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.
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.
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.
It's a little ironic that right after I published my last post, I found out I would be leaving my hectic job for a different position within my company. I thought for sure that a less stressful job, closer to home would mean more time to write. After 5 months at my new job though, I'm just now writing again.
I have however, been spending more time with my family. I actually get to see my wife and most of my kids in the morning before leaving for work. I also haven't been taking out my laptop in the evenings and weekends to get prepared for the next meeting. It's been nice. The busy times help you appreciate the less busy periods of life even more.
One thing I've found regardless of where I go, I end up having a conversation with someone who is struggling with the same clutter problems that I am. Right after coming to my new job, I had nearly the same conversation I've had many times with other people. We usually agree on a few things that happen at home.
I wish I had the ultimate solution to all of it, but I don't. We can read another book on decluttering or watch another episode of Marie Kondo, but unless we act on the lessons from those resources, we're just wasting time. So I want you to know two important things. First, you're not alone. Second, it's only going to get worse if we just keep buying things we don't need.
You aren't the only with too much clutter
Like I said earlier, I've had the same conversation over and over. People everywhere are struggling with the amount of clutter in their homes. Have you ever had someone over who saw your basement for the first time. I always apologize to people for the way mine looks. The usual response I get is something like "this is nothing, mine is a lot worse".
Here's an idea. The next time you're thinking of taking some items to donate somewhere, you call up a friend and see if they have some stuff to get rid of too. In my case, there's a brewery near the local Salvation Army store. I like to drop off a car load at the Salvation Army and then celebrate with a pint.
Stop buying things you don't need
Clutter is like calories when you're trying to lose weight. If you burn 500 calories by working out but then eat 1000 calories at the pizza buffet every day for lunch, you're not going to make any progress. We have to resist the bargains at our favorite discount store and we have to resist the mindset that because we got rid of something in our home that we just made space for something else. Fight that urge and enjoy the extra breathing room instead.
I'll leave it at that and keep this post short. I've been neglecting my website and my Facebook page lately but I'm going to change that. Expect to see more posts but probably short ones and more content being shared on Facebook even if it's not my own. Thanks for reading.
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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