Shae and I strive to impart a love for reading in our children. As such, books are one of the primary activity areas in our house (the other is a Lego table).
Unfortunately, kids are pretty awful at picking up and neatly shelving books when they are finished.
I’ve watched both Frugal Boy and Frugal Girl grab the bottom most book and yank it out causing everything on top to come avalanching out. We have neatly arranged the books standing upright with the spines facing out and less than 24 hours later it looks like the above picture again.
The problem was simple. There were too many books and they were not visible enough. A little kid wants to see the front cover of a book. That is how they judge it! The title and author on the spine mean very little to them.
So I started looking around the internet for ideas on how to corral the bookalanche and make it a better experience for everyone. I really liked Simple Families method.
It is simple, practical, and easy! What’s not to love?!
First I looked at clear plastic folder holders like this, but they are $8-12 each and only hold one or two books at most without stacking them two or more deep (which utterly defeats the purpose).
There are some smaller, cheaper options like this sling rack. It measures 24″ x 24″.
I couldn’t help but think that I could build something myself. Thankfully, Ana White already did the heavy lifting by publishing some plans for a book or magazine ladder shelf (link here). I’ve used her plans before when I built a changing table.
For about $35 worth of materials, I was able to build a custom sized piece to exactly fit the intended space. 48″x48″.
I assembled it in the garage.
You may be able to scrounge up the materials from leftovers of other projects.
I brought it inside to test it out with the kids. They seemed to respond very well to it.
It is important to note that the unit leans against the wall and ultimately has to be fastened to the wall to keep it from tipping over. I used a 10° angle on the feet per the original instructions. Ana recommended in a note afterwards that 5° might be more appropriate. However, I have some networking equipment that I wanted to hide behind it, so I stuck with the original 10°.
Frugal Boy is tall enough to reach the top shelf with ease. We can put one or two of his jigsaw puzzles up there and no longer have to worry about lil sis dumping them out all over.
I finished the project up with two coats of paint that I had.
I didn’t see the need to plaster the bookshelf with bright colored alphabet letters. Maybe it is just me being a miserly old man, but I don’t think every surface in a child’s line of view needs to be a shade of neon bright.
SO MUCH STIMULI
Besides, the emphasis should be placed on the books themselves. I think it really comes back to the Simple Families blog post about teaching children some reverence for books. These are treasures that should be cared for, not dumped into a heap.
So far Frugal Boy has adapted very well to the new system.
How do you manage books in your household? Do traditional bookshelves work or have you tried something else?
Before I begin, I am going to make one thing clear. I use the terms “sofa” and “couch” interchangeably. Purists out there on the interwebs will vehemently deny this blasphemy but I do not care. To me, a couch and a sofa are the same thing.
With that out of the way, let me tell you about an inside family joke. When either of our families comes to visit, no one wants to sit on our couch.
Why does no one want to sit on it? They are afraid they won’t be able to get up! The sofa is past broken in and you sink alarmingly close to the ground. The price was right though, Shae snagged it for free back in 2012 when our apartment neighbors upstairs were moving out. The picture above is from 2012 right after we cleaned it up a bit.
The couch has been through a lot of abuse since then.
It moved from our apartment to our house.
And two children have bounced, spit up, licked, and drooled on it.
Finally, Shae and I came to the conclusion that it was time to bid adieu to our beloved free couch. It was time to go sofa shopping!
The first choice was to check Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, and other online classifieds. We didn’t see much of interest unless your interest is in horribly dated patterns, questionable hygiene (bed bugs anyone?), or pet hair.
So next we went to local thrift stores. Their selection was very limited and consisted mostly of items that would be a step down from our current couch.
Alright, we might have to buy *new*. We have never bought a *new* sofa before. Before we set out, we set our expectations. This would not be a forever heirloom quality piece. It would not be made from solid wood and outlive us. It would most likely be made in China, last 5-10 years, and then quickly fall apart.
After browsing through three stores, two local and one national, we found a piece that we both liked, the Larkinhurst Queen Sofa Sleeper.
I wanted a sleeper sofa so we could accommodate more overnight guests during the Thanksgiving craziness as well as to give other guests the option of sleeping on the first floor. This particular one was comfortable to sit on in the store and we thought it looked nice (I have enough life experience now to know that what is pretty to one person is horrendous to another).
So we found it, time to buy it right? Wrong!
Time to Negotiate
The ever eager salesman had been checking in with us every three to four minutes while we were browsing. He didn’t take long to whisper to us that a super secret one day sale was going on right now. Ughh, we both hate pushy sales, but it comes with the territory. Okay, let’s play ball, but do it on our terms.
First things first, the ‘tag price’ in the store was $1,219.99. Ya, we aren’t going to be paying that. Mr. Helpful has already informed us that there is some divine sale going on that we have to act on right this second or miss out.
I looked the sofa up on the store’s webpage using my phone. It was listed at $1,449.99 but on sale for $942.49. Furthermore, I saw an Amazon.com listing for the sofa that had a price of $772.84 & free shipping. Okay. Time to call over Mr. Helpful and play ball.
Me: “Oh hi Mr. Helpful, I had some questions about this sofa. I would like it in the sleeper version. What’s the best price you can do?”
Mr. Helpful: <whips out calculator and a blank invoice> “Well, our 1 day sale price comes out to $914.99 + $231 for the four year protection plan, $80 delivery, and $80 in sales tax for a total of $1306.
Without skipping a beat, he went right into the 12 month 0% interest financing.
Mr. Helpful: <finishes calculating the 12 month financing> “That comes out to just $96 a month with just $160 down.”
Do you see what the salesman just did? He came in with a lower price, but instantly and without prompting started adding in expensive extras such as protection plans that we did not ask for. That brings the out the door price above the printed tag price but then he goes straight to financing. That $1300 sofa would only cost us $160 to sign right now. Geez, what a great deal. Except we know that Amazon.com is selling it for less. A lot less.
Me: “Do you price match?”
Mr. Helpful: “Sure we do, did you have a flyer or website?”
Me: <pulls up product page on phone> “They have it for $772.84 with free shipping.”
Mr. Helpful: “Hmmm… Oh that is Amazon, we can’t price match Amazon. It might be old and sitting in some warehouse somewhere.”
Alright. That was pretty slick. He replied in such a way as to 1.) backtrack from his previous statement that they would price match and 2.) discredit the Amazon.com listing by implying that it was an inferior product to what he was selling. Nobody wants to buy an *old* dusty sofa that is sitting in some warehouse somewhere.
Me: “Okay, thank you for your time, we are going to check a couple of other stores”
Walking away is always an option. You never HAVE to buy something and salesmen know that.
Mr. Helpful: “Wait, let me check with my boss and see what I can do.”
This has to be one of the oldest sales tricks in the book. Referring to a higher authority. It is not his fault that they cannot price match, but someone else’s fault. An invisible and possibly nonexistent ‘boss/manager’ that can give final say on a matter.
After five minutes or so Mr. Helpful returned.
Mr. Helpful: “Okay my Manager was able to bend over backwards and give you clearance pricing on this sofa. $853.99 ($62 reduction), the four year protection plan for $101 ($130 reduction), and delivery for $55 ($25 reduction).”
Okay, a $247 difference just by threatening to walk out of the store, BUT the total is still $1084, an over $300 difference from Amazon.com’s price.
Me: “Thank you for your time Mr. Helpful. We are going to get some lunch and think about it.”
This was my subtle way of saying, not good enough do better.
He/They chose not to do better, so we left.
That night, we ordered the couch from a random internet store for $729 & free shipping. Like all online stores, there was a place to enter a promo code. 30 seconds of searching the internet and we found a $5 off coupon to bring our total to $724.
The Death of Brick and Mortar Retail
I thought the entire experience was amusing and very telling. Had the B&M store matched Amazon’s price, we would have bought it from them, on the spot in cash. The markup on this cheap Chinese furniture is around 400%. So a sofa like this would cost about $300 for the store to procure. Selling it at Amazon’s price is still a profit. They chose to skip a profitable sale and earn a potential repeat shopper by trying to command a larger gross profit. It should be no surprise that B&M stores are failing left and right. Either adapt or die.
We ordered the couch through appliancesconnection.com back on January 27th. It took about 3 weeks for it to arrive to our house and that was to be expected. The local brick and mortar said 45 days, so if anything, the internet store was faster. They used a shipping company called AM Trucking. There are plenty of negative reviews online about that company, but we had an excellent experience. Two men and a big box truck arrived when they the dispatch office said they would. They carefully unloaded the 215 pound sleeper sofa from the truck and carried it into the house. They peeled off all the packaging so I could inspect the condition before signing off and even got it into the approximate location in the living room that I wanted it in. If we paid extra for “white glove” service, they would have put the feet on the bottom of the sofa and finished setting it up.
Now that we’ve had a chance to try it out, we are very satisfied with our purchase. I would definitely order a sofa from the internet again!
I did spray two coats of Scotchgard Fabric Protector on it. I have no idea how effective that product is, but it was only about $7 a can so it was worth trying out.
Frugal Boy and I have each slept a night on it. The foam mattress is surprisingly comfortable for a pullout bed. It also makes a really good fort for Frugal Girl!
Andrew left Friday for a week-long adventure with his brothers and a couple of uncles up to his uncle’s lake house. This is his first kid-free trip in a long time and my first time watching both Frugal kids alone for an extended period. 🙂
Before he left Andrew put a load of laundry into the washer so it’d be ready for the dryer by the time I got home from work, getting a jump start on the weekend chores. I walked into the house that afternoon and was greeted by the chirping of the washer. Unfortunately it wasn’t the happy “I’m done” kind of chirping. Nope, it was the “Houston, we have a problem” variety. After getting Frugal Boy’s dinner ready and making sure Frugal Girl was content I headed down to the basement to see what the problem was. E01 F09. The LED panel blinked flashed the error code over and over. We occasionally see E01 F08 – water supply problem – due to the undersized supply lines in the house (can’t run anything else while the washer is trying to fill) but this was something else – a drainage issue. The error had appeared a few days earlier but canceling out the cycle and restarting seemed to work fine. No such luck this time. After a couple cancels and a couple attempted restarts I was resigned to pull out sopping wet laundry and bail out the remaining water the best I could with a bucket.
Still water left
As you may recall we use cloth diapers with Frugal Girl. One of the weekend tasks is to wash said diapers but a broken washer puts a damper on that job. What to do? My options were:
Call a repair person ($$$)
Leave the diapers sit, put Frugal Girl in disposables, wait for Andrew to get home in a week and have him fix it (no AC in the house means those diapers are going to get mighty stinky)
Drag the diapers to the nearest laundromat and sit for 2+ hours with a fidgety 3 year old and a four month old (did I mention Andrew took our only vehicle with him? We’re walking or hailing an Uber this week)
Beg to borrow a neighbor’s washer (regular clothes sure, diapers in the washer for whatever reason seems to make people squeamish)
Fix it myself
We’re going with the last one.
Google indicated that the most likely culprit was a clogged coin trap. Like the name implies, this handy part catches all the coins, bobby pins, screws etc. that you do not want traveling to and damaging the drain pump. Some machines are conveniently designed to have an access door right by the trap for regular cleaning. Our Maytag Maxima does not have this nice feature; you have to take off the whole front panel instead. Thanks Maytag. Well, those diapers aren’t getting any fresher so let’s get cracking.***
The first step in any appliance diagnostic and repair job is to unplug the machine. Might seem like common sense but as Grandpa would say “common sense is a gift not a given.” Once no more power is flowing it was time to remove the top panel of the washer. Yes, you read that right – the top panel has to come off before the front panel. I didn’t take any photos but on the back of the machine there are 3 screws along the top edge. Undoing those let me slide the top towards the back of the machine and reveal two screws for the electronics console panel. These are the same type of screw on either side of the machine in the corners. Once those are out don’t try to tug off the console just yet as you have to remove the dispenser and reveal even more screws.
Push the button and the dispenser will slide out.
Of course these two screws have completely different heads from before requiring a different tool.
7 screws down and more to go! I was able to very gently lift off the electronics panel at this point and set it on top of the machine. It’s still connected to the main machine via wires so you can’t just rip it off or you’ll have a much more costly problem on your hands.
With the top and electronics panels removed I could now start tackling the front panel removal. But of course it’s not going to be that easy. The center of the front panel is connected to the tub of the machine by a rubber gasket/boot. This is held in place by tension using a wire and spring. There’s a tool that professionals use to extend the spring but I don’t have that. I made do by sliding pliers into the loops (being careful not to rip a hole in the rubber) and pulling in opposite directions. This extended the spring and loosened the wire just enough to be slipped off the gasket. I then unhooked the gasket from the front panel and shoved it towards the inside of the machine and out of the way.
We’ll revisit this pain in the butt again later.
9 more screws to go. There were four screws along the bottom edge of the front panel. Most tutorials on the web had you tilt the machine back or lay on the floor to access them. Our machines are on a custom made pedestal and with a rachet extender I was able to take them out without having to try and move the heavy machine myself.
Thank goodness for small fingers
There were three more easily accessible screws along the top of the panel (with a different head from either of the two previous types) that came out and I was able to start lifting the panel up and off the hooks holding it in place. I got the panel clear of the pedestal when I was stopped by more wires attached to the door latch. Two more screws and the front panel was off.
The latch and sensor button stayed with the machine not the door panel.
Front panel gone!
I was surprised how relatively empty it was inside. The white piece in the bottom center of the above photo is the coin trap and drain pump. Here’s a close up.
The parts are held in place by rubber feet that slipped into tabs. I removed the rubber feet to have more room to maneuver a bucket underneath the trap and started unscrewing the coin trap lid. Be happy that smells can’t be transmitted over the web yet as a gallon of foul smelling water poured out as well as the clogged trap.
Yes it was as gross as it looks.
Youtube and the like recommended sticking your finger into the drain pump and trying to spin impeller a bit to make sure there are no clogs there either. Ours was clear and I was free to clean out the trap and start putting the machine back together.
This is what it is supposed to look like.
The reassembly was pretty much the reverse of the above and smooth sailing with two exceptions – both rubber boots. I made the stupid mistake of taking off the rubber boot that leads from the outer tub down to the coin trap. I had felt something in there and turned out to be an intentional hard plastic ball. The tough tension combined with a restricted work space and an odd angle resulted in numerous attempts to get the darn thing back on. Once it was back on I poured a couple gallons of water into the drum to make sure we weren’t going to have any leaks (and subsequently have to take the machine apart again).
Seriously, don’t take this off unless you’re a masochist.
The other problem came when trying to reattached the door gasket to the front panel. Remember that wire and spring? It’s a hard thing to put back on. If you happen to have an extra set of hands to hold it in place it’d probably make the job a lot easier. The tension in spring kept forcing the wire off. I ended up having to hold the gasket top in place with my shoulder, pull the spring as hard as I could using a pliers in one hand, use a putty knife in the other hand to work the wire back into place, and send Frugal Boy to watch Paw Patrol in the other room so he wouldn’t learn new words. An hour later an the machine was back together and ready to be tested out.
So what was the culprit?
I did not heart the slime.
Those heart shaped pieces of fabric are washable nursing pads. I had lost them when I was nursing Frugal Boy…18+ months ago. I thought they were somewhere in the sea of baby clothes. I guess not. I was tempted for a second to bleach them for use but my senses got the better of me and they were thrown into the trash instead (like I said only a second). Three wash cycles later and I’m happy to report the machine is draining well and no signs of leakage yet. Start to finish it took me about 5 hours split between Friday evening (researching and starting to disassemble the machine) and Saturday morning (cleaning everything out, reassembling and testing). If this happens again the fix should go much faster. The kids pretty much let me work in peace. Frugal Boy was happily entertained by Saturday morning cartoons and Frugal Girl thought the back of her eyelids were more interesting than watching me work.
Obligatory photo for the grandparents. Also before you start worrying Grandma and Aunties, that towel is clean just stained.
Hopefully nothing else will break in the next few days until Andrew gets back. 🙂
***Note: I am not a professional appliance repair person. I am a software developer (aka professional googler). You follow what I did at your own risk. I am not responsible for any damage to your machine or you.
Cord cutting is becoming more and more mainstream as consumers get fed up with the high cost of cable tv and incessant, interruptive advertising.
If you have been looking to cut the cable cord, or if you already have and are looking for some more sources of media, then your local library may have you covered!
Our library began advertising their partnership with Hoopla.Hoopla is an add-on service that your library may offer to you for free. Here is a bit more about Hoopla from their About page:
hoopla digital builds on that passion by providing public libraries of all sizes the ability to offer patrons an enormous selection of digital video (movies and TV shows), music, audiobooks, ebooks and comics to their patrons. For these libraries, we’ve pioneered a unique model that allows patrons to borrow content immediately, removing artificial availability constraints and maximizing the power of digital content and Internet distribution. Technologically, we focus on the latest browser, phone, tablet, and TV products to deliver the best possible experience to our user – our passion – the public library patron.
There are currently over 1,200 libraries in the USA and Canada that have partnered with them.The signup process took less than 2 minutes.
Each library sets its own Hoopla borrowing limit. For me, that means that I can borrow a total of five (5) items per month. I had to dig around the help quite a bit to find out that returning an item early does not increment your borrow quota for the month. So if I borrow five digital items today, I have to wait until the start of the next month before I can borrow anything else. Obviously this kind of stinks, but for the price (FREE) how picky can you be?
There does seem to be wide support for devices. It looks like both TV and chrome cast are both supported via mirroring from a phone or tablet.
Ok, what about the actual content available? It looks like they have Audiobooks, Movies, Music, Comics, Ebooks, and Television.While there are some bigger well known titles in the catalogue, there is also quite a bit of B and C roll material. You might get lucky and find just what you are looking for however to scratch that ear worm.
A thorough review is available here if you want to read more.