How to Organize Your Shelves For Functionality + Aesthetics

Getting Started With Shelf Organizing

Now you’re ready… but where do you begin? Well friend, it wouldn’t be Elegant Simplicity if you didn’t begin with an assessment. *wink*

Assess What You Have

Before ever sorting + organizing items, it’s integral to the process of creating a home around everything you need + nothing more® to begin by assessing how you’ll use the space + what you already have. 

Simply ask, what is the function of the shelves in this space? Are they merely decorative or do they play a role in everyday living?

Decluttering items + determining what to keep, what to donate + what might no longer be usable is critical because it helps ensure you not only won’t be holding onto anything unnecessary but that you’re making room for what actually serves a purpose in your life.

Not to mention, it makes the next steps a heck of a lot more manageable because everything left after this step is intentional.

Group Like Items Into Categories

Having decluttered your shelves, it’s officially time to begin organizing. Now, we break down organizing into several steps — the first of which is to group-like items into categories. By placing similar items together, you create a sense of cohesion and order in the organizing process as it makes it easier to locate items when you need them. Moreover, grouping like items affords us more clarity in determining exactly what we have.

Because we know that all the books are here, all the plates, bowls, cups, towels, etc are together — we can once again check that we need all of these + then accurately determine what should be on display.

For books, consider sorting by size, genre or color.

For decor, sort by item, size + color.

For kitchenware, consider sorting by item, size + color.

For bathroom items + towels, sort by item.


Curate With Intention

Creating a home that is both beautiful + functional requires a ton of discernment in the process. Not all books, towels, bowls, etc need to be displayed on your shelves. The remaining items may be stored in a nearby closet or cabinet.

Choose that which you love, are currently using, or that complements the other items around it as well as the overall space. The goal here is to be really intentional about what you put on display as even the most functional shelves should also feel

You can rotate things on your shelves seasonally or based on your current needs.

Styling Your Shelves

Because we’ve knocked the clutter aspect of shelf organizing out of the park, here’s a few tips for styling your shelves aesthetically speaking. For help with styling your shelves with books, check out this article.

  1. Largest items always go first to separate items similar in scale.

  2. Tall items go in the back, which creates a frame for smaller items in the front.

  3. Consider asymmetry for a more natural feel.

For more bookshelf styling, check out this blog.

Containers + Labels

Because you’ve worked the process of assessing, decluttering, categorizing, + curating with intention, you know what you need to actually containerize + if any labels are necessary. Before doing all of that, you’d have no idea what to purchase containers for.

Now, not every open shelf needs containers so let’s be clear here. 

Containers help corral categories of stuff. In fact, around Elegant Simplicity we say containers are the unsung heroes of organization, masterfully corralling categories of items into neat, accessible, and visually pleasing groups. 

They are the quintessential tool for taming chaos, transforming a jumble of belongings into a streamlined and purposeful arrangement. Whether it’s a kitchen shelf, a bathroom shelf, or living room bookcases, containers act as guardians of order, ensuring that every item has a rightful place within the symphony of space. *wink*

Now, you might have a basket of towels, a small basket of toiletry items, a basket of fruits + vegetables. Really, your need for containers + labels is going to be specific to not only the room you’re organizing but in the specific shelf that you’re organizing.

We say that so you’re not overwhelmed if you feel like you can skip this step *wink*

Well, there you have it friend. The Art Of Shelf Organizing.

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