My bookshelf.

How to Organize Your Bookshelf: Tips for a Pretty (But Space-Conscious) Look

Learning how to organize your bookshelf can be a total game changer for your space and your sanity, especially if you don’t have a ton of space. Case in point, I have exactly one, 3-foot wide, six-shelf tall bookcase that holds a little more than a hundred books. I’ve had to get crafty about how to organize it so that it is functional while still remaining pretty to look at.

So if you need help determining the best organization method for your stack o’ books, you’ll find some great tips here!

My bookshelf.

Why Organize Your Bookshelf

Organizing your book collection has many benefits: it looks better, makes it easier to find books and maximizes space.


A tidy bookshelf adds a decorative element to your room. Arranging books by color or size can create a beautiful display. You can line up books and mix in some decorations like plants, framed photos or small sculptures while leaving some empty space to enhance functionality and style.

By keeping your shelves tidy the whole room looks more harmonious and welcoming. A clutter-free shelf with thoughtfully placed items feels ordered and calm.

Easier to Find Books

Organize books in a way that makes it easier to find them quickly. Grouping books by genre, author or subject saves time when you need a specific book. You could also alphabetize your collection for even quicker access.

Using labels or shelf markers can also help. This systematic approach makes searching easier and your daily routine more efficient.

Space Maximisation

Organizing efficiently helps you make the most of your limited shelf space. With a 3 foot wide bookshelf, you need to be clever. Arranging tall books on the edges and shorter ones in the middle, vertical stacking, double row arrangements, or using bookends can maximize your storage.

By putting less used books on the top or bottom shelves, you can keep your favorite reads within easy reach. This way you can store more books and keep your collection tidy.

Strategies to Organize Books

There are many organization methods to organize a bookshelf, each with its benefits. You can sort your books by genre, author, color, or whether you’ve read them.

By Genre

Sorting your bookshelf by genre means you can find books that match your current mood or interest. Group all the fantasy novels together, the thrillers on one shelf and another for nonfiction books.

A few tips:

  • Label each section with sticky notes or small signs.

  • Alphabetize within genres for even more organization.

This turns your shelf into a mini library for genre lovers. Make sure to reserve prime space for your favorite books to keep them easily accessible.

By Author

Organizing by author is fun for authors you love. Put all the J.K. Rowling books together and all the J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen King books.


  • Alphabetical for extra organization.

  • Leave space for new additions.

This is helpful when you need to find an author’s work quickly. You can also categorize books based on whether they were written before or after a certain date.

By Colour

For a beautiful bookshelf you might want to sort your books by the colour of the covers. This will turn your bookshelf into a piece of art.


  • Arrange in rainbow order for a wow factor.

  • Group similar colors like light blue and dark blue for harmony.

It looks great but may make it harder to find specific books unless you remember the colors. Consider placing black, navy, and charcoal books on the top shelf and white books on the bottom shelf to create an ombre effect.

Read vs Unread and Favorite Books

Organizing books by separating those you’ve read from those you haven’t is a practical method. Dedicate one section to books you’ve finished and another to unread books.


  • Rotate books once read, put them in the ‘read’ section.

  • Use placeholders or bookmarks to remember ongoing reads.

This helps you manage your to-read list and keep track of new adventures waiting for you.

Styling Your Bookshelf

Styling your bookshelf not only improves the look of the space but makes it more functional. You’ll want to use a mix of horizontal and vertical book arrangements, add bookends and include accessories like plants and art. Consider displaying family photos alongside other meaningful items like heirlooms and vases to inject warmth and personality into the room.

Stack Books Horizontally and Vertically

Mixing horizontal and vertical book placements adds visual interest. Stack a few books horizontally to balance and to provide a base for decorative items. Use vertical rows for the traditional library feel.

Arrange books by color, size, or genre depending on your style. Choose what looks best in your space and reflects you.

Front-Face a Few Books

I like to take a few of my favorite covers and front face them to increase visual appeal. In fact, my entire top shelf is a staggered row of front-facing special edition books, with the opened side angled out so you can glimpse the beautiful sprayed-edges.

I also have my leatherbound Mistborn book front and centre, which you can see in the image below.

Use Bookends

Bookends not only keep your books upright but add a decorative touch. Look for sturdy, weighted bookends to do their job. Choose styles that match your room – from minimalist metal to quirky animal shapes.

Put them at the end of rows or to separate sections on the shelf. This keeps your books tidy and adds an extra design element.

You can also invest in bookends that match a specific book-genre or fandom; check out these killer Mistborn bookends I snagged a couple of months back! I also added some themed decorations like the “go away, I’m reading” sign (obtained from one of my Owlcrate boxes) and the Soonie-Pup plushie.

Add Plants, Art, and Other Accessories for Visual Interest

Adding plants, art, and accessories makes your shelf a display. Small potted plants bring life and greenery. Art pieces like small framed prints or sculptures add personality and a splash of color.

Keep these in balance with your books. Too many accessories can look cluttered so choose a few statement pieces. Consider the room’s color palette when arranging items to create a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing look.

Keeping it Tidy

To keep your bookshelf tidy make cleaning a habit and adjust your setup as your collection grows.


Dust your shelves and books regularly to keep them in good condition. Use a microfiber cloth or soft brush to dust the surface. Don’t forget the less obvious spots like the top edges and between books. Pull books forward from the back of the shelf to allow air circulation. This can help prevent mold from growing on the pages.

Rotate your books occasionally. This helps distribute wear and tear especially on favourites that get opened frequently. Clean behind your books too. Vacuum or wipe down the shelf itself to prevent dust and debris from building up. Keeping your shelf clean not only looks better but helps extend the life of your books.

Adjusting as Book Collection Grows

As your collection grows, you’ll need to reorganize periodically to store books efficiently. Start by taking all the books off the shelf. See how much space you have for new additions. Consider categorizing your books by genre, author or colour. This will make them easier to find and look good.

Add more shelves if needed. Floating shelves or extra bookcases can give you more storage without taking up floor space. Think about vertical storage options especially for smaller spaces. Leave some extra space on each shelf for future growth so you don’t have to reorganize everything every time you get new books.

Go through your collection regularly. Donate or sell books you no longer want or need. This will keep your collection under control and make room for new favorites.

Final Thoughts on Organizing Your Bookshelf

Organizing your bookshelf can be fun and functional. Try different methods and see what works for you. Remember it’s your space so make it you.

Use labels or bookends to keep it tidy. Colored markers can help you categorize by.

Here’s a simple chart for quick reference:

CategoryShelf Location
FictionTop shelf
Non-fictionMiddle shelf
MagazinesBottom shelf

Displaying books by color adds a decorative touch. Sort your favorites so they’re easy to find.

Pro-tip: Rotate book placements occasionally to keep your collection fresh and interesting.


How should a bookshelf be arranged?

Books by size and genre. Same sizes together for neatness. Mix vertical and horizontal stacks for variety.

How do you stack books on a bookshelf?

Heavier, larger books at the bottom. Vertical stacking for space saving. Horizontal stacking for visual balance.

How do you make a bookshelf full of books look nice?

Books and decorative items together. Organizing books by the condition of their covers can help limit visual clutter and make the bookshelf look more organized. Bookends and empty spaces. Colour and orientation to grab attention.

What’s a good system for categorizing books by genre?

Different sections for each genre. Labels or bookends to separate categories. Alphabetize within each genre for easy access.

How do you make the most of space when stacking books?

Adjustable shelves. Books stacked vertically and horizontally. Use every inch, including corners and top shelves.

Any creative ways to organize bookshelves?

Plants, photo frames or artwork. Baskets or boxes for small items. Rotate collections seasonally for a new look. If you are a visual person, consider color coordination and a streamlined look to enhance the aesthetics of your bookshelf.

What’s the bookshelf rule?

I try to adhere to a “one in, one out” rule, which means you only add a book to your shelf when you remove one. This keeps everything balanced and prevents overcrowding.

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