I Keep Too Much Stuff – Tools, Parts, and Personal Things
I have had difficulty managing my workshop and personal storage spaces for quite some time now.
It’s too easy to put things off and to let things pile up. I’ll get to it soon. Later. Eventually.
I need more space, or rather more clean and usable space. Let’s say I need to punch some sheet metal, or punch a custom grommet out of a rubber sheet. Right now, it would take me maybe 30 minutes to get things setup, as I would have to first clean a little and move things around.
Yes, I know it’s popular for YouTubers and content creators to move to huge industrial spaces where they set up drool-worthy workshops, but that’s not in my plans.
I have too much stuff, or at least too much stuff that I don’t need anymore.
I started sorting through everything a few weeks ago. The way my life is right now, I need everything to be more streamlined and optimized.
It’s clear to me, that I don’t like to throw things way, and I started fixing this.
I am finally recycling the motherboard from my first custom-built desktop computer, although I did harvest its 20mm fan and copper heatsinks. I also pulled the RAM modules, although in hindsight – for what?! – it’s not like there’s any modern device that could make use of it.
I have a small box of heatsinks and fans, and I’ll sort through it again as part of a second round of cleaning up.
For the computer geeks out there, I’m recycling a DVD-ROM from around 2004. It’s not a CDRW or DVD-RW drive, it’s an internal DVD-reader-only drive. I’m also parting with IDE cables that I haven’t needed for a very long time. Why do I still have this?
Who uses CD-R discs anymore? My current desktop computer doesn’t even have an optical drive cage. I just need one SATA optical drive, somewhere, just in case I need to read an older data disc.
I do wish I had kept some floppy disks, to show my kids, but that’s no reason to keep recordable media I am unlikely to ever use again.
I didn’t even remember that mini writeable CDs existed. The TDK minidisc, that’s got to be close to 20 years old now, if not older.
What is this hardware from?! Hmm – maybe a VESA wall-mount for my computer monitor? I found that in a second box, along with a desk-mounted monitor arm.
A CD to cassette adapter?! To be fair, I could have used this up until maybe 2010 or so, when we bought a new car that came with a CD player. But then why do I still have it?
I kept this Milwaukee M18 RedLithium 2Ah and 4Ah release flyer, from around 10 years ago.
First, it was a good reference, as the opposite side of the page had Milwaukee’s then-current M18 lineup.
As an aside, those were interesting days, just after the first M18 Fuel tools came out.
But at some point, this literature outlived its usefulness as a reference, and I guess I kept it out of nostalgia.
Neat, I scored a 97 out of 115 on my Intro to Polymer Science & Engineering midterm exam, back in 2004. Why did I keep this?
I had an entire tote box filled with notebooks and exam packets.
Going through everything, I was reminded of classes I had long-ago forgotten I ever took. Apparently I took a “Physics of Living Matter” class, and also “Biosensors & Molecular Electronics.” It came back to me – I took these classes to fulfill extra credits needed for an applied physics emphasis.
This one was fun – it’s part of the single page of equations that I was allowed for my final exam in statistical thermodynamics.
Here’s a closeup.
If I recall correctly, I earned an A- in this class, and I worked extremely hard for it. This single sheet of paper is a good summary of everything I learned for that class. But now, it’s like a different language that I barely remember.
I start off keeping things for practical reasons. “I will need this.” Or simply, “I want to keep this.”
After an unspecified amount of time, “I could use this.”
And then, “I should continue holding onto this” becomes easier than “I should sort through everything and minimize the space it all takes up.”
My notebooks triggered a whole lot of memories, but it’s time to recycle them.
I also came across a lot of scientific papers, equipment usage instructions, and technical paperwork. Into the recycling bin – these aren’t irreplaceable.
Do I need 12 spare computer case fans? Will that 12V DC fan controller ever be used? Does anyone use cold cathode tube lighting anymore?
I have plastic pipe hangers from a project I was working on a few years ago. I wasn’t sure if they would work for it, or what size I needed, and so I bought 5-count boxes in 3 different sizes. I don’t foresee any use for them, so why am I keeping them?
I ordered 4 boxes of Wago Wall-Nuts once. But, I was somehow sent 4 cases of 6 boxes. I still have a supply in my parts bin, and came across 3 boxes holding another 17 packs of 10 pieces.
These aren’t my preferred wiring connectors, and so I don’t use them as often as other styles. I thought maybe I would share the spares, but it’s really not worth the cost to ship these to anyone. I won’t part with them yet, but I did consolidate them into a separate container to save space.
I will soon be parting with a couple of dozen large Dewalt ToughSystem cups – and no I’m not willing to ship them. I’ll bring it to the DPW guys on my next electronics recycling drop-off – I’m sure they’ll be able to put them to use.
Here’s what happened. I purchased a lot of Dewalt ToughSystem tool boxes over the years, but I didn’t use the large cups/bins they came with. I found no use for them in drawers or elsewhere. So why save them? I am nearly done fully converting over to stationary storage and Milwaukee Packout for portable needs, and so there’s a near-zero chance I will ever use those super-sized Dewalt parts cups.
“I could use it… sometime… not now, but someday…”
I don’t like parting with anything that has monetary or sentimental value. I don’t like selling things on ebay or elsewhere, and so I hold onto things. It’s easier.
But, it has been decided. I will be bringing books and DVDs to the library for their fundraising store. I’ll see if the local high school has photography and theater teachers I can donate unused camera and lighting equipment to.
I bought a couple of heavy duty boxes for the few tools or equipment I can potentially send to readers.
I am far from done. It’s a slow and tedious process going through everything. But, I have definitely made progress.
I used to wonder – how people could accumulate so much stuff?
But, it turns out that I have – or as of tomorrow had – notebooks from as long as 18 years ago. 18 years! I have some parts and supplies that are older than that.
I bought two mobile bases for workshop equipment a long time ago. I ended up only using one, and the other never left its box. Right now, I’m not using either of them. Should I keep them? Where?
I did need a mobile base 2-3 years ago, but had to buy something a little different because these weren’t appropriately sized.
ToolGuyd-related stuff makes things harder.
A 2-stage snow blower I didn’t ask for and wasn’t planning to request for review showed up mid-winter. A single-stage snow blower from a different brand arrived last week.
Cordless outdoor power tools that I had not yet requested – but could be interested in testing – started arriving when there was still snow and ice covering the ground.
For tools that I have tested or evaluated, “I will need them for future comparisons!” “Readers will have questions!” “What if I can squeeze more content out of it!”
One hand tool brand tends to send me random things without asking – a conduit bender, a rechargeable fan, an Android borescope (although I switched to an iPhone 3 years ago), and a bucket truck tool bag. Some of these I can use immediately, others might take some time for me to get to. So what do I do with them in the meantime?
Will I use the cheap casters I took off a cart I got rid of after it broke? PVC pipe cut-offs? Shelf brackets that I took down when we moved around 10 years ago and never installed here or the last place we lived?
I need to get rid of more stuff.
For every tool, part, or personal whatever it is: Do I need this now? Will I need this in the near future? Would I return this if I could? Is this irreplaceable? Does this make me happy?
Nobody likes to buy something that they just discarded. Everyone knows this will always happen – as soon as you throw away something you thought you didn’t need, well that’s when you will absolutely and most certainly need it. But is that a good excuse to keep so much?
I’ll also need a mindset shift, on the tool/part side of things.
Let’s say I’m working on a project that requires a certain size of screw. No matter how much I model things on paper or digitally, I’m sometimes wrong. So, I tend to buy a box of socket head cap screws, and also button head screws. This works out better than buying one style, finding out it’s not ideal for the application, and having to place an order for a $3 box of screws plus $8 shipping, and waiting 3 days for it to arrive.
Now apply the same concept to plastic bar stock. I might not be sure if I need 1/2″ x 3/4″, 3/4″ x 1″, or 3/4″ x 3/4″. It’s more economical to buy a couple of sizes and pay shipping fees for one long carboard tube than 3 separate shipments. But, I end up with a surplus of materials.
Maybe I could or should learn to better design projects where I get part and material selections perfect the first try, if that’s even possible.
I know I’m not alone here – I see plenty of shop photos where woodworkers have racks and racks of wood, where automotive enthusiasts have bare engines and car parts that don’t fit any of their current vehicles, where other PC builders have boxes of long-obsolete parts, where electronics and robotics enthusiasts have boxes of harvested components and parts.
Every now and then, a long-stored object comes in handy and provides validation.
For me, I’m done ignoring this. My workflow demands that I clear up space.
I have avoided sorting through my storage bins, tool box drawers, parts cabinets, and shelves. It’s tedious, boring, and highly disruptive. But it’s necessary.
I waited way too long. But, later is better than never.
For those of you that don’t have this problem, what’s your secret? For those of you who are thinking you’re just as bad as me or worse, if I could start cleaning up, so can you.