Functional or Pretty? How to Organize Your Books

I'm excited today to introduce you to Jane Stoller! Jane is the author of the book "Organizing For Your Lifestyle: Adaptable Inspirations from Socks to Suitcases". This morning Jane shares her thoughts on how to organize your books! Huge thank you to Jane for this amazing post!

How you display and organize your books is a total personal preference. Some people want to have them organized like a library, while others want to have books spread out all over their furniture. I think books are beautiful, and wherever and however you organize them will look great. Even with Kindles, Kobos and iPads, books are still a staple in my house, and always will be. My parents built an entire wall of bookshelves and store every book they’ve ever owned on these shelves. These shelves get dusty, and aren’t organized by genre or even size, which makes me crazy, but they love it. I have my books sorted by genre; for example, biographies, history, health and wellbeing, travel, fashion, and fiction; and then further organized by size. I also love coffee table books. These I keep neatly stored on my table for others to enjoy. My cook books are always kept in the kitchen.

To start organizing your books, you first need to de-clutter, as this will help you assess what you have. Regardless of how your books are organized, a good rule of thumb is to de-clutter your books annually. (Mom and Dad—I hope you’re reading this!) Which books to keep and which to pass along depends on your preference. After you read a book, maybe it’s time to pass it along, or maybe you like to keep books for decoration, reference, or to read again. The choice is up to you. Never throw away books, as you can always pass them along or donate them to your local library or schools. Some books continue to be updated with newer editions, meaning it’s no longer necessary to keep the older editions; this is especially true of travel guides. Most of us only read fiction books once; if this is true for you, these are great to pass along once finished. I also love to leave fiction books at my vacation destination for the next vacationer to read. My Bahamas home is filled with books that have been left not only by the previous owners, but also many guests.


Now comes the pivotal part of book organizing: where are you going to put your books? Do you want to keep them all in one room, creating a library effect? Or do you want to spread them around throughout the house? Both options are great; a combo of both works well. Next: what to store your books on? Bookshelves are the logical answer, and there are tons of bookshelf sizes, types, colours, shapes, textures, etc., to choose from. A creative bookshelf can become a focal point of any home, and is worth spending time and money on, especially if you have a lot of books. If for some reason a bookshelf will not work in your space, you could store them in cabinets or make simple shelving along your walls. You can also store books on top of cabinets, bedside tables, on trolley’s, or underneath your coffee table; all of these options can look nice when done properly.


After you have taken full stock of what you’ve got and want to keep, and know where you’re going to keep your books, you need to make another important decision: how to categorize your books. The first decision will be to either go “functional” or go “pretty,” meaning that you’re either going to organize logically, or aesthetically. If you go functional, don’t fret, as I’m still going to give you some ideas on how to make your bookshelf look pretty. Going functional could mean different things. It could, for instance, mean separating your fiction and non-fiction. From there, fiction could be further organized by alphabet, author, and/or genre. Your non-fiction can be separated by subjects. Or, just organize your books whatever way makes the most sense for you, in terms of easy access and happy reading. If you prefer to prioritize prettiness, you can organize your books by size, colour, paperback versus hard cover— whatever you think looks best. Keep in mind that you don’t have to choose to go strictly functional or pretty; I actually like to employ a hybrid approach, where books are organized by genre and then stored by size to make them look pretty.

Another way to make your books look pretty is to keep all the spines facing out with the titles facing the same way. Alternately, you can alternate placing books horizontally and vertically to break up a long line up books. You can also create breaks between genres, topics, authors, etc., and add bookends, photos, rocks, trinkets—anything really you think looks nice.


Whatever organizing system you choose for your books, sustainability is important. I have the perfectly organized bookshelf, but after guests visit, or even the cleaning ladies dust, the books will be slightly misaligned. This bothers me, so I always go and re-align them. Same with coffee table books; they’re always inviting for guests, but if you like them to be a certain way, they’ll need to be re-arranged after your guests are done flipping through them. I know that not everyone wants their books perfectly aligned, and that’s fine. But however you like to keep your books, remember that you’re only truly organized if you have a system and maintain it.

Books will never go out of style. They also say a lot about you, which is why they’re one of my favourite items to have in my home. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the countryside in Canada, with limited access to other activities, or maybe because my parents have always been booklovers, but whatever it is—books brighten my day and home.

Jane Stoller was born and raised in a small town in Ontario, Canada. Her love for organizing began as a child as she was often found happily lining up her pet cats, stuffed animals and books. Growing up, her passion for organizing shifted to all types of storage space with a  special desire for revolutionizing closets! Coupled with her entrepreneurial spirit, Jane has shared her organizing skills with countless friends and colleagues. 

Jane holds a Bachelor's degree in History and Polotical Science and a Master's in Buisness Administration from Canada's top universities. She currently lives in Zurich, Switzerland and works in teh construction industry. 

Be sure to stop by and say "HI!" to Jane!