Organizing the Preschooler's Books

We have a lot of books. Too many books? Well, I guess that depends on who you ask. Around a year and a half ago, when Silas turned two, I started a rotation system. Every two weeks a new box of books would come out and the "old" books were packed away and he wouldn't see them again for a couple months. This solved two problems. First, we weren't swimming in children's books that, somehow, have the habit migrating off the shelf and onto the floor no matter how many times I pick them up. And second, the novelty helped to keep him always interested in books. While it was in practice, it worked really, really well. I love book rotation day because he spends, literally, the entire day looking at books and I have a little bit of breathing room to get things done around the house.

This summer, though, we fell out of our rotation habit. The cardboard boxes that I was using to store books were falling apart, making pulling them out and packing them back up a chore. There were many of his books the he had really outgrown and that needed to be weeded out. There were even more books that needed to be purged from our collection altogether. And I wanted to have fewer books out at a time - only around 20 or so - which meant that I really needed to spread them all out and sort them properly.

So this was our project the other day. First, I picked up five plastic totes. Honestly, this was the hardest step for me. I always get sticker shock when I look in the home organization aisle (seriously? Nine dollars for a plastic box?) and I usually just abandon whatever project it is that I'm looking to organize. But, this needed to happen, so I took the plunge. I think they were 29 qt. totes and I chose them because they were small enough not to take up too much room, but big enough that a majority of our books would fit in them while standing upright. There were still some over-sized books, but because I was only putting 20 or so books in each box, they were able to fit at an angle without anything getting crushed.

Then, while Silas was having Quiet Time in his room, I pulled out all our boxes of books and did a quick sort and purge. First I pulled out all the board books and books that he's outgrown and put those in their own box to be stored away until next spring when the baby comes. Then, I weeded out what needed to be purged. I decided that we (both Silas and I) should truly love all the books that are in our collection. We have access to a wonderful library, so there is no need for us to own every single book; only those that are really meaningful and that we want to return to again and again.

I sorted the keepers into the five bins, making sure that a good variety of books in each set - a little poetry, books about nature and animals, some Dr. Seuss, etc. Next, I quickly printed out some numbers for the plastic bins, taped them on, and Bam! revamped rotation system! There are 24 books in each bin (meaning we have 120 books in rotation! I think I need to do some more purging!) and each bin stays out for 2 weeks. They are displayed in a sling-style bookshelf, which I much prefer to a regular shelf. Silas can see the front covers of the books, which makes it much easier for him to find what he's looking for, without pulling every single book off the shelf.

We keep seasonal and holiday books separate (fall/winter in one bin and spring/summer in another) and these books come out at the beginning of their respective season and stay out, in their own basket, for the duration of that season. There is also a separate basket for any library books that we bring home.

It feels so good to have this project done. We were getting overwhelmed by the book clutter, but now everything is back in its place. Although, I do have another 4 or so (!) boxes of "to grow into" books that I need to go through and either put into rotation or purge. Now, I just need to figure out what to do with the toys...


  1. What a big project but such a fabulous idea. I think I need to switch to totes. I had book boxes and some of them are in really rough shape! I've fallen out of my book rotation habit too. You just inspired me to get back on it!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. That is just a wonderful idea! We don't have quite as much, but we could at least have a 2 or 3 box rotation... Oh, how pleased will my husband be! (Clutter makes him itch!)