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Are Books Actually Clutter?

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

Books are more than just words on a page. To some, they are an escape. A reminder of a moment in your life when you were able to leave this world behind and enter the story found within pages. To others, they are infinite knowledge, recorded and bound between leather. For these reasons, I believe books should be cherished, displayed and loved.

It's no secrete Marie Kondo's "Tidying Up" craze has left book lovers feeling somewhat betrayed. I am here to tell you that, after reading "The life-changing magic of tidying up" that while she is "extreme" in her purging advice, her main mantra remains true. If the book "sparks joy" keep it!


That being said, even the cleanest home can feel heavy and cluttered with shelves and stacks of books lining the walls. So I offer these gentle tips to help offer a breath of fresh air in the home while maintaining the keepsakes, reference and memories found within your books.

Marie mentions that unread books should either be read, or discarded. I agree with this statement to an extent. When you go to the bookstore, you rarely ever buy just one book. I recommend the following tips to keep the unread pile manageable.

  • Stop buying books until you have gone through your unread pile. Then, keep your unread pile to three or less.

  • Always keep at least one unread book by the bed for that moment when inspiration might strike. Personally, I have three.

  • Make it fun and challenge yourself. Give yourself a set amount of time to get through what you haven't read yet. Whatever you don't get to after that set amount of time, either give away or discard.

Marie also mentions that once you read a book, you are unlikely to re-read it. I, however, re-read my favorites all the time (my husband thinks it's crazy that I can do this). I recommend the following methods for displaying your favorite books to keep your space feeling light and airy.

First, take all of your books off your shelves and sort them into three piles.

  • Display: your absolute favorites that you can't live without.

  • Store: those that spark joy that you aren't ready to part with.

  • Donate: the ones that you aren't attached to.

BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF when sorting. For those you want to store, keep them clearly labeled and accessible in a dry place.


It is important to note that the amount of books in your keep pile should not exceed more than half of your available shelf space. For example, if your book shelf has four shelves, your cannot 'keep/display' more than two shelves worth of books.

  • When displaying them, remove the dust jackets. GASP, I know. But you'll be surprised at the difference in appearance and added sophistication. Group them by series when displaying and alternate positioning on the shelves. I personally recommend buying a nice collectors edition for your favorites. The Easton Press has my favorite collections and they look fantastic.

  • Don't be afraid to turn the books with the spines facing inwards. I know, it sounds crazy. But when you group them by series, you know where the book you love is. And you can display more books without them feeling cluttered this way. If this doesn't appeal to you, try to organize by color.

  • Store paperbacks in a bin/basket that adds not only visual interest and style, but functionality by holding a good amount of books.

  • Store books by series vertically and any singles can be stacked horizontally. Add some decor to your shelf by filling in the blank areas. I recommend vases, picture frames and succulents in the same color family.

Books can often provide insight into who a person really is. Be proud of those favorites and display them with style and sophistication. Follow these tips, and you'll never have your books mistaken for clutter again.


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