file it, and give the book away.


4. Diaries and Journals are road maps to your life and most will want to hang on to them.


5. Is the book in good shape or falling apart?


6. If there is more than one copy only keep one.


7. Are you still doing that craft/hobby? If not set it free!


8. Does it make you happy or sad? Sad? Adios Amigos!


9. Do you still belong to that organization and need their bylaws/journals? No? Then off to the re-cycler it goes!


Once your shelves are empty and you’ve decided what is going to stay you can begin to layout how you will organize your library.


Start by grouping books into categories you would find in a library or bookstore (biography, poetry, fiction, self-help). If that’s too detailed for you at least shelve the books alphabetically either by title or author. Does the size of each pile reflect your interests and goals now? If not go through the stacks and hone them down some more. I would also suggest that if the “to read” selections has overflowed to stacks and stacks then try to dwindle it down to 36 books which gives you 3 books a month to read. Before any book goes on the shelf, index each book either on a spread sheet or index cards. Put the location, name and author of each book on the index. It may take some time but it will save you loads of time from wandering book case to book case.


Let’s take your stack of “Give Away” books. It makes the giving more rewarding if you know these books are going to a good home. Here are a couple of organizations that you might want to send your books to: International Book Project and Global Literacy Project. These organizations foster community-based literacy. You can also donate to schools, libraries, prisons, senior centers, nursing homes, homeless shelters and other places you know of.


For the books you want to sell try putting them on Ebay,, Craigslist, or take them to a used book store. Yard sales are an option too. Lay to rest those books that can’t be sold or given away by taking them to a paper recycler where they will be resurrected into something new and useful.


For those books that you don’t need access to like … children’s books, yearbooks, journals/diaries … place them in plastic storage bins to keep moisture and paper eating bugs/rodents out. If they’re going to a place that can potentially get moisture place them up off the floor on a pallet of some sort. This way you will have a better chance of keeping them in good condition for future use.


Unless you want to spend countless hours organizing books the best way to stay organized is to limit the incoming books. If you belong to a mail-order book club, quit it! Use the Internet to look up information that is housed in large reference books like auto price guides and computer manuals, etc. that are used just a few times a year and can take up a lot of prime real estate on your shelves. Plus the information on the Internet will be more up to date. Before you purchase a new book, check it out at the library to see if you like it enough to buy it. Also try to set one book free for every new book that finds its way into your home.


Get creative and expand your book storage areas. Here are some ideas:


1. Frame a doorway, fireplace, or window with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.


2. Narrow shelves can be recessed between wall studs in a hallway.


3. Create storage in odd-shaped areas, around corners and under stairs, with ready-made modular systems.


4. Use small bookshelves as end tables in living rooms and bedrooms.


5. Install shelves along the top of the walls anywhere from 8-10 inches below the ceilings.


6. Purchase book cases with deep shelves so you can shelve books in double rows which allow you to store twice as many books in the same amount of space.


7. Stack books flat with bookshelves that have high shelves. For a “parquet like” look you can stack books both vertically and horizontally.


I read that a study done by the University of California-Berkeley found that all the information released (books, newspapers, film, etc.) in 2002 would fill half a million libraries the size of the Library of Congress. Just imagine what it is now in 2013!!! So what does that say? You’ll never get to it all!! So be realistic about what your collection will hold and when you are going to read your books. Maybe set aside certain times of the day for reading. Give your library card a work out and free up space on your shelves. Now that your books are organized you will spend less time looking and more time reading!



Sophia Noll

Sophia Noll

Sophia (In Its Place) has been organizing people’s lives for the past ten years from Maine to Asheville. She specializes in Organization, Personal Assistant, Household Management, Staging Homes, Senior Downsizing, and Concierge Services. Sophia offers free consultations and can be contacted at 828-333-3045.


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Written by Sophia Noll