Every word of God is flawless;
He is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
“Whatever you read, read the Bible first. Beware of bad books: there are plenty in this day. Take heed what you read.”
I think books are wonderful.
At a recent speaking gig, I met a lovely pastor and fellow bibliophile. She and I chatted about books we love, books we want to read, and favorite authors. It quickly became clear that she owns far more books than I do. In fact, it sounded as though her books might be overwhelming her house…and her.
Books aren’t so wonderful if they’re cluttering your home and spirit. So I started to ask gentle questions about her book hoard. She started to squirm a bit—but she was squirming in the “Huh… Hey, I could do that” way that I love.
“You should write a book on how to organize books!” she said.
This post is for you, lovely pastor, and for all of our fellow book hoarders. I mean, book lovers. Here we go…
How to Organize Your Books, the Organizing You Way
(This is a specifically applied adaptation from Building Your House, my book on clearing out the clutter in your home and heart.)
Step 1: Pull all of your books off of the shelves. All of them. Gather your books from the remote reaches of your home and add them to the piles. All of them.
Step 2: Clean your empty bookshelves, then get out your feather duster and clean the books as best you can. You may want to do this in a room with an open window!
Step 3: Sort through your books, making a Recycle Pile, a Give Away Pile, and a Keep Pile. (If you’ve read Building Your House, you’ll know that you can do a Quick Sort that includes a Maybe Pile, then circle back and sort the Maybe Pile with extreme prejudice.)
Yep, this is the hard part. Consider every book as an individual. Keep only the books that are useful or joyful to you.
Here are some of the things you might think as you put a book in each pile…
The Recycle Pile
- This book is just too out of date to be useful.
- I found something here unsettling; I don’t think anyone should read it.
The Give Away Pile
- I enjoyed this, so someone else will enjoy it, too.
- So-and-so will love this. I’ll give it to him/her.
- I don’t really want to read this, but someone else might.
- I can easily sell this.
- I can donate this to the public library, or to my church’s library.*
- I can always get this from the library if I want to read it again.
The Keep Pile
- I haven’t read this yet, but I really want to.
- I definitely want to read this book again.
- I know I’ll refer to this book in the future.
- This book gives me pure, true joy when I look at it.
That last statement may cover your very favorite books, antique books, gifts, and beautiful hardcovers. Or it may not. Watch out for books that clutter your spirit as much as your shelves!
If the book is old or even an antique, but doesn’t give you joy, let it go. Even if it’s an heirloom… your deceased loved ones don’t care if you keep the books—they’re living joyfully with our Savior!
If you love the giver but not the book, then the book has served it’s purpose of love-bearing and you can let it go. God isn’t contained by things, so love isn’t either.
If you’ve had a book for years and still haven’t read it, there’s no need to feel guilty when you see it sitting there. You can put in on your nightstand and determine to start it within a specific time frame. Or you may realize it’s not for you and just let it go! God isn’t keeping a tally on how many books you’ve read so He can give you a gold star. You don’t have to read them all.
And watch out for groups of books that you tend to see as all-or-nothing. If a book is in a “collection” but you don’t think you’ll ever read it again, let someone else enjoy it.
Book-lovers, we aren’t here to collect stuff. We’re here to glorify God. So let those books go!
Step 4: Give away and recycle the books in those piles as soon as you can. Put them in your recycling bin or box them up and put them in your car. Immediately.
Step 5: Replace the books on the shelves.
This is the fun part! After tossing all of those books, you should have plenty of room. You can arrange your books however you’d like. If you’ve read Building Your House, you know that I recommend deciding on a system that will work for you: the system with the least amount of structure that makes the books the most accessible to you.
For a super simple system, just separate them into fiction and non-fiction.
If you’re like me, you’ll have sections for fiction and non-fiction, plus a special “Jesus Section” for faith-related books and Bibles.
You may want to store books by your favorite genres, like sections for faith, parenting, self-help, reference, mystery, scifi, and chick lit.
If you really, really want to, you can store them alphabetically by author, but I don’t recommend it. What happens when you get a new one and the appropriate shelf is full? What happens when you’re tired and start shoving them onto the shelves willy-nilly? Don’t make yourself shuffle them around and then “reorganize” later. Simple is best!
Step 6: Decide how to handle new books. Do you have a section for “want to read”? Are you going to let one book go for every new one that comes in? Decide how you’re going to be intentional about your book stash!
And one more special note:
Today I happened to read Nehemiah 8, where Ezra stands and reads God’s Word to the people of Israel for an entire morning. Most of them hadn’t heard the words before, or didn’t previously understand them. They were tempted to mourn over their mistakes, but their leaders encouraged them to be joyful. God’s Word was heard! He was being glorified in Jerusalem!
We can rejoice over His Word in our homes, too. Give your Bibles a special place, and don’t let them get dusty. Take them on and off of your shelves until they are tattered and torn.
And know that if you have given your life to Jesus, your name is in His book.
Much love to you, my friends!
Tell me about it:
How do you like to keep your books organized? I’d love to read your ideas here or on Facebook!
*Big thanks to Laurie Reads for sharing a wonderful idea via Facebook: Donate your gently used books to teachers for their classroom libraries. Great idea, Laurie!
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