Garage Organization, From Chaos to Productivity

img_2245The Creative Space: Garage Organization

I knew that I needed to organize my garage. I had created a thrown together “office” in the garage with an old desk and a folding table. All around this space chaos crept onto every surface. Every time I looked for something, two or three other things had to be moved or dealt with. I was wasting time and getting distracted on a regular basis. My mind was just as cluttered as the workspace. Something had to be done.

I took a friend’s advice and listened to the audiobook “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. This powerful tool for executives and high-powered business people offers an amazing and thorough system of productivity. I gathered some excellent tips and ideas from the book but was left feeling like an ant on a cruise ship.

I’ve never had any real business experience in my life. I’ve worked as a Carpenter and Maintenance Man for most of my life earning a basic wage that has kept my family fed and clothed. Until last year, I never realistically saw myself becoming my own boss. So, as I read Allen’s book, I felt overwhelmed and unprepared for such a massive system overhaul. My business only had one product.

Nevertheless, I gained some valuable concepts from the book and came to the realization that my business workstation needed a rebuild. Although the area still needs more work, I do now have a much more productive space where I can work with a clear head. It occurred to me recently that there are other folks who can gain from what I learned from my garage cleanup and workstation rebuild. Here are some common issues that I suspect many people experience:

  • Notes in different places
  • Piles of papers that vary in importance
  • Objects or items worth saving that don’t have a good spot yet
  • Ideas/back burner items that surface from time to time
  • Sentimental cards/letters/kids’ art sitting around
  • Junk drawer
  • Broken tools or office supplies that need a part or repair

Truth is, I’ve never been the most organized dude. I have a friend who is a mechanic that always makes me so jealous. Seems like everything in his garage has a specific place and there is always room to work. When I compliment him he seems to feel like his place is a mess. I think to myself, “If his place is a mess, mine is a pig sty!”

One week I set a goal to start by organizing one little area, thinking that then I could incrementally keep working my way around the garage. This was wishful thinking. After a few weeks, I realized that what was needed was more severe. This was the type of job that needed to be handled as a two-day project. I set aside the coming weekend and decided that the whole weekend was going to be dedicated to getting the garage organized. Luckily, I had a friend who was willing to give a hand.

As we got started, he suggested just moving every single item out of the garage until it was empty. I took his advice, tossing stuff out as we went, moving everything out then later bringing things back in strategically. I chose to move it all out into the “chicken yard” where our four chickens roam around free during the day. This strategy created a unique time constraint. If I didn’t deal with this stuff quick, it was going to be covered in chicken poop. This was the type of job that needed to get done in one weekend even if I had to stay up late and work morning to night.

One of the biggest challenges was distracting items that tempted me to stop and look through or fixate on. This is where David Allen’s “two-minute rule” really came into play. I had to just keep moving. I just made some hard decisions and kept moving. Looking back, I don’t regret any of the things I got rid of even though at the time it seemed really hard to get rid of some items. By the end of the weekend, everything had a new home. There was still a shed full of unorganized tools, but at least it could be handled as a separate project for another weekend.

I absolutely love my new garage and workspace. When I go out to work on a project there is plenty of space and my mind is clear. When I want to work at my desk everything is right where I left it. The drawers only contain minimal and useful items. This has helped productivity immensely.

The lesson in this story is the importance of starting with a blank page. When there are unfinished projects, stressful thoughts and random red herrings cluttering my workspace, I just don’t perform very well. When the surfaces are clear and things are in their place, I feel ready to go. Getting from the place where it is all full of stuff and seems like a monumental task to the place where there is open space requires making hard decisions, setting aside a solid block of time, and getting help. I would even consider hiring someone for the day if I had to do it over without my good friend.

I would guess that some people are very meticulous about keeping their space clean all the time. However, for those of you who struggle with keeping things in order or feel stressed and overwhelmed, I suggest setting aside a solid block of time and getting some help. Make some hard decisions and keep moving. Get it done. You will not regret the hard work.

Great resources I recently discovered for finding more organization in your day-to-day life:

Go from Zero to a Fully Functional Productivity System

Getting Things Done



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