It has taken me more than a week to organize my office workspace, in what has been a painful and painfully slow process.
I thought I’d share about the experience, as I can’t be the only one who suffers from “too much stuff” syndrome.
Let’s say I was tasked with setting up a new industrial space, with fixed goals, needs, and requirements. I’d be efficient and practical, and would have everything nice and neat too.
So why I do I fail so miserably at maintaining a healthily efficient workspace for myself?
Things were so much easier when a single handheld plastic tool box fit all my hand tools. And when I started working with cordless and corded power tools, I could probably fit them all into a single milk crate.
Shown above is one of two screwdriver drawers. It’s poorly organized at the moment, but the main thing to show is that it isn’t filled to the brim. I might swap some of these out for others, but the key word is swap. Aside from bringing back some of my precision screwdrivers, I don’t need my full range of drivers in this space, at least not for 95% of my typical hand-fastening tasks.
Here’s my wrench and “some other stuff” drawer, a work in progress. I need to add my mini Facom metric wrench set to the mix, if I can figure out where I put it last.
Don’t worry, this isn’t the full extent of my hand tools, just the remaining tools I think I’ll need in this space. I also have compact 1/4″ and 3/8″ socket sets in a cabinet. If I need my full range of wrenches, ratchets, breaker bars, or what-not, I can access them easily. But, I don’t need them right here.
That’s the mindset I’ve been focusing on – “do I need these tools right here?”
I really don’t want to show you the number of screwdrivers that are leaving this space, it’s too embarrassing.
I found 4 pairs of safety goggles. So that’s where they all went. I also found 3 pairs of earmuffs, and two packages of reusable earplugs, which I left in one of the drawers above.
This space that I’ve been clearing up, I designated it as my office and electronics workspace. I can do more than “clean” work, and it generally only involves bringing in a portable dust collector or vac.
I can be lazy. In truth, I generally have two primary settings – obsessively thorough or lazily sufficient.
A month ago, I posted about how I wasted an hour trying to save myself 5 minutes. I didn’t tell you the full story. The desoldering task I inevitably needed to do would have taken me 5 minutes, but maybe a half hour to properly set up for. Stuff ends up on my benchtop, and I don’t really have a lot of workspace.
You don’t even want to know what my computer desk looked like. I downgraded from a massive L-shaped desk to a 48″ x 30″ desk, and although there’s some clutter already, I can still see the worktop.
Do I need that tool in this space? If the answer is no, into a bin it goes, and from there it’ll go into the basement, garage, or donation/give away box.
My hope is that stripping things down to bare necessities will help me be more productive.
Greater efficiency will mean faster and easier content creation, which will benefit ToolGuyd, but admittedly that’s only part of my goal. Really, I just want more time to work on projects. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I could spend a half hour clearing and cleaning and then a whole day conducting testing, bench tests, or project work. It wasn’t perfect, but I was able to ignore the state of things. Now? If I have a half hour block of uninterrupted time, I want it spent on projects, testing, and review activities, not on clearing space or hunting down the tool(s) I need.
There are two main problems I have been seeking to address: 1) I can’t find the tools, parts, or supplies I need to complete a task, and 2) I have been lacking the space to work on necessary or desired tasks.
It’s a gargantuan task, to basically set up my working spaces from scratch while they’re still in use. I’ve been putting it off, but finally, it has to get done.
Starting a few months ago, I’ve been doing the same process everywhere – cleaning, sorting, organizing.
Here’s what I did for my office workspace:
Step 1: Clear the desk, workbench, remove all tools and parts from the room.
Step 2: Downgrade desk size, mostly finish workbenches.
Step 3: Bring contents back, loosely sort through it all, then empty drawers, cabinets, and continue to sort.
Step 4: Organize what will remain, remove tools and supplies that will not.
It’s a hard process, extremely laborious indeed, and I find myself psychologically attached to a lot of what’s leaving this space.
But… I really want/need to review that different style of screwdriver I bought specifically for ToolGuyd review purposes.
But… one of my next projects will involve those pneumatic cylinders!
But… I really love using those pliers, despite having a duplicate style that I use more often 9 times out of 10.
I know it’s not just me. I’ve seen many others’ garages, work trucks, vans, basements, offices. Many of us are prone to collecting more things in a single space than is practical.
About 3 weeks ago, I wrote a post titled the number of tools I need vs. how many I have.
It might seem ridiculous for me to both lack all of the tools I need and to also have way too many. But, it comes down to some needs being met – often in multiple ways – and other needs not being met.
Consider the cook who has a 4-burner stovetop. What’s the point of 10 skillets when they still need a stockpot to make chili or soup?
In this space I’m working on now, I am not yet thinking about what I might need or what I could add, although there are some boxed-up tools I’ve been trying to make space for, I’m really trying to pare down and reclaim my working surfaces.
“Everything in a place” is a good goal to have, and ultimately there might be some tools strewn on top of my bench.
I think a big part of the issue is that, before we moved here, I worked out of a single room. I went from a spare bedroom in one apartment to a larger spare bedroom in another. Now, my main office and “clean” workspace is a small bedroom, my “dirty” workspace is the garage, and I have the basement and off-site storage for overflow and infrequently used tools and supplies.
Our second child was born shortly after we moved, and I never took the time to set things up properly from the start. I could have, and should have, but that would require a lot of time, regardless of how I spaced things out.
The process isn’t quick or easy, and I can’t get much done in short blocks of time. I made small progress over the years, only to lose momentum.
But now, you might have noticed things have been slow, and this is why. Part of the reason has because my schedule was filled with phone calls, project time, and review efforts, but right now it’s because I’m working on “workshop setup.”
I love tools, I love talking about tools, and I love testing and review tools. But I also love using my tools, and working on projects, and my capacity to do this has been greatly diminished. The same goes for my capacity to photograph tools for reviews or other editorial content – one needs a relatively clear space, and I’m out of clear spaces.
If the garage is too full and cluttered, I can bring a folding workbench to the driveway and setup woodworking tools there, cleaning up from a portable table saw, router, miter saw, or sanders with relative ease.
But if there’s no benchtop space, where else could I photograph a battery pack teardown, assemble a testing jig, measure the power requirements of a cordless drill, or solder a circuit for a personal project?
When all is said and done, don’t expect a “workshop tour” anytime soon, I still have a whole lot of work to catch up on, plus more cleaning and organizing to do for my other workspaces. The bulk of my ball pein hammers and mallets have been sitting in a milk crate for 4 years.
Talking about all this is somewhat embarrassing, but makes me feel a little better. Plus, it’s my hope some of you take a look at your workshops, vans, trucks, garages – are any of your spaces sorely in need of some cleaning, clearing, or organizational efforts?
I also hoped that with this post some of you might understand why things have been a little quiet here. Getting my spaces to peak efficiency was always daunting to think about, and I knew it would be a tedious and time-consuming process.
Well, there’s no time like the present, and the progress I’ve made has me optimistic.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have unfortunately run out of things to say, and have an hour or two of moving heavy boxes downstairs ahead of me.