Stay Organised

Different Ways to Arrange Your Bookshelf


When you’ve got a large collection of books, careful arrangement is important so that you can find the book you’re looking for ASAP. That’s not to say that you have to have everything set up like a real library, but a few simple organisational tricks can really help you keep your books in order – not to mention saving on space! Here are a few different options to try:

1. Subject matter

You don’t have to be too precise about this – the Dewey decimal system doesn’t really work for small personal collections of books – but arranging your books by subject matter can really help when you’re looking something up later. This is especially useful if you have a wide variety of reference books. You may find that, as you start organising your collection, you’ve got multiple subtopics to deal with – for example, different cuisines amongst your recipe book collection. Take the time to set them up properly.

If you have limited shelf space or a bookcase with an unusual configuration, it may help to lay your books in subject matter piles on the floor before you start. This way, you can visually plan out how much space you’ll need for each group.

2. Alphabet – Author

Arranging your books by alphabetical order of the authors’ surnames is especially useful if you have large collections of fiction books by a range of favourite authors. This way, when you feel like reading something by a particular person – or are searching for something to lend someone – you can go straight to the author’s surname.

If you have lots of books by one author and not many by others, or lots of books by authors with the same surname, you could employ a secondary organisation system – for example, first surname, then topic.

3. Frequency of use

For recipe books, cookbooks and other reference books, you may find it helpful to group your books into three different categories – used all the time, used sometime, rarely read, and never even opened. If you have limited space in your place, you can put your rarely used books into storage, your sometimes-read books onto very high or very low shelves, and your absolute favourites onto easy access middle shelves.

4. Colour

If you have lots of books which are interesting as objects in and of themselves – for example, a large collection of vintage or antique books which are rarely examined – you can create quite a nice bookshelf display by arranging them according to the colour of the cover and the spine. A simple Google image search of ‘ways to organise books by colour’ reveals some very striking examples.

Interested in this idea, but own a lot of similarly coloured books (Penguin Classics, for example)? You can make your own coloured paper dust jackets quickly and affordably! Use A4 coloured printer paper in the shade/s of your choice and use a word processing software to print the title and author of the book on the paper in a position that aligns with the spine of the book. This is a great decorating idea for kids’ rooms!