I have seen some mighty impressive bookshelves out there in internet-land in my day. Really pretty ones that are perfectly arranged and perfectly styled. I’ve even seen some really impressive tutorials on how to “get the look” of these bookshelves and the people who wrote them have always been so talented and so helpful with all of their great advice. But honestly, those “how to style your shelves” articles always make my head spin. Badly.
It starts off innocently enough with them telling me to start with a few books, or larger objects, or blue things, or whatever. Pretty soon though, it’s descended into me needing to find 87 different objects which are exactly 68% the size of one another and exactly 1/2 a shade lighter than the third item from the left on the bottom shelf to make the whole scheme balance out…. and it just gets uglier from there. #aintnobodygottimeforthat
Well, actually a lot of people have time for that. And they seem to really enjoy it. And they’re really good at it too. I’m just not one of them. These days, I just need something that works. And then I’m on to the next thing.
So here’s how I always do my bookshelves. It takes me 5 minutes and it makes me feel happy and calm.
Here’s the shelf that I showed you recently from my dining room:
We did a little DIY upgrade on it for fun, but mostly I picked it up to fill this corner until we get some built-ins done here and to take some of the weight off of my poor old buffet. Oh, and to hold some books that have been floating around the house.
This arranging tip is so simple it’s almost silly, but it really really works!
You put everything that’s the same together.
Don’t worry about balancing things out, or mixing it up, just group items together that look the most like one another.
Then, if it’s still feeling a little cluttered you add in one to two baskets, preferably somewhere in the bottom 1/3 of the shelf.
Then, if it needs a little something extra, add a pop of green. It can be fake green. Mine usually is. 🙂
It sounds ridiculously simplistic, but as someone who has suffered many years with shelf-based anxiety, I promise you it works!
It doesn’t matter what kind of items you use either! Dishes, books, pictures, thingamajigs… it’s all good!
If you’ve got a shelf that you can’t seem to arrange in a way that you like, take five minutes and try this one out!
Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.