7 Expert Tips and Tricks for Organizing Your Home Library

iStock/urfinguss
iStock/urfinguss

If you look around your home and see more books than you know what to do with, you aren’t alone. Buying books that you may or may not ever get around to reading is a common phenomenon: The act of accumulating piles of books that you intend to read one day is called tsundoku in Japanese, and in the early 19th century, British aristocrats with a nearly pathological passion for books were said to suffer from bibliomania.

In the modern era, a minor book-hoarding habit usually isn’t considered serious enough for a mental health diagnosis—but it can certainly create a lot of household clutter if you don’t have a system for sorting your collection of literature. With that in mind, here are expert tips for organizing your own home library.

1. ASSESS YOUR ENTIRE COLLECTION.

Whether you’ve been collecting books your entire life or are just now building a home library, do an inventory of what’s currently in your collection. Before you start putting your books in order, you’ll want to decide what you want to keep and what to give away or donate. Damaged or moldy books should obviously be tossed, while duplicate copies and that boring novel you didn’t like can be given away. Keep thinking about editing your collection as you get deeper into organizing process.

Beyond that, it’s up to you to decide how extensive you want your library to be. “As an organizer, I'm authorized to say there's such a thing as too many suitcases, too many plastic food storage containers, or too many dolls with eyes that move,” Jamie Shaner, founder of Home Solutions of WNY in Williamsville, New York, says. “But never, ever, too many books.”

2. PUT BOOKS WHERE YOU NEED THEM MOST.

Many bibliophiles have books in every room of the house—and that’s OK. Shaner suggests keeping books where they are most useful. That means cookbooks go in the kitchen or pantry, favorite novels for bedtime reading go in the bedroom, craft and hobby books go wherever that activity takes place, and so on.

3. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF VERTICAL SPACE.

Once you have an idea of where in your home you want to keep your books, invest in shelves and bookcases to display your collection. Shaner recommends embracing your home’s vertical space. “A tall bookcase that’s 36 inches wide will hold twice as many books as a short bookcase that’s 36 inches wide, without taking up any more floor space,” she tells Mental Floss. So install shelving to the ceiling, if possible, and look for tall bookcases that will maximize your storage potential. Some affordable bookcase models even have optional glass doors so you can display your collection while protecting it from dust.

4. GROUP SIMILAR BOOKS INTO SECTIONS AND SUB-SECTIONS.

Follow Shaner’s organizing mantra of “like with like” to simplify your process. “The first thing I recommend when organizing a book collection is to sort into general categories such as fiction and nonfiction,” she says. Fiction can be subdivided according to genre—romance, mystery, literary, and so on—and then alphabetized by author. Nonfiction can be broken down into categories such as history, travel, biographies, art, and more. Those sections can then be organized by theme: For example, art books could be grouped into Neo-Classicism, Impressionism, and Abstract Expressionism sub-sections. Shaner points out that grouping similar books together will give you a better idea of what books you have and help you make decisions on what to keep and what to cull as you go along.

5. TRY A CATALOGING APP.

If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of organizing your books, you could ask a librarian at your local library for tips—or use a website or app dedicated to the subject. Shaner recommends using LibraryThing, a free site where you can catalog your personal collection online to help you maintain your home library. Other popular book cataloging apps you can try include libib and My Home Library. GoodReads is a free and popular site where avid readers rate and recommend their favorite books—and that can offer ideas for new additions to your library.

6. STRIKE A BALANCE BETWEEN FASHION AND FUNCTION.

You may be tempted to organize your books by color, or to try something trendy like turning the spines inward. But be warned: It may look pretty, but you probably won’t be able to find the book you want when the time comes. “It actually sets my teeth on edge when I see photos in décor magazines with all the books covered in white paper, or the bookshelves arranged solely by color,” Shaner says.

You don’t have to sacrifice style entirely. You can still have a beautiful—and organized—library by incorporating discrete groupings of objects to create a gallery-like look. “I like making a small vignette of like-colored books to display with a favorite décor item, such as a piece of pottery, a sculpture, or a treasured memento,” Shaner says. The majority of your library, however, should be organized around making your books easy to access, rather than easy on the eyes.

7. ORGANIZE KIDS’ BOOKS TO INSTILL A LOVE OF READING.

You can encourage your kids to develop good reading habits by building a miniature home library them, too. “Children’s books are wonderful on a bookshelf in each child’s bedroom,” Shaner says, where they could be interspersed with beloved toys or the child’s framed artwork.

And research shows it will pay dividends later. A 20-year study published by sociologists at the University of Nevada in 2010 suggests that the presence of books in the home has as much of an impact on children's future educational attainment as factors like parental occupation and education levels. If you need suggestions to get your youngster’s library started, the Association for Library Service to Children has a few helpful recommendations for building high-quality children’s book collections from birth to age 14.

11 Thoughtful Gifts for DIY Enthusiasts

iStock/ASIFE
iStock/ASIFE

It can be tough to find the perfect gift for the people who make everything themselves. Why not give them the tools and supplies they need to create works of art with their own personal touch? Check out these gift ideas for every DIY enthusiast on your list.

1. Prismacolor Premier Hand Lettering Advanced Set

DIY Prismacolor Hand Lettering Set on Amazon
Amazon

With this set of high-quality pens and pencils, your artistically minded giftees will have the tools to add a personal flourish to letters, signs, greeting cards, and more. The kit includes two graphite pencils, seven illustration markers, two dual-ended art markers for bold lettering, an instruction guide, and—perhaps most importantly—an eraser.

Find It at Amazon for $20 and also at these retailers:

2. Urban Cheesecraft Mini DIY Farmer's Cheese Kit

DIY Farmer's Cheese Cheesemaking Kit from Urban Cheesecraft
Urban Cheesecraft

Portland, Oregon-based Urban Cheesecraft’s DIY cheese kit will make three to five batches of homemade farmer’s cheese, a versatile kind that can range in flavor from light ricotta to funky feta. Instructions are included along with cheesemaking materials. Just add milk!

Find It at Etsy for $14.

3. Olfa Rotary Essentials Kit

Olfa Rotary Essentials Kit on Amazon
Amazon

Perfect for paper crafters and scrapbookers, this kit includes two rotary cutters (in 45-millimeter and 18-millimeter sizes) and a self-healing mat. These tough tools will cut paper as well as leather, cloth, vinyl, film, photos, wallpaper, and more.

Find It and Amazon for $38 and also at these other retailers:

4. MoMa Design Store Crepe Myrtle Bonsai Growing Kit

MoMA Design Store Crepe Myrtle Bonsai Growing Kit
MoMA Design Store

Coax a Lagerstroemia indica from seed to tiny tree with this made-in-the-U.S.A. kit. In its second summer, this fast-growing crepe myrtle will bloom with mini pink and red flowers, then drop its leaves to reveal its distinctive gray-on-red branches. After five years, the tree will sport a pretty crown of deep green leaves and red blossoms in season.

Find It at MoMA Store for $36.

5. Impressart Metal Stamping Kit

ImpressArt Metal Stamping Kit on Amazon
Amazon

This slightly intimidating kit contains everything a crafter needs to stamp impressions into metal jewelry or objects. Along with the 1-pound hammer and small steel anvil, the Stamp Straight Tape helps you make impressions in a straight line and keep letters evenly spaced. The stamps themselves feature the letters of the alphabet (upper and lower case kits are available) and special characters.

Find It at Amazon for $113.

6. Make Your Own Hot Sauce Kit

Make Your Own Hot Sauce Kit from Uncommon Goods
Uncommon Goods

Your bestie will be weaned off Sriracha when he concocts his own sauce with dried guajillo, chipotle, and arbol peppers. The kit contains the essentials (like gloves and bottling materials), plus all the ingredients needed for six custom-made bottles of the hot stuff.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $35.

7. Solar Photography Kit

Solar Photography Kit and photo examples from Uncommon Goods
Uncommon Goods

Popularized in the 1840s by Anna Atkins, the first female photographer, solar photographs (also known as cyanotypes thanks to their blue color) use sunlight to develop images on chemically treated paper. Just lay a photo negative or object on the paper, place it in the sun for a while, and voilà. This kit includes six sheets of photosensitive paper, a light-proof storage envelope, and instructions. Fabric kits are also available.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $15.

8. Churchmouse Yarns Lykke Indigo Interchangeable Needle Set

Lykke indigo interchangeable knitting needles set from Churchmouse Yarns
Churchmouse Yarns

Your lucky giftee can take her knitting to the next level with this set of solid birch needles. Dyed an elegant indigo blue, the needles range in size from US 4 to US 17 and come with five cords in different lengths, two cord connectors, four keys, and four stoppers in their own denim-look carrying case.

Find It at Churchmouse Yarns for $138.

9. Southern Bourbon Stout Beer Brewing Kit

Southern Bourbon Stout beer brewing kit from Uncommon Goods
Uncommon Goods

Why fight the drunken hordes at your local craft brewery when you, or your gift recipient, can brew your beer in the comfort of your home? This artisanal kit includes the hardware—a fermentor jug, racking cane, funnel, and more—and malt extract, specialty grains, fresh hops, and yeast to make one gallon of homemade brew. This particular formula relies on oak chips soaked in bourbon (booze not included) to add woodsy vanilla notes to your beer.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $45.

10. Cavallini Flora and Fauna Rubber Stamp Set

Cavallini flora and fauna rubber stamp set from Amazon
Amazon

Create woodland scenes on mail art, gift cards, holiday decor, and more with these rubber stamps on wood blocks. Vintage designs include an owl, songbird, deer, dogwood flower, and other forest friends. The stamps come in an attractive tin with a high-quality black ink pad.

Find It at Amazon for $25 and also at these other retailers:

11. The Chart of Hand Tools


PopChartLabs

Your favorite tinkerer will always know which equipment to enlist for their next home improvement project, thanks to this detailed graphic of 300 hand tool illustrations, organized by use case.

Find It at PopChart Labs for $40.

7 Packing Tips for a Basic Economy Flight

iStock.com/PeopleImages
iStock.com/PeopleImages

Booking a basic economy flight can be a smart way to save money if you’re traveling light. But if you’re planning on taking an extended vacation or a long trip home for the holidays, it could end up costing you more in the long run. Some airlines limit basic economy fliers to one personal item that fits under their seat, which means if you show up to the airport with a full-sized carry-on, you’ll have to pay to check it. That shouldn’t be an excuse to skip the cheapest options when shopping for plane tickets. We spoke to some travel experts, who explained how to pack everything you need for a long trip into one personal bag.

1. Choose the right bag.

For a basic economy flight, you need to start with the right bag before deciding what to pack and how to pack it. Most regular-size luggage won’t fit under an airplane seat, so look for a quality purse or backpack instead. Size is an important factor, but according to Matthew Kepnes of the travel site Nomadic Matt, you should also find a bag that helps you stay organized. “Bring something flexible and with lots of pockets so you can better organize your things,” he tells Mental Floss. “Ideally, your bag will also have outer pockets so you can take advantage of the space outside your bags for things like flip-flops or a water bottle.”

Hitha Palepu of the travel site Hitha On The Go recommends two of her favorite bags as your personal item: the metro tote from MZ Wallace, or the bento bag from Nomad Lane.

2. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane.

Bringing heavy clothing on a trip is necessary if you’re traveling someplace cold for the holidays. Instead of wasting valuable real estate in your bag, set aside the items that would take up the most space and slip them on before heading to the airport. “I try to wear my bulkiest items—the heaviest shoes, a coat, chunky sweater,” Palepu tells Mental Floss. And if you start to get hot beneath all those heavy clothes, you can always strip off a layer and use it as a pillow on your flight.

3. Take a minimalist approach.

When packing for basic economy flight, look at each item before putting it in your bag and ask yourself if you really need it. If you hesitate, set it aside and move on to the next thing. Having a minimalist attitude is the only way to leave the house with a personal bag you can fully zip closed. “We often get overzealous when it comes to packing for your trip, thinking we will need this and that when the truth is, we usually don't,” Kepnes says. “Don't plan for every contingency and bring your whole wardrobe. Keep it simple.”

4. Pack your most versatile wardrobe staples.

Instead of sacrificing your personal style on your next trip, stick to a few basic clothing pieces that are able to do a lot of work. According to Kepnes, versatility is key. “Bring clothes that all go well together so you can make up more outfits and not only have specific clothing combinations,” he says. “Just try to get the most mileage from each item.”

5. Plan to re-wear clothes.

There’s no trick that will help you fit two weeks' worth of clothing beneath your seat. The only choice is to pack as much clothing as you can fit and plan to re-wear those items—which, according to Kepnes, isn’t the end of the world. “You can always do laundry at your destination, too, so don't worry about running out of clothes,” he says.

In order to stretch her travel wardrobe as far as possible, Palepu packs essential oils so she can refresh pieces between wears. You can also fill a tiny travel-size spray bottle with Downy Wrinkle Releaser to smooth and freshen your clothes before and after wearing them.

6. Don't waste money on vacuum-sealed bags.

Using a space-saving vacuum bag may seem like an appealing option if you’re struggling to fit all your stuff in your backpack, but both Kepnes and Palepu say not to bother. “If you're careful about what you pack, you don't need a vacuum sealer or packing cubes to conserve space,” Palepu says. Instead of a special folding strategy, she’s conserves space by being mindful of the order she packs her items in. “When I pack, I pack the heaviest and bulkiest items first and my smallest, most flexible items last so I can fit them in the small nooks and crannies left by the bigger items.”

Kepnes also doesn’t endorse any special folding methods, but he sometimes uses packing cubes to stay organized. “If you still don't have enough room in your backpack, that just means you've got too much stuff!” he says. (He recommends his favorite backpacks here.)

7. Buy what you can at your destination.

There’s no reason to buy travel toiletries and gifts for your host on the way to the airport. If you need something that you’ll only be using at your destination, wait until you arrive to pick it up. “Keep your packing to a minimum and just aim to buy a few things upon arrival,” Palepu says. “That will keep you within the size limits but still allow you to have everything you need for your trip.”

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