Today is National Book Lovers Day, a day that encourages you to sit back and relax with a great book.
You may have a stack of books that you’ve been meaning to read “someday.”
Today is the day to go find one of them and crack it open. There’s nothing better than collective momentum and a national holiday to prompt one into action!
Of course, if when you head to that stack of books you don’t find them in any kind of useful order, you may forget the significance of today and shrink back from the chaotic, overflowing mess masquerading as a library.
It could be that you don’t even see the new books anymore as you pass the shelf, bookcase or random pile each day, cringing.
Perfect–that means that today is the day you organize your books and possibly do the unthinkable–let go of some of them.
Before you panic, remember the 3rd leg of The Organizational Triangle®: Something In, Something Out. I’m guessing that mixed in with all the books you would never let go of nor NEED to let go of, there are at least a few that are out of date, no longer useful and have not been opened or read by you in many years, if ever.
Those are the books to focus on first.
Old school textbooks for subjects you don’t use at least annually–think organic chemistry, physics and foreign language books that are obsolete.
Likewise travel books more than 5 years old–you will find that many places listed in those books have relocated or closed. Roads have been changed, neighborhoods transformed. Between online sites like Frommers to Lonely Planet, you’ll find fresh, up-to-the-minute travel advice that you won’t find in your 1998 copy of Let’s Go Europe.
Once you’ve culled the low hanging fruit, you can start to organize everything that is left.
From the decorative to the practical, here are several ways to create order out of literary chaos:
1) Sort by Color
This one is admittedly for the aesthetically driven and therefore a bit funky when it comes to finding something logically and quickly, but it will add some flare and visual distinction to your bookshelf. Group like colors together and make a color spectrum across your shelves!
2) Sort by Size
Similar to color, this let’s visuals take the lead over another other way of sorting. Place the tallest books on the bottom shelves with smaller books on each subsequent shelf so that the smallest books end up on the top shelf. This creates a tidy appearance, though specific books can still be difficult to locate.
3) Sort by Author
Sort books into groups by their author and then organize them alphabetically. This will keep you organized, unless you can’t remember who wrote some of your favorites.
4) Sort Alphabetically by Title
This is a simple way to arrange everything from A-Z. They may not be pretty but you will find anything quickly.
5) Sort by Genre then Alphabetically
This may be the best way to organize your books if you search for specific topics. Each subject will be laid out by alphabet then within each category, each title will also be alphabetically arranged.
When you are done with any of the above systems and still have leftover books, don’t despair. There are many places that are always looking to spread information to those who have less access to it, either because of geography or economics or both.
As you settle in with your book to start reading, you can feel the warm glow of knowing you helped pay forward access to knowledge that may change the world for good. These locations all take your used books and put them towards a great cause:
- Housing Works Bookstore or Goodwill
- Your local library
- Books for Soldiers
- Books for Africa
- Books Through Bars & Books To Prisoners
Wherever you donate, remember that it’s better to share a tool with someone who needs it than to hoard your tools and never use them. Today is not about potential, it’s all about action.
One of the pioneers of professional organizing and productivity, Andrew Mellen is the best-selling author of Unstuff Your Life!. He travels the world speaking, teaching, and coaching individuals and global brands including the New York Mets, Genentech, American Express, Time, Inc. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.