4 Easy steps to declutter a bookshelf like a pro

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A few months ago my friend Maria sent me a video of a bookshelf in her home that was driving her crazy. Perhaps you can relate.

Maria’s shelf never looked tidy. It was always full of stuff, some of which she needed, but some she didn’t. The shelf often served as a catchall space for random things, like earbuds and nail clippers, that she didn’t know where else to put.   

She’d tried to declutter the shelf many times, but it never stayed organized for long. This was becoming a big frustration for her, as the sight of this shelf annoyed her every time she walked past. 

What to do? 

My answer…

Give it the LESS Method treatment!

Because Maria had sent me a video, I sent her one in return, explaining how she could use my 4-step LESS Method to declutter and organize this bookshelf once and for all. 

I compiled Maria’s video and mine together. You can watch below:  

If you prefer to read the goodness (and see an extremely satisfying “after” shot of Maria’s shelf) scroll on!

The LESS Method is my signature 4-step decluttering method that you can use to declutter any space in your home. It stands for: 

Layout your vision and purpose
Sort it twice

Let’s go into each of these steps in more detail. 

Step 1: Layout your vision and purpose

I recommended that Maria grab a piece of paper and a pen and write out her VISION for this shelf. For the vision, I asked her to think about how she wanted the shelf to LOOK and how she wanted to FEEL when she saw it. 

Then I asked her to write out the PURPOSE for this shelf. When you have a cluttered catchall space, the problem is usually that the purpose has not been defined, thus people feel free to deposit all their random schtuff there! For Maria’s shelf the purpose might have included: charging cords, personal care items, books, etc. It doesn’t matter what the purpose is, just that it is clearly defined in writing. 

Once Maria had her VISION and PURPOSE she was ready for step 2…

Step 2: Empty

The second step of the LESS Method is Empty, and it’s pretty self-explanatory: everything out. And I mean everything! This is a step people often want to skip because it seems oh-so-much-easier to just comb through and pick out the stuff they don’t want, but believe me, you will get much better results if you take the time to empty that shelf completely!

Step 3: Sort it twice

There are two types of sorts I recommend: a like-with-like sort followed by a decision sort. 

During the like-with-like sort, I asked Maria to get all her similar-type items together. For example, all the charging cords together, all the books together, etc. This is so that she can clearly see the different categories of stuff she has (which will help immensely with step 4) and she can see the totality of how much she has. (We have 10 pairs of scissors, who knew??

Once the like-with-like piles are done, it’s time to go through each of those piles and make decisions on the items one-by-one. There are only 5 possible decisions: keep, trash, donate, elsewhere, or sell. 

Step 4: Systemize

Now it’s time to put back the keepers! Step 4 is the ONLY time I recommend investing in bins or baskets or labels. At this point, you know what you’re keeping (and more importantly, WHY you’re keeping it) so if it would be helpful to put all the charging cords into a basket and label it “cords” this is the time to do that. *Note: the reason I see people fail at organizing is because they try to skip the earlier 3 steps and move right to this one. No, sir! That results in what I call “organized clutter” which is just clutter neatly arranged in matching baskets that cost you $20 each. (And hey, for more systemizing ideas, check out this cool article on how to organize your home, Korean-style.)

Maria took my advice and revamped her bookshelf. She sent me this lovely “after” photo as proof of her success!

I hope this post inspires you to declutter a bookshelf of your own! 

If you’d like to learn more about how the LESS Method can help you transform all the cluttered spaces in your home, check out my 6-week LESS Method Live Decluttering Course. It will help you create more clear, open spaces in your home (and head!). Click here to learn more and get on the waiting list for the next round!

To less stuff and more you,

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PS: If you’re a busy working mom who wants to declutter your home, simplify your work-life, and calm your mind… Sign up for my FREE 30-Day Simplicity Challenge!

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