Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Rock On, Melvil Dewey


One of the classic stories my husband loves to tell about my utter uselessness in the domestic sphere originates from when we first lived together in Johannesburg. One Saturday morning, we decided it was time to address the mess that was our home. He took the kitchen and I floated vaguely in the direction of the sitting-room. After about an hour of muscular and manly cleaning efforts, he came to see how I was doing. He found me idly flicking through the bookshelves, with the sitting-room still in a state of disarray.

“What the f****** hell are you doing?” he asked, all sweaty from his labours and justifiably irritable to find me reading.

“Oh,” I replied airily, “I’m alphabetising the books.”

He dispatched me forthwith to the bathroom to do some real work there.

I do love a displacement activity: baking when I should be working, reading when I should be working, writing blog posts when ditto. To me, alphabetising the books seemed like a perfectly logical and useful way to disburse my time. To my husband, understandably, it was less so.

So you can imagine his delight when, on returning from a recent business trip, he discovered that my friend from Dubai (let’s call her G) and I had spent a pleasant wine-fuelled evening doing this:

That’s right. We decided to colour-code the books. Oh, and the CDs. I can’t find anything but I think it looks fabulous. So does G. Thomas, on the other hand, is bemused.


In other news, I need to acknowledge Kit, who awarded me this:

I’m a girl, I blog and apparently I also rock. Thanks Kit! If any WordPress users could tell me how to upload it to my widgets, then I’ll really be a rocking blogger. Also, I may want to colour-code my side-bar.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

36 thoughts on “Rock On, Melvil Dewey

  1. charlotte, i adore you. it’s wonderful.
    there’s a huge bookshelf at my favorite café around the corner and the books there are sorted by color. every time i sit there i ask myself why i don’t sort my books by color. one day i’m going to do it.

  2. ok doll… I love the colour coding! I just want to know is it still so tidy? Please say no…. 🙂

  3. I love the organizatin – it looks fantastic! When I should actually be cleaning I’m not to go near the books or our photo albums…both completely distract me.

  4. I love that you get ‘caught’ doing things like alphabetising – I too have been reprimanded for organising books, DVDs, CDs etc when I am meant to be cleaning/packing/unpacking/clearing. The colour-coded bookshelf is divine.

    I will email you the html code to pop in your sidebar separately.


  5. I love the color-coding! I’ve been informed by my husband that organizing my desk and sifting through papers does not actually count as cleaning the dining room, even though my desk takes up a large portion of it. Details, details…

  6. My friend Deanna did that to her books and it looks awesome! Yours does too, actually.

    I wish I could have been there for the wine-fuelled night. I bet there was talking and laughing, and possibly drunken singing. 🙂

  7. Bine, I urge you to colour-code your books immediately if the idea pleases you.

    Tanya, it’s a little less tidy now, but still looking good.

    Courtney, isn’t it funny how photo albums also become very fascinating in and around cleaning time?

    Thanks, Kate. I’m going to work on that link.

    Sarah, I think moving papers around, possibly throwing a few away, definitely constitutes cleaning.

    Ms Marmite, there was a lot of talking and laughing, some singing, and a lot of stopping to cry along with the sad bits of Love, Actually, which we had on as background.

  8. Your bookcase makes mine look like a poor attempt at a Jackson Pollock. I’m amazed at how many orange books there are. Is that because of Penguin?

  9. It does look good, I have to admit. However I couldn’t possibly organize anything like that. I prefer (especially with cds and records) the order to be random so that if I’m looking for something to peruse or listen to, chances are I’ll come across something I haven’t looked at or heard in ages. Which you could say is a kind of system in itself, but one which relies more on chance.

  10. It does look very beautiful! I usually shelve my books by favourite authors and end up with a motley assembly of books left over that don’t fit anywhere in particular – colour coding would be a lot simpler.

  11. Well, who needs a quilt when you have a patchwork bookcase? Fabulous.

  12. I’d be taking my life in my hands if I de-alphabetised the books or cds. When my husband and I first moved in together he was very clear that the two things he specifically did not want me to ever to do if we were to live together happily and they were to get the cds out of order (I had about 30 cds which I never used to replace in their correct cases- he had about 800 which were rigidly alphabetised) or use his chef’s knife for stirring (*cough* I may have had the habit of just using one implement- a knife- to cook at the time). Now we have been together nearly ten years and everything that can be is in alphabetical order and I always use appropriate stirring implements for cooking. I wish I had been more successful converting him to my views on importance of regular dusting however.

  13. I think it looks amazing. I just hope you can find something when you need it!

  14. Ooh, they look pretty! Very cool. Who needs to find things easily, after all?

  15. They look gorgeous! I’d love to colour code my bookshelves but would probably also alphabetise them within the colours (how’s that for displacement activity?). After a brief flirtation with no order at all — I like to think that George Orwell enjoyed being neighbours with Victor Hugo — I decided to alphabetise one day and spent some happy hours becoming reacquainted with old friends. Meanwhile, D disappeared to sort his pile of paperwork from one side of the table to the other. I didn’t see him again until all of the books were back on the shelf.

  16. I love that organizing scheme in a completely insane sort of way. And you do, in fact, rock.

  17. Well, it makes wine fueled evenings even more attractive! I am one of those whose bookcases are totally randomly arranged. Well, not completely random. The bookcase we have in the main room is one which starts at the bottom with a wide shelf. There are seven graduated shelves. Each shelf is narrower than the one below, and the space between the shelves gradually gets smaller and smaller also. This is so the bookcase, which is tall and free standing, is stable. Anyway, this forces the books to be arranged by size. Back in my reference library, they are arranged by subject.

    But I love your arrangement. and I relate to your way of cleaning, also.

  18. I saw the picture and thought, “Color-coded?” yep. That’s impressive. What’s more impressive is how many orange books you have! At Christmas, you should place an orange or red book in the “white” section to make a large candy cane. lol.

  19. You know this idea is growing on me, despite seeing this once in a hotel bar where I worked, and the books were for decoration only and had been bought to go with the decor and I thought, how awful, that is Book Abuse. Now of course yours do look fabulous, and I know those are real books, not decorative ones.. So I am beginning to think it may be The Way Forward. So really the only thing stopping me until today was the horror of not finding anything..until I realised that actually when I search for a CD, I have its spine colour in my head! So..well why the hell not?

  20. You are so quirky!! I LOVED your arrangement of books!

  21. I’m now no longer embarrassed to say that I’m looking forward to finally being in our new house just so I can arrange my books by color–I’ve been doing it with my clothes for years, and a few months ago it struck me to do it with books, only it would’ve been a waste since we were moving…but now…time gets closer….

    Good idea on the wine. Excellent work (and congrats on your award)!

  22. I love it. Anything done while drinking wine with a friend is always pure genius.

  23. That is truly wonderful. A thing of great beauty. There have been times when we’ve considered it at the Library of Doom, when students ask us for ‘that green book’, but it would be a bit excessive there. I think yours works extra-well because of the white shelves.

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  25. Very pretty! But I could never do that. I always shoot for sorting by topic, not usually alphabetized. And somehow, I can always find what I want!

    (It’s the inner Virgo coming out here, but is your TV screen crooked?)

  26. I see you have a Duplo fan in the house. Same here! Santa is going to be bringing Duplo this year.

  27. I totally get the colour coding! It is a bugger to find anything, but it looks really good. Great site, love to see the girls abroad are all doing so well.

  28. It looks fabulous. And totally puts to shame the recent pic I posted on my blog, being so pleased that we’d actually dusted all the books off and cleaned the shelves! I’d just wanted that photo there for posterity because I knew it was going to look very different even after a few hours … and it did.

    Amazing how *stuff* just happens and ends up all over the place.

    Anyhow, thanks to hmh I’ve now had a look at your very interesting blog and I also stole the ‘confessions of a blogger’ thingy for mine in true blogging pirate fashion.

    Nice to meet you. 🙂

  29. I LOVE THAT. I now have a new weekend project. (Geez, thanks a lot for giving me a chore!) 🙂

  30. I laughed out loud when I saw your color-coded book shelves.

    That’s the best thing ever! ~Eve

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  33. OMG, you have me rolling on the floor. That almost precisely describes how domestic chores take place in our house. Husband will be scrubbing the kithcen floor and then come upstairs to find me at the computer, using credit card slips to fill in the blanks in my irregularly kept diary. To him, it’s useless. To me, transcribing the info from the slips is the first step to recycling them, thus reducing our paper mountain and… tidying up!

    Men. They just don’t understand.

    Love, love, LOVE the colour-coded bookshelf too – Santos of The Scent of Green Bananas did it too and I’ve been smitten with the idea ever since.

  34. Hi, I am very interested in purchasing white book shelves for my pastor’s office. Please contact to let me know where I can find a set like yours. I’ve been searching the web but nothing seems to be a reasonable price, Thanks! (704) 426-9357

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