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Organize The Bookcase In 10 Minute Blocks

bookcase that needs to be organized

I had finished organizing and decluttering my desk and felt really good about it. Then I swiveled around in my chair and looked at my bookcase. Ugh! It really looked cluttered and disorganized.  It was definitely time to organize the bookcase.

How did the bookcase get that way?

Like so much clutter that comes into our lives, it was filled with items that I had not made hard decisions on. There were books I had received that were not read and some of them had sat there for over a year. I had reference books that I no longer used. And I had some decorative items that I really had stopped noticing.

Definitely it was time to organize the bookcase and make some decisions about what to keep, what to put somewhere else, and what to donate.

Because my working schedule is pretty full, I wanted to make organizing the bookcase as stress free as possible.

Diane Quintana and I have created a deck of cards, Organize Your Home 10 Minutes at a Time to help people complete any organizing task without stress.

While we don’t have a card that reads “bookcase” we do have cards that can come close to almost any organizing project. I chose the one that said, “Bedroom Closet- Shelf”.

Here are the steps I followed to organize the bookcase:

1. Take everything off the shelf and dust it.

Looking at what was on my shelves I knew that I could easily do two shelves at a time in the 10-minute time limit.

2. Sort like with like.

The books were already semi-sorted but over time the categories had gotten mixed. I had reference books on general organization, hoarding, chronic disorganization, and ADHD. Then there were a few other books I had read that were not related to my business, but I wanted to keep. Also, I had a stack of books ready to read and one I was currently reading. And I had some memorabilia items.

3. Put back the things that belong on the shelf.

I changed the position of some of the items, but they all went back easily.

4. Evaluate the remaining items.

Some items were kept but moved elsewhere. Some books were ready to be given away.

5. Put the things you no longer want in a donation bag.

Some went in a donation bag and a couple of books were earmarked for certain people.

6. Relocate, donate, or recycle the remainder.

It was easy to relocate everything. I put empty journals in the guest room. One piece of memorabilia went into a memorabilia box. I put the card basket in the armoire in my office. Some books went into an ongoing donate box.

This entire project only took me three 10-minute sessions. That includes putting everything that did not return to the bookcase in the proper place.

Now when I walk into my office my bookcase is more welcoming and pleasing to the eye.

bookcase after organizing

A challenge!

Most of us have bookcases in our homes. I challenge you to choose one of the bookcases in your home and schedule time to declutter it and reorganize what remains.

If you are struggling with developing  an organizational plan to declutter your space or just want some help or accountability in following through with a plan, join Diane Quintana and me in our Clear Space for You virtual support group.

Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of four books as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients.






  • I find bookcases especially challenging. When I read a new book now, I only put it on the shelf if I plan to read it again someday (rare) or pass it on to someone else, but if it’s been there a while, it almost feels like part of the furniture and it’s harder to let go. On the other hand, it feels great when I do!

    • When I finish a new book, I will often take a picture of the cover and send out some texts to friends to see if they want it. If they do, I’ll put a sticky note on the book cover and next time we’re together I pass it on.

  • How fun seeing your before and afters. But what’s even more interesting is hearing about your process. We can easily ignore those things we pass by each day. But when we focus our time and attention on them, we begin to “see” in a new way. We’re working on a media/book project today and I’m looking forward to the transformative aspect of it…a visual change and an internal one too.

    • I think sometimes the best way to “see” clutter in your area is to take a picture of it. I do that with clients regularly and when I do it on myself I often get a “wow” feeling. I just didn’t realize how it really looked.
      On a different note I wonder how many people tried to enlarge the picture to see what books I had on my bookshelf. When I see pictures of books in the background I am always squinting to see what books are there. 🙂

  • Seana Turner says:

    There is such great power in working in tiny increments. Someone who is able to make independent decisions can easily work through their home in only 10 minute pockets. I love this idea! Works well in a kitchen as well, doing one shelf/drawer a day.

    My bookshelves could use a bit of work. I think I actually have more “decor” to shed than books, as I switched to checking books out of my library years ago. Very inspirational!

    • Thanks for your comment. I use the 10 minute decluttering/reorganizing method all the time. This week I am working on a dresser in the guest room. I have actually batched work that has to happen on that dresser into 6 10-minute bites of time. The goal is to finish before the weekend.

  • It’s a great idea to revisit bookcases and determine whether or not you need to keep all the books and the various and sundry things stored on the shelves.
    I love the process of working in 10 minute blocks of time.

  • Julie+Bestry says:

    This is definitely a streamlined approach to bookshelves (which must be repeatedly “edited” because we’ll rarely have the courage and diligence to let go of too many books at a time. I made a rule several years ago that I could not buy another book until I had read all the books I had; while that reduced the speed of increase of the number of books I owned, it didn’t reduce the number of books in my house, because I use the library more than I ever did before. But I did do one smart thing at the very start of the pandemic; I moved every unread book to one small, three-shelf bookcase that sits next to my desk. So, I only own three unread novels. But it’s hard to keep pace with non-fiction, especially as people tend to buy from my Amazon wish list.

    With the exception of the to-be-read books, which are arranged loosely by category, all of my bookshelves are arranged by category, then sub-categories, then alphabetical by author. That way, I can look at a sub-category and quickly see how newer book content has (usually) supplanted out-of-date material. So, I follow all of the same steps as you provide, but #5 is still a toughie, because rarely is there a book I *don’t want*. And so it goes.

    • Julie, I sometimes still think I want to read a book but just like clothes – if it sits there and is passed over time and time again for something else, I really don’t want it that much. So, I let it go.

  • Books are such a great share-able, especially if you’re not one for re-reading. If you know someone who would love a book, ask them if they’d like your copy to read. If not, you can always donate it!

    The great thing about a well-curated bookshelf is that it has room for new books!

    I like your suggestion to chunk the project into 10-minute sections. That makes this a more manageable project.

    • Thanks for your comment, Katherine. I rarely reread fiction books and if I really enjoyed the book, I love to share it with a friend. Diane Quintana and I have found that this is a real deal breaker with our clients. That is why we came up with our Organize Your Home 10-Minutes at a Time deck of cards.

  • Janet Wilson says:

    Organizing projects like this can seem quite overwhelming for some people. Working in 10-minute increments and following the steps you listed is great advice!

    • Thanks for your comment, Janet. Diane Quintana and I have found that this is a real deal breaker with our clients. That is why we came up with our Organize Your Home 10-Minutes at a Time deck of cards.

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