Why You Should Rearrange Your Bookshelves

Mara Franzen

Staff Writer

Mara (They/Them) has accidentally on purpose made their entire life about books and stories. Mara graduated with a B.A in creative writing and theatre and is halfway through an MFA in Creative writing. In addition to writing for Book Riot, Mara also has written for The Independent Book Review, Wargamer, and The Other Half, to name a few. They also work as a fiction editor with The Minison Project. Nearly all of their published articles can be found here.

Recently, I’ve gotten into the practice of reorganizing my bookshelves every other month. This is partly due to the fact that I keep acquiring books at an alarming rate, and then have to find a place to put them all. Don’t judge, it happens! While the reason for this bi-monthly routine is usually about utility, I have noticed an interesting side effect. Doing this actually helped me read more. A lot more.

I decided to run a little experiment to see if it really was the reorganizing of the shelves that helped me read more. I would not let myself reorganize for six months. The only exceptions to the rule were:

  1. I was allowed to unhaul books.

2. New books could go on the shelves so long as they fit naturally. Meaning I couldn’t go in and shuffle books around to make them fit where I wanted them to.

Sure enough, even within the first two months, my reading rate took a dip.

Now, I am not even remotely a scientist. So I decided that a dip in reading in the first two months was enough conclusive evidence and stopped. That, and the fact that there was an unsightly pile of new books waiting for a home and I didn’t want them to feel abandoned. So, here is my theory and argument for why you should rearrange your bookshelves!

Once I knew reorganizing did help me read more, I wanted to figure out why.

Some Theories

One possibility I think has to do with the fact that when my books are freshly reorganized, they are more likely to catch my eye. If I’m going about my day I stop to look at my shelves because it’s something different. Otherwise, when they stay the same for too long my brain just starts to ignore them. So by changing them often I’m convincing my brain to spend time looking at the shelves. The more I look at them, the more I think “Hey! Maybe I should read instead of playing another two hours of Animal Crossing”. And then I pick up a book and read!

Another theory is that as I organize I remember what books I have. If I reorganize my books every other month that means I’m physically touching my books every other month. I get to look at the whole collection, get drawn in by the cover, or even remember what it was like reading a book the first time. This way I’m actually spending time with my books, and I get excited about them all over again.

The last reason I can think of could be because sometimes when I reorganize I have to read the synopsis to figure out what genre it is. I’m a very forgetful person, so this refresher is not only helpful but necessary. It reminds me why I bought this book in the first place and why I should read it soon. 

I can’t tell you which of these reasons is the correct one, or if it’s some combination of all three. But, since putting this into effect my reading has skyrocketed, and I’ve been conquering my TBR pile like never before.

Side Effects May include…

I’ve realized that reorganizing books often also helps me get rid of books. If I’ve reshelved it a bunch of times without feeling that attached to it, it helps me pass it along to someone who might actually enjoy it.

The other great side effect is it gives me an excuse to listen to audiobooks more because I listen while I reorganize. I have a lot of books, and reorganizing can take a long time. So sometimes I even get through a full novel while reorganizing. 

Not all side effects of reorganizing are positive, though. I do struggle a little at first with finding specific books when I’m looking for them. As I said, I can be forgetful, so remembering how I organized my books this time around can be a bit of an ordeal, but that’s something I can live with.

Another not-so-great side effect is that it can be a very time-consuming project. This makes it not the most practical option if you’re a super busy person. I have to purposely set time aside every so often to do it, and have to recognize that isn’t always feasible.

I know this practice isn’t for everyone. If you’re someone who likes to keep things the same, and that works for you, more power to you! But if you’re someone who’s been looking for an excuse to reorganize, give it a try!