For me, the first rule for organizing any space is to completely empty it and start from scratch. In the case of your bookshelf, take everything off, lay it out on the floor and use the opportunity to dust in those corners that you always skip. Doesn’t that feel nice?
1.) Hide ugly stuff inside of not ugly stuff
Ok, I’m not calling your stuff ugly, but if you have a cluttered bookshelf that needs to also serve as storage, its helpful to not have everything visible all the time. The large boxes on my bookshelf serve as both visual anchors (see tip 2) but more importantly, they hold lots of stuff. Ugly stuff. Those two brown boxes on top hold all of our extra cords, charges, video game controllers, etc. Keep in mind that you will be able to see inside of boxes that are on shelves below eye level and keep the larger, less busy items in those.
2.) Anchor the eye line with large obects
Here, there are four coordinating Orla Kiley boxes that serve as storage and keep this huge shelf from looking too busy. Space them out to keep the visual weight relatively even on both sides.
3.) Organize items in groups of three
I don’t know why uneven numbers are so visually pleasing, but keeping this very basic principal in mind will make worlds of difference in your decorating.
4.) Group things in varying heights
If everything you want to display is around the same height, you can achieve different heights by putting stuff on top of other stuff. A popular object to use on a bookshelf would be books, but boxes or any other flat object will do the trick.
5.) Put like things together
If you have several objects that play to a certain theme, then it might be best to put them together. In my case, I have a lot of little dog figurines because apparently I’m a 90 year old women. Anyway, I have tried dispersing them all over the shelf but it ends up being a little overwhelming. They look much better together as a crazy lady collection on one shelf. Same goes for books, in my opinion. While some people choose to have little stacks of books scattered all over, that kind of drives me crazy. I broke up the individual shelves of books to even out the visual weight of the shelf, but I kept all the books together in three large groupings. (PS, this does not mean organize your books by color. Please don’t do that.)
6.) Look for unexpected ways to use items you already have
When I put everything back on the shelf I try to make sure each item is in a new place, next to new things and, if possible, serving a new purpose. See how I used a few larger items for bookends? And that bull planter that is holding photos instead of a dead cactus? Oh and I just added that Pendleton blanket to the shelf. Maybe its weird to have a blanket on a shelf, but its my house and I like looking at that blanket, so that is where it will stay for now.
7.) Get rid of some of your books!!
If you are decorating a library then, yes, shelves and shelves of books are appropriate. In your living space, though, they tend to just look dirty and mismatched. I allowed three shelves for books on this large case and sent the rest packing. The middle left shelf is at eye level so I have it holding all of my pretty, hardcover books. The paperbacks are stacked in vertical rows on the top and bottom shelf to maximize the number that can fit.
Most importantly, realize that nothing is permanent and don’t put too much stress on yourself to have everything look perfect. Once those dust bunnies start collecting, I hope you tear everything down and do it all again!