Monday, August 17, 2009

Organizing my bookshelves by color

One of the saddest things we did upon moving into our apartment here was pack away the majority of our books. We own many, many books. It is one of the few things in life that both Jeremy and I are willing to spend money on (we are also rabid library fans, but there's just something about having your very own copy of a favorite book). In our house in Tucson, we had something like seven bookshelves, all full to bursting.

Well, our apartment here doesn't have room for seven bookshelves, so we went through a Sophie's Choice of an afternoon where we separated the books into a "shelf" pile and a "store" pile (actually, there was a third pile, and it was "finally this book about [insert random, obscure language teaching issue] will be hogging room on the shelf in Jeremy's OFFICE instead of at home").

On the one hand, it's great to have a slim, sleek book collection on display contained in only three shelves. On the other, what if I suddenly need emergency access to my Food Science & Nutrition textbook from 2001, or Issue 664 of my Japanese Nonno magazine??

The vetting process was far from scientific. Jeremy went through a couple of boxes, I went through a couple of boxes, and when the shelves we had out were nearing capacity, we stopped. Here's what two of them looked like (the second didn't get a decent "before" picture):

Since we had already abandoned our normal system of separating the books on the shelves into categories (religion, classics, YA/children's books, foreign language, travel, dictionaries, etc.) by leaving most of our books in storage, I decided to throw caution to the wind and organize them by color.

I first heard of doing this from Miss Nemesis a few years back and it intrigued me. In a way, I was glad to be free of our rigid classification system so I could transform our boring bookshelves into this:
It was harder than I thought it would be because book covers are not always one color. The paperback Harry Potters gave me the most trouble with their oddly colored argyle patterns. I think I did an OK job, but I'm sure I will be refining it over the days to come. I want to get a better continuum of colors - I don't like how the second shelf kind of dies out in greys and blacks all of a sudden. I also think it would look better with more expansive shelves (and, of course, all those many colorful books that are now boxed up in the attic). It only took me a few minutes to get over the fact that this new arrangement creates a bizarre universe in which The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyrii belongs between Your Child's Self-Esteem and The Complete Novels of Jane Austen.

I was so excited about the books that I did the DVDs, too:


I think the biggest practical advantage of this system of shelving is that it is now so much easier to put away a book after reading because I don't have to stand there wondering, "Does this German Bible go under religion, or foreign language?" It just goes under "maroon," and that's all there is to it.

11 comments:

JackJen said...

It IS harder than one thinks! When I did it, Joe (remember, he has an engineer's brain) was not happy with my decision.

Was there a particular color that was underrepresented? I sort of got a little sad realizing how large my white/tan/black/gray section was, and how small my red/orange/yellow section ended up being.

Anna said...

This cracked me up. I organized part of a bookshelf by color once. Well, sort of.

Whenever anyone came to our house and looked at our books, they never noticed my thesis. After all, it doesn't have the most enticing of colors (dark blue, plain) and title fonts (times new roman, small). So I put it on an eye level shelf, and surrounded it with all our white books, so it would stand out. No luck. I tried pulling it out a little from the shelf. Still no luck. Finally I stuck a dollar bill in it as visible book mark.

Still no one sees it. No one has ever pulled that thesis off the shelf. (Sigh.) And, I finally took the dollar bill out to buy a treat. My next trick will be to invite people over to play a game like Boggle and then casually hand them my thesis as a hard surface to write on.

Nancy said...

:) Andrew and I both worked in the HBLL and we often have little disagreements about how to organize our shelves...not that we have any here.

I can't way until we have a "take all your stinkin' books to the office" day. I swear our ME/Arabic section is in 2 to 3 boxes alone...out of the several boxes of books we have.

When we get home, I want to make a sling bookshelf, at least for our juvie books, since those seem to take up a little less room than a standard bookshelf and makes book-putting-awaying easier for kids.

We've always done subject divisions and those do get tricky...

AmandaStretch said...

I love my color bookshelves. I should take my "How to Be a Librarian" books to my office, but I haven't yet. I worry about subjects and genres enough at work, so I like the eye candy at home.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

My friend Judy once paid her daughter to reorganize the many many bookshelves in their house, giving her the option of which method to use. In her 13-year-old mind the most logical system was alphabetical by publisher! We all had a good laugh about that and wondered if Judy could ever find what she was looking for.

Susanne said...

I did something really boring and arranged mine tallest to shortest, but I don't have 7 book cases full either.

Jill said...

I've always wanted to do this... maybe I will when we move back to Tucson next week :)

Liz Johnson said...

I love it. I want to do mine the same some day. :)

Britney said...

Your shelves look so sleek!

This is totally something I would do and enjoy doing. Another one of my favorite ways to organize books is by size: tallest to shortest. Hooray for orderly shelves.

Kristen said...

It looks so artistic and lovely! But you really do need more of the vivid color spectrum. I can appreciate the convenience you spoke of (with the German Bible example), which is why I tried to arrange my genres so that (using the same example)religion and foreign language would be next to one another, and the German Bible would form the transition piece. But inevitably there would be too many of those multi-genre options to create a seamless structure.

Anna, your comment was hilarious.

Denise Lee said...

I just blogged about organizing books (www.clear-spaces.blogspot.com); although, the color method was not addressed.
Would you want to rotate your collection occasionally? I'd love to know how you plan on handling rotation?

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