5 Shelf organisation ideas

5 Shelf organisation ideas

There are probably only three reasons you’re looking for shelf organisation ideas:

  1. You want to accessorise a room and want to fill shelves with beautifully chosen objets d’art and colour-coordinated books you don’t read, but look nice on a shelf; 
  2. You have way too much stuff and have run out of floor space for storage furniture and now need to use shelves but don’t want them to look a mess.
  3. You already have shelves, and they look a mess.
If you’re here for reason number 1, organising a shelf for aesthetics is pretty simple: don’t overfill your shelves; put like-coloured items together; group ornaments in odd numbers; vary the height of your objets d’art to create visual interest and remember that everything on there will need dusting, so choose things that don’t have lots of fiddly crevices.

If you’re here for reason number 2 or 3 and are looking for shelf organisation ideas because you actually need to fit and/or organise a shelf or two in your home, here are some great ideas for how to do so without them looking higgledy-piggledy.

Tips for organising a shelf in the kitchen

The kitchen is the one place, perhaps aside from the bathroom, where cabinet and floor space is at a premium and shelves are really useful. A lot of your cabinets will be full of things like pans, bins, cleaning products etc, and a lot of floor space will be taken up with your white goods. Your walls might offer the only available storage space; these first couple of tips are shelf organisation ideas for your kitchen.

1. Get a shelf spice organiser

How to organise shelves with a spice rack

A shelf spice organiser is typically shallow enough to store spice jars in a single row, with a wooden railing all the way round to prevent them falling off. 

If the railing blocks the labels and makes it difficult to identify the jars at a glance, fit your shelf spice organiser so that you can see the lids of the jars, since these are usually labelled with the spices’ initials.

If there’s room to do so, consider fitting some large cup hooks to the underside of the spice rack, so that you can suspend other items from it, such as cups or utensils - organising your shelf this way will kill two birds with one stone.

Shelf spice racks can be used for loads of other things, like nail varnishes, craft supplies, children’s books and so on, so feel free to use them in whatever room you like!

2. Pantry shelf organisers

How to organise shelves with pantry shelves

Pantry shelf organisers come in a wide range of styles and sizes; you might have heard them called cabinet organisers for the kitchen. Broadly, their purpose is to act like mini shelves that will sit neatly inside your kitchen cupboards or pantries, and you can use them on open shelves, too. 

They add another layer of storage and make use of the full depth of the cabinet (or shelf) and all the vertical space therein. 

Some are designed to look like a set of steps, allowing you to put cans and food boxes behind each other but still visible. Others are designed as a simple shelf on adjustable ‘legs’ so you can put items on top of the shelf and beneath it. 

Shelf organisation tips to make your shelves look tidier

Rather annoyingly, open shelves don’t come with any kind of ridges or sides, so things tend to fall off them and they’re completely open to inspection by visitors, parents and in-laws. Clutter is not your friend if you’re relying on open shelf storage: the following tips suggest ways in which you could make your shelves look neater. 

3. Buy some baskets

How to organise shelves with baskets

A set of simple baskets can hide all manner of clutter. When organising a shelf this way, choose baskets of the same colour and depth to create a uniform impression, and add neatly written or typed labels to the front of each basket so you’ll always know which one to grab. 

You could store all your different teabags, coffee jars and hot chocolate tubs in three different baskets if you have lots of half-finished containers; you could also use them to store things like cleaning products, pet food/treats, and tea towels.

4. Use ornaments as bookends

How to organise shelves with ornaments

If you’re using your shelves to display or store your books, try to arrange the books by author, and organise by height, either from small to large or an obvious mishmash of heights. To prevent them from falling over, use ornaments that are heavy enough to keep the books in place as bookends, or you could stack three or four books horizontally and place a stack at either side of the books that are stored upright. 

Plants can look lovely next to books on a shelf, and if they’re heavy enough to act as bookends then great! Dead plants look awful, though, so if you’re not exactly green-fingered, opt for some succulents (which thrive best in sunlight, with minimal watering - so you can water them only if and when you remember, and they’ll still live!) or plastic greenery.

5. Organise your crockery and cups

This is where you need to tread a very careful line between creating something tidy and aesthetically pleasing … and still being able to access your cups, bowls and plates. For instance, stacking dinner sets up in size order from large dinner plates to side plates, pasta dishes and cereal bowls can look lovely. Do you really want to have to carefully extract a plate for your toast in the morning, though? Or do you just want to be able to grab what you need?

Instead, stack each type of plate/bowl etc separately and make sure that the items you use every day are on a shelf low enough for you to reach them easily.

Your shelves probably won’t be deep enough to lay dinner plates flat. You could get a rack that will allow you to stand your dinner plates upright, one behind the other, which can look good but make sure there are other items at either side so that they don’t just roll off the edge of the shelf!

We’ve all seen mug trees, and they doubtless serve a useful purpose but they look a bit dated. Instead, consider hanging cups from hooks beneath your crockery shelf, spaced carefully so that you can access them easily without risking knocking others off. 

Hopefully, you’ll have been inspired to use your shelves in ways that make it easy to store your belongings whilst being thoroughly organised, neat and tidy. If, when organising your shelves, you decide that you have way too many books and knick knacks and they won’t look neat no matter where you put them, don’t throw them away. Consider renting a small self storage unit to store belongings that you want to keep but don’t really have room for, and your home will feel instantly decluttered!

A little advice before you go: be mindful of how much weight the screws and supporting brackets of your shelf can take. Also, if your newly organised shelves take too much effort to keep neat and tidy, consider fitting a wall-mounted cupboard with doors instead! 

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