Organizing My Books with Color

RedShuttersatHomeOh, spring! I love you so much. You make me excited to get my house ready for your arrival. I want to clean, sweep, wash, and dust. (Oh, ok, maybe not dust.)

To welcome the time of tulips, I’ve been reading Organize & Create Discipline by Justin Klosky, a how-to book for those seeking organization tips. (I was given a complimentary copy of the book to review.) It’s an encyclopedia of sorts, moving from A through to Z of strategies to keep you organized and efficient.

This book is a good resource for the organizationally challenged. Not sure what to do about…well, anything? You can likely find it in Organize & Create Discipline. From how to get through airport security (at first, not what I think about when I think about getting organized, but a recent trip through TSA changed my mind) to how to efficiently store paperwork, Klosky’s book offers some helpful tips.

Despite my self-proclaimed super-organized status, I took away valuable lessons from Organize & Create Discipline, including:

1. I’m bad at keeping track of my online passwords. I create complicated combinations of letters and numbers—just like the security experts say you should—only to promptly forget them next time I need to log in. Then, I spend valuable time resetting my passwords when I could be working, writing, or, well, ok, doing some online shopping. I have to establish a better method for staying safe online but also tracking my passwords. An “old school” paper-based tracking system or an online password keeper are two ideas I’m considering.

2. My books, my beloved books, were kind of a mess. And, I have a lot of books. Not as many as I used to, as I have committed, over the years, to donating and purging, as appropriate—though, oddly enough, my husband’s chemistry course book from college is still in our basement. (Heads up, honey, I’m coming for it.)

In our house, books are located in four places: 1) the aforementioned basement, home to an array of Lonely Planet and Eyewitness travel guides (Singapore! Morocco! Spain! Southern Africa!) and the cast-offs (college texts, dictionaries, etc.); 2) the living room (fancy “coffee table” books artfully arranged); 3) the den (books with pretty spines that we see out of the corners of our eyes as we watch television); 4) the study/playroom.

That last space is what to came to mind as I read Organize & Create Discipline. Our study/playroom has space for books on the left side of the room, thanks to an Ikea Expedit and a wall self; this is where we keep the kids’ books. On the right side, shelving behind glass doors is above the kids’ built-in desks. The shelves used to be home to the previous owner’s doll collection. Now, it’s where our books and some special collectibles reside.

I wondered about the books. Were they put away in such a manner as to be helpful to those perusing them? In other words, could someone other than me find anything?

So, I took a look.

organize books with color


There was a shelf dedicated to books I loved: 100 Years of Solitude, The Magician’s Assistant, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Anna Karenina, Middlesex, Long Walk to Freedom.

There was the section of books about religion and faith. Another was a section of books written by African authors, including JM Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Unity Dow, and others. There was poetry, self-help, and nearly an entire shelf of my beloved books from childhood. The entire Little House series. Emil and the Detectives. Nancy Drew. Ballet Shoes. My husband’s collection of Harry Potter books (now just missing number four).  Books by the same author stood proudly together.

These books were lovely and they made me happy to look at them, each bringing forward memories I treasure.

But…their placement only made sense to me.

So, inspired by Klosky’s admonishment to be efficient and organize, and by every gorgeous picture I’ve seen on Pinterest when searching for how to style shelves, I embraced a new strategy.

Put the books back on the shelves by color.

One afternoon, after yet another snowstorm blanketed New England, and the kids and I were home, staying warm while watching the yard turn into our own version of Antarctica, I took every single book off of the shelves. I’d estimate that I had a few hundred to reorganize. Every book in the house was pulled into this project, in fact (except for the cast-offs in the basement).

I spread my books across the study/playroom according to color. Black here, white there. A pile of pink, another of blue.

Based upon my collection, I hypothesized that white must be a top cover color choice of book publishers, as they take up the greatest number of my books. Gold, covering the spines of only two books in my collection, is not as popular. For my imaginary-wouldn’t-it-be-lovely book, I’d pick an aqua cover and spine, I decided after reviewing all of my books. Despite its small presence in my library, I love aqua’s stylish look.

I did encounter a few problems with my color system.  What to do about multi-colored books? For example, which color should Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, with its yellow and black spine, be filed with? (I chose black, as it seemed more Bourdain’s style.) Or what about Sarah’s Pslam, with its red and green spine? (I created a rainbow category for it and a few others.)

My color mapping had some fall-out. No longer are my Elie Wiesel books together. My two copies of Night, one signed by Professor Wiesel himself, are split, one in green and the other in white. The same thing happened to my Barbara Kingsolver novels; they are spread among a number of different colors.



One drawback is that I am certain this system aids no one else (eh hem, my husband) in finding a book! I’ve fallen down on achieving the principles of Organize & Create Discipline, I’m afraid, though the sheer act of moving around my books and cleaning off my shelves, makes me spring-ready and that’s 100% worth it.

Disclosure: As noted above, I was provided a complimentary copy of Organize & Create Discipline to review, but the ideas in this post are all mine. 

One Response
  1. April 11, 2014