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Organizing For Book Lovers

Starting Shelf Life has been very exciting but it has also been a lot of hard work getting everything started. There are so many decisions to make when starting a business from the choosing of a logo, to designing a website, to brainstorming marketing ideas, to managing the stress of working full-time while working to make this business a success. No one helped me more in making these day-to-day decisions than my friend Michael. We debated and polled every decision made, including my choice to even call the company Shelf Life. He insists to this day that I made a huge mistake by not calling the company Joelle’s Shelves (FYI, I see a silent coffee shop with this name in my future, lol). In an effort to pay my good friend back for all his support and advice, I decided that organizing his ginormous book collection should be my first professional project.


While I was researching the professional organizing industry it was recommended to me by several people and sources that I must read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. Anyone who is familiar with the book or the KonMari method is aware of her strict stance on paper and books. She states in her book that she had no more than 30 books in her possession at any given time. She is public enemy number one to avid readers that make trophies of all the books they have read. Needless to say, my friend Michael is not a fan of hers. I was given a strict warning before our session that he was not willing to part with even one book.





Excited by the challenge and opportunity to test Kondo’s theory of items having energy I was curious if organizing his collection would stir up the energy of the dormant books and have a positive effect on Michael’s inability to let go of his books. Before I started he expressed that he did not want to get rid of any of his book because every one of them “sparked joy”. As I began taking the books off of his shelves and sorting them by color I watched my friend react to his favorite and not so favorite books. I did not want to influence him in wanting to let go of books that obviously did not spark joy for him for the sake of my experiment, so I continued to sort his collection saying as little as possible. I reassured him that I was here to help him revamp his reading space. Towards the end he did admit that he could get rid of a few, but to my knowledge they still remain (We’ll have to check back in with him at a later date). After three and a half hours of reworking close to five hundred books, moving around a little furniture and a quick trip to Home Goods I was able to complete the project.


This project is perfect for a beginner in DIY organizing. Just a few simple design tricks and some patience will turn any book collection into a masterpiece. My first trick was the use of color blocking using the books in his collection. Michael’s bookcases and room’s color palette were all neutral colors. So I used his collection as a pop of color as if it was décor. I was careful not to overload any section of the room with too much of a warm or cool color, and I framed the outsides of my design with neutral colors to draw the eye towards the center like a painting. My second trick was to break away from the library method of just putting books on the shelf vertically. Although stacking books horizontally and occasionally on a slant does take up more space for storage than vertically, the benefit design wise is undeniable. Punctuating a stack of books with a decorative piece added a bit of charm to the room. Placing some books in large baskets on the bookshelves a different texture to the room which was heavy with wood floors and furniture. For my final trick, I wanted to give the room a statement piece. I thought using the books as a stand for this cool globe he had in his room would be perfect! I specifically used books he assured me he had no interest in rereading so he would not be inconvenienced later.


This project was so much fun and simple. It felt really good to do something nice for a friend that has given his time and energy so freely. People like my friend Mike help me remember to always keep giving at the forefront of Shelf Life.




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