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Am I Alone in my shop clutter phobia??

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  • Am I Alone in my shop clutter phobia??

    Here's my bio.

    Six months ago, I moved. I moved in to a 1.5 car garage, and it's already full. I look at other people's pictures, and everything looks so "organized". Don't get me wrong, I notice the clutter...but outside of the clutter, it seems that your shop has order. Meaning, there is a home for things. I keep having to move something to use something else. I keep striving for more and more shelves, more and more horizontal surfaces that will hold things. I don't know that I'll ever have enough.

    BUT...yesterday, I got all my...err...some more of my machines in the garage, and I'm already looking at equipment going, "I never really use that, and it'd free up this much space". I feel cramped, I feel like every time I move, I'm making a mess that is slowing me down.

    First and foremost, my shop generates if it's slowing me down, it's money being lost.

    I know the space will be fine, mostly because it's mine...but how to do I get from here til then. In my last shop, which was shared, my constant excuse for always being behind was cleanliness. Now I've got my own space, and I feel like it's the same excuse, only it's my fault.

    I think I'm mostly depressed because I'm looking at the shop that I finally got most of the machinery in to, and I'm starting to wonder if I'll be able to work...and breathe.

    So how do you deal with it? How long does it take to "move in"? How long does it take for things to find a home?

  • #2
    I've been in my current shop 10 years and still feel like I need to organize it better. My old place was of similar size but much more "usable" space, and 12 foot ceilings rather than 6.5! Take a deep breath, and tackle one spot at a time. I get paralyzed because I globalize it, and every little spot becomes about the whole thing, and I stall.
    Location: Jersey City NJ USA


    • #3
      Not alone at all!

      I moved from having a 24x40 pole barn, full basement in the house and a pretty large storage loft to a small 1.5 car garage. Very crowded and cluttered.

      Been here about 6 years, and still don't have the shop organized in any real manner. Just put everything on wheels so I can move it around and keep it out of the way when not in use. Lathe and mill are about the only things not 'mobile'. I pretty much re-design the shop depending on what I need to do.

      Best move I made was to build a 'half' yard barn beside the garage over the side door like a lean-to, and move large items that don't have to be accessed for use (compressor, vacuum etc) and store other items there. Opened up a LOT of space, only drawback is that he overhead has become the only access door.



      • #4
        If it's any help I built a 30 x 50 shop 14 years ago between my house and my 20 x 30 foot existing shop. Took me 7 years to fill it. My family when they heckle me say I could fill up a 100,000 square foot big box store in 20 years. The way it has to work is eventually "stuff in" has to equal "stuff out." Otherwise you have to pack your stuff tighter and tighter.

        On the other hand if you die with the most, you win.
        Last edited by Forrest Addy; 04-01-2008, 03:44 PM.


        • #5
          The secret is that before we take pictures of our shops we clean them up. Then we dont show all the pictures at once and slowly post them so it looks like you always keep it clean!


          • #6
            I'm far from a neat freak, in fact its a battle to stay even somewhat civilized, but i hate it when my shop is cluttered. Sometimes when i go out and look at how bad its gotten, I'll just put some music or an audio book on and tidy up so next time i can go out make make parts with a clear head. So much nicer going into a clean shop, with nothing on the benches or chips underfoot.
            located in Toronto Ontario


            • #7
              Last week the following advert appeared on the UK newsgroup:-

              Well my moving plans have hit a hiccup so I have now sold my house, but
              don't have a new one!! I spent the last few days packing up the house
              house and workshop, but don't have room to store this mill and am
              therefore open to offers. I bought it four years ago from the good Mr
              Stevenson mainly as I needed the DRO for my other mill
              , but other than
              removing that, it is exactly as as John's original add which I have
              pasted below.

              John's original description:
              Mill / Drill 30. It's the biggest one they do. Table 29 x 9 round column
              model. Three morse spindle. Many mods. Fitted powered table feed and
              quill feed.Drive by three step toothed belt drive with 240 v DC motor
              with commercial heavy duty controller. Takes single phase input. Speeds
              from 10 to 3,000 rpm, no gaps. Also fitted Heidenhain two axis DRO, this
              actually cost more than the mill drill.
              Bought for machining laser lens blocks hence the DRO. This machine now
              surplus to requirements, Obviously UK only. Buyer collects. Loading
              facilities available. 650 Pounds -- FIRM, - no offers - no tyre kickers
              - no time wasters. This is one of the older heavyweight models not the
              newer skimpy things.

              I thought I hadn't seen it recently, now I know why


              Sir John , Earl of Bligeport & Sudspumpwater. MBE [ Motor Bike Engineer ] Nottingham England.


              • #8
                Try this. Make shelves, cabinets and racks to store each tool. Hang long stuff, or seldom used stuff like bars stock etc., between ceiling rafters. Throw out stuff that is unlikely to be ever used.
                Most important always take a moment to put tools back into there storage spaces when finished with them, this may seem like a waste of time when you are in a hurry but in the long run it will save time.


                • #9
                  A lot of it comes down to room...period.
                  The shop I just moved into last fall is an example.
                  I had to live without 1/3 of it for a long time, trying to get concrete poured, studwalls up, etc.
                  The mess in the main shop was unreal...tripping over anything too big and you were hooped...there was just not enough room.
                  Now that the machine shop side is done it's like heaven. That part is neat, clean and tidy. Everything juuuusssstt fits
                  The fab shop area is also well organized and about as clean as a busy fab shop gets.
                  Ummm...for now.
                  One more mill and the machineshop will be ugly to work in...very crowded.
                  And it'll happen. I haven't moved my Ohio in there yet.
                  The fab'll be even better when spring really hits and I can move my big saw outside into the new addition I plan for the cutline area.
                  But I'm not holding my breath. I'll dream up some contraption to build that'll take up all the spare room we have now.
                  I'm being "taught" to be a clean freak by the gurl. That does work to a point but she gets a little anal about some stuff. She puts EVERYTHING away after she uses it.
                  Then she has to walk back to the tool box to get it 10 times a day. That all came to a halt. Fab work is need your stuff right there all day.
                  At the big shops it's "Go Hard or Go Home" don't get time to be a clean freak.
                  Anyway...the extra room we have now is great.
                  That alone helped in a big way with organizing things.
                  I have tools I don't even know I own...


                  • #10
                    Storage and organization are cyclical:

                    - First you get some new space.

                    - Then you fill it up haphazardly: it doesn't take long!

                    - Then, when you've run out of space or gotten irritated enough at the mess, you stop and create some organization so that the same space can be used more efficiently. You build shelves, or get a deal on a rolling tool cabinet, or some such. Suddenly you've got some new space.

                    - Go back and do it again.

                    Eventually, there is no further possibility for organization to create new space. That actually takes a long long time if you look at the crazy lengths one can go to with organization. Next time you're at your bookstore, look at one of the "shop organization" books in the woodworking section to see what they do, for example.

                    But, as I say, eventually you can go no further that way. So now, you must either annex some new space (honey, could you park your car on the driveway instead of in the garage from now on?) or you need to get rid of something. But, even this is good news:

                    - Get rid of one something you don't use much and another something you use a lot. Sell them on eBay.

                    - Apply the proceeds to purchasing a much nicer version of the thing you used a lot. If it's a machine, probably it needs restoring. That'll keep you busy for months.



                    Try G-Wizard Machinist's Calculator for free:


                    • #11
                      I have a car, 3-in-1 machine, surface grinder, motorcycle, half an electrical test bench, and a nearly complete woodshop in my one-car garage. There is no "fast" in a small setup. Everything has a home, and everything takes extra setup and clean-up time. I'm always finding unique ways to squirrel away tools and scrap, because the penalty is losing access to a specific tool or encountering a day to set up for a simple operation because there is too much clutter for me to roll the saw out or get to the change gears.

                      There is an upside though. I know if anybody has been in the shop and touched anything. Tools and material don't "wander off", and I can usually find any that do before they burrow to the back of the drawer and disappear. It wouldn't work for more than one person, for sure, but for just me, it is a ballet of machines, tooling, and material, and there is nothing quite like the quizzical look on my wife's face when I walk up the stairs with something I've fixed with a bit of lathe work, or an entire cabinet that she isn't quite sure fit in the garage to start with...

                      Some day though, bigger shop, separate machines, lots of tiny labeled drawers...


                      • #12
                        Ok, John's response took the cake....I was on Bob's page earlier looking enviously at the disk sander, then I went to the garage to try to find an old 12" faceplate that I just know I have somewhere.

                        Then I called my father in law to see if he might have seen it over in his garage (where my machines used to be).

                        "you gave that to my brother three years ago to make a DISK SANDER"



                        • #13
                          My shop used to look like a cross between a building demolition site and a haunted house. There was a huge stalagmite in the back quarter filled with all of the detritus that I pulled from my various dumpster diving expeditions: old office copiers, odd-voltage electric motors that I couldn’t bear to throw away, and bits and pieces of this and that that I was saving because I might use it some day. There were garlands of cobwebs hanging from the rafters and tools strewn all over the place. There were only two light fixtures and it was hard to see what you were doing. What I didn’t realize was that working in the shop had become quite frustrating because I couldn’t find any of my tools or supplies.

                          Then I visited a friend who was not only a metal worker but a cabinet maker. His shop was part of his house where an average person would have a family room. It was fully equipped with cabinets and beautifully made holders and racks for every bit and piece that he used. When I came home I went out to my shop and looked at the disaster and decided I’d had enough. Drywall was on sale that weekend. I hauled everything out the back door, drywalled the whole place, painted it and the floor, quintrupled the lighting and built some storage cabinets. I decided that everything I decided to keep would have to fit inside the storage cabinets; that would be my limit.

                          An important key to the process is to sort through your tools and get a good toolbox to keep the ones you actually use handy. The others need to go in some sort of dead storage out of the way. Finally, with great difficulty, I have forced upon myself a cleanup rule. No matter how tired I am, no matter how badly I want to just turn out the light and walk away, I take a few minutes to put away the tools and clean up. Sometimes I will stop in the middle of a project and do a clean up because I have too many tools out and they are sucking up space on the workbench. I’ve been surprised that the clean-up takes much less time than I thought; usually less than ten minutes. Every few months I take an hour to really dust the ledges and put away the partially-finished projects that tend to enter a holding pattern on the workbench.

                          There’s no worse zealot than a reformed miscreant, but I sort of feel like someone who has completed a 12 step process. I’ve found it’s much more pleasant to work in my shop, and I can now I actually get things done. Driving past that dumpster is still hard but if I’m honest with myself, I’ve got enough stuff on hand for several lifetimes worth of projects.


                          • #14
                            It's a universal problem we all have. Pretty much, once your available floor space is gone, you either get rid of something ...or go up. In my case, it's mostly been ...up., since I rarely get rid of anything major. Cabinets seem like the answer, but they only wind up being catch-alls. My single biggest offender is my table saw. I know it's under that pile of stuff somewhere, but I done think I've seen the top of it in a year. Sometimes I do actually get to the point where I can't stand it any longer and I start going through things and straightening up. Actually, almost everything in my shop does have a home, but when I'm in the heat of battle so to speak, I just don't bother to stop and put everything back where it's supposed to go. Right now, it's almost overwhelming, and I seriously need to get busy and start the clean-up before I can do much of anything else. When it gets to the point where I can't turn around...I know it time to clean-up again.
                            An old quote comes to mind: When the pain of continuing is greater than the pain of will change.
                            There is no shortage of experts, the trick is knowing which one to listen to!


                            • #15
                              that's really funny, because it's my tablesaw that I feel like if I got rid of, I'd have "all the room in the world". I might get rid of it and get one of those tabletop models that can be stuffed under a bench, then give the other to my father in law so it can take up space in HIS garage! lol

                              It's just a huge horizontal surface, so it collects things!

                              I think I'd be better with one single 24x36 bench. That's in should fit any job that I do, but not give me enough free space to accumulate crap that has to be moved fifteen times to do a project.