Being Shelfish

When you live in a tiny house, storage is a premium.  I have never parked in my one-car garage because my lawn and gardening implements are there, lumber is stored there, projects waiting to be tackled are stored there, and other miscellaneous stuff is stored there.  Bungalows fortunately have extra storage up in the attic (which spans the entire length and width of the house), but anything stored up there is subject to extreme heat in the summer and cold in the winter.  Likewise, there is an unfinished basement in my house, which will eventually be completed, but for now is a torturous cellar full of unknown boxes, an old cement laundry basin and a relatively new, sparkly white washer and dryer combo.

For school and for recreation, I have all these books lying around in various locations.  Pretty much the only place I will generally read is in the bedroom.  There isn’t that much space and it doesn’t take many books to make an already small space seem cluttered.  For the sake of organization and converging all reading materials in the same space, we didn’t have much choice but to put some shelves in the bedroom.  Since we also wanted to put a reading light over the bed, it seemed like a no-brainer to install shelves on the wall space above the headboard.  Fortunately I had some nice black shelves that I had both installed and then taken down from the living room when we remodeled and repainted it a couple of years ago.

The hardest part about hanging shelves in an old house is whether or not you want them to be completely flat and level or if you want them to line up with the slope of the floor and ceiling.  In a new home, everything is flat, level, square, and even.  After 90-plus years of settling and breathing, old houses lose their “squareness.”  You can see these shifts in the foundation, windows, and doors, especially in the winter.  Gaps that did not exist when they were installed become drafty or may become stuck at the top or the bottom and hard to move.  This leads to a lot of retrofitting, adjusting, and sometimes eyeballing things, rather than counting on precise measurements.  It also causes walls to shift out of true vertical ever so slightly and can make seemingly basic geometry (like the Pythagorean theorem or cutting molding in a “square” room that no longer has any right angles) a lesson in frustration.

So after my last trip to Half Price Books, my wife demanded that I find a home for the boxes taking up room on our front porch.  I had an old set of black shelves in the basement that we had taken down when we remodeled our kitchen.  With some dusting, they looked in good shape.  I had purchased them for the living room before I met my dear wife and they are easy to obtain in standard sizes from Menards, Lowe’s, Home Depot, or nearly any big-box home improvement store.  These beauties originated at Menards.

If you’re wondering what the white patch on the wall is, it is joint compound applied to a crack in the plaster in order to patch it when I put in the new windows.  I really should have sanded and painted it before putting up the shelf, but the immediacy for finding a home for the books precluded the wall patch in this instance.  I can still make it look pretty at a later date, even with the shelves up.

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