Getting frustrated with organization (or lack thereof)

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Blog entry by Nate L. posted 01-27-2015 07:10 AM 1689 reads 2 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have had a shop set up in my garage for the last 3 years. I have learned and grown a lot. One thing I have not been good at is organization. Finding a system that works for me that I can maintain has proved very difficult. I have been feeling more and more discouraged with shop clutter as my shop has grown. Hopefully I can get a system down that works.

-- Nate, Fredericksburg, VA,

6 comments so far

View macatlin1's profile


78 posts in 4152 days

#1 posted 01-27-2015 02:23 PM

Nate, I tend to follow the 5-S method.

1. Sort

Remove unnecessary items and dispose of them properly.
Make work easy by eliminating obstacles.
Provide no chance of being disturbed with unnecessary items.
Prevent accumulation of unnecessary items.
Evaluate the unnecessary items with respect to dept/cost/other factors.

For my garage/shop that meant removing gardening tools, Christmas decorations etc to somewhere else. Installing outlets so that extension cords do not criss-cross the floor. And, if stuff gets “dropped off” I move to to its proper storage location as soon as possible.

2. Systematize

Arrange necessary items in order so they can be easily picked for use.
Prevent loss and waste of time.
Make it easy to find and pick up necessary items.
Ensure first-come-first-serve basis.
Make work flow smooth and easy.

I have placed all the table saw accessories near the saw, drills, near the drill press, scrap wood in a mobile bin, bandsaw blades and other accessories on the wall near the band saw. Tools are grouped and placed on the wall. For example: wrenches, screwdrivers sockets are all hung from the wall in groups. measuring tools are grouped. Tapes and glues are grouped, etc.

3. Shine

Clean your workplace completely. Use cleaning as inspection. Prevent machinery and equipment deterioration. Keep workplace safe and easy to work.

4. Standardize

Maintain high standards of housekeeping and workplace organization at all times
Maintain cleanliness and orderliness.
Maintain everything in order and according to its standard.

I clean up. I always spend time when I start a project by cleaning and organizing tools and materials and at the end of the day I clean up. If I am too tired or get called away I clean up when I start next. If I pass through the shop and see tools out of place I will put them away.

5. Sustain

To keep in working order.

If something breaks I fix it and not put it off. If a tool is missing, I replace it. If a light goes out, I replace it. I have entries in my calendar to replace oil in my compressor as well as yard tractor and other machinery. I set aside days just to inspect and clean equipment.

I may not have the best tools but all of them are in working order and easily available. I had an old Craftsman table saw that had the motor go out (bad bearing). I replaced the bearing and then sold the saw and “moved up”. Worn out tools get chucked. When a wrench went missing it was replaced. Having a mismatched set is better than having a matched set with one missing. I have cabinets for screws and other hardware sorted by type and size and when I have to buy hardware I but 10% more or plus 1 and put the extra in the right bin. And, hardware includes sush things as driver bits and razor blades.

I have a white board where I write down what supplies are needed so I minimize trips to the store and I write down critical dimensions. I have a saw setup checklist I use whenever I do a saw alignment. I have magnets and magnetic parts trays to control loose nuts, bolts, screws and washers and anything else that might “wander”. I’ve spent too much time looking for stuff that has gotten away. I keep manuals for all the equipment and blown-up assembly drawings. If I take something apart I take pictures and video (to use the audio as a Dictaphone).

I hope this helps because it’s a mind-set change that is needed rather than fancy stuff.

View Nate L.'s profile

Nate L.

119 posts in 3222 days

#2 posted 01-28-2015 05:05 AM

Thank you for the encouragement. I think my main problem is that I have too many people asking me to do too many things so I never have time to clean up the shop and get it organized. I have a hard time telling people no and that gets me backed up a bit. You are right in that it is a mindset change. I know that I don’t need a bunch of fancy stuff. I took the time to build two workbenches and a lumber cart (Steve Ramsey’s design) this past weekend. The work benches are built at a height that allows me to store my table saw under one and my router table under the other. These three things have helped, it is all the little stuff that I have to figure out how to organize. On top of that, I think I have a gene that has been passed down that makes it difficult to get rid of stuff. =) For example, I know I could use this .5x.5×6” board for something someday. While this may be true, all that stuff accumulates and makes a mess.

-- Nate, Fredericksburg, VA,

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4013 days

#3 posted 01-28-2015 11:50 AM

It’s almost like a job trying to keep things organized. I think it is a daily battle of sorts. Just have to take it one step at a time. I’m not a clean freek by no means, but, I just try n clean up as I go most of the time. Take it slow.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View robscastle's profile


8215 posts in 3413 days

#4 posted 01-30-2015 10:23 AM


If there is clutter appearing it means you are doing something in your shop, so that in itself is a good thing.

If its clutter appearing because you are being offered jobs which I assume are too good to refuse, and I dont know of any offhand at the moment just advise the customers you are a “little” busy and it may take some time, ... just read Sam Maloofs story for good excuses for delays !!! this may give a few leaders.

Then do not forget maintenance days for both yourself and the gear as well, all need to take a break every now and again.

-- Regards Rob

View Nate L.'s profile

Nate L.

119 posts in 3222 days

#5 posted 01-31-2015 04:53 AM

I had a good laugh when I read your post. =) It is true that clutter means busy/business/income, however, I am too the point where I spend more time looking for things that I do working on a project sometimes and that gets frustrating. I don’t mind a little clutter and don’t expect everything to always be in it’s place, however I would like everything to have a designated place. You are very correct in saying that breaks are important. There are many times I have walked back in the house because things just aren’t going right and I know I just need to walk away for a bit.

-- Nate, Fredericksburg, VA,

View NoThanks's profile


798 posts in 2738 days

#6 posted 01-31-2015 05:50 AM

A good time to organize is when it’s raining.

-- Because I'm gone, that's why!

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