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.
Three years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long), I wrote a post called The Stuff I Didn’t Buy. In that post, I talked about wanting to buy a camper or RV and how I had these grand visions of traveling with my family. Last year we bought a camper when we got a good deal on an old one that we could pull behind our Ford Flex. Naturally, it had some issues and I’ve made a couple repairs, but I have to admit we’ve had a great time with it. So much so, that I’m now casually shopping for a bigger one.
With the pandemic this year, sales of RVs and campers are crazy. People aren’t vacationing at the crowded beach, a major theme park, a cruise, or major resort. Instead, people are taking their campers on vacation and getting outdoors where they feel a little safer. Aside from that, here are five reasons to go camping.
True, it’s not all fun and games. The kids stay up way too late when we’re camping, especially the youngest. Since our camper is crowded, they always fight a little and whoever is sleeping on the dinette has to tear apart their bed so we can eat breakfast.
All the work is absolutely worth it though. I enjoy sitting by the campfire and playing Connect-Four with my daughter even though she usually wins. I love that she makes s’mores for her little sister and helps her eat them. Plus, I can send messages to my family like this: “We’re camping in Ohio. It’s 10:30 at night. The 2-year old had like three s’mores and is dancing to Five Finger Death Punch by the campfire”. I may not win parent of the year for it, but that’s making memories right there.
I’m not saying everyone should run out and buy a camper. Check out sites like Outdoorsy.com, RVShare.com, or CruiseAmerica.com to rent one first. Many RV dealerships rent them as well. And if you do own one, you can turn it around and rent it out through one of those websites to make a little extra money. Alternatively, many campgrounds have furnished cabins you can rent for far less than a hotel at a resort, and you wouldn’t believe the amenities of some campgrounds.
Even if all you have is a tent and sleeping bags, get outside with your family and check out one of the thousands of campgrounds in America.
This Sunday is Father’s Day and it’s my first one without my Dad.
Next week I will join my sisters and bury his ashes next to my Mom. He’s been gone for 3 months now and there have been so many times lately that I would like to call him up on the phone. I would love to hear what he thinks of current events around the country.
But I can’t call him so this will be a Father’s Day both happy and sad. I have four great kids of my own that I can spend the day with but I know sometime during the day, I’ll pause for a second and think “I need to call my dad”. Then it will hit me again.
Instead of depressing you though, I’d like to talk a little about him.
Born on a farm in North Dakota, he was the only son of five kids. In case you forgot, I’m the only son of seven kids so we had something in common there. Dad enlisted in the US Army right after high school. He served 2 years in the Ordnance Corps. This was the late 1950s during the pioneering age of rocketry. Much of the information he learned was classified at the time and he even met Wernher von Braun once.
My dad was never much for taking orders from anyone so I think that’s one of the main reasons he only served 2 years. That, and meeting my mother while stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I’m not sure how long they dated but they were only engaged for about a week. They married and moved up to North Dakota not far from where he grew up. He farmed for over 30 years, having a tough time those last few years after mom died.
When I think of my dad, I think of all the things he liked to do. He liked woodworking, hunting, fishing, and reading. I remember trying to help him on the farm when I was a kid. It didn’t matter what he was doing, I wanted to help. It usually resulted in me either breaking something or banging my head on something. He always put up with me being in the way though and tried to teach me. I wasn’t the best protege though.
I wasn’t much of a farmer.
One time, I was digging a field and hooked the fence at one end. I didn’t notice until I was almost halfway back to the other end. I got to spend time fixing it after I finished digging. I also dug up some CRP (formerly farmland that the government pays to be seeded back to grassland) because I didn’t see the markers he had next to the field.
I was never a mechanic either.
He asked me to put a new carburetor on one of our grain trucks and I forgot to connect the fuel line. Everything was in place, but I forgot to tighten the nut connecting them. When I started the engine, the fuel ignited as it sprayed everywhere. Flames were shooting out of the engine compartment and there was no water or fire extinguisher in sight.
I was not a hunter or fisherman.
Fishing typically resulted in me jabbing a hook through my finger at some point and even if I caught something I wasn’t going to eat it. I went deer hunting with him every year. I think I wounded one once but never actually managed to get my own deer. Some of the best memories I have are related though. For a couple years while I was in high school, we were on a pistol shooting league together. I was no sharpshooter but he brought me anyway.
I’d like to wrap up with one of my favorite stories about my dad.
On the farm, we didn’t have cable TV and couldn’t afford a satellite dish. We had a plain old antenna on top of the house. One time, we just couldn’t seem to get any channels for some reason. We went outside on the front porch and looked up to see that somehow one of the bars on the antenna had bent or turned and was laying across a couple others. Apparently that’s all it took to mess up your television viewing back then. I loved to climb and had no fear of heights so I was going to grab the ladder and go take care of it. Dad said, “No. I’m going to shoot it off!”
This I had to see. He grabbed his bolt action rifle and lined up from the front porch. I told him there was no way he was going to hit it and offered again to get the ladder but no, he was going to shoot it off. I remember he didn’t get it with the first shot and maybe not with the second either. But I know it was no less than the third when that one bar went flying off the antenna to land in the backyard. He was very proud of himself and I was impressed.
And that was my dad.
He was determined and stubborn. He was a great shot with a rifle. Much more than any of the things he bought me, I remember the time we spent together. And I miss him.
Happy Father's Day Dad.
I love coffee.
I could go on and on about different roasts, brewing methods, and what to put in your coffee. I'll spare you those details but trust me. I like to drink coffee.
The problem is it becomes a vicious cycle when you drink too much coffee. It happened to me without realizing it. I was still tired after my regular coffee, so I would get more at work. I fell into this routine. Then I added afternoon coffee. Sometimes the afternoon coffee was late enough that I had trouble getting to sleep at night. Then I was even more tired the next day. More coffee!
Over time, it started to bother my stomach. I realized I was drinking way more than a pot of coffee most days.
Here’s a weird sidebar.
The “cups” labeled on coffee makers are not normal cups. They’re 5 ½ ounce cups. I was putting down 12-14 “cups” every day and often more. I was also spending a lot of money on coffee because I don’t like to drink cheap store brand crap. I grind my own beans and was paying about $15 a pound for coffee.
The money I was spending bothered me a little. The worst thing about my coffee addiction though was being dependent on it. If I was going to travel it became a source of anxiety. Where will I find coffee? Will it be decent coffee? Will I offend someone if I bring my own coffee to their house to make? It didn’t matter what time I was getting up, I still had to find some coffee first thing in the morning. That’s what I hated more than anything. Letting coffee run my schedule.
I decided I needed to quit but realized I'm no quitter.
I decided I needed to at least cut way back. When I made the announcement to my wife, she was rightfully skeptical. Then, being an engineer, I did what most engineers would do. I made a spreadsheet.
I’ll spare you these details too, but in short I figured out the coffee-to-water ratio I was using. I wanted to keep roughly the same ratio as I decreased the amount of coffee. No one likes watered down coffee. I figured if I decreased the amount by two ounces every three days I wouldn’t notice too much.
I started on February 10th and here’s what happened. I did fine for two weeks. Then when my dad was in the hospital far away and not doing well, I traveled to see him. I even did OK during that trip but it was impossible to accurately measure how much I was drinking. I did my best to enter an estimate in my spreadsheet. I came home and did well for a couple more weeks, only cheating once or twice with an extra cup of coffee at work. I had cut my intake of coffee in half. Then I stalled out when my dad passed away. I completely gave up after the Corona virus pandemic hit and I was working from home everyday.
I maintained the reduced intake, but as Michigan’s stay-at-home order dragged on I crept right back to where I started. Ultimately, I’ve decided that drinking a few cups of coffee is not such a horrible thing. Besides I feel it’s my duty to support the two coffee shops here in my small town.
In the end, not much has changed. But I don't feel like I failed.
What has changed is my attitude toward coffee. Even though I’m back to drinking almost my full amount every day, I don’t feel enslaved toward it like I used to. Some days, I don’t grab my first cup until I’ve been up for a while. I would have a good headache if I went a day without it, but I would be OK. Besides, during the extended stay-at-home order, going out to grab a cup of coffee and pick up a bag of beans from the local coffee shop will be one of the few times I get away from home.
I think we can apply this to our decluttering efforts. It can be about our attitude toward our clutter. Don't let your stuff own you and don't be a slave to it. It might seem like you're failing but maybe you're not. Maybe we just need to think about it differently?
I know I keep saying you don’t need more bookshelves but I absolutely had to do something with my daughter’s bedroom. She has a tiny bedroom compared to everyone else in our house but reads more than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s not uncommon for her to have bookmarks in 4 or 5 books at any given time. When she’s in trouble, the only threat that she cares about is the threat of locking all her books in a trunk. The only thing that has prevented me from doing it at times is the sheer volume of them.
To finally wrangle some of the piles of books, I found some shelves that worked out pretty well. I love these "invisible" shelves. I ordered a three pack of these Umbra Conceal floating bookshelves. They come in two sizes and you can order either a three-pack or individual shelves. I love their simplicity and that fact that when you stack a few books on them, you can't see them. They’re also fairly inexpensive yet seem really sturdy. They allow you to basically make art out of your book collection while keeping them easily accessible.
If you’re wondering how they hold the cover closed on the bottom book, there are small hooks that hold the cover. This means also that the bottom book must be large enough for the shelf to slide into so the cover can go into those hooks. That’s why they come in two sizes. It wasn’t a problem for us. Additionally, I used a stud finder and longer screws to mount each one directly to a stud. They’re not going anywhere even with several hardcover books on them. If I wasn't attaching them directly to a stud, I think I would still use longer screws with drywall anchors.
I still suggest you pare down your book collection as much as possible before buying more shelves, but books are something that I’m OK with having around. Maybe it has something to do with the years I worked for Borders book stores. If you’re interested in buying some, below are affiliate links to get them on Amazon. Thanks for reading.
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Copyright Dave Lubke and www.davelubke.com, 2020
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