Prune & Organize Your Home Library


 There may be no such thing as too many books, but do you find that:

  • Your books and bookshelves are taking up too much of your space?
  • You have stacks of books in corners, on tables or in boxes because you have run out of shelf space?
  • You can’t find particular books when you are looking for them?
  • You have duplicates of books because you don’t remember that you have them and you buy another copy?


The following tips are meant to help you gently prune your personal library to restore order and to free up some space for new acquisitions.

Start by thinking about why you have the books that are in your collection.  Which of these books  matter to you right now in your life?  Think about how you spend your time and how likely you are to read or utilize the books you have.  If you aren’t reading or using them now, how likely is it that you will do so in the future?  This thought process will guide you to some of the easiest books to donate or sell while keeping those that still have meaning.

Next, think about the books you definitely want to keep and how you’d like to display or store them.  This involves thinking about how much shelf space you have and the relative size of the book collections you want to keep.  You want the library you create to work for you, so think about where you read/enjoy the books you have and try to design your space to accommodate that. 

Group books by categories. . . for example, you may have a group of books “to be read” that you haven’t gotten around to yet.  You may have favorites that you read and refer to often.  You may group them by type, such as biographies, travel books, fiction.  The goal is to group the books in a way that makes sense to you so you can re-shelve them where you are most likely to use them.

After you have decided what your categories are, it’s time to do the real work of sorting and placement.  Ideally, this would be done at one time, but depending on the size of your collection, it may be completely out of the question.  The following steps are for someone who can reasonably do the sorting and restocking in one or two sessions. 

Take everything off of the shelves for sorting.  Remove personal belongings (non-books) until the book sorting project is finished.  Sort all of your books into bankers’ boxes according to the categories you determined.  (Use post it notes on bankers boxes for categories.)  

Remember, during this phase you should also make boxes for books that you want to give away, sell or donate.  Weed out anything that you no longer find useful and you don’t intend to read.  This may include old encyclopedias, college textbooks, computer-related books that are no longer current, gifts from friends/family that you don’t intend to read or books on subjects you are no longer interested in. Complete the sorting phase as quickly as possible.  Try not to get distracted by individual books, just put them in the correct box (category) and move on through.

When every book is sorted, re-evaluate your new library plan.  If you planned to put all biographies on one shelf but you now have 4 boxes of them, you will need to rethink the space planning and adjust accordingly. 

At this time, go through the books within the categories to determine if you can part with any.  Ask yourself:

  • If I’ve already read this, will I ever read it again?
  • If I haven’t read it, will I ever read it?
  • How easy would it be to get another copy in a bookstore or on a used book site if I decide I want to read it?
  • If the book is related to a particular subject or profession, is the information still relevant and useful?  If not, do I need to keep the book?


Now it’s time to put the books back on the shelves.  Think about the shelves you have and where they are located.  Now is the time to move them around if they are not in the right place.  Take into account the size of your collections by category so you can gauge what bookshelves you need for them.  Add shelves or change the height of shelves if necessary.

Put your favorite books and those you refer to often in the most accessible shelves.  Within the categories, arrange the books in the way that makes the most sense to you. . .by title, by author or any other way that you will be able to easily find what you are looking for.  Make sure you have put the shelves in the right place and that the collections will fit the space you’ve decided upon for each.  Make sure the books you use most frequently are easily accessible and at eye level.  Be sure the “To Be Read” shelf is in a prominent location so you can easily find new books when you are ready to read them.  Also, leave space within each section for new acquisitions.

Immediately after re-shelving the books you are keeping, dispose of the ones you aren’t keeping by trashing them, donating them to the library or a charity, selling them on Amazon or another site or giving them to friends or family members.

After you’ve “lived” with your new library for a few weeks, make adjustments as needed. 

Finally, keep control over your book collection.  Always keep a donation box handy to pass along books you no longer want or need.  As your interests change, consider donating or selling books that no longer have meaning for you.  When you buy new books, consider giving away one of the books you have so your collection will be somewhat contained.

Tips to Get Organized in 2011

Is one of your resolutions for 2011 to get organized?  In a survey conducted by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) in November of 2008, a whopping 96% of the people surveyed said they would save time every day if they were more organized.  But besides saving time, being more organized can reduce stress, increase productivity and simplify your home or office workflow. 

One of the difficulties with getting organized is simply finding the time to do it.  Another is feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start.   Here are some tips to help you get started without feeling defeated before you even start:

  •  Start with an area that really bothers you or makes you unproductive.  If you organize that area alone, the payback can be substantial.  This may be your office, your desk at home, your files, the way you handle incoming mail and bills. 
  • Don’t feel like you have to organize an entire office or workspace in one day.   Set small goals and accomplish one goal at a time. 
  • Set aside a few minutes a day to organize.   Imagine if you set aside just 10 minutes a day.  That seems like something you could fit in, right?  Take that 10 minutes and just tackle one drawer in a filing cabinet, one bookshelf, or the top of your desk.  If you can set aside that 10 minutes almost every day (or even just 4 or 5 days a week), think of the progress you can make over time.
  • Optimize your work area by putting things you use often at your fingertips.  Put away items that are rarely used so they don’t take up valuable work space.  
  • Take control of your time.  In today’s world of email, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, it’s easy to get bogged down with communications.  Set aside times of the day when you make yourself unavailable for email and social media and use those times to work on your highest priority projects.
  • Regarding email, if you don’t already have a strong spam filter, that may be your best investment from a productivity standpoint.  Not having to filter through hundreds of spam emails every day can save time to read and respond to important messages.  
  • Try to handle email systematically . . . . make a choice to delete, file, respond or follow up when you first read the message.  Delete, file and respond items can be handled immediately.  Follow up items can be flagged and worked on later.
  • Set aside a block of time each day to respond to emails that have been flagged for follow up.
  • Set limits on the amount of anything you will buy or keep.  This applies to sundries like paper towels, napkins, and so forth but also to office supplies (pens, paper, tape, post it notes), kitchen utensils, and even clothing.
  • Always have donation containers handy for everything from clothing to books to household items.  If you find you are keeping something that you don’t need, want or use, consider donating it.  Remember that something you don’t use or need can be a true gift to someone less fortunate.

Above all, don’t let the need to get organized add to your stress.

Living with Less – Thoughts

I recently subscribed to a blog called BeMoreWithLess.  Written by Courtney Carver, the blog is about simplifying your life. . . about having less debt and more savings, less stress and better health, more joy and less obligation.  Courtney’s blog has posts dedicated to this lifestyle.  I found myself reading several of them and making plans to implement them in my own life.  I was struck by one in particular titled “Free Stuff is Still Stuff”. . . .it was about the irresistable urge to buy $30 worth of makeup so you can get a free lipstick.  The point she made in this post is that free stuff still requires your time and attention and has the propensity to clutter up your life. 

Another of Courtney’s posts deals with the notion that adopting a minimalist approach does NOT mean that you live with nothing, it simply means that you live with what’s important to you. 

If you are interested in these topics, check out the blog at:

10 minutes a day

Do you avoid organizing (or never get around to it) because it just seems overwhelming?  Here’s an idea that you can use to get organized in 10 minutes a day (and you can even skip a day here and there).  Think of the areas of your house that need to be organized.  Then break those areas down into bite sized pieces.

Example:  If you want to clean and organize your master bath, break it down into components.  Mine would be:  medicine cabinet, make up drawer, hair products drawer, nail products and bath products drawer, under sink storage, top of vanity.

Then, just tackle one small bit at a time.  One day, take 10 minutes to review the items in the medicine chest, throwing out the expired medicines, sorting what is left into categories and neatly placing the items on the shelves.

On another day, sort through the makeup, tossing out old or broken containers, sorting all the remaining items and then putting them into a basket or clear container with dividers so that they are easy to find and use.

Continue with each component until you have finished the entire bathroom.  If you continue this process through the other rooms of your house, 10 minutes a day can lead to a completely organized house after a few months.

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