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decluttering our bookshelves (a before + after)

Before the decluttering.

before: bookshelves

Disheveled much? Magazine piles (1-5) were taking over shelves and spilling onto the floor, things (6-10) were being shoved between the crevices, other things (11-12) that needed to be put away were taking up precious real estate, and still even more things (13-14) that didn’t have homes were strategically (I is so smart) placed above eye level, at the top of the bookshelf.

That was then. Behold the now.

bookshelves: after

I can see my floor again!

bookshelves: after

“ahhhhhhhhhhhhh”(That’s me sighing with glee.)

The decluttering and organizing process was a lot easier than I originally anticipated. In fact, once I was able to identify the problem areas (mainly our magazine addiction), the whole process became surprisingly easy and everything just kind of fell in place.

1. Purge of our massive magazine collection. (duh) Ruthlessly. Letting go can be hard, but the more space I was able to reclaim with each magazine I removed, the easier it got to let go of more. I filled a large trash bag, and then some. My beloved collection of Domino magazines made the cut.

2. Arrange books by height (they used to be arranged by subject matter, in alpha order) and readjust shelving heights to correspond with book height.

3. Add a magazine display shelf to both bookcases. Current magazines will go on this shelf. Older magazines will be stored on the shelf below. Establishing this system for our magazines is key. See maintain below.

magazine - less


The upkeep is the hard part for me.
4. The plan is to keep the display shelf and storage shelf current. New magazines will go on the display shelf and older magazines that I can’t part with just yet will move to the storage shelf below. Once the storage shelf gets full, it will be time to purge again.

On a final note, I’m also evaluating my magazine subscriptions. I have three, which I don’t think is a lot…is it? Two of the subscriptions are expiring soon and I don’t plan on renewing them. The third one is a gift subscription. I’m going to try going magazine-less for a month or two before deciding which magazines, if any, I want to subscribe to.

Here’s another shot of the after. πŸ™‚ I’ll post an update in a few months to talk about how this system is (or isn’t) working out. I also want to add two more rows of photos to the mosaic photo arrangement on my wall. Hopefully I’ll get that done before the update post comes up.

bookshelves - after
Billy bookshelves from Ikea.

Less is my one little word for 2011. Less clutter. Less obsessing over trivial things. Less slouching. This decluttering project is part of my journey to live with less this year.

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Laura January 12, 2011, 8:23 am

    Looks great! My bookshelves are looking pretty cluttered but I don't know if re-organization will do the trick – I think I need a bigger bookshelf! Thanks for sharing your beautiful decluttering result!

  • ~Amy January 12, 2011, 8:41 am

    This looks awesome. I am so glad to see this post for a few reasons- I like to see that people whose blogs I read are real people and struggle too with the day-to-day stuff. And I have a hard time with the upkeep once I organize. And trying to keep a mindset that for every thing that comes in our home, one must leave to make room for it. GL!!!

  • peppermint January 12, 2011, 9:00 am

    My Domino magazine collection always makes the cut, too. Love the before and after. I let all of our magazine subscriptions lapse about two years ago because they were always piling up and I was always a few months behind. I still stare longingly at Real Simple and Martha Stewart Living (and Cooking Light) when I'm in the check-out at the grocery store but it's just not worth the self-loathing I feel when I have the big stack of magazines on my desk.

  • MariaT January 12, 2011, 9:49 am

    It looks so refreshing seeing the after. We're working on decluttering too here and hopefully we can tackle it as well as you.

  • Maureen January 12, 2011, 9:52 am

    Phew! glad you saved Domino. Those are seriously sale-able.

  • simplyvonne January 12, 2011, 9:55 am

    wow great job! I love it! i think maintain it is also really hard for me, I just need to be in an organize mood at all times πŸ˜€

  • Elaine Millar January 12, 2011, 10:51 am

    You can get all those magazines at your local library and they store them for free. YEAH!

  • Sue January 12, 2011, 12:01 pm

    I β™₯ the results Liz … do you fancy a trip over here to England to sort out my creative space for me? LOL! Hugs, sue.falstaff

  • Red Panda January 12, 2011, 12:20 pm

    Looks gorgeous! I stopped subscribing to magazines. If I really need it/want it, I look at it at the book store and decide then.

  • Jenny January 12, 2011, 1:46 pm

    Love the magazine shelf! Where did you get it? Was it hard to install?

  • mrshobbes January 12, 2011, 4:44 pm

    Awesome job, Liz! I love that your shelves are white/cream πŸ™‚ We need a new bookshelf, period. Our books are in one shelf in the hubs' office, while I have two small metal shelves with my favorite books and my magazines in my work area. I don't subscribe to any. Instead I have a list of favorite ones and check out their websites to see if I'll like the current issue before I buy. More difficult, I know, but after working in magazines for 10 years and amassing a crazy amount of clutter that I had to purge, I'd rather get my paper products under control, lol!

  • Elizabeth January 12, 2011, 9:33 pm

    There are approximately 53 things I love about this post. : ) I need to do some work on magazines in our house–we, er, get more than three a month.

  • Kami January 13, 2011, 6:27 am

    Looks fantastic! And I loved that little red piano! tee heee
    I am so not a fan of clutter, it literally stresses me out! I am ALWAYS organizing my house, every inch of it and throwing stuff out or giving to donation. It makes me so happy to be organized. So your word for 2011 is perfect for me too. I just need to get better at worry less. πŸ˜‰

  • Misty January 13, 2011, 6:36 pm

    I love the idea of a magazine shelf!!! So clever!

    3 is not too many – I think i get about 9 a month! If you love Martha Stewart, check out Whole Living (it used to be called Body and Soul). That's my favorite magazine and her empire is now running it.

  • Twink January 13, 2011, 10:57 pm

    Love the post, doing the same thing in our home.. I just had three snow days here so the progress was amazing.
    I was going to take all my treasures to the take it or leave it station at our local recycle, but decide to stop by the pawn shop. Made a extra $152 from my junk… Oh, I forgot to mention my word for the year is EXTRA… I want extra space, I want to give extra, I want to be extra…
    Thanks for sharing

  • neat freak January 14, 2011, 6:21 am

    Just love those before and after photos Liz, the magazine shelves are so cool, you have a great office (scrap space).


  • Jennifer January 14, 2011, 7:05 am

    this looks SOOO good…do you want to come to my house next? πŸ™‚

    curious, can you tell me how the extra 10% for subscribers get applied to calendar purchases?

  • SHAUI January 14, 2011, 12:49 pm

    We have way too much books too and its taking so much space so I had our books that is not read a lot shipped to Manila. And then I will do the purging there. πŸ™‚

  • SHAUI January 14, 2011, 12:50 pm

    i know the book shelf! lol! Ikea!!! I have 3 of those πŸ™‚

  • Love In Bloom Photography January 14, 2011, 1:59 pm

    If you ever need a place to send used magazines, I could use them in my classroom! My kids use them for all SORTS of projects.

  • I am Just One Mom January 14, 2011, 5:00 pm

    so there is hope for my magazine piles??? thank you for the motivation.

  • Tali Schiffer January 16, 2011, 11:26 am

    What a fantastic job!! Now, can you please come and declutter mine…?

  • sheila January 17, 2011, 9:12 pm

    Can you share where you got your shelving? They are fantastic. You did a great job. πŸ™‚

  • Liz January 17, 2011, 11:07 pm

    Thanks for the feedback guys. It feels great to be more organized, and so much easier to do and maintain when there's less of it to move around. πŸ™‚

    The bookshelves are the Billy bookshelves from Ikea. I'll the update the post with this info.

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