Cleaning out my bookshelves

Books read
I donated a whole bunch of books recently! Super proud of myself.

I’ve found that in the era of COVID-19, a lot of us are cleaning out closets and spaces. I’ve seen thrift stores packed with donations. Perhaps it’s because we were/are spending more time at home and have the time to tackle these projects or just need to make room in the house for those things we’ve typically left for, such as work and the gym. For me, organizing and decluttering comes out of anxiety. It eases those hyperactive muscles that tell me something else needs to get done when I’m feeling uncomfortable in my body to look at a project that I’ve recently tackled and see it with clean lines and everything in a place. (I know, I’m nutty.) 

So it may surprise no one that one of the projects I tackled in quarantine was to clean up my bookshelves, which were overflowing with books that I had hopes I would pick up again or pick up the first time, despite the fact that I continue to buy/rent/borrow new books. It’s a vicious cycle and I decided to do something to stem that tide while we are social distancing at home. My project was a success, see the picture below. And I will look at my bookshelves and feel so accomplished having set everything to its proper place! 

Here’s what I did to re-organize my bookshelves. 

Gain inspiration

First of all, I watched every episode of The Home Edit on Netflix. It was extremely comforting and honestly, time well spent. I specifically learned the value of having “zones.” So, as I removed every book from the book shelf I attempt to categorize them into zones. I had fiction and nonfiction but beyond that I had memoir, poetry and short story/essay, and those books that I have read and want to keep on hand and those books that I have not yet read. Once all of the books were off the shelves I moved them out of their spaces, vacumed/dusted behind them as well as dusted the shelves. 

Set goals

I set out two goals for this endeavour: 

  1. I would only keep the books that fit nicely onto my shelves. No more than that could stay. 
  2. I wanted the bottom shelves to be more for storage. I have dogs and babies that may come visit me and it would be easiest if these easy-to-reach areas were a little less accessible than a shelf. 

You’ll also note that I have more than just books on my bookshelves. I live in a one bedroom apartment and everything has a space. While it’s my goal to have a full library room one day, today is not that day and thus, it’s shared space with some photos, old stationary, and music things, like my record player, records, CDs and, recently added, DVDs. 

Curate your zones

Now that my book shelves themselves and the area around it was clean, I put them back where they were to go and started rebuilding my bookshelves. First to be put back was the record player, wth records taking up half of the lower shelf. From there I put my coveted Harry Potter books on their shelf with the decorative wine bottle with fairy lights in it that, I think, lends whimsy to this shelf. I had more room on it, so I also popped on the Game of Thrones books I own in the series and, later, the Harry Potter/Wizarding World DVDs I own. That shelf is done! 

So fresh and so clean, clean.

I then went to work on my politics shelf. Everything fit pretty nicely into this one. I let go of some of the books I’d picked up in college that were less reference texts now that I’ve moved on in my studies/career. I also have a classics shelf. Not everything on this shelf is a classic, but perhaps those that are classic adjacent, like Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman book and The Lord of the Rings. Additionally, poetry is also on this shelf. I also have a nonfiction/personal development shelf. Half of the books housed on this shelf are books that I have read, half are those that I hope to read soon. 

I was left with half of one shelf, after removing the first shelf for decorations and the bottom shelves for fabric boxes, so I brought my squat bookshelf into the picture. This book shelf was the junk drawer of book shelves, with crap building up on the top of it and bottom shelves and the middle two shelves were all of those books that have left an indelible mark on my brain and therefore, couldn’t be parted with, such as Parks of Being a Wallflower and The Historian. I tossed all of the odds and ends that I could. And then I culled through these books. There were some that had been “must keep” books that I no longer classified as such, so those were easily popped in the “to donate” pile. This bookshelf is now all books (minus the top shelf which is used as the place for keys and whatnot as you’re coming and going from the house, and was able to make this a majority of fiction books I have read. 

I was left with all the books that I didn’t feel strongly enough to make sure they fit on to the shelves I curated as well as a decent number of fiction books I hadn’t read yet. So I claimed some more space, both on the squat bookshelf and the half shelf leftover from the records, and placed those books I know I’m going to read as soon as my brain wants them, and added them to the shelf. 

On the bottom shelf, I measured out the space and had room for two 11 by 11 fabric storage containers on each shelf. In them, I put photo albums, dvds, unused notebooks and school stuff I have not been able to part with yet, such as the book excerpts from Mr. August’s English class senior year. You never know when you’re going to have to pull a story marked up with notes from another life out to re-learn some lessons! 

Donate to a new home

I now have two bags of books to donate, either to the Women’s Prison Book Project, to my local library, or to the local thrift store, in that order. As I believe I’ve said in previous posts about culling one’s books, it’s easier, at least for me, to do when I know that someone is going to love them, at least for a time. All of these outlets fit that bill, so I’m happy to let go of them — and have beautiful shelves in the process. 

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