Sort and Organize – According to Your Usage
A 5-gallon bucket filled with hose clamps and one filled with conduit clamps is sufficient organization for my purposes. There is no need to organize into separate containers for type, design and size. I’ll sort through them when I need something specific for the project I’m working on.
I’m in the process of conducting a large scale sort and organize effort in my shop. I’ve been in the collection mode for years, and it’s now time to get serious about organizing my tools, materials, supplies and other resources. Having things organized is a key to efficiency and when it comes time to use the items, it makes for a more pleasurable task at hand, whether you’re creating, maintaining or fixing something.
It’s time to get my act together in the shop, and I’m using a bit of logic and organization skills. Here’s how I’m doing it.
At first glance, it would seem like a simple task of organizing what you have, but first you need to know what you have, what type and size, and how many. This is especially true when you’re dealing with a great variety of items and a large number of items. After you have a better idea of what you have, you can make better decisions about how to effectively organize it. So, the activity of sort and organize is best done in just that order, sort out what you have first, and then organize it.
The key to success here is to sort with organization in mind, and that means you need to think about how you’re going to use what you’re sorting and organizing. As an example, sorting out odd nails from odd screws and odd bolts makes sense because these are different animals altogether. It also makes sense to sort between specific types of nails and screws and bolts if they’re already packaged like that or you have lots of them to sort through. However, it makes little sense from a time and energy perspective to sort nails and screws and bolts into discreet piles of each when you’re only dealing with a couple of handfuls of fasteners. As an alternative, you might sort between general types or sizes, but otherwise leave them in an odds and ends bucket for when you’re looking for a couple of fasteners for a small project. When it’s time to build something large and you need lots of the same kind of nail, that’s when you’d turn to the packaged nails because you’ll likely need 50 to 500 of them, not just a couple that can be easily found in a mixed bag.
Another approach would be to sort through things again, once you have a better idea as to what you have and you see the need for more finely sorted materials. When it comes down to sorting with some level of detail as to type, style, size and so forth, you’re really starting to organize, so keep in mind how things will be used, and that will guide you in terms of how detailed your sorting needs to be.
Imagine an assortment of adhesive bandages as a way of thinking about how things need to be sorted: a variety pack of band-aids is all you need for now, you’ll find the size you want when it comes time to use one. You don’t need to sort out small, medium, large and extra large bandages into their own separate metal tins.
A large coffee can full of mixed washers is sufficient organization for my purposes. It would be a big waste of time and effort to organize into separate containers according to size, thickness, type, design and material…there might be 100 variations just in this coffee can alone.
When it comes to organization, one could become “wrapped around the axle” quickly by sorting things down to specifics and then finding a specific home for each breed of cat you’ve sorted out. For example, I have pliers hung on a wall and placed in a drawer in my tool box, but I’ll likely not have a separate section on the wall (nor separate drawers) for long nose pliers, lineman pliers, small pliers, large pliers, needle nose pliers, etc. Instead, I’ll probably just have a section on the wall or a drawer in the tool box for pliers. Again, it boils down to how I’m going to use the items.
I’ll probably be in search of a pair of pliers, and I can determine exactly which one I need when the time comes. I don’t need to organize pliers such that each type has a home of their own.
In the case of PVC fittings, I have them sorted by size of fitting, because that’s how I’ll use them. I don’t have them sorted by elbow, coupling, T fitting, adapter, bushing or valve. They’re organization is simply one bucket sitting on the shelf. When I’m involved in a project that requires 1/2 inch PVC, I grab just that bucket and off I go. There are three main reasons that I don’t organize down to specific pieces when it comes to PVC, water hose fittings, wood construction connector hardware and many other resources:
- It requires many more bins, containers, boxes, drawers and bags to hold all of the materials sorted at such fine granularity.
- More containers will take up more space on shelves, benches or storage lofts, and you’ll need more segregated wall space if that’s where they’ll be located. In other words, the footprint necessary to store material increases any time you create a separate storage place or container for an item.
- Sorting into such fine detail and organizing by separate containers takes more time than what it’ll likely save me in the long run. It’s easier to simply paw through the general pile of loosely organized material, or dump it out to find what I need and then toss it back into the container.
The key to success is to consider how you’re going to use the resource. As an example, if it’s a specific type of fastener that you use multiple times each day, then it will pay to organize it ahead of time into separate containers so you can find it quickly and you can easily get an idea of your inventory of size, design, material and type. If it’s something that you’ll need to find and use a couple times a year at most, then it’s just not worth spending much time organizing it now. It’s likely a better use of time to spend a few minutes finding it when you need it. As long as you know what pile, box or bucket you’ve used to loosely organize it, then it shouldn’t take long at all to find what you’re looking for.
A well organized tote made for a more pleasant job of setting up a drip system in my worm bed.
I recently when out to set up a watering system for one of my worm beds, and I hauled along a large tote that had been organized as part of my sort and organize project in the shop. It was a pleasure doing the work because everything I needed was in the tote and it was easy to find; hole punch tool, drip emitters, hole plugs, end of line stoppers, cutter, pliers, crimping tool and line crimp hardware. Everything I needed was at my fingertips. Finally I had my act together.
Instead of pawing through lots of materials to find what I needed, the tote was well organized and that allowed me to stay focused on the task instead of spending time trying to find what I needed or trying to determine whether I had what I needed to complete the job.
Next up, let’s talk about approaching to organizing tools and materials.
Clair Schwan isn’t known for consistency when it comes to organization, but every now and then he gets his act together. And when he does, it can be a beautiful thing.