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Contact me at Mom25dogs@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

How Do You Organize Your Books?

How Do You Organize Your Books?

I saw an interesting discussion at http://unclutterer.com/2008/04/22/finding-order-on-your-bookshelves/ about how people organize their books. Most seem to prefer organizing by genres, categories and then by authors. Some are as haphazard as I am and just have them all over the place. Some organize by color. That one surprised me! "I think I'll read a red book today." But the color-organizers swear by it.

I've seen some people turning their books page out instead of spine out. Not sure why unless it's to make their bookshelves look colorless. But it takes all kinds so who am I to judge?

At different times I've tried to organize them by genres and categories and I would keep a series by one author all together so I don't buy one I already have. But after moving from the farm, I haven't gotten them organized like that.

In my house on the farm and in the house in Tryon I had lots of bookshelves. In our last house I had to relegate my books to the attic in bookshelves except for my most valuable sets or my "To Be Read" (TBR) pile. I still long for and covet a room dedicated to being just my library like I had at the farm.

These are the kinds of dedicated bookshelves I want! They have glass doors which helps keep dust out.

Books need a good organizing every once in awhile. While you are spring cleaning might be a good time to do it. I tend to have books all over the house. Everywhere I sit, I have books... in the kitchen by the rocking chair, by the bed, in the bathroom, by every chair and sofa in the living room, in the study, etc. If you need a good organizing, then it might be time to round up all your books in one central room. Have some boxes on hand and go through them one by one. If they are dusty, then take a damp rag and wipe them down and let them dry before storing them.

As you go through the books, sort them in a way that makes sense to you. For instance: all fiction and non-fiction; or, biographies, mysteries, romance and cook books; or, John's interests and Sarah's insterests; or, reference material and reading material; or, "So good I have to keep it" and "To Be Read"

Decide where you want to store them. If you decide to keep your cookbook collection then it makes sense to store them in the kitchen, especially around the area where you keep your shopping list and menu planner. *Note* Keeping a cookbook collection is really a personal choice now. It's no longer necessary if you have a computer. You can look up recipes all day long on the computer so having it in print in a book that you have to store is not necessary.

Notice how the shelves are their own ladder?

While you sort your books and clean them up, it might be that those you want to keep need to have your name and address printed in them. You can get "Ex Libris" (From The Books of) rubber stamps or bookplate stickers made:

Ex Libris
John Doe
123 Main St
Anywhere, US

Or you can use address labels or rubber stamps. If the book means something to you because of who gave it to you, make a note of who it was, the occasion, the date. I've even been known to write "book review" in the back pages or you might want to give it your personal rating on a scale of 1-10. *Note* Get rid of the books that don't make it in your top 5 on your scale! In some books, I've found additional information on the Internet and have printed that out and stapled it to the back of the book. For instance, I might read a true crime mystery that is 10 years out of date so I look up the crime and the criminals to see if they are in jail, have been put to death, were they ever found, is there any info on the main characters, pictures of the crime scene, etc. If it was famous enough to have a book written about it, then you can usually find out more info on the Internet with Google searches.

When I was little we didn't have enough money to buy any book I wanted. I sparingly got Nancy Drew mysteries as gifts over the years until one day my Mom found a box full of vintage Nancy Drews from the 1930's for a few dollars at a junk barn. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I've read and re-read those Nancy Drew mysteries over the years because it brings back my girlhood. Mostly we went to the library where I devoured huge chunks of young people books. I read every single children's mystery in our library and then moved into the adult mysteries. I still have my Nancy Drew collection in plastic boxes, clearly marked but dust free and in a closet.

But, after my marriage and as we got more disposable income, I began to buy books so "I would never go hungry again!" That was Scarlet O'Hara in Gone With The Wind...but it was the same feeling. I became a book hoarder. I was a bargain shopper. I hate to pay retail price for a book when I can probably get it at book sales, yard sales and thrift stores if I just wait awhile. Now if it's one of my favorite authors and they come out with a new book, I might go ahead and buy it but I still try to find it at the cheapest price. Those are special treats.

I had my attic lined with bookcases full of books. It's a wonder the ceiling didn't cave in. When we moved from the farm to Tryon, I kept every single book. When we moved from Tryon to our last house, I kept every single book. But this time, boxing them and physically lugging them was extremely hard. I was older. I realized that I probably was holding on to too many books. I started to re-think my MUST-HAVE-BOOKS trance. I began using the library more and if a book doesn't really send me, then I gave it away rather than store it. I also began to go digital where possible so I don't have to physically keep so many books. I still have my secret stash scattered throughout the house of To Be Read pleasures. But I really began to cut down.

If you attend church, like we do, you probably have had Sunday School books, workbooks, notebooks, spiritual journals, etc. I do have plastic boxes where I keep these spiritual books. They contain personal stuff because you've filled out parts, answered questions, taken notes, underlined and highlighted, etc. Once we've completed the class or study, I pop those books in the box clearly marked "Our Spiritual Journey". I have more than one box over the years. Those represent a lot of study, time, personal experiences, spiritual growth and I can't just throw them away. One day I may take them to be shredded as who wants them? You may decide not to keep yours because they are too personal or you don't have the room.

Do you have an old set of encyclopedias, dictionaries and other reference books? Guess what? You don't need them any more. You can Google everything and use the Internet. I know they represent a lot of money. Someone bought them at one time and probably paid by the month. But they are never used, will never be used and there is no reason for you to store them any more. Unless you have a special sentimental feeling for them, get rid of them. Even if you play Scrabble, you can look up words on the online dictionaries and even hear them pronounced. You have dictionaries, thesauruses, maps, and encyclopedic knowledge for the taking and it's all on that little screen without having to take up shelf space and household real estate. So bye-bye big heavy books!

A few years ago I decided my collection was out of control and I'd better handle it before I got too much older and more disabled where I wouldn't be able to take care of it. So I gathered boxes and took them to the attic and began slowly emptying the bookcases in the attic. Stan carried them down and put in the truck and I would haul off and donate them. I had a walkup attic and so it had been easy to put bookcases up there and store books. But they weren't being kept clean and they weren't being used so why did I have an attic full of stuffed bookcases? I kept very few of those books. Then I went through my books in the main living spaces and culled. I managed to slowly donate these boxes until they were gone. I donated genealogy books and history books to our local library genealogy department.  I knew they would keep them and I could do my research there when I needed them. I figured I could do my collecting digitally. I do now have hundreds of digital books I got for free. I also stopped taking any magazines. I used to love magazines. But they are so full of ads that the articles are short and pictures few and small. Why spend the money? I could get more from Google searches and Pinterest. And my Pinterests are pinned in my organized boards... digitally. I had them at my fingertips, organized on boards, but I wasn't having to keep physical paper magazines. That's something Dad didn't grasp. He kept paying for subscriptions and collecting them. I can, so I switched to going as much digital as I can.

I even took boxes of old papers to be shredded. I had saved all our financial stuff, carefully organized and archived in plastic boxes in the attic. Forty years of credit card statements, receipts, bank statements, utility bills, contracts, etc. I got rid of it all! The only thing I keep hard copy of are 7 years of income tax reports. Even then, I have them in .pdf files so I don't have to keep those. Be sure you have at least 2 backups of your digital files in case one of your hard drives breaks and you lose all your digital data! I scan every piece of paperwork as it comes in the door. Manuals, warranties, receipts, statements, etc. A lot of these you can get directly from your bank or credit card/utility/loan companies as they give you the option to get digital bills, or statements, and you can download the .pdf files without having to scan a paper copy. I love my Fujitsu ScanSnap which makes scanning so easy. All I do is rename the file and store the file on my hard drive in the correct folder. I keep my hard drive carefully organized so that I can find my digital files as needed. I have a printer that I can use if I need to print something out. Meanwhile I shred or burn the hard copies so I don't have to have file cabinets of paper any more. I have one file drawer of hard copies where I keep stuff I have to have such as life insurance policies, wills, dog vaccine certificates, my income taxes from the last 7 years, mortgage and home contracts, automobile titles. But I keep very little paper any more.

Our parents died within 4 months of one another just awhile back. Going through their house afterwards we had to haul off tons of old books and magazines collections. They weren't hoarders in the sense you see houses on the TV show. But still, Daddy had built bookcases and stashed books in every available space, closet, etc. And his magazine collections. It's been sad to have to go through, box up, haul off, all their valued books and magazines. They hadn't been touched or dusted in 10, 20, 30 years? The dust was ungodly in those bookcases.
I realized the days where I could do my usual deep cleans, as in spring cleaning, were behind me. I can't do as much as I used to. And one of the things I did in my spring cleaning was to wipe down and dust every single book. I vacuumed their pages and dusted the bookshelves before putting them back up. I did this every year. But after one of our moves, those books in the attic, they weren't getting spring cleaned every year like I used to do. So they got donated. Why expend so much energy and valuable real estate in my house to dust collections?

We downsized last year. We went from our 3,000 sq ft home with a walkup attic to an 1,800 sq ft home with an attic that is virtually inaccessible to me (pull down ladder). So I tried to be even more ruthless with a slash-and-burn attitude. We were able to do it. I still have too much but it's better than I used to have. Some things I really regret having to get rid of. But it doesn't keep me awake at nights. I have less to clean and take care of. Keep in mind, when you are young and have lots of energy, less pain, you can take care of more. But as you age or become disabled (I'm both), less to take care of, organize and clean is better. There will become a tipping point in life and we nearly missed that point by putting it off. You love having the room and space of a larger home and you fill it up with stuff you think you want to collect, keep, store,... things you might need. But then you realize it's getting harder to keep it clean and maintained. A large home is wonderful for space and the ability to store. But it's harder to keep clean, keep maintained, inside and out. It's more expensive and you begin to have to pay others to do things for you because you can't do it anymore. Vacuuming and mopping 3,000 sq ft was becoming impossible for me so I was having to pay someone to clean my house. My husband was having to pay someone to do the yard work that we had always done ourselves. We were having to pay someone to clean the eaves of mildew and pressure wash the driveway, etc. Things we could handle when we were younger. So we made a list of things we couldn't do without. Then we looked for a little smaller home with less to maintain but met our must-have list. And we both tried to get rid of stuff as much as we could. My new home is more crowded because of less space. But it's very organized and we are getting used to our new lifestyle. And most of my hard copy book collection is gone. So are other collections that I loved. It was hard but we managed to do it before we got too old to do it. That's the tipping point. Realizing it has to be done and not putting it off until you are too old to do it. I was afraid we had waited too late to make this very difficult decision and make the move. Because some people do and they become physically, mentally and emotionally incapable. I've seen it. Whether it's physical disability, dementia, or emotional attachments too strong... they just can't make the move and then they are living in a house they can't afford, or can't physically maintain, and it molders around them. At least I have a smaller home now to molder in, LOL! We managed at least that much before we got too old. I pray this is our last move because it's one of the hardest things you do in life.

I read one person's comment that they have books on every surface, nook and cranny. I've seen places like this. As much as I love books, I couldn't live in that kind of higgeldy piggeldy. I love order and I hate the dust!

You can make your own paper book covers, buy them or make/buy fabric book covers. If you organize your books using book covers think about color coordinating. You could use red paper/fabric for mystery books, blue book covers for history books, yellow book covers for biographies. You could print, or use a labeler, to put the name of the book/author (and any other information you want) on the spine of the book cover. If you don't want to have a full color book cover, then use a strip of color on the book cover. Such as colored stickers on white or brown paper book covers. If you want to recycle brown paper bags for book covers, then you could color coordinate by genre and use stickers or colored magic markers to add a color strip to the spine.

You can make fabric book covers if you sew. I love fabric book covers but they do take time and supplies to make. The pros to a fabric book cover is that you can wash them. So they not only protect the book, but are washable. That means vacuuming the tops of your books and washing the book covers are all you would have to do when cleaning. They are customizable.You can customize them to the size of the book. You can add bookmark ribbon, ties, pen holder, or pockets based on the book. I don't need a pen holder and pocket on a mystery book but I do when I'm reading a Christian non-fiction book. You can color coordinate fabric bookcovers too. Either using colored fabric OR just adding colored buttons or ribbons to the spine. A red button for a murder mystery and a green button for a gardening book, etc.  The cons are they take fabric and thread supplies, a sewing machine, some know-how and take a little longer to make. They also would take up more bookshelf space than paper book covers. So if you usually can fit 10 books on the shelf, you might only fit 9 books on the shelf because of the added thickness of the fabric and whether or not you add pockets or bookmark ribbon.

Google on how to make paper and fabric book covers.

If you have children, then I guarantee you've probably got a lot of children's books. Sort through them. If the children have outgrown some of their books and you aren't anticipating having another child, it's time to pass them on. If your children have already read some and they don't mean a lot to them, get rid of them. Or, even let the children offer the used books to their friends. I know my Nancy Drew collection was hard come by and I loved it and I still have it. Maybe they have a love for the Harry Potter books or the Hardy Boys or some science fiction books but the rest could be donated to charity or passed out among their friends.

I like order, organization. Has this made you think about your book organization? Do you need to attack your books and do some work?

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