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    More Than I Can Chew

    February 2, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    This week turned out to be Project Week, but not on purpose. I had little things I was working on throughout January, and never bothered to noticed that all of these little things would converge upon the first week of February. This is exciting! But, suffice it to say that I haven’t been reading, which means I haven’t done much thinking beyond the mundane details of my projects, which means there isn’t much to blog about.

    So perhaps this week will just be a bit of photo journalism, hm?

    Today, I will give you a glimpse of Project Number One, which is, we hope, a semi-permanent solution to this problem:

    What you see here is the white bookcase from my childhood {circa 1987} positioned between two black bookcases which were kindly passed down to us from old friends. When we were first given said black bookcases, it was like taking a deep breath of air after having been smothered for some time.

    However, comma.

    I had neglected to realize the number of books boxed away in our garage at the time. And also, with home education comes the puchasing of large amounts of books. And then there is the fact that we don’t watch television; we read.

    A lot.

    So there is my list of excuses for my book collection, which was actually smaller than I realized.

    Here is a closeup of one of the worst shelves, so that you can more fullly appreciate the magnitude of our problem when we considered where we would fit in next year’s school books:

    Double stacking.

    When it came to this, we knew where our Christmas money would need to go.

    So, we went out, and bought some bookcases. Our criteria were lots of space, as tall as possible for the location, solid construction, and a finish which closely matches our other furniture.

    Once we ordered our book cases, we had a little over two weeks to prepare. We decided that this was our best opportunity for the cataloging project I have put off for years and years. So we pulled books off their shelves, cataloged them using Shelfari, moved old bookcases to new locations {black in our room, white in the children’s play nook}. In the process, we discovered at least ten books that belonged to other people and needed to be returned, a handful of books which needed to have a meeting with our local landfill, and a small mound that we decided weren’t a good fit for our permanent family library project.

    The latter ended up listed either for sale on Amazon or for trade on PBS.


    In the midst of cataloging and shelf-moving, we tackled the conundrum of what to do with the over five hundred books we were keeping. Where should we put them? Our solution became mainly to allow them to languish in the office. What is the point of moving them to various places all over the house, only to move them back to where they began? However, the office was far too small for such an occupation, so we ended up shelving about two hundred books, and allowing the others to remain in the office.

    On the futon, for instance.

    And even on the floor.

    It started out with nice, neat stacks, but then the baby snuck in. And then the four-year-old “needed” to look through the picture books. And so on and so forth until there was a small avalanche the other evening which resulted in my shelving another fifty books in our bedroom for the sake of sanity.

    Now you see why I’m avoiding my office.

    So, this afternoon, our new bookcases arrived. E. and I have been carefully deciding where each shelf needs to go, and we are just about to commence with choosing which category will be assigned to which shelf. And I will continue to ponder a great mystery: Should poetry get its own shelf?

    For now, I just wanted to drop in and say hello. In the near future, I will try and post some “finished” photos.

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  • Reply Mystie February 6, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    I have labeling-book angst. πŸ™‚ I want to categorize and make it easy to shelve, but I hate making the call on what to call a book and it will take some time to work up the guts to afix anything to any of my books. πŸ™‚

    Remember, I was an English major and I’ve taught a few literature classes. How could I be a respectable English major without a respectable shelf of literature?! πŸ™‚ Not only that, but my favorite professor retired my last semester and invited his students to go through and take books from his office (he’d already culled the ones he wanted to keep and taken them home). So, my collection was well-begun from the beginning.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts February 4, 2010 at 1:35 am


    I found that I was changing some of my tags as I went along because organizing them materially worked out a little differently than organizing them mentally. But overall I’m glad I had a starting place and a decent spreadsheet to keep me from getting totally overwhelmed by it all.

    So…your literature is shelved chronologically? This tells me I don’t own enough literature… πŸ™

    Darn my attraction to non-fiction!


    I did a separate juvenile fiction shelf (actually shelves becuase it took two to house them all). I agree with you about books needing to be permanently worth reading. My goal is to have very few books on that shelf which are unworthy of an adult’s attention. However, for me, I mentally separated out books that I wanted children to be free to grab without supervision. It’s not a perfect system. I spent a good five minutes pondering Jack London books! And there are a few books with labels inside of them which say something like “Read at or after age 10” but in general it is a free for all. This helps me direct children who visit our home, too.

    Yes, I often PBS books that I might not keep. I started doing this when I realized that the library we would go to (if we went) costs the same to drive to (in my Suburban at least) as the average PBS swap, but PBS had the added benefit of me keeping anything I decided I adored, which has worked to my advantage.

    I will be honest, though. I don’t order anything I would at least consider keeping because I want to make good use of our resources. I do wish we had a nearby library. I loved libraries as a child.

    Of course, our church has a library. I didn’t think to count that, but the children and I have used that off and on over the years. They have a number of the books from the 1000 Good Books List.

    One last thing: LABELS. I want to label the shelves themselves, for starters. But then I also would love a labeling system. It’d have to be on the inside, though, as I hesitate to mar the outside. I want the children who are capable to be able to keep them straight, though…

  • Reply Mystie February 4, 2010 at 12:47 am

    NO library in years?! Wow. I like owning books, too, but I prefer a distilled personal library (*cough* which just passed the 600 mark). I definitely read plenty of books I don’t really want to own. Do you just PBS books like that? Saving a drive and a trip with 4 children is certainly a consideration. πŸ™‚

    I also write in books, but it drives my husband crazy, so I try not to in books I think he’ll read. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Mystie February 4, 2010 at 12:40 am

    We have three bookcases right now that are at capacity. When we moved two and a half years ago I resolved not to unpack the books without cataloging as I went. We did LibraryThing, I think because I wasn’t very fond of the Shelfari look and I liked the tagging features on LibraryThing better. But, I did have to pay for the lifetime membership because we went over the 200-book limit on free accounts. Of course, my husband does that sort of programming, so he thinks paying for programs like that is good. πŸ™‚ It wasn’t for another year or 18 months that I got around to tagging the books though, partially because it took me that long to figure out how I wanted to do it.

    Right now we have enough books that I can keep track of where they are on the shelves, but someday we’ll be beyond that (not to mention more people will be using them!), so the next step of library management will be some sort of labeling system on each book. But I still haven’t figured out how I want to do that.

    I shelve poetry separately too, but drama is shelved with literature chronologically and my beautiful “Complete Works of Shakespeare” from college has a place of honor on top of the bookshelf with a few other attractive old books. πŸ™‚

    The dilemma I’m beginning to encounter is how to place or separate juvenile lit/fiction. After all, no book not worth reading at age 50 is worth reading at age 10, so where does one draw the line on which category a book gets placed in?

  • Reply Rahime February 3, 2010 at 5:54 am

    Poetry and drama are grouped together on my bookshelves too, and, if I remember correctly, Shakespeare was the primary reason for that.

    I love watching libraries come together! My shelves are due for another “sorting”, and I’m itching to get everything into Shelfari too. I’ve been waiting for my bookshelves to get finished, but I think I just need to forget about that and jump in. I think it’ll be a summer project though ’cause otherwise I’d only be able to do a shelf at a time and the room would be a mess forever.

    Can’t wait to see your finished masterpiece. πŸ˜‰

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts February 3, 2010 at 4:58 am

    Oh, I forgot to say that Shelfari worked perfectly for me once I got the hang of using it. Also, I like that I can download my library in an excel spreadsheet. When we were trying to get everything back on their proper shelves, we printed out the spreadsheet and we were ready for business.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts February 3, 2010 at 4:57 am


    DRAMA and poetry! Brilliant! I was wondering where to put my one Shakespeare anthology. It just seemed wrong to put it with fiction.

    I don’t know if ours will stay put, either. Three of my children…no problem. But that Number Four is a doozy! πŸ˜‰

    You know, there was a day when I wanted to be a professor. I think it was so I could own lots of books.


    I must admit that I haven’t been to a library in many, many years…probably since college. There is not a library in my entire zip code! However, I will confess that I have always loved owning my books, and reading books in which I cannot underline is a struggle for me because I am so spoiled.

    This is probably all just as well as decorating is not my forte. If in doubt, throw some books around, right?

    I envy you your neighborhood library, though!

  • Reply Ellen February 3, 2010 at 2:28 am

    I see again one reason why I buy very few books (though I read many). We simply don’t have the shelf space! The playroom will have to be converted to a school room one day, and I hope to figure out something to storing the schoolbooks we’ll need that will really work. I’m very thankful for a wonderful local library system that allows me not to have to keep everything I’d like to read around forever. =) Oh yeah, and this is also why we bought our house literally 5 minutes from the largest library in the county.

  • Reply Kansas Mom February 3, 2010 at 2:04 am

    And, I put drama and poetry together, in the small bookcase under religion (which contains just a few books as Kansas Dad has his hundreds of theology and philosophy books in his university office). I can guarantee those won’t ever be organized. They’re not even all on shelves. You know you have a problem when a university professor’s office doesn’t have enough shelf space for a portion of your collection.

  • Reply Kansas Mom February 3, 2010 at 2:03 am

    Oh! I really want to catalog our books! I don’t have much faith they’d stay in one place, but it would be nice to have an easy way to search by topics / time periods / setting / etc and to remember which are books we’ve actually received and which are ones I’ll need to request from the library. Did you find Shelfari allowed you to “tag” them easily?

    Not that I’m anxious to empty all our shelves, but you never know when the organizing bug will hit…

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