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The Obsessive Bookseller Simplifies Life [3]: Goodreads

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In case you missed my Introductory Post, my world was in such an upheaval that I was forced to take drastic measures by simplifying and organizing all the things that caused me stress. Each month, in 2017, I’m tackling different aspects of my life that are clutter-stressors by organizing and altering them into things that bring me joy.


March 2017: Goodreads

 I wanted to include Goodreads in my 2017 Simplifing Life journey because it’s my favorite book resource and I definitely hadn’t been using it to its fullest. I wanted to become more active in this amazing bookish community and make it easier to find information – both of which required a surprising amount of work. I started with too many lists, too many people, I was spending too much effort. Here are some things I simplified:

Note: as useful as I find the Goodreads app, it lacks a lot of functions essential
to this organizatioal process. All changes were made using the desktop version.

The Top Friends List:

Not all the people who “friend” me love the same books as I do. I love seeing that most of my Goodreads friends are reading as voraciously as I am, but I noticed as my friends list grew, I was no longer seeing as many things from my closest friends as I’d use to. Funny story, so I went as far as to write a suggestion to customer service saying something along the lines of “hey! It would be really awesome if Goodreads had this ‘see first’ option for you could make sure you’re not missing updates from certain people.” As it turns out, they already have this feature, I just wasn’t aware of it because it’s only available on the desktop version and I do practically everything on my phone. It’s called “Top Friend” and even though going through each of my 750 friends one by one took FOREVER, I now happily catch every update from my BFFs. I did it the hard way, so here’s a step-by-step to a way I think would be a little easier:

1. Click on your profile picture in the upper right-hand corner and select friends.
2. Next to the alphabet is a sort by box. Click that and select top friends. This will bring up everyone currently marked as a top friend first.
3. Select edit friend to the right of the sort box and the little top friend checkboxes should appear.
4. Go through one page at a time and deselect people at will. Be sure to hit “done editing” after every page. For some reason it doesn’t save your progress if you try to do multiple pages at once.
5. Now, you can search one person at a time and add more of your favorites to the list.Unfortunately, if you can’t remember everyone, you’ll have to go through alphabetically (the hard way) like I did.

Once the initial work is finished, the list is fairly easy to maintain. Either accept all friend requests on the desktop version where it allows you to designate “top friend” status, or periodically go in and repeat steps 1-4 (Note: any time you send a friend request, they automatically attain top friend status).

The Commenting Conundrum:

I noticed that when I comment on someone else’s status, I rarely get a notification when they respond (I thought people were just ignoring me haha). Here are a couple of ways to keep track of comments:

Method 1:
1. Actually click on the person status – you can’t do this by responding on just the homepage.

2. Click on advanced under the comment box.
3. Click notify me when people reply.

Method 2:
1. Click on your profile picture in the upper right-hand corner and select
my comments.
2. Click through and see what is new.

Neither method is a perfect solution, but they sure beat trying to remember where I commented, navigating to that person’s profile, and digging through their status updates until I find it.

The Fantasy Buddy Reads Group:

The point of all of this organizing is to make it easier for me to be involved in the Goodreads community. What better way to enhance the experience than to join an amazing group? I love the FBR Goodreads group because:

  • they love fantasy books! (duh)
  • they’re active – something bookish is always being discussed.
  • They keep me engaged with prompts.
  • They are supportive – especially with the many challenges were doing.
  • They have simple, yet excellent enforced rules which help avoid spoilers (my nemesis).
  • The moderators are amazing.
  • And finally, they make me feel like I belong. (Awwwww)

I’ve read a couple of books with them so far and had a ball. One of my favorite elements is their Incomplete Series subfolder where we track our reading progress. It’s a bonus organizing tool that allowed me to sort all the series I’ve read and am still working on into a convenient priority list. Love it!

The Bookshelves:

I’ve gone through a series of GR bookshelves over the years trying to find ones that I can refer to often and get a lot of use out of. Unfortunately, most often I spend a ton of energy on one and never refer to it again. My recent Book Journaling project also made a few bookshelves obsolete. Part of my organizing process goal with Goodreads was to delete useless shelves and polish up the keepers. Here’s a look at what I ended up with:

Arcs: to (obviously) keep track of ARCs. I find this shelf useful because I can easily decipher at a glance which books I still need to read based on the little red rating stars (on the app).

Books like Hunger games & Books Like Throne of Glass: these posts on my blog are by far my most popular as far as Google’s search engine is concerned. In them, I included a convenient link to these GR shelves so people can quickly add them to their to read lists. I love the idea of linking the two, so even though I never refer to them myself I’ve no problem keeping them.

DNFed: I only have a few titles on the shelf so far because it took me forever to find a way to put it together that I liked. I love having a record of my time and effort spent on these titles represented on my shelves. I write DNF Q&A posts which is my official assessment for these unfinished titles. I also now mark each book as “read” on Goodreads because you have to have some sort of status with it to upload a review (and it annoyed me to change it back to “want to read” when DNFing. It wasn’t accurate). The only thing I was afraid of was that marking it as read would skew up my yearly reading challenge, but all you have to do is go in and remove start/finish dates and voilà! I also don’t assign these titles ratings.

Favorites: of the 1090 books Goodreads says I’ve read, these 21 titles are the ultimate favorites. I’ve recently tried to go back and re-rate most of my other five star titles to 4.5 so that a solid five star rating for me carries some weight.

First Reads: like five years ago I won one giveaway and GR told me to make this shelf. I am now terrified that deleting it will jinx me from ever winning another lol.

Kids Collection: as I’m a new mom, I’m getting my kid’s books organized early. If I can offer only one thing (you know, beyond birthing, feeding, clothing, and nurturing him), it’s an organized library. XD

My Library Catalog/My library TBR: I’d been trying to find a way to catalog my personal collection for YEARS, but hadn’t managed to find anything that wouldn’t take several more years to put together. Then someone mentioned the Goodreads app had a barcode scanning feature and I. Went. Hogwild! As I was scanning, I put everything into the My Library Catalog (1088) and all the ones I still needed to read also into My Library TBR (716). I clearly have a lot of work to do, and this list doesn’t yet include all of my YA titles… I may do a separate one for those. I definitely would like to focus on getting through more of my owned titles, but alas that’ll have to wait until our new house is finished being built so I can pull all of my books out of boxes… I miss them.

Upcoming Releases/Upcoming Releases with Covers: I use these shelves to help me organize my “Coming Soon” posts. I have two separate lists because, when it was one shelf, I got tired of scrolling through all the titles trying to find new cover reveals. Now that they are separate, flipping through all of those generic tan placeholders trying to spot a single gorgeous new cover only takes a couple of seconds. It’s so much more gratifying!


Wow! That was lot. And here I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough for a post (perhaps I over-prepared). In any case, my goals with moderating Goodreads were to make it easier to get organized, keep track of favorite people, get more involved in the community, and have more fun. I think I have achieved every last one of them!

Project Status: Goodreads Simplified!

by Niki Hawkes

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The Obsessive Bookseller Simplifies Life [2]: Book Journaling

simplifies-life-2017

In case you missed my Introductory Post, my world was in such an upheaval that I was forced to take drastic measures by simplifying and organizing all the things that caused me stress. Each month, in 2017, I’m tackling different aspects of my life that are clutter-stressors by organizing and altering them into things that bring me joy.


February 2017: Book Journaling

A few months ago I came across a blog post for bullet journaling for the first time… O_o!! Where has this been?! I’m clearly super behind the times, because how can uber-organized color-coding, creative awesomeness that allows you to track goals and see progress have not popped on to my radar before now? Sign me up!

As it happens, I was in some desperate need of organization (see Introductory Post above). I also had a million cute notebooks just waiting to be used in a meaningful way. Unfortunately, most bullet journaling topics weren’t things I felt compelled to keep track of on a daily basis. But there was one topic that definitely sparked my interest:

The Bookshelf:

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If you search Pinterest for bullet journaling ideas about books, this is pretty much what you get (many a lot more creative than my own). You can “stack” your books anyway you’d like, but I discovered pretty quickly that I like mine orderly. Also, with the straight up and down approach, I can add little boxes underneath each book to track reading completions. This bookshelf ignited a bunch of other book related tracking ideas that I’m excited to share with you. Instead of bullet journaling, I’m book journaling!

The Book Journal:

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I have so many different bookish things to keep track of and my Book Journal has completely revolutionized how I do practically everything. Before, I was relying on a complicated mix of jotted notes, half-assed Goodreads lists, and memory. Now, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING I could possibly need to reference is organized in one place – a cute little notebook that I carry everywhere with me (because, you know, books are life). Here are some of the things I track with it:

The Blogging Schedule:

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Not only has this tracker allowed me to schedule posts ahead for the first time in my blogging career, but it has also given me a quick snapshot of titles I need to review. It also helps me remember which Thursdays I’m supposed to review for The Independent (a local newspaper), which often used to slip through my memory. The Blogging Schedule is definitely the Book Journaling component I’ve referred to most often.

The TBR Tackler Shelf:

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I do my Tackling the TBR every month, but I’d have to come up with titles on the spot (which wasn’t working well with my intent to spend less and utilize the library more – many titles have to be put on hold weeks before I want to read them). Now, I can plan ahead. But the BEST PART is that I now have a quick reference to see what’s on my reading list without having to log on to my blog and navigate to the post every time. I love being able to check the boxes underneath each title when finished and see my progress over each month. I put a little half slash in the box of the currently reading titles. I also use it to track upcoming Buddy Reads with my Goodreads group so I don’t overbook myself… no pun intended. Of all the things I track in my Book Journal, the TBR shelf is by far my favorite.

The Currently Reading Shelf:

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I used to take copious notes about the books that I was reading, but found that I was spending way more time on the notes that I was the review itself. Also, I’d write them in any handy notebook, which means when it actually came time to write the review, I’d inevitably be without the correct one. All I really needed was a place for notes to jar my memory, and this element of my Book Journal works perfectly for that.

The Unfinished Series Shelf:

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THIS! I have a nifty Incomplete Series List over with my Goodreads group, but this format was a lot more fun to create and refer to. It allows me to see if I’m up-to-date on any given series instantly, which definitely helps me prioritize going forward, as I usually look at these pages when planning out my upcoming TBR Tackler Shelves.

1500 for 1 challenge:

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I’ve been referring to this for ages. Basically, I get to buy 1 book for every 1500 pages I read. It’s an amazing system which helps me moderate spending, read books I already own, and feel like I’m accomplishing something. I already tracked pages just like this in another notebook, so there was no doubt that this had to be included in the Journal.

The Wish lists:

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Bring on the Bookshelves!!! I think about books a lot. I found myself spending several hours a week logging on to audible or my library’s website just to remind myself what I had in the wishlists. It was a weird compulsion and total waste of time, but for some reason it bothered me not being able to remember the 100+ titles in each one. In any case, since I transferred those titles to the Book Journal, I haven’t been back since! This, more than anything else, was a time and sanity saver.


Overall, this project has been one of the most rewarding I’ve ever undertaken. I treat this journal like it’s a work of art in progress and find myself flipping through the pages just to appreciate what I’ve done. Honestly, once you figure out spacing and formatting for each type of tracker, it doesn’t take long to create. I spend maybe ten minutes a day updating it (which my boss would probably call shirking). But compared to how much time I was wasting trying to find information spread out all over, it definitely is the most efficient thing I could have done. It’s literally a one-stop shop for everything book related in my life – what could be better than that? :-)

Project Status: Book Journaling Simplified!

by Niki Hawkes

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The Obsessive Bookseller Simplifies Life in 2017

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My life is in an upheaval. In early October, my husband and I decided it was time to move into a bigger place. You see, we welcomed our first little one into our family in June and it was clear that our tiny townhouse just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. We listed our home, figuring we’d have at least a month or two to find a new one before it sold. WRONG! We had three offers within 48 hours, and that “month or two” turned into three weeks. Stressful, right? Trying to find our new “forever” home while taking care of a baby, working full-time, and orchestrating the headache that is buying/selling property was enough to make me a basket case. Fast-forward two months – we never found anything we liked, so we decided to build the “dream house.” Luckily, my in-laws are amazing people and allowed my family to move into their vacation condo for the seven month wait until our new house is finished. All of our crap is in boxes, but at least we have a roof over our heads. Things are working out, but my life is still a cluster-f*ck (or clutter-f*ck, as the case may be).

There are a few things I need to explain about myself: I like order, I like calm, and I like well-laid-out plans. None of these things have been prevalent in my life for the last three months. I don’t have control over anything and it’s driving me crazy. Being so continually displaced is also causing me no end of stress, to the point where I practically snarled at a rude customer service representative the other day – something I’d NEVER have done in the past (and still feel guilty about). That was the moment I realized I wasn’t handling all of these changes as well as I thought I was. It made me take a long look at my situation and, after chanting The Serenity Prayer for ten hours straight, I came up with a game plan:

I’m going to organize the shit out of my life to help alleviate some stress.

When I’m stressed, I organize. It’s how I cope. I find the process of focusing completely on a task calming and I always look forward to that satisfying pump of endorphins after completing a project. There are too many things about my life that are uncontrollable right now. In 2017, I’m going to focus on the things I CAN control and de-clutter my life as much as possible. Stress relief now, happier, more organized life later. Win-win.

Therefore, I’m dedicating every month in 2017 to a single aspect of my life that I’d like to simplify and will share insights and updates as I tackle each stress-inducing item. Since I can’t really dig into a lot of household stressors until we make our move halfway through the year, I’m going to start with as many digital things as I can.


January: Blog Love
[Over the years I have clicked “follow” on so many blogs that every time I log on to read posts, I get overwhelmed. My goal is to reduce the number of blogs followed and establish a system to be a better blog-buddy.]

February: Book Journaling
[My version of bullet journaling that focuses solely on organizing books and blogging]

March: Goodreads
[Where I revamp my shelves, my friends lists, and figure out how to utilize Goodreads to its fullest.]

April: Food
[This might seem like a weird topic, but if one more thing falls out of the freezer onto my foot, I’m going to scream. I’ve also been wanting to get more serious about my eating habits, and that requires planning and organizing]

May: Freebie
[To be determined]

June: The House Project
[June is when our house is projected to be completed, but I’m not holding my breath. Whatever month sees it’s actual completion (I’ll rearrange topics then), I’m going to take the opportunity to hyper-organize my new living space as I unpack.]

July: The Forgotten Junk Files
[One month after I organize my new house, I’m going to focus on getting rid of things I don’t remember owning. Also, if it’s not useful or beautiful, it goes!]

August: Clothes
[In which I take a long look at my closet and get rid of things I never wear but always seem to hold on to. This will also be an excellent opportunity for me to pull myself out of that “new mom” wardrobe, which primarily consists of jeans and sweatshirts (notice I’m in no hurry to get to this one). ;-)]

September: Books, Books, & More Books!
[I’m lucky enough to have an entire room in this new house dedicated to books. My particleboard shelves are looking pretty shabby these days and have been bowing under the weight of all my books. I want to beautify and downsize my library until it’s something I can be proud of again.]

October: Photos
[I made a ton of progress in early 2016, organizing all the digital photos on my computer. I even got ahead of the game, printing out photos and putting them into scrapbooks within a month of taking them. Being displaced has knocked me off my game, and I’m hoping to get back into a routine by the end of next year.]

November: Another Freebie
[To be determined – probably a follow-up on one of the other topics that I didn’t complete to my satisfaction.]

December: Keepsakes
[By now, my new house should be organized (hopefully), and I’ll be into somewhat of a normal routine, it’s now time to go through the dozen or so “keepsake” totes I’ve been hauling around all of my adult life. This is going to be the most difficult because I’m incredibly sentimental, but the weight of all of this stuff following me around has finally cracked my spine – I’ve had enough!]


I normally do a top ten goals post at the beginning of every year and, although I usually end up completing most of my set goals, that type of post doesn’t really give specific calls to action (and I’m feeling incredibly proactive). This new format is hopefully going to keep me occupied all year. Each month I’ll share my progress and insights on each topic as I move closer to regaining my sanity. :P

What are your goals for 2017?

by Niki Hawkes