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.
Are you paying a monthly bill to store your belongings that you don’t have room for?
How long have you been doing so?
I recently talked to a friend who first rented a storage unit a few years ago when she moved back in with her parents. She was proud of how much she has eliminated from the storage unit lately but wasn’t sure about getting rid of some of the larger furniture. She feared how much it would cost to buy a new living room set if she moved into her own place. That’s understandable at first. However, when we added up the $100 per month she’s been paying for over four years, she realized she’s spent around $5000 on storage.
Therein lies one of the major pitfalls of renting a storage unit. Their purpose is supposed to be for short-term usage, like during a move for example. Unfortunately, about 9% of American families rent storage space and more than half of them have been renting for over a year.(1) Keep in mind that the $100 per month my friend was paying is hardly the upper limit for storage costs. Depending on the size, monthly rent can reach as high as $150 or more.
The self-storage industry has a history going back to England when banks began storing valuables for customers going on long voyages. The trend grew until vaults were overflowing and banks began using storage space at moving companies. By the 1850’s, warehouses were being built just for storage of personal items.(2)
The first modern self-storage units in the United States were built in Texas in the 1960’s and the concept spread.(2) Now, there are about 50,000 storage facilities in the U.S. and the industry generates around $38 Billion in annual revenue.(1) Clearly, we have a lot of important things that we need to keep even though we can’t make room for them in our homes.
When Paying for Storage Makes Sense
I don’t want to bankrupt the self-storage industry. I do think they serve an important purpose in some cases. However, I want everyone who is spending their hard-earned money on storage to weigh the cost against the value of the items being stored.
With that in mind, here are a couple cases where it might make sense to rent storage.
1. In between moves, especially when buying or selling a home.
Changing apartments can sometimes be a problem if your lease is up at one and the other won’t be ready for a few weeks. Store everything you don’t need in the short term until the new place is ready. The same situation can arise when buying and selling your home.
If you’re trying to sell your home and you have a lot, I would first advise you to purge, and then purge some more so you don’t have to rent storage. However, if you want to stage your house for sale you may still need to remove some things temporarily to make it look better. First, see if you can store a couple things in a friend’s or relative’s basement though. Just don’t overstay your welcome.
2. Storing something valuable that you can only use periodically
There are limited cases where this will make sense. Say you have a valuable motorcycle or something larger that you can only use seasonally. It might make sense to protect it from the elements during the winter if you can’t make room for it in your garage, assuming you have one. This is also common for boats, RVs, etc.
3. For business purposes
If you own a business and need space, a storage unit can be much cheaper than renting a larger office to store records or equipment for your business. This makes sense especially for contractors and lawn care companies.
That’s about all I can think of. There may be other specific situations where it makes sense but remember, every payment you make for storage can make the contents less valuable.
The bottom line is if you have no other choice but to rent storage, you want to rent the smallest one possible. Purge as much as possible first and then empty out your storage as quickly as possible.
Do you have a system for keeping track of your phone and/or tablet?
Do you always know where they are when you're at home? What do you do with all those charging cords? Do you have a phone home? (If you don't get the reference, you're young, and you need to go watch the classic 1980's movie ET)
If you're like us, you have a basket or drawer full of tangled chargers. Charging a phone involved untangling a cord from the pile and then plugging it in on the kitchen island. The phone and charger only added to the clutter already on the counter. Sometimes, it would get bumped when accessing the refrigerator or the GFCI outlet would get tripped for some reason. After you thought your phone was charging, you would discover it was still dead. Often, both plugs would be tied up in the morning when someone wanted to use the toaster. This caused a fight over which phone to unplug.
We finally solved all this with the bamboo charging station below. We now have a home for our phones and tablets. Plugged in or not, it's a handy place to put them instead of the middle of the kitchen counter.
I made space for it on our kitchen counter tucked back out of the way next to the fridge. Inside is a 6-port USB charger. We had so many USB cords around that I didn't even need to buy new ones. I even connected the charger for our Amazon Tap device, which can easily be disconnected to use for a phone or tablet.
Several versions of these charging stations are available on Amazon and I'm sure other stores. I like the look of the bamboo and the way the dividers are easily removable, yet strong enough to easily hold several devices. Plus, bamboo is considered a sustainable material.
Below are affiliate links to the charging station, charger, and just in case you're interested, the Amazon Tap. (Note that the Tap is an older model Alexa enabled device. The thing I like about the Tap though, is it isn't constantly listening to you. You have to push the button before asking Alexa a question.)
If you want to be fancy, you can buy all new USB cables for it so they match and are all the same length. If you have a mixture of devices needing their own type of cord then I suggest buying different colors for them. For example, now that my wife is back at work I plan to get a white iPhone charger for her work phone. All the other devices we have are Android based and are using black cables.
If you are tired of seeing your phones and tablets all over the house, you keep forgetting where it's plugged in, or are constantly searching for your phone charger that your kids stole, then this is the way to go. The version above may not be the right one for you, but since they come in several shapes and materials, I'm sure you'll find one that works.
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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