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.
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.
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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
Use a picture to cover parts of the shelf where you are storing things you don’t want to display.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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!
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
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.
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
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.
Or you could paint them some bright colors, like these boxes by Angelica at mydearirene.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
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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This post was originally published on July 26, 2016 but was updated with new content on July 7, 2023.