One of the tricky things about organizing a bookshelf or bookcase is that we use them to hold much more than just books: Our shelves display keepsakes and picture frames, house collections of board games and photographs, and often end up as a place where odds and ends like eyeglasses and remotes are stored.
To help you out with those bookshelf challenges, we enlisted the help of home organization experts Pam Meluskey and Larisa Bright, founders of the luxury home organization service, Settled, and interior designer Lindsay Pumpa. We asked these experts to help us pick out 20 of the absolute best items to organize and style a bookshelf or collection of books — plus something for those cobwebs! — all priced under $20.
Crystal Allies Gallery Pair of Polished Agate Geode Halves Bookends ($19.99; amazon.com)
“This may be obvious,” Pumpa says, “but bookends! Bookends are probably the best way to show your style because they come in so many varieties.” For a natural look that spans a variety of styles, Pumpa suggests a geode-style set of bookends. Look for different colors to match your decor or personal style.
Design Ideas Hidden Bookends ($18.99; amazon.com)
Pumpa points out a very specific problem that bookends can help to solve: How to store books that have seen better days. “If you have some older books that are ‘gently loved’ and may need a little bit of help standing up on their own, try invisible bookends,” she says. Pumpa likes the invisible bookends for creating what she calls “a cleaner library feel” because they don’t compete with other decor you may be trying to showcase.
Crystal Clear Acrylic Bookends ($12.99; amazon.com)
Meluskey and Bright also like an “invisible” bookend for corralling unruly books. “Nothing ruins a shelving design like sliding books! Keep your items upright and secure with acrylic bookends,” they say, adding that bookends are “also great for making sure nothing falls off the end of the shelf.”
EasyPAG Heavy Duty Magazine Holder ($15.99; amazon.com)
Like bookends, magazine holders are a staple of bookshelf organization that come in just about every color, material and style imaginable. This metal magazine holder has a carved floral pattern and comes in black, white or gold.
mDesign Clear Plastic Magazine Holder ($12.99; amazon.com)
Acrylic organizing solutions can be found for almost every problem, and magazines are no exception. Buy a few of these clear magazine holders to house a collection of one title, which will direct the eye to the uniformity of the magazine spines rather than to the holder itself.
Steel Mill & Co. Magazine Holder, 2-Pack ($18.95; amazon.com)
You can, of course, go in the opposite direction and let your organizing solutions double as decor elements to lend visual interest. These pretty floral magazine holders add a pop of color to a bookshelf, and can be used to store file folders, as well as magazines.
A to Z Record Dividers, 7-Pack ($18.52, originally $30.86; etsy.com)
These alphabetical dividers are designed to organize vinyl records, lending a tailored look to a large collection and bringing a bit of a design element of their own. But they can certainly be used for other types of collections, like board games, that are typically stored in a bookcase.
Eyeglasses Organizer Box ($18.99; amazon.com)
People who wear “cheaters” — those nonprescription reading glasses that are typically sold at drugstores — know that those cheaters seem to proliferate in the night, like gremlins, leaving pairs strewn randomly around the house. A storage box designed specifically for glasses (with a clear lid to remind you of what’s inside!) can be the key to getting those cheaters organized and easy to find.
Bookmark Holder ($12; etsy.com)
Like reading glasses, bookmarks tend to proliferate; you get one from a bookstore here, another as a gift there, maybe you pick up souvenir bookmarks when you travel? If you’re a person with a lot of bookmarks, spending a little bit of money to buy a nice bookmark holder to live on your bookshelf is worth considering.
Acrylic Lid Boxes (starting at $7.99, originally $15.99; containerstore.com)
Books aren’t the only thing we store on a bookshelf: Photo albums and collections are often housed on bookcases. Pumpa recommends this acrylic lidded box, which she says is “a great way to store keepsakes and photos, while also adding another layer of style.”
Elegance Eclipse Bowl ($18.52; amazon.com)
“Another great storage idea for those items you may need to grab a bit more often, but still may need a home, like keys, the remotes or a box of matches,” Pumpa says, “try an open bowl or catchall.” Pumpa picked this stylish bowl because, she says, “it also doubles as a great decorative topper to a stack of larger books.”
Threshold Decorative Coiled Rope Basket ($9.60, originally $16; target.com)
“If you have some taller bottom shelves,” Pumpa says, “and are tight on storage for larger items like extra blankets, toys or seasonal items, I recommend trying a basket or bin.” This is her pick for a neutral basket, and she offers this tip for picking neutral storage of your own: “The key is making sure the baskets blend with your decor and not detract or draw a lot of attention. You also want to make sure they find a home on a lower shelf, so they don’t throw off the balance of the bookshelf.”
Acrylic Display Cube (starting at $9.99; containerstore.com)
Meluskey and Bright especially like clear acrylic accessories for bringing order to a bookshelf. “When styling your bookshelf, there can quickly become many items fighting for visual attention,” they say. “That’s why we like to use clear, acrylic items where possible, to keep the focus on your collection.” They recommend this display cube, which they say is “great for highlighting or spotlighting a specific item.”
Acrylic Risers (starting at $4.99; containerstore.com)
Another way to use acrylic organizers to style a bookshelf is to buy a set of risers. Meluskey and Bright say that these well-priced risers are “perfect for utilizing different heights when styling — a successful shelf design incorporates items at varying heights.”
Umbra Conceal Floating Bookshelf ($12; amazon.com)
Bookcases aren’t the only place where we store books. If you’re a person who tends to have a big stack of books on your bedside table — where they take up valuable real estate that’s needed for a box of tissues, eyeglasses, remotes, etc. — a wall-mounted floating bookshelf will be a life- and space-saver for you.
Royal Duster Ostrich Feather Duster ($8.75; amazon.com)
Well, we promised you something for cobwebs and here it is: a good old-fashioned feather duster! Even if your book storage isn’t afflicted with cobwebs, it is almost definitely dusty — bookshelves get very, very dusty! — and keeping it clean can be a frustrating task. A feather duster solves that problem, by allowing you to regularly dust books, knickknacks and the shelves themselves without having to pick up every item.