The Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge: Getting Organized!

The Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge: Getting Organized!

While working on my massive New Bookshelves Project (Instagram), I also took the time to get organized for my Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge. During the reshelving process, I decided to forego my typical alphabetical order arrangement for my unread titles in favor of a descending “priority” lineup. I’m going to share how this new reorganization has set me up for success with my challenge.

I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted staring at my collection, researching titles, and creating shelves on Goodreads while trying to get straight which books I should be reading first. I couldn’t find a great way to keep track of everything, so I’d have to re-look up the same titles constantly, wasting precious brain power and reading time. Clearly I needed a better way to organize these titles, and I took me an embarrassingly long time to realize the best solution would be to physically move them around in my collection instead of creating endless digital lists. #brilliant

Since I had to pull all the titles off the shelves anyway for the bookshelf swap, I took the time to painstakingly research each book to check for audio availability (either through audible, library overdrive, or physical CDs at my local branch – 3 sources for each title!! It took forever). Eventually I had everything separated into 3 categories:

1. Books available on Audio for Free!
2. Books available on Audio for a Cost.
3. Books without an Audio option.

I then arranged them from highest to lowest priority on the shelves in their own respective sections. The image at the beginning of this post is how it turned out. :) Here are the top shelves (or, the highest priorities) within each category:

I love it. This new shelving layout allows me to immediately see what’s on the docket, and it made it immeasurably easier to identify which bottom priority titles were up for eviction from my house (researching these bottom titles required another several hours of effort, but I was able to remove 99 from my shelves, which I’m super proud of).

What im left with are titles I’m genuinely interested in reading and a clear, fool-proof plan for reading them all: start with the highest priority and work my way back.

As I’ve explained before, I’m not the fastest at getting through physical reads for a plethora of reasons (eye strain, arcs, phone distractions, etc), so most of my book enjoyment these days come from audiobooks (it’s a bonus that I can listen to them all day at work). So this is the main reason why I chose to separate my collection accordingly. It also frees up more time for physical reads and will enable me to work though my collection that much faster. Here’s the first physical read series I’m Tackling:

Overall, even though it took a ton of time and effort, I’m 100% pleased with how it turned out and think I’ve taken out most of the obstacles I was facing for getting a handle on my collection. Here are some current stats (not including YA titles…I haven’t touched those yet):

Audio Free: 183
Audio $: 139
Non-Audio: 270
Total Non-Read: 691
Titles for Donation: 99 -> 14%!! (I was shooting for 10%)
New Total: 592

Once I let go of my donation pile, I’ll have 592 books to read. Figure I can do about 5 a month (leaving 5 for non-owned titles), then I should be able to get through all of these in 9.87 years. That may seem like a lot, but before I started thinning out my collection some years ago, I was looking at a 40 year TBR pile. The goal has ever been to get the TBR down to a “manageable” level, and 10 years was my goal. My new goal is 9 years (540 titles) – let’s take it in baby steps. :)

Thanks for following along my challenge journey. My next post will be about the much-needed reorganization of my unread YA titles. And then, dare I say, I’ll be finished with this project and can focus on challenge updates from there on out. :)

by Niki Hawkes

27 comments on “The Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge: Getting Organized!

  1. Wow that looks great! I have everything in alphabetical more or less (except non-fic and children’s) but I really like this idea. I used to keep my tbr pile by the side of my bed but then it went from one pile to two and just kept growing until I put it all back into my bookshelves because it was so messy. Maybe I should have a tbr/ read divide in my bookcase… Hmmm

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha, I bet if I did that my pile would overflow eventually too. There are just too many that catch my attention before I have a chance to get to the ones already there.

      I love having a TBR/read divide. It makes for a little more work because you have to shift to put the new read titles in every so often, but since messing with my books is a favorite hobby, it doesn’t bother me to do. It’s also really fun to see your read section get bigger! :)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lol, well the BIG dream is 1 year. 5 seems a lot more realistic though. :)

      Actually, I realized after the post went live that I totally neglected the 400 or so unread YA titles. I think that adds at least 5 years back in. And here I thought I was making progress. 🤦‍♀️

      Liked by 1 person

      • Awww man, falling back into the bad old habits already?

        Well, that was quick!

        Heck, I’d settle for 1 year too. But 18-24 months seems to be about where I’m stuck at, so I guess I’d better make my peace with it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cut, cut, cut. And don’t add anything until I’ve got reading space. And wait for trilogies, series, etc to finish up before adding.

        It’s just a different way of reading I guess :-)


      • By reading space do you mean physical shelf space?

        Waiting for completed series is something I’m appreciating more and more these days. It sucks my enthusiasm out of some of them when I have to wait at least a year and a lot of my pile are series that keep popping books out faster than I can keep up.

        For the record, most of my problems stem from all those years working in a bookstore and bringing home everything I could. I haven’t added more than about 20 unread titles to the collection in the last two years (those dang book outlet sales get me on occasion). I’m along the same brain wave you are – I imagine if I make any progress it won’t be because I read them, it will be because I’ve gotten rid of them. :)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Reading space for me equals number of books on the tbr. I’m ok with 100+- on my kindle and the same number in Calibre waiting to be read. So 200 in total. I usually wait until I hit 175 or 150 and then start searching until I find 20-50 more books. I find it usually takes about a week to find that many. Only a week and it takes 2-4 months to read that many. alas and alack!

        I first thought about the whole “wait until it’s finished” after I read Sanderson’s first Stormlight Archive book. I can’t do a book every “X” years, Wheel of Time taught me that. So I figured I’d wait until he’s done. He and I are the same’ish age, so I figure I’ve got a good chance of reading the whole thing one day :-D

        20 books in 2 years is pretty good. Amazing how fast books go away when you give/sell/remove them in stacks :-)


      • Haha I find everything about your response delightful.

        I remember that from one of your posts. I think it would be really fun hitting that 150 – 175 range and being able to go “shopping” for your next ventures. Do you add them to the back of the lineup or integrate some of them into your schedule?

        Lol about Sanderson – good chances indeed! And by then you’ll have more than enough data to determine if it’s even worth your time. I’m still suckered in to starting new unfinished series (most often ones with just one book out) because I have a sequel release schedule I follow that I haven’t had any trouble keeping up on. But I usually have the most fun with the series already out that I can just devour.

        I have that stack of 99 titles I’m letting go (I feel lighter already), and the series I said I was staring first in this post was a bust so I’m donating them and moving on. One book at a time I’ll make this happen lol.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Most stuff goes into the back of the line. Unless I deem it worthy of getting the High Priority tag. Those are the books I really want to read and I cycle through them once or twice a month.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I used to be afraid that if I read through high priorities too fast, then I wouldn’t have anything good left to read, so I saved the really good books for years at a time. I’ve since realized that there are so many books that I’ll likely never have to worry about running out of good ones. So I’m reading as many high priority as I can lately… it feels really indulgent lol.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ^btw, I know I’ve asked you loads of times about your system, sorry if it’s repetitive. I’m so fascinated with it lol. It gives me inspiration on how to change things up with my own processes.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Heck, I have to check myself sometimes to make sure I’m keeping things straight. But really, while it is very complicated getting setup, once it is going, it is just like a wheel. It keeps on rolling with just an occasional push or tweak from me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s how much Tackling the TBR feels. I’m evidently still unsatisfied with my reading schedule however because I keep feeling the need to change it. Eventually I’ll get something that works. I’m looking forward to going on autopilot.

        Liked by 1 person

      • For me, the best thing has been that I haven’t had a reading slump since I started this routine. Without having to make a “choice” or try to pick a book based on how I’m feeling, it has helped level things out tremendously.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Love it, looks great! I just recently reorganized mine too, have to do that every so often to fit all the new stuff in. I admire your ability to let go of books. My donation pile is usually only about 15 books lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! It’s so much fun to organize books haha. I think I’d get bored with it if I wasn’t forced to rearrange every now and then.

      I think 15 books is awesome. I was only able to get rid of so many because I did the math and it would’ve taken me like 15 years to get to those books and I wasn’t excited to read them in the first place.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh wow, that is a lot of work :) And a lot of books! I hope your plan will work out and most importantly, will be lots of fun and no chore :)

    I have a suggestion. You could burn all the YA books?

    (mwahaha, ok, sorry. Don’t burn books! Donate them? :-P )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’m hoping for smooth sailing :) but chances are I’ll come up with another “tweak” and will have to redo it lol.

      Lmao I’ll take your suggestion under advisement. ;) Every time I get fed up with YA, one good one pulls me back in.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oddly, the pressure seems to have alleviated quite a bit since I reorganized it like this. Before I was always stressing about which series I should make time for first, but now that I have all the high priorities at the front, I can just relax in the knowledge that I’m absolutely reading the best books first (my main goal with all of this). It also gave me the chance to go through low priority and get rid of a ton of them.

      Now, overall I feel pressure because I have so many, which wont likely go away anytime soon, but at least now I feel like I have a handle on it lol.


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