Settling in, aka Organizing My Bookshelves

We moved into our new rental house a week and a half ago. For most of that time my husband has been away in Devon for work, which created the perfect opportunity for me to have free rein in organizing the place – clothes, framed photos, toiletries, desk supplies: yeah, sure, all that; but really, my focus was always on the books.

I thought I had the perfect plan: general fiction in our bedroom; classics and literary reference books in the spare room/office; and the rest in the lounge on a big bookcase divided into one shelf biographies, one shelf nature, one shelf religion, and one shelf travel. This system quickly broke down. For one thing, we actually have three or more shelves’ worth of nature books, more than a shelf each of most other nonfiction genres, and way more fiction than would ever fit on one small Ikea Billy.

The result has been some inevitable dividing and jumbling. Much as I didn’t want to do so, I’ve had to put some books on their sides on top of rows, and I had to double stack the religion shelf. I made three shelves of nature and travel combined, but put the travel guidebooks and the nature field guides in separate places. Fiction ends up scattered in several places, including priority stacks on our bedside tables plus one shelf devoted to novels I mean to get to soon.

Ultimately we’re going to have to get another bookcase, but I’m pretty pleased with the results thus far. Here’s a peek:

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Lounge unit: three shelves of mixed nature and travel (alphabetical by author); one double-stacked shelf of religion.
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Bedroom bookcase: general fiction (all but one of which I have read!) with areas on the bottom shelf for oversized graphic novels and science/nature books. On top are various nature field guides.
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Spare room/office bookcases. Left: classics and poetry (Dickens set on top); right: top shelf of priority fiction, second shelf of biographies, third shelf of literary reference and generally nonfiction (divided by some Penguin paperbacks), and a bottom shelf of more literary reference and biography.
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Overflow area (on office desk shelves): travel guides; mixed reference and humor; paperback fiction that doesn’t fit elsewhere.

I’ve been enjoying my walks into town along the Kennet & Avon canal. Up until Tuesday we were without Internet at home, so I had to make daily excursions to the lovely public library to do my editing work. It’s great watching life on a canal change: some houseboats seem permanent, while others drift in and out from day to day; the swans and ducks are always on the move, looking out for their next wheaten snack; and every time I walk the tow path I notice something new, like a large stand of hops. Home brew, anyone?

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After several years of not having access to our own outdoor space, we now have as much garden as we could ever want. The back door lets out onto a large stone patio, followed by a grassy area with a rotary washing line, a huge combined storage shed and summer house (too warm now, but should be a perfect reading spot next month); an emptied pond, some pear and plum trees and a bench; blackcurrant and raspberry bushes; a second shed (currently inaccessible due to a wasp’s nest); a dilapidated vegetable bed; a compost heap; a cuttings area; more grass; some scrub; and finally the secluded gate onto the canal path. Every time you think you’ve gotten to the end, it just keeps going. At some point it’s going to represent an awful lot of work, but for now I’m just in awe of the space and the sense of freedom.

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Looking back from the summer house.

We’re having the mildest of heat waves here in southern England, but the signs of autumn are poking through – especially the ripening fruit you see everywhere. We have lots of ready blackberries in the garden; add to that some foraged plums, pears and apples and we’ll soon have the makings of a hearty crumble with which to welcome our first guests this weekend.

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What’s your strategy in organizing your bookshelves?

Does it feel like autumn where you are?

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13 thoughts on “Settling in, aka Organizing My Bookshelves

  1. Ha! Books! Every time I develop a strategy it quickly breaks down because more books unaccountably find their way into the house. Bigger house? And yup. Autumn’s arrived. In the early morning, anyway.

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  2. I enjoyed this, and the photos. Is the canal path populated, and open? I hope you are safe there. You are a librarian at heart. Love you, Marm

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    1. Yes, it feels safe. It’s a popular place for dog walkers, cyclists, fishermen and pedestrians, and is in view of multiple houses.

      It’s true: once a librarian, always a librarian! At least I haven’t gone so far as to approximate Dewey or Library of Congress classifications.

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  3. What a lovely post. Your new home looks cozy and lovely; Devon is a “dreamboat”. I am about to move myself and have a massive purge on my hands and then have to reorganize.
    Previously, I had my non-fiction in one massive bookcase, my fiction in another massive one. Mysteries on a smaller shelf, and my bedroom shelves had all my favorite classics and Viragos mixed in with ARCS.

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    1. Thanks, Eve! I thought I’d done some good culling before the move, yet ended up with another 18 books to take to charity shops while I was arranging the shelves. I like that you reserved your bedroom shelves for favorites 🙂 Good luck with the move!

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  4. It definitely doesn’t feel like autumn here, but a continuation of humid and sticky August summer. And as for strategy, it sounds like we’ve got similar approaches, although we have more bookcases. But, it’s also true that I haven’t read as many books on them. Really you have only one unread on your fiction shelf? I’m so impressed. Why don’t you read it, just to keep things simple? 🙂

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  5. Your new rental looks lovely–and I’m amazed at how you keep your number of books in check, given how much you read!

    I wish it felt like autumn here. And that it would rain.

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  6. It looks lovely. Is the summerhouse damp or could you put shelves in there, too? It felt a bit autumnal in the park just now – some fallen leaves amongst the bright flowers in the beds, and a misty morning with dewy grass.

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    1. That’s an intriguing idea! I’m inclined to expect anywhere to be damp in England during the winter months, but I would certainly be willing to keep some piles of books in the summer house for easy access during the autumn.

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  7. Your new place sounds wonderful – especially all those fruit trees and berry bushes!
    Organizing the books would definitely be the highlight of moving into a new place. It’s been 13 years now since our last move – hard to believe!
    I’m also impressed by the fact that you only have one unread fiction book on your shelf. I don’t think I’ve read that one either, or else I might be able to give you some advice about it. 🙂

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