Firstly, let me start by assuring you, this How-To Guide will give you some great suggestions on how to best organise your books whether you have five, 50 or 500.
Side note: If you are organising 500 books that aren't already in some kind of understood order, consider calling in reinforcements, to assist with the metaphorical and literal heavy lifting.
Some key points to consider when deciding which approach to organising is right for you:
Who is reading the books you are organising?
All family members?
Just one person?
A couple who combine most items and therefore don't need a delineation between whose is whose?
How often are the books accessed?
Are they reading books, accessed frequently? OR;
Are they reference books, accessed in-frequently but still needed.
Beauty is in the eye of the book holder.
Let's start simply. If you are organising a small amount of books (small for the sake of this blog would be closer to five than 50); we often recommend a more visual approach to your organising.
Since The Home Edit hit Netflix in 2020 and everyone got bored at home during the many lockdowns, arranging books in rainbows has become increasingly popular.
Prior to rainbows, height order was probably the most common approach to visually organising books. Height order will likely play a more significant role in your solution if your bookshelf has shelves of varying heights. with lager and smaller shelves as the taller books will need to be placed where they can fit first and then have a second organisation strategy that like colour or one of the other strategies discussed below.
Stacking book horizontally was often used on coffee tables or if the books together created a set/series. When stacking books, remember bigger is not better, there is no need to be rebuilding the pyramids here. Also, try to keep the books in your stacks, similar in size (height, width and weight).
Pros and Cons to Visual Organisation:
Visually pleasing; and
Helpful for young children as the pattern is easy to follow which helps them when learning how to put the books away correctly.
Visual Organisation lacks the logical structure to allow you to predictably find a book when looking. This will be troublesome if you have a large number of books and are trying to find one but can't remember how it looks.
AB to Jay Z.
(Credit to Jessica Chiha, Lola Willow and Danny Chiha, 2017 as this is the title of a Children's Alphabet book).
If you have a Medium to Large book collection (closer to 50 or 500 books than five) Alphabetical order may be the ticket for you. Alphabetical order can be implemented on the basis of Title or by Author.
To decide which approach is right for you, think about the last few times you have gone to grab a book as yourself these questions...
Did you think of the book by Title or by Author?
Was this because you recently purchased said book?
Do you know all the books you own?
Have you read all of the books you own?
If you are mostly likely to be re-reading a book, will you recall the title or author's name easier.
There is no right or wrong to this, either strategy is fine but it is completely based on the reader. For instance, if you find yourself knowing a few books by title and author but after the more popular ones you can only recall/recognise the title, try alphabetical order by title.
If in a few weeks, this system isn't working for you, that is ok. You will likely have a much clearer understanding of how you approach looking for a book which can assist with guiding what the best strategy is for you.
TIP: If organising your books alphabetically by title consider ignoring the word "The" as you may find your T section starts to fill up unusually fast.
Birds of a feather, flock together.
While asking yourself the questions above, you may have noticed you typically approach finding a book to read like most people approach watching a movie. If it starts with a "I want something funny" or "What was that murder mystery book I read on the plane to Italy all those years ago?" then perhaps by Genre/Series/Theme is a better solution for you, in your space.
If this is starting to feel very you, please know it doesn't simply end here. With this category you will likely have a tiered classification system to your organising. Perhaps something like this:
Romance, Biography, Crime etc. (this is also where you would slot in reader specific sections like kids books).
Group any Series' together and any themed reference books (like text books or cook books).
Sort by Title or Author.
When starting with the Genre/Series/Theme approach, create piles of the books on the floor so you can visually see how many of each Genre, Series or Theme you have. This will assist when returning your books to the bookshelf as you'll have a better understanding of how many books need to fit into each section.
Text books can be organised chronologically in the order that you took the classes or they can be categorised by subject.
Sharing is Caring.
If the bookshelf being organised is communal, consider making the categories of organisation be the owners of the books. It might be easier to keep all of the kids books together and these could even be stored on lower shelves if they are younger and that suits them better for access.
Alternatively, if everyone is approximately the same height, organise the bookshelf like the shelves at the grocery store. Put the most frequently accessed books on the shelves between your shoulders and knees; and the less frequently accessed books on the top and bottom shelves.
Just remember the aim of organising the books is to make things simple for when you are looking for one. If you are sharing the bookshelf with others alphabetical order by title may be the best strategy so you don't need to provide a 20 minute tour of the bookshelf.
The easier the plan is to follow, the more likely people will continue with the plan... and we all know the old saying "many hands make light work".
If this all feels a bit too much, book a Guide me in my Space service or the Declutter and Organise my Space for Me service and book in for a kick start. The process only feels overwhelming because it hasn't happened yet.