Controlling Book Clutter

September 6, 2019

My kids love to read.  I love that about them.  My kids do not like to return books to the book shelves. That I do not love so much. 

When we built our home we created a suite for the kids.  They have a common room with the LEGO table, a couch and bookshelves.  Their bedrooms and a bathroom are all directly off this room.  We call it their “Common Room”.  I digress – the Common Room is where we keep all the books.  Other than a few special books, I consider all books family property and we share them.

This system led to book hoarding in the kids bedrooms.  Each kid hides their favorite 30 or so books in their room – in the nightstand, under the bed, in the closet.  You get the idea.  But then they forget that they have these books, the piles grow larger and larger, and no one can find anything. 

When they clean their rooms they return all the books to the shelves in the Common Room.  But the books are always put back in a hurried, backward and upside down fashion.  This drives me crazy.

I took this picture after the bookshelves were “cleaned” by the kids – and they thought they did an excellent job!  It wasn’t that they weren’t trying – they couldn’t remember where the books went. If I was going to keep my sanity and expect them to clean up I needed a new system.  I had a burst of inspiration when I was volunteering in my son’s classroom.  The books were not on shelves – they were organized in bins!

All it took was a rainy Saturday and a quick trip to the Dollar Store for some new bins to get this project started. I enlisted the kids help and we started by pulling all the books off the shelves and separating them into categories. They created categories that made sense to them. I want them to be able to easily put the books neatly away.   During this process we purged enough books to fill two large donate boxes. Bonus!

Book Categories

  • Non-Fiction
  • Hardcover
  • Golden Books
  • ‘Girl books”
  • Cat books
  • Level 1 reader books
  • Level 2 reader books
  • Books we really like
  • Books that are just ok
  • Chapter books – separated by series
  • Board books
  • Oversized books
  • Berenstain Bear books

Not all books are going to fit in bins. Some are actually easier to find lined up on the shelf. All of our hardcover and chapter books are lined up (spine side out – this was a difficult concept for some), organized by series or author when possible. Oversized books only fit on my bottom shelves so that was easy. We have a growing collection of non-fiction books that come in all shapes and sizes. I kept those on separate shelves and organized them by subject matter. Realistically that won’t last long, but a girl can try!

This shelf holds our non-fiction books, oversized books, girl and cat books as well as the ones we don’t like so much!

Our bins are color coded but not labeled. When I set this system up I wasn’t sure it would work and wondered whether we would change the bin layouts. But it’s been several months now so I should commit!

This is the shelf that holds most of our favorite books as well as readers and chapter books.

It’s a system that works for now.  It isn’t the most beautiful bookshelf – I have visions of something much prettier, but it is very functional. The kids understand where the books go and don’t shove them randomly on the shelves.  We’ve been using this system since March and the room still looks much neater. I’m kind of amazed that they remember which books go in which bins. I can normally find what I’m looking for – unless its hidden in someone’s room.

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