My third school year as a Ph.D. student has officially come to a close. While I can finally see the light of graduation at the end of the tunnel, I also can’t help but reflect on how far my colleagues and I have come. We have spent countless hours studying for exams and working on research papers together, not to mention sitting in classrooms having discussions.

While I won’t venture to say that I can recite everything I have learned up to this point, some things have stuck with me. One has been a quote from a library science professor: “If you really want to get to know someone, take a look at their bookshelves.” Since she uttered those words, I have found myself paying much more attention to bookshelves. I have to say, she was right. I have learned much more about my friends by simply asking them about certain books I’ve spotted on their shelves.

I’ve also noticed that my own shelves could use some sprucing up. Right now, my bookshelves at home sport a cluttered cluster of school textbooks, novels, knickknacks, candles and photos. They are hardly anything I would want someone to go through. It is time for an overhaul. If your bookshelves could also use some sprucing up, consider some of these tips:

Alternate your books. Place some right side up, and others on their side. When stacking books on their side, the trick is to use books of the same size or nearly the same size. Use the stacks to elevate framed photos or other items like seashells or vases. Flank either side of the stacks with vertically stacked books.

Find your inner librarian. If you are a bookworm, organize your reads the way a librarian would. First by genre, then by author’s last name. Label the genres with bookshelf labels so you can easily find and file them away.

Deck out the back. Transform the backs of your shelves by adding a bit of d├ęcor. Paint them a complementary color, such as one that is a couple of shades darker than the wall, or line them with decorative wallpaper.

Arrange by color. If you don’t have enough books to arrange by genre, arrange by color instead.

Add pops. Accents sporadically placed throughout the shelving will add visual interest. Think bold vases or a vibrant picture frame.

Don’t overdo it. One of the worst things you can do is overstuff a shelf. If you need to shelve odd-sized items, skip piling them up and use labeled boxes instead.

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