Skip to main content

3 smart ways to organize tons of books in a small space

If you’re a self-proclaimed bookworm, you might be drowning in paperbacks and hardcovers. Books take up a lot of space, and the fact is, staying organized in a space like that is a little tricky. From utilizing unused space to ordering practical furniture, we’re here to show you how to organize books in your home. Take a look at these three smart ways to organize lots of books in a modest space.

Books of all different colors are stacked on a set of white bookshelves.
Nick Fewings/Unsplash

Order a floor-to-ceiling, custom built-in shelf

Built-in shelves are life-savers when it comes to learning how to organize a library that’s wanting for space. These custom furniture pieces fit specifically to your wall and can be placed anywhere where there’s extra space. A whole wall is a sensible choice if you have the space, but consider building around a doorway, a mantel, or even around your headboard if you don’t.

Recommended Videos

Keep in mind that you might need permission to build directly into walls if you’re a renter. In this case, wall-to-ceiling stand alone bookshelves achieve the same effect and look just as great. 

Invest in secret compartment furniture

If you want to keep your collection of texts out of sight, secret compartment furniture is the answer. Think benches with flip-top lids, coffee tables with cabinet doors, and under-the-bed sliding drawers. You can also find sliding drawers to tuck under your couch or end tables. This way, all the textbooks and novels won’t have an effect on your home’s aesthetic.

Still short on space after shopping for some secret storage furniture? Transform an unused hallway or bedroom closet to a mini library. Choose a standalone shelf or a mini dresser to maximize the space without building any custom decor. If you can’t hide the library you’ve built on over the years, Apartment Therapy suggests using a bookshelf as a ‘wall’ to section off a room.

Create a hallway library

If there’s no way you can fit more furniture into your living room or sleeping space, don’t worry – there are plenty of unused spaces you might have missed. You can utilize hallway space by hanging floating shelves across its length. Thin, freestanding shelves also work, and you still have enough space to comfortably pass through.

If you’re lucky enough to have a little extra room in your hallway, consider cube shelves. You can use the cubes for lots of books and the extra space on top for more decorative pieces.

Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in a white-walled apartment.
Kolya Korzh/Unsplash

How do you organize a bookshelf with a lot of books? 

Lots of books means lots of different ways you can organize your shelves. Serious library buffs will alphabetize by category and by author. Another idea is to organize by color and create a rainbow palette on your shelf. Stack books both vertically and horizontally wherever there’s space. In any other situation, this can look haphazard and messy, but with books, it looks quirky and personalized.

You can also organize your books by the order in which you read or will read them. For polyglots, you can categorize them by language if it’s easier for you to keep track that way.

How do libraries organize books?

Libraries typically organize books through the Dewey decimal system, but seeing as nobody will be “checking out” books out of your home with a scanner and serial numbers, we can tweak the method a little. The Dewey system categorizes books by genre and then by alphabet corresponding to the author’s last name, states Britannica

If an author has multiple books in the same category, the books are organized alphabetically by title. The Library of Congress uses a similar method and within each category, there are even more subcategories for extra distinction. Of course, when you’re dealing with millions of books, it doesn’t hurt to be specific.

How do books stay organized?

Learning how to organize books is really a personal journey. Try one method, stick to it for at least a few weeks, and assess how much your personal library is (or isn’t!) organized. We humbly suggest that when you’re finished with a book, put it back to its designated spot. 

We repeat: put the book back where it belongs, and don’t fall into the trap of leaving one on the coffee table, thinking you’ll get to it later. Next thing you know, the single book turned into a stack of ten with five others scattered around the room. We know, we’ve been there.

Your tablet might be full of unread works, but there’s nothing like flipping through the pages of an analog book. Keeping your collection neat can be challenging, especially in an apartment or full house, but that’s about to change. Now that you’re armed with new knowledge about how to organize books in a small space, we hope your space stays as organized as your favorite public library.

Editors' Recommendations

Deb Goncalves
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Deb's work has appeared on Moms, Babygaga, and WorldAtlas. When she's not working (that's hard to say about a Capricorn), she…
9 small apartment storage ideas that will make your home feel super expansive
Get creative with these storage space ideas
Underbed storage drawers

Apartment living has plenty of advantages, but when it comes to storage, your small space can lack in that department. When you’ve decorated every corner and you have limited square footage, where do you stash all of your clutter? You need strategic small apartment storage ideas that work for you, not against you; luckily, that's what we're here for.

If you’re looking for ways to maximize storage in a small apartment, you’ll need to get creative in each room. From taking your storage vertical to choosing pieces of furniture that multitask and adding shelving that can transform the room, here are nine genius ways to make the most of your storage solutions.
1. Transform your entryway

Read more
9 ingenious storage tricks for small bedrooms with no closets for anyone running out of storage space
Storage ideas to free up space in your bedrooms with no closets
Woman storing folded clothes

Bedrooms are not just places to sleep, even though that's their main intention. Bedrooms also store clothes, shoes, and other personal items that you don't keep in other rooms of your home. But what if you have a small bedroom without a closet? Where should all the stuff go without having a cluttered and disorganized room?

A cluttered room can cause unnecessary stress and an overall sense of discomfort, which is the last feeling you want from where you're supposed to rest. If you have small bedrooms with no closets in your home, don’t worry. We have nine brilliant storage ideas that are also stylish so you can declutter and relax.

Read more
How to maximize closet space: Our 9 best tips and tricks
Cluttered and disorganized closet? Our best tips for maximizing your closet space
built in closet with drawings and hanging white tshirts

Having a clean, organized space is like a breath of fresh air to the soul. When that space is small, though, it can be difficult to keep it tidy and free of clutter. One of the toughest places in the home to keep organized is the closet. Particularly when your closet space is limited, things can get out of control quickly, leading to an overstuffed and overcrowded closet space that makes putting laundry away a total nightmare. The good news is, we have some tips and tricks for how to maximize closet space so you can invite better organization into your home. Whether you have a grand walk-in or a simple, small closet to store your clothing, we'll help you wrangle that messy closet by maximizing the space you've got.

How to maximize small closet space to tackle an overcrowded wardrobe
Before you start installing shelves or adding storage solutions to your small closet, it's crucial to simplify and declutter your closet's contents. Here are a couple of tips for minimizing the clutter and giving your closet a clean look overall.
Tip #1: Purge without mercy
This first step may seem like a no-brainer, but it's incredibly important. Go through each clothing item and accessory, and really ask yourself if you need it. Fill up some garbage bags or totes with discarded items, and either donate them or toss them. If you really want to free up space, you'll have to be merciless with your decisions.
Tip #2: Unify and organize your hangers
It may seem like an odd tip for maximizing space, but the reality is that if all of your hangers are the same brand and style, they make your closet look and feel more organized. Your hangers will look straighter and your clothing will all hang the same way. If you have several clothing items that are the same length and size, hang them together so that they create an equal block of space beneath them. This will help when you start utilizing floor space.

Read more