Sunday, December 12, 2010

If you can't find it, you don't own it (part 4)

Once you've got it all together, where do you use it?

My workspace is divided in half- an electronics bench with tools and a PC station.  The PC desk is boring- two 19" monitors, speakers, printer, etc- I won't bore you with pics of that.

There are only a couple of things I really want to mention here as being special about my desk.  First, the knife holders.  These are the standard type of wall-mount magnetic knife mounts.  Mounted vertically (because they were too long for horizontal) they hold my small tools- little screwdrivers, a wire stripper, a side cutter.  I have duplicates of all of these tools in the mobile kit but it's nice to have them handy.

Secondly, the whiteboard.  It's magnetic so I can stick stuff onto it, but it's really more useful as a whiteboard- I'm a big believer that whiteboards are the stuff engineering magic is made of.  I have four of them in my cube at work, and one of the smartest facility design elements I've ever seen was in the "new" (this was probably over 10 years ago) EE building at the University of Richmond.  Every hallway in the building had a little alcove directly across from each doorway where people who were walking along could stop, step out the line of traffic, and use a whiteboard in the alcove to explain a concept.

Third- drawers.  And more drawers.  And yet more drawers.  To have any prayer of being productive, you need to categorize and segregate your goodies.  The little wooden cabinets are narrow but long; the plastic drawers on top have several subdividers in each one, and the red cabinet in the lower left is big enough to accommodate quite large items (say, a 7" SMT component reel).

Finally, the monitor is (if I do say so myself) cleverly mounted:

I used a couple of long travel drawer slides from Ax-man to place it such that it can slide to the right, out of the way, exposing a shelf behind.  I keep that shelf mostly empty so I can stash a project that I'm not done with but putting on temporary hiatus.  This keeps the work surface from being cluttered with bits and pieces of stuff I'm not using at the moment, but which I'm not ready to put away.  Also note the little baggie to the left of the monitor- it's a "tiny trash" bag, where I can deposit trimmed leads, stripped wire insulation, ruined screws and the like, thereby keeping that stuff from building up on the work surface.  Clutter begets clutter.

The rest of my stuff is here- the shelves on the left are mostly domestic items- tool kits, screws, etc.  Stuff any reasonable homeowner should have.  Worth mentioning is that my junkbox cyclorama is just out of view in the lower left.  The boxes on the shelf at the back are individually labeled subdivided containers; when I want to put a project in "cold storage" so to speak, either because I want to work on it much later or because I don't want to tear it apart but I'm done playing with it, I throw it in a box, label it, and shelve it.  There is only one "random crap" box- EVERYTHING else is properly labeled, because boxes of random stuff might as well not exist when they get too big or too prolific in number.

Lastly, I'll say this:  there is a reasonable amount of unused space on the shelves on the left, at the bottom.  Unused in the sense that all the boxes that are stacked there are empty.  This, I think, is the last critical element of keeping your space under control: provide for growth.  If you can't immediately categorize an item (meaning, put it in a LABELED drawer or box), or create a NEW category for it (meaning, put a label on an empty box or drawer and throw it in there), the clutter will come back with a vengeance, and you'll never be able to find the parts you need.

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