Well, my dad passed away a year ago now and the pandemic is still dragging on. I'm pretty much fed up. I'm sick of the negativity from so many people. I'm tired of seeing businesses fold. I've had it with people arguing over whether the pandemic is some kind of conspiracy and the vaccine is going to alter our DNA to change us into zombies. Here's a tip for all you conspiracy believers. If you've spent any time around the federal government, I assure you there is no part of it competent enough to pull off a sham of this magnitude. Trust me on this one.
Anyway, I'm writing this post as much for myself as for anyone else who needs to hear it. I'm going to find five positive things about the past year.
1. I've spent more time with my wife and kids over the past year that probably the last three combined. We eat almost every lunch and dinner together. We've camped, watched movies, played board games, to the point that we're avoiding each other now. With my oldest (hopefully) completing his senior year of high school this has been a positive thing. Even if he spends a lot of time hiding in his bedroom, we've done a bunch of home improvement projects together in the past 12 months.
2. Something I knew all along has been proven and that is that my wife and I can easily do our jobs from home. It's stressful at times, but we have not suffered financially at all over the past year because we both have jobs that just require a laptop and and an internet connection. On the days when the kids are in school, we have the house to ourselves. We talk a lot more than we used to, help each other when we're stuck on a problem, and eat lunch together every day.
3. The environment has benefitted from everyone staying home. The air is cleaner and the number of traffic accidents has decreased considerably. Personally, I've put very few miles on my vehicles over the past year and have saved a lot of money in gas and maintenance.
4. I think everyone has a much greater respect and admiration for people working in the health care industry and everyone working in jobs that traditionally are low-paying but it turns out are absolutely essential to the rest of us being able to stay home. I'm talking about people working at grocery stores, the big box stores selling essential items like toilet paper, and the people that make and distribute these items. Without someone going to a factory to make these things, the warehouse people to distribute them, and the truck drivers delivering them we would all be in a lot of trouble. Admit it, you probably looked into installing a bidet last year too.
5. Finally, I think everyone has a much greater appreciation for all those times we could gather in huge groups for parties, concerts, festivals, or whatever. I was never a big concert goer but I miss getting together with other people. This is starting to come back and I'm looking forward to it. I'm still not in any hurry to go sit in my cubicle five days a week, but I expect the time will come before I'm ready.
Well, I feel a little better after this and I hope you do too. In fact I'll just add a couple more bonus positivity. First, I really never cared for shaking people's hands so I'm glad that's gone. I think it should be gone for good. I have seen way too many people leave public restrooms without washing their hands. Second, I'm working on a new website which involves learning a new skill because I know absolutely nothing about Wordpress. But I enjoy learning new things.
Among all of the political fighting and pandemic fatigue, I hope this helps someone feel a little happier. That's our way out of all of this. Just be nice to each other and do something, no matter how small, to make someone else happy.
I’ve made quite a bit of progress on my old basement workshop. I’ve used the local Buy Nothing Facebook group heavily and really like it. In case you haven’t heard of the Buy Nothing Project, take a look at their website at buy nothing project.org. From what I’ve seen, our local group is mainly people giving away things they don’t use anymore, but the project goals include borrowing, lending, sharing, and expressing gratitude.
I gave away a couple things that were difficult for me. You may remember, I really like coffee and I have about five ways to make it at home. One thing I had in my basement was an old stainless steel stovetop percolator. I loved it and it made great coffee. I couldn’t remember the last time I used it. I also gave away an old Igloo cooler. I remember who gave it to me and the occasion, but we have another cooler just like it.
In fact, I had no idea how many coolers we had. I found enough parts to install two 4-foot shelves in the furnace room. I quickly filled the top shelf with small coolers and had to put a couple on the next shelf. Putting them all one one shelf let me see just how many we had. We will give away a couple more yet, but we haven’t decided which ones.
Some other random items I gave away on the Buy Nothing Facebook group include a cordless drill, a bicycle pulley storage thing, some plumbing supplies, a torque wrench, a computer monitor, and two large stock pots. These were just items from the workshop and the adjoining furnace room. We have given away other items too boring to mention.
I moved the table-saw out to the garage, broke down more cardboard boxes than anyone should ever have on hand, and I took a couple boxes of electronics to a local recycling facility. I took all of the old cans of paint to the garage where I mixed them with cat litter. Once those harden, they can be disposed of with the regular trash.
I still have tool boxes on the floor but I have a whole wall that is empty right now where I plan to put a storage cabinet. Then I can tear out the old shelves on one wall and I will move a couple desks in there. I intend it to be more of a crafting and part-time office area, and not much of a workshop. I've already worked a few times in this room by setting up one of our portable desks for a few hours.
Aside from cleaning up a messy room and decluttering a lot of things I don’t use, there have been several other benefits to this project. First, I hope the things I’ve given away on the Buy Nothing Facebook group have made a few people happy. Second, this has been a project to work on with my oldest son. He’s helped me with quite a bit of it and has spent time lately scraping off the old floor tiles. He’s also going to help me remove the remaining ceiling tiles and redo all of the wiring in that room.
This project is on hold for the moment while we finish the ceiling in our office. We’re replacing the old tiles in the drop ceiling and installing new LED light fixtures. That’s nearly done and then we can get back to the basement. In the meantime, here are a couple pictures of our progress downstairs.
When I started my blog 5 years ago, I had visions of helping myself and others declutter but I also had a goal of making a little side money too. I spent hours getting approved as an Amazon affiliate and getting Google Adsense working. I kept checking my Google Adsense stats, but I wasn’t doing the other things I really needed to do to be successful in either of my objectives. I wasn’t providing much value to anyone and I wasn’t gaining much web traffic. I was not spending enough time decluttering or writing.
It only took me five years, but I’ve figured out I was wasting a lot of time. I doubt many people noticed, but I removed all of the Google Adsense ads a few months ago and I’m glad I did. It was a distraction to me and the reader and, embarrassingly, I’ve never made a penny doing this blog thing. That’s OK though. I hope I can start providing more help to others as I go through the process of decluttering my own house and learning the trade of organizing.
Today, I further simplified my website by removing the pop-up asking for your email address in exchange for downloading my list of websites to help you declutter. There are still plenty of places where you can become a subscriber to receive email updates and I made my decluttering list available for download directly on my Resources page. No pop-ups. No email needed. I’ve also added one to the list and verified all the links work, so if you have an old version go get the new one.
I still have a couple of ads on my website, but they are there for good reason. If you’ve ever thought of making your own website, Weebly has been great for me. I feel like I’m beginning to outgrow it but it has taken five years. If you would like to sign up for a free or paid Weebly account, please consider clicking through the link at the bottom of my website. Second, I can’t recommend Cozi enough. It’s been a lifesaver for keeping my family somewhat organized with shopping lists, packing lists, and calendars. Please consider signing up for a free Cozi account through the link on my Resources page. Finally, I will occasionally recommend a product for sale on Amazon and provide an affiliate link. When I recommend a book or product on Amazon it’s because I really have found it useful and think you might too.
That’s it. Thanks for reading and good luck.
Happy New Year!
For me, 2020 will be remembered not only the pandemic, but as the year my dad passed away just as the pandemic hit. We did our best to honor him at a time when people were afraid to gather together. While I’m as happy as everyone else to shove 2020 out the door, I see little changing in the next few months. Until enough people receive the vaccine, we will be wearing masks and standing 6 feet apart I’m afraid. Enough dwelling on the pandemic though.
My wife pointed out to me recently that I wrote very few blog posts in 2020 and that I should start writing more often. I told her I feel like a fraud writing about decluttering when I can hardly walk through our house without tripping on toys or something. The clutter drives me crazy and a lot of it is toys, but not all of it. I freely admit that I have tendencies to hold on to a lot of things “just in case”. I have a weakness for things like old furniture and books (especially old ones). In my head, those things are a connection to the past. Like a lot of people, I also have trouble resisting a great deal on something that might be nice to have.
As usual, my wife had good advice. She said it’s a journey and a process that I can share with everyone else. With that new focus, I’m going to start airing my dirty laundry (so to speak). Watch for more frequent posts this year and some horrific photos of the mess I have in my house. I’m also spending time on educating myself and had a great conversation a few months ago with a friend who is a professional organizer. I’m reading books about organizing and hoarding. I plan to share what I’ve learned with everyone.
With that, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year and I hope you’ll stay tuned for some before and after photos. Feel free to send me yours. Maybe we can help each other.
I’ll go first. Below are two photos from a few months ago of a room in my basement that was supposed to be a workshop. When we first moved in, it was great and I actually did use it as a workshop, but slowly things accumulated. It became a place to throw just about anything we didn’t know what to do with. I’ve already made some progress since these photos were taken, but I have a long way to go. I’m embarrassed by this room and it makes me angry when I can’t find something I need in there, but I’m working on it. I’ll keep you posted.
Also, here is the book I'm currently reading on compulsive hoarding. It's enlightening and if you're interested in the psychology behind hoarding, it's excellent.
I’m going to look like a complete hypocrite, but I bought four large bookshelves. Yes, I realize what my headline says at the top of my blog but something had to be done.
We love books in this family and I realized we had them in nearly every room of the house. There was a bookshelf in the office, another in the basement, and shelves in each kid’s bedrooms. My daughter also has those cool floating shelves I wrote about last year.
For books, we have everything from board books to graduate level math and engineering textbooks. Then of course, there are the antique books I rescued from my grandparent’s farm. I wanted them all in one place. I wanted a library.
Since I’m an engineer, I used the same tactic in bookshelf shopping that I used to reduce the amount of coffee I drink. In other words, I made a spreadsheet.
How does a spreadsheet help you shop for bookshelves? If you’ve shopped online for bookshelves lately, you will find the choices are overwhelming. I had to narrow it down somehow based on my space and budget. I didn’t want to start putting books on my shelves only to find out I didn’t have room for all of them.
I grabbed my tape measure and went all over the house measuring the shelves we have and tracking it all in a spreadsheet. I even measured the stacks of books in my daughter’s room. Then I added it all up to find that I needed about 650 inches or 54 feet of shelf space. I assumed that the kids would keep some books in their rooms and that I would also donate at least some books in the process so I could go with a little less if needed. Below is the table I used to estimate how much shelf space I needed.
The location I chose gave me a wall ten feet wide with a ceiling height of about 8 ft. Looking at my spreadsheet, I knew that if I had just six shelves that were nine feet across, I should have enough space. This helped me narrow down the search.
I looked at several bookshelves that could meet my needs but I needed a good way to compare them. I used my spreadsheet to calculate the number of inches of shelf space and divided that by the total cost. This gave me a $/inch value to compare each with. When I found the right combination of width and number of shelves to get close to my 650 inches of shelf space, and found the right price I had a winner.
Here is my table sorted by $/inch. If you’re curious, I settled on the Hemnes from IKEA. This is actually four bookshelves, two are 33 ½” and two are about 17” wide. Each has six shelves. I decided it gave me the closest to my 650 inches and still kept the cost reasonable.
Granted, a simple cost comparison doesn’t take into account the quality difference between these. I tried to find ones that were fairly comparable. If your budget allows you to get custom shelves made or you have the time and skill to build them yourself then more power to you.
Actually getting the shelves from IKEA in the middle of a pandemic proved much more difficult than expected but ultimately we got them and I’m happy.. My oldest son did a good job putting the shelves together. To keep them from falling on anyone, we attached them to the wall with safety straps screwed into the studs. These also helped line all four shelves up so that it looks like one large bookcase.
Before I filled the shelves up though, I wanted a way to help organize the books. Come back to read part 2 for my review of library apps to organize your book collection.
My family uses Cozi for our calendar, shopping, and to-do lists. The best part is that it's free.
Copyright Dave Lubke and www.davelubke.com, 2020
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