6 Steps for Decluttering and Styling a Minimalist Bookshelf without Being Super Basic

We recently added a beautiful bookshelf to our small minimalist home and I am absolutely in love with it. For some reason I spent so many years thinking that I needed to hide my books away in order to avoid the visual stimulation. This was a step up from thinking I needed to declutter my books as soon as I had finished reading them. Even though our relationship started off rocky, over the years my relationship with my books has evolved into a full blown love affair and recently I decided I was done hiding our love. After a quick scroll on Facebook Marketplace, I found two bookshelves that I would be able to snuggle together in order to display our books and keepsakes. Let me be clear: the last thing I wanted was a basic, beige, minimalist aesthetic. I also didn’t want a bookcase over run with books strewn about haphazardly. Instead I have worked to create harmonious balance between clutter free book shelf and book obsessed collector. Here are the steps I’ve taken plus some minimalist book shelf inspiration no matter how big your collection!

The Gentle Art of Letting Shit Go - Minimalist Lifestyle - Decluttering Guide

Making clutter free a habit

Not only do I aim to have a clutter-free bookshelf, but an entire home that feels minimalist-aligned and easy to manage. I do this because there are so many better things to focus on in life besides cleaning my home and managing my stuff.

During the process of decluttering I have found that clearing clutter from our homes can actually be an incredibly emotional and healing experience. That’s why I created an ebook to share my methods for not only decluttering your home, but applying a minimalist mindset to your entire life. When we learn to let go of clutter, outdated cleaning methods, and the emotions we attach to our possessions, we create an opportunity to get a fresh start both inside and out. Get The Gentle Art of Letting Sh*t Go.


Living with less ad having books os perfectly fine ✌🏽👇🏽 Something I had to be mindful of when practicing minimalism was to not become oberly obsessed with how much less someone else had. Just like consumerism and my shopping addiction, decluttering and minimalism could easily become one more way I was trying to keep up with someone else. 🤦🏽‍♀️ Displaying the things I love the most, like books, my grandma’s tea set, and other hidden treasures is just one way I make sure I love and enjoy the things I own. No more hiding my favorite things in a drawer ♥️ What is one “collection” you will always keep? #ownlesslivemore #minimalistlifestyle #clutterfreeliving


Step 1: Read what is on deck

Something I do to ensure that I’m not over-collecting books (which is tough, believe me), is to stop myself from buying new books before I’ve finished my current lineup. Just like any type of collection, I think it can be really easy to get swept up in the accumulation phase that we completely forget about the using of our stuff.

During my last trip to the bookstore, I came home with 5 new books to read, and then had 2 new books sent to me from people I had interviewed on the podcast. This means I have a heft book lineup and don’t need to even think about buying anything new until I have finished these copies.

I love this bookshelf from Dream Green DIY because it is not only stylish but has kept the books very minimal. Not everyone has a huge collection of books, so this is a great way to display your favorite books while keeping your bookshelf aesthetic on point.

Trying to live a minimalist lifestyle but also love books? Here are 5 ideas for keeping your bookshelf clutter free and pretty.
See more on Dream Green DIY

Step 2: Finish book and determine it’s future status

Once I am done finishing a book I will make sure to decide if I liked it enough to keep. Here are the criteria I use when deciding which books to keep:

  • Will I read this again?
  • Would I share this with a friend?
  • Is this something I will want to reference again?

Once I’ve considered these things, I categorize my books into 3 simple categories:

  • Keep
  • Share
  • Donate

Not only do I want my bookshelf to have my favorite books that I will read again, I also want to keep books that I can whole-heartedly recommend to a friend. Get My Top 50 Book Recommendations.

For me keeping books isn’t just about displaying them as trophies. I still want to be intentional with how I use them, how I style them on my bookshelf, and how I declutter them.

Decluttering books

My favorite method for decluttering books after I’ve decided I’m ready to part with them is by bringing them to Half Priced Books, Discover Books, or by selling them on Facebook Marketplace. I even have a friend who was able to travel while seling books out of her car!

It’s true, for my absolute favorite books, I am happy to hand them off to a friend at no charge. For the rest, however, I like to get a little spare change back when I can.

I like this very neutral bookshelf from Room for Tuesday that still has unique style with the dog head bookend, styled rock and framed photo and art. This to me seems like the type of bookshelf that could have been sneakily styled with sentimental objects from around the house rather than things that were purchased at a local Home Goods.

Step 3: Share the book wealth

As I mentioned above, I am a huge fan of sharing and gifting books whenever possible. Nothing makes me happier than passing off a good book to a friend when I can rate it a solid 10/10. Buying gifts for people stresses me out. I much prefer gifting experiences over things, for the simple fact that I don’t want to spend money on something that is only going to add clutter to someone’s home and not value to their life.

When I have read and fully loved a book, I can pass it off to a friend truly feeling like I am enhancing their life, with no obligation for them to keep the book clutter in their home once they’re finished. Sharing is caring and being sure to pass on books that you loved is a great way to keep your bookshelf decluttered and your loved ones happy!

There are so many fun home library ideas on DIY Bunker, but this little tucked away reading nook feels so perfectly simple!

Step 4: Make your books feel special

Whether it’s a simple bookshelf in the corner of your room, or an entire wall dedicated to your favorite books, I think the most important part of a bookshelf is to make your books feel special and give them the statement they deserve. Sure, some books, like the dictionary, you may want to tuck away, but for the favorite few, don’t be afraid to put them in the spotlight.

For a while I tried to hide books in our decor, or I would face them backward feeling as if seeing the multi-colored spines was just too much. It wasn’t until lately that I realized as long as I was keeping my book collection decluttered in a way that felt good, there was nothing wrong with allowing my books to be proudly displayed and seen.

I love this enormous book collection from Helene Houe on Instagram. Even though this space is large and filled with books, it still has a very minimalist, simple bookshelf feel to it and the books themselves get all the attention!

Trying to live a minimalist lifestyle but also love books? Here are 5 ideas for keeping your bookshelf clutter free and pretty.
Visit Helene Houe on Instagram

Step 5: Keep bookshelf organization simple

There is a good chance we would all choose to organize our bookshelves in a different way. What’s most important is that you choose an organization method that works for you. When I began putting together our simple bookshelf, I made sure to categorize our books. We have book categories like:

  • Thriller
  • Spiritual
  • Collections
  • Memoirs
  • Comedy

I even have one section that is dedicated solely to my favorite self help/spiritual author, the late Wayne Dyer. His books were the ones that not only changed my life, but made me a life long reader. Therefore, I feel Wayne’s books deserve special recognition on my bookshelf.

Below is a quick snapshot of our new bookshelf addition. As you can see we’ve kept the top half of the bookshelf a little lighter with more paper backs. The bottom half of the bookshelf is tucked behind the couch and contains our bulkier hardcovers.

Trying to live a minimalist lifestyle but also love books? Here are 5 ideas for keeping your bookshelf clutter free and pretty.

Step 6: Decorate with things you already have

One of my secret biggest pet peeves is when I see someone’s home or bookshelf decorated with completely meaningless place holders from a local department store. Maybe it’s the sentimental person in me, but I prefer decorating my home with things that hold some meaning, significance or just make me smile. Call me crazy but a random circular block of wood priced up to $40 at Target just doesn’t do it for me. Read: How to Decorate Your Home Using Sentimental Items.

Finding a way to add a little bit of personality into a minimalist bookshelf is a sure fire way to make sure it is anything but basic. Adding a few garnishes of plants, keepsakes, or precious photos can instantly make your little bookshelf feel elevated and more joyful.

If you need some inspiration on how to style your bookshelf using plants, this image from 91 Magazine aught to do the trick. Finding ways to incorporate plants into your decor can be tricky, especially if you’r living in a smaller space.

Aren’t digital or audio book more minimalism friendly?

Something I hear a lot from people when I share my love for books and simplicity is that I should just get an Kindle or listen to audiobooks. While I think both of these ideas are amazing, and I do take advantage of audiobooks often, there is still something so amazing about holding a book in your hand.

On top of that, I spend so much of my day looking at a screen that the last thing I want to do is have more screen time during my leisurely reading times.

I get it, the practicality and clutter perks of an eReader just make more sense, but I think there are a certain group of people that get more out of a book when they can truly feel it’s pages.

How I slow my book shopping habits

Lastly, if you are someone who struggles with overspending on books, I get it. Finding ways to reduce spending and overconsumption is something I teach in my course, Shopping Rehab.

One of my best tips from Shopping Rehab that I use specifically for books is to do the following:

  • Take a picture or screenshot of books you want
  • Add the photo to an album labeled “Books”
  • When you are done reading your current roster of book, you can access your book album to decide what to read next

A lot of times when we are over-spending or over-consuming something that is technically good for us, it can be tough to know how to slow our role. Using this method works every time, and if you need more help use the code: NOSTUFF20 to get 20% off Shopping Rehab.

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Trying to live a minimalist lifestyle but also love books? Here are 5 ideas for keeping your bookshelf clutter free and pretty.

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