9 Easy Creative Ways To Hide Clutter On Shelves

Need bookshelves for storage, but still want them to look neat and tidy? Then our easy ways to hide clutter on shelves are sure to come in handy.

Creative ways to hide clutter on shelves

Shelves are a fantastic way to add lots of storage that doesn’t take up a lot of floor space. Which is perfect if you live in a small house like I do.

Unfortunately, since they’re open, they can also start to look cluttered really fast.

To prevent that, I’ve found some ways to hide clutter on shelves that let you maximize your storage and keep the room looking neat. Read on to find out how.

Hang Curtains

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Curtains aren’t just for windows.

They are a great way to hide clutter on shelves that you also want to be able to access.

Leave them open and you can get to the shelf contents really easily. Close them and the mess is completely hidden!

You can make them cover the entire width and height of the shelves like the ones in this office.

Or just cover the bottom part of the shelf.

Simply install a spring tension rod across the width of the shelf with some curtain ring clips. Then clip on a hemmed piece of fabric and you have some covered storage.

Hang a Picture With Access To The Books

A picture can cover parts of the shelf that you don't want to display

Use a picture to cover parts of the shelf where you are storing things you don’t want to display.

A picture installed with hinges on a bookshelf

Installing the picture with hinges makes it easy to get at the contents on the shelf behind.

Click here to get the step-by-step instructions for how to install a picture on a bookshelf.

Add Baskets

White basket on white shelf

Baskets are a really easy way to add storage that keeps the mess out of sight.

They come in all sorts of styles and sizes so you are sure to find something that will suit your space.

If you really want the basket to blend in, spray paint it the same color as the shelves. It will look like it is meant to be there.

White basket on white shelf with white cat hiding in it

One word of caution:  If you live with cats, you better not leave the basket empty for long, or it will end up being a cat hiding spot.

Vases Do Double Duty

Blue and white vases on shelves

Vases and pitchers are an inexpensive and pretty way to add to your shelf decor. But they can also be used for storage.

I use mine for storing craft and office supplies.

Anything that you would normally put in a jar or container (paper clips, pipe cleaners, ribbons, etc.) can also be stored in a vase.

Install a Pull Down Picture

A pull down picture covers the TV

This picture is actually a photo that I took in Hawaii (but you could use any kind of picture that makes you happy).

I had it printed on canvas and then attached it to a rolling window shade…and now it doubles as a picture and a way to hide the TV.

A pull down picture covers part of a shelving unit

It worked so well that I used the same idea for one of the shelves in my living room.

Read the step-by-step instructions on how to create your own pull down picture.

Add Sliding Doors

Sliding doors on a console help to hide clutter, via ana-white.com
Sliding doors help to hide clutter, via ana-white.com

Installing sliding doors over part of your shelves can help to hide clutter.

One advantage of sliding doors over swing-out ones?

They don’t open up into the room so they require less open floor space.

Which is a bonus if you have a small room!

You can find the plans for building this console (and the sliding doors) at ana-white.com.

In this kitchen, they even used sliding doors to cover their open kitchen shelves. And the design suits their industrial kitchen very well!

Paint Some Canvas

Painted canvas squares cover sections of a shelf, via danslelakehouse.com
Hang canvas squares to cover sections of your bookshelf, via danslelakehouse.com

Tanya from danslelakehouse.com came up with a great idea for covering some of the sections of her IKEA bookcase (but you could do the same thing for any kind of shelving unit).

Paint and hang canvas squares that cover the shelving spaces perfectly.

Then you can lift them out of the way when you need to get access to the shelf.

Click here to get the instructions.

Add Doors

IKEA glass kitchen cabinet doors cover part of a wall unit

Adding doors to your shelves is traditionally something you do in the kitchen.

But it works just as well for hiding clutter in other rooms.

In this wall unit made from IKEA cabinets and doors, frosted glass prevents the unit from looking too heavy, but still hides the contents enough to make it look neat.

Spruce Up Storage Boxes

White storage boxes painted with gold stripes and polka dots, via littlebitsoflacey.blogspot.com
Paint some stripes and polka dots on storage boxes, via littlebitsoflacey.blogspot.com

Using storage boxes in your bookshelves is another great way to hide clutter. IKEA is a great place to get inexpensive ones in all shapes and sizes, but they aren’t very exciting to look at. That’s where a little paint or some stickers come in handy…like these pretty gold striped and polka dot boxes made by Lacey at littlebitsoflacey.blogspot.com.

Storage boxes in bright pink and orange via mydearirene.com
Painting storage boxes adds some color to your shelves, via my dearirene.com

Or you could paint them some bright colors, like these boxes by Angelica at mydearirene.com.

Wallpaper-covered storage boxes, via forreent.com
Wallpaper-covered storage boxes, via forrent.com

If you don’t feel like painting, covering the boxes in wallpaper (like Megan did on forrent.com) is another great way to spruce them up!

Group Some Magazine Boxes Together

Leopard print magazine file boxes on a shelf
Magazine file boxes keep magazines and papers in order

If you need to store magazines or other papers, magazine boxes are the way to go.

They keep everything standing up, which makes it much easier to pull out a small group of them without causing chaos on the rest of the shelf.

They are also available in many colors, so you should be able to find ones that match your decor…less work! Although if you can’t, you can always decorate them like the boxes on the previous page.

Grouping different issues of the same magazine together in the same box and adding a label on the front will make them easier to find.

And I also use it as a trigger for throwing some out. If the box is full when I go to add the next issue, one of the old ones needs to go!

Hopefully, you have found some ideas for hiding clutter on your own shelves

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9 Easy and Creative Ways To Hide Clutter On Shelves

Have other suggestions for how to hide clutter on shelves? Tell us in the section below.

This post was originally published on July 26, 2016 but was updated with new content on July 7, 2023.

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  1. Great ideas!! I love them all. It is amazing how the exact same clutter suddenly “belongs” when you conceal it in a container. Never thought of keeping pencils etc in vases!! I definitely could not do without my decorated photo boxes.

  2. Charlotte Cawyer says:

    To hide that “Collection” look in your bookshelves, put some of your smaller books ( or treasures) into decorative boxes to go on the book shelves instead of having rows and rows of just books. They hide a lot of sins, (so to speak).
    I use the decorative boxes a LOT, esp. in my sewing room. I purchase mine at our local Michaels or JoAnn’s Fabrics when the are on sale for 40+% off. They’re inexpensive and oh so much fun! Try it, you’ll like it.
    Charlotte Cawyer, LID (retired)

    1. Thanks for the tip, Charlotte! I’ll have to try that 🙂

  3. Your cat in the basket is just too precious! And as a cat “mom” I can attest this is a true occurrence. I look forward to your tutorial on the TV-hiding shade. I use decorative photo boxes to store my jewelry-making supplies on a bookcase. Nicer looking than plastic boxes. Thanks for the roundup!

    1. Thanks, Cyndi! It’s funny how cats love empty boxes and baskets so much. I had just put the basket up on the shelf and went to get the printer supplies that I was going to keep in there…by the time I got back, the cat had moved in 🙂 Your photo boxes are a great storage idea, too…the perfect size for storing craft supplies!