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"Year of the Clean Person" columnist Julie Kerr has laid out a plan for those of us who want to make our bookshelves presentable again. It consists of 4 stages:
Stage 1: Make your list, grab your tools & put on music. Kerr asks that you start by making a list of how you wish to proceed in cleaning your bookshelf (take a "before" photo, "remove all books and whatnots from shelves," "dust," etc.) and what to do with books that you no longer want (leave them in a common area for people to pick up, donate them, etc.). Once you've made a list, gather tools that may include dust rags, a handheld vacuum cleaner, and furniture polish. Then, to make it feel like less of a chore, put on some good music or start up a favorite movie or television or web series.
Stage 2: Clean the shelves. This pretty straightforward step involves removing everything from the bookshelf and, as recommended by Kerr, grouping like things together in piles as a way to stay organized, e.g. books in one pile (or a row of piles), DVDs in another pile, nicknacks in their own pile, and so on. She suggests you "have a large box, bin, or trash bag on hand for stashing things you already know are going to get junked." Once the bookshelf is empty, pull it away from the wall and, from the top down, wipe it clean of dust, dirt, food crumbs, pet hair, confetti, glitter, or whatever.
Stage 3: Pare down your collection. I'll admit, this is the hardest part for me and I'm sure for many other people, too. But if you have no more room on your bookshelf, or if you're faced with the very real possibility of moving in the near future, you'll have to pull on your grown-up pants and get down to business. To make it easier, Kerr says "be on the lookout for textbooks, books given as gifts that you're keeping out of a sense of obligation or guilt, and anything given to you by someone with whom you used to share bodily fluids. Especially get rid of those - they're casting all manner of bad energy about your home."
Stage 4: Put everything back. "Before you do," says Kerr, "wipe down the books and whatever else you're keeping with a clean, dry rag. They will have dust on them! And you spent so much time tending to the bookshelf itself, so don't go mucking it up by putting dusty books on the clean shelves." As you put everything back on the bookshelf, you may wish to arrange your books differently, perhaps by author or genre or size or color. Kerr has included some helpful links that explain how to organize, arrange, and otherwise style your bookshelf.
For additional links on organizing and arranging your bookshelf, for suggestions on where to donate the books that you no longer want, and for lots of other useful information for those of us who want to "reclaim our bookshelves," see the latest installment of Julie Kerr's column at THIS LINK.