How do you store books if you don’t have space?

As a book lover, it can be challenging to find storage solutions when you have more books than shelf space. With some creativity and strategic planning, you can maximize your storage capability even in the smallest living spaces.

Take Stock of Your Current Book Collection

Before exploring storage options, take an inventory of your existing book collection. This will help you understand the volume you need to accommodate. As you survey your books, consider the following:

  • How many books do you currently own?
  • What sizes are they (hardcover, paperback, mass market paperback, etc.)?
  • Do you organize them in any way already (by genre, author, etc.)?
  • Are there any books you can cull from your collection to downsize?

Knowing details like the total number, sizes, and organization of your books will inform what kind of storage you need moving forward.

Evaluate Your Available Storage Space

Next, look at the space you have available to store your book collection. Consider the following:

  • What rooms could accommodate bookshelves or other storage furniture?
  • What wall space is available that could fit wall-mounted shelves?
  • Do you have any empty closets, under bed areas, or other often overlooked spaces that could be utilized?
  • How much floor space do you have for free standing bookshelves or other large storage units?

Being aware of the parameters of your existing space will help narrow down what storage solutions will work best.

Optimize Your Shelving

One of the best ways to maximize space is to optimize the bookshelves you already have. Here are some tips:

  • Use shelf risers to double up rows of books.
  • Install deeper shelves that can accommodate two rows.
  • Adjust or remove shelf dividers to customize shelf space.
  • Add shelving above doorways or wrap around corners.
  • Stack books horizontally with bookends rather than vertically.

Getting creative with traditional shelving is an easy way to double your storage capability. Even just an extra inch of depth or height can make a difference.

Consider Unconventional Shelf Ideas

Sometimes you have to think outside the box with shelf storage. Bathrooms, kitchens, and other atypical rooms can be great options. Consider these ideas:

  • Install floating shelves in the bathroom to store books and decor.
  • Use a hanging spice rack inside a kitchen cabinet to hold books.
  • Mount shelves along staircases or hallways.
  • Repurpose household items like crates, ladders, and bins.

The more flexibility you have around what “shelving” means, the more possibilities open up. The key is choosing solutions tailored to odd gaps in your existing space.

Take Advantage of Vertical Space

In small spaces, utilizing vertical real estate is a must. Floor-to-ceiling shelves on every bare wall can nearly double storage. Other vertical options include:

  • Mount shelving above furniture like beds, sofas, and desks.
  • Use a bookcase with height adjustable shelves.
  • Install multi-level shelving units that scale the wall.
  • Suspend shelves from the ceiling with rods or cables.

While crawling a ladder to reach top shelves isn’t ideal, it’s worth it for avid readers with more books than space. Vertical storage can be a lifesaver.

Take Advantage of Hidden Storage

Nearly every home has some hidden real estate that can covert to book storage. Look for these often overlooked spots:

  • Under beds and sofa
  • Back of closet floor space
  • Inside closet doors
  • Under staircase landings
  • Inside furniture like ottomans and trunks
  • Under kitchen and bathroom sinks

Accessible storage like this can accommodate at least some books. And don’t forget the unused vertical space above doors and kitchen cabinets.

Downsize Your Collection

If space is extremely limited, you may need to downsize your library to only the most essential books. Be ruthlessly selective and honest with yourself. Consider passing books along using these tips:

  • Donate unwanted books to libraries or thrift stores.
  • Sell books online or at used bookstores.
  • Swap books with friends and family.
  • Check if any books could be borrowed from the library when needed.

Deciding what makes the cut is tough for book lovers. But sometimes downsizing is the only way forward in a tight space.

Store Overflow Books Elsewhere

For the books that just won’t fit on your primary shelves, consider these alternate storage spaces:

  • Box up less accessed books for the garage or basement.
  • Rotate seasonal books in and out of storage as needed.
  • Rent a small storage unit just for books.
  • Store books at a relative or friend’s house.

While not ideal, setting aside books you rarely reference can free up your primary shelves. Just catalog what gets boxed away for easy access later.

Invest in a Digital Library

If you are willing to transition to digital formats, e-books can store your entire library virtually. Consider these options:

  • Get an e-reader like the Kindle Paperwhite which can hold thousands of ebooks.
  • Use a tablet or smartphone reading app like Kindle, Apple Books, or Audible.
  • Check out ebooks for free from your local library’s digital collection.
  • Subscribe to services like Scribd, Amazon Prime Reading, or Audible.

Going digital requires some adjustment for diehard print lovers. But it can radically expand your library without claiming any physical space.

Ebook Subscription Services

Here is an overview of popular ebook and audiobook subscription services to consider:

Service Details
Kindle Unlimited Read over 1 million Kindle ebook titles. $9.99/month.
Scribd Access 1 million ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and more. $8.99/month.
Audible Get 1 audiobook credit per month. $14.95/month.
Apple Books Pay as you go pricing with discounts for Apple users.
Kobo Monthly subscription not offered. Pay as you go ebook pricing.

These services make exploring digital libraries affordable, flexible, and space saving.

Use Creative Book Storage Ideas

Sometimes you have to get creative with how and where you store books. Unconventional solutions can both save space and become decorative statements. Consider these innovative storage ideas:

  • Display books creatively on open shelves, mantels, or countertops.
  • Integrate books into furniture like coffee tables and headboards.
  • Install corner shelves to utilize awkward angled space.
  • Use a bookcase without backing to hold books facing forward and backward.
  • Add hidden storage like book nooks into wall cutouts.

With some imagination, virtually any unused space can be converted into a bookshelf. Your storage options are only limited by your creativity.

Choose Multipurpose Furniture

Multipurpose furniture is designed to save space by offering multiple functions. Consider furniture that pulls double duty as stylish books storage:

  • An ottoman or trunk that opens up for book storage inside.
  • A coffee table with shelves underneath.
  • A storage bed with drawers or shelving in the base.
  • A cabinet or side table with shelves behind doors.
  • A desk hutch that extends storage upward.

With some savvy shopping, you can find furnishings that store books attractively. This efficient approach makes every piece work harder.

Add Bookcases Anywhere They’ll Fit

Don’t limit yourself to traditional living room or den areas. Look for any space where you can fit a bookcase, even if unconventional. Ideas include:

  • Inside closets using the back of the door.
  • Under kitchen cabinets to use vertical space.
  • Beside basement stairs or laundry machines.
  • By the front door to corral shoes or accessories.
  • In the bathroom to hold towels and toiletries.

Small shelves can fit unobtrusively in transition areas to provide useful storage. Every bit counts when space is tight.

Use Bookmarks Creatively

Bookworms know bookmarks are essential accessories. But they can also be used decoratively to store and display books when space is limited. Ideas include:

  • Drape bookmark tassels over stacks of horizontally stored books.
  • Loop ribbons around a row of books to keep them upright.
  • Wrap book pages around bookmark posts on a shelf.
  • Hang book pages from ribbon bookmarks as art.
  • Display bookmark collections in jars or boxes.

Using your favorite bookmarks beyond their usual purpose can add a creative flair to even the most crowded shelf.

Add Book Storage to Small Wall Spaces

Nearly any small, bare wall space can be transformed into a mini book shelf. Target these often overlooked areas:

  • Above door frames.
  • Beside or below windows.
  • On the side of bathroom vanities.
  • Next to the bed.
  • On closet walls.
  • Inside cabinet doors.

You can install ready-made wall mounted shelves or floating ledges. Or get creative and use railings, metal pipes, or wood crates. Any narrow ledge will work.

Build Custom Shelving Into Walls

For major built-in storage, have traditional shelving constructed right into the contours of a wall space. Ideas include:

  • Floor to ceiling shelving filling an entire wall.
  • Angled shelves in awkward sloped ceilings.
  • Shelves built around chimneys, radiators, and AC vents.
  • Bookshelves framing a window or doorway.
  • Shelves on the side of open staircases.

Though more intensive, custom shelves make the most of the exact footprint you have. Your storage will be tailored to your unique space.

Decorate Shelves to Double as Art

With some thoughtful styling, your bookshelves can pull double duty as wall art decor. Ideas for creating a gallery-like look include:

  • Arrange books artfully by color, texture, or size.
  • Install interior lighting such as LED strips.
  • Use bookends, vases, frames, and other accents.
  • Alternate books vertically and horizontally.
  • Elevate special editions on easels or platforms.

The goal is to intentionally design your shelfscape to elevate it beyond simple storage. Let your books become the artwork on display.

Keep Reference Books Close at Hand

Even if most books get stored, keep essential references within arm’s reach. Nearby access is key for these:

  • Dictionaries, thesauruses, and grammar guides
  • Atlases, maps, and travel guides
  • Art technique books
  • DIY and repair manuals
  • Cookbooks
  • Desk references for hobbies or work

Having key educational and practical books readily available will ensure they get used.

Add Portable Storage

When shelf space gets maxed out, portable storage can provide flexible overflow space. Ideas include:

  • Plastic storage crates that stack or collapse.
  • Over the door hanging canvas shelves.
  • Rolling carts with wire shelving.
  • Small shelves that sit atop furniture.
  • Freestanding metal bookcases on wheels or casters.

Since portable units are designed to move around, you can tuck them anywhere space allows at the moment. They’re an easy add-on solution.

Use Bookends Creatively

Bookends aren’t just functional—they can also provide decorative flair. Get creative with bookends by:

  • Opting for ornamental ones like statues, urns, or art pieces.
  • Choosing ones that contrast dramatically with your books.
  • Stacking differently sized bookends together in a staggered line.
  • Pairing slip-on fabric bookends with your favorite patterns or colors.
  • Displaying bookends themselves as art pieces when not in use.

Your choice of bookends can represent your personality while cleverly keeping books upright. They provide both form and function.


No matter how limited your space, avid readers can always find ways to accommodate their beloved book collections. Getting creative with storage furniture, devices, formats and accessories can help maximize every nook and cranny. At the end of the day, where book lovers reside, books will find a home. That overstuffed shelf or pile of bedside books is a badge of honor!

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