Sun. Jan. 3, 2021 – when I say ‘keep stacking’ I’m speaking literally…

Cold and clear today, with some sun and wind.  It was downright chilly when I went to bed, 37F, so I’m expecting the day to start near there, and warm to mid 70s.

Like it did on Saturday.

Which I spent entirely indoors, fixing minor household issues, moving stuff around, and doing some minor organizing.  Basically more time off after sleeping very late.

I was asked in a comment yesterday about my organization system, or lack of one, with a youtube of Fibber Mcgee’s closet as an example… that was more true to life than I’d like to admit.  So here it is, my very slapdash dis-organization methods.

Unlike Commander Zero (who everyone should be reading for prepping stuff anyway) I am not particularly organized. Or rather, not rigidly structured. I tend to organize in a very ‘macro’ way by keeping stuff in ‘clusters’ or areas for lack of a better word. The plumbing parts are all in one place. The electrical parts are in their area. Bike stuff is in one spot, etc.

Like goes with like.

I know what I have by going thru it every so often, usually while looking for something. That’s why it’s easy for me to have too much of something- I just keep stacking it with like stuff and don’t account for it very well until I realize “OH, I’ve got a LOT of coleman lanterns hanging from the rafters in that part of the garage.”   On the surface it looks very random, but it is actually pretty efficient most of the time, and it avoids two problems- getting caught up in the SYSTEM while losing sight of the goal, and spending time on admin rather than productive work.

One of my philosophical approaches it to ‘just get started’.

I’ve talked about it in terms of ham radio – don’t agonize over how to program your radios, which radio is best, which software or channel list is the best, BUY SOMETHING and START USING IT.  Start cheaply and figure out if it’s good enough, or if you want to get more involved.

With food storage, I don’t worry about calorie counts, or nutrition, or getting the perfect balance of stuff.  I started buying extra of my normal shopping and then added to that.  Food on the shelf is a whole lot better than the Mountain House pallet of freeze dried you never bought because you couldn’t commit to spending $5000…. and if you aren’t starving or wasting away on your current diet, it will keep you sufficiently fed and healthy during the hurricane and recovery.

I want to avoid ‘paralysis by analysis’ and also avoid spending time on building a perfect inventory system, instead of building up stocks of supplies.  I acknowledge that this is sometimes inefficient.  I’ll buy and have too much or too little of something.  But I have SOME of it, which is better than NONE of it.  And EVERYONE complains about keeping their inventory current, and the work involved.  One of the lessons I’ve learned from this pandemic is that my assumptions were wrong anyway.  My 6 months of peanut butter became 12 months worth, or even forevers worth, as my kids’ usage changed.  Ditto for breakfast cereal.  WAY too much on the shelf, because our eating patterns changed.  The inventory spreadsheet wouldn’t help me with that…

So what do I do?  First off, books are special.  They are actually organized.

My books are sorted and shelved by subject for non-fiction and reference. Fiction is all alphabetical by author. I never have enough shelves.

The rest of the stuff is literally in stacks. And yes, sometimes it’s like a jenga game to get the piece I want. Usually though, I just have to move a couple of things.   It helps that a lot of the stacks are made up of flip top crates.

Yesterday for example, I decided to replace the fill valve in the hall toilet. It’s not flushing right, and I think it’s because the fill isn’t happening right. There should be water at the bottom filling the tank while it’s still flushing, not just the tube filling the bowl. SO- I know I’ve got toilet fill assemblies. I did some replacement/repairs to the toilet in the master bath not too long ago and went through the boxes then. Out to the garage, up the steps into the attic, plumbing parts are in boxes just to the right, next to the irrigation parts, and the spare jars… Pull the plumbing boxes and go thru them to pull out the 3 fill assemblies. Take them back to the bath, pick the one that matches best, install it. Clean and put the old parts in a box so I have spare components for next time. (I did find that there was some blockage from a deteriorating plastic piece.) All the plumbing stuff goes back into the boxes and they go back into their spot in the attic.  Job done, not much more time than looking up where a piece might be, and then retrieving it but without any of the overhead of tracking what I have outside of my own head.

Electrical stuff is clustered in the same area.  There are a couple of boxes of electrical parts and supplies on the other side of the plumbing parts.  That is my ‘bulk construction type stuff’ area.    There are also more commonly needed repair and install parts in a drawer in a cabinet in the garage. And stuff I use for work has a box in the truck…  Those are three clusters by themselves- the drawer unit by the garage door has parts and pieces I need often, the attic has stuff that is more for construction and occasional repair, and the truck has stuff I need for work.

Camping stuff is in bins on the patio, next to the cabinet that has more camping stuff. Bike stuff is in another bin. The pool stuff is all going to storage for the season, but was stacked on the patio in a group.

There is an area of the garage that has a lot of bulk medical in bins, but there is also normal use med stuff in the hall bathroom. Most of the normal inventory is lined up on cabinet shelves, oldest in front, newest in the back, just like a store.  Medicines, first aid, and OTC stuff is clustered near point of use, the central bathroom.  A couple of steps away, in another closet, the grab and go med bags live with some other more “doctor” type stuff.  It’s a cluster, but more for emergency use than everyday, and thus it’s separated on purpose.

In fact most things have an area where the ‘normal use’ stuff is, with a deeper inventory somewhere else, less accessible.

Kid stuff, and most of what I talked about in yesterday’s post is clustered in two areas- the part of the kitchen we think of as the ‘craft’ area, and a hall closet that holds all the educational kits and the ‘presents’.   Everything in that closet is stuff that hasn’t been allocated to a kid or a project yet.  I have a couple of bins full of ‘maker’ stuff in the driveway under the tarp.  Another cluster (bits and pieces, leather, cardboard tubes, craft items, electronic scrap stuff.)

My office is a microcosm of the whole. I’ve got a desk area for electronics repair, and all my test gear.  There is another desk area that I sit at daily with my pc, main radios, some simple repair stuff, and stuff for my non-prepping hobby close to hand.  Behind me is the bulk of my reference library, on shelves above cabinets.  And…. several stacks of stuff, computers and electronics to be set up or fixed, non-prep hobby stuff, my laptop and work bag, some auction stuff, and lots of paper waiting to be filed.  Several stacked bins of stuff in fact.

Back in the day when I was a bachelor, and didn’t actually have all that much stuff because I moved frequently, I decorated with “a minimum of horizontal surfaces”. It was the only way to stay neat and organized, because my natural tendency is to pile stuff on horizontal surfaces. I’m one of those people who uses a second floor staircase as a filing system…

All this leads to me not necessarily knowing for SURE that I have an item, but if I do, I know where it will be.  Once I’m looking in the right spot, I can either put hands on it right away, or my memory is sufficiently prompted to know if I have it or not, and where it might be if not there.

I guess my guideline is “like goes with like” and DON’T REORGANIZE or you’ll never remember the new spot!

I will stipulate that this is SUB-OPTIMAL and very idiosyncratic but it works for me. I can go for literally years without accessing something, and when I need it, I know where to look (full face respirators and spare cartridges, at the beginning of the lockdown, for example, hadn’t touched that since the ebola scare).  More times than not, I can walk right up to what I need without too much fuss.  No one else could though.

I am working on this. Lifesaving preps need to be accessible to others in case something happens to me. I’ve started showing oldest daughter some of the system, because it drives my wife crazy. I’ve also started regularizing some of the stuff. Moving the food from storage to usage at the beginning helped tremendously. I was able to go thru it all, and while moving it, arrange it in a way that is much more organized. I even bought FIFO can organizers. In fact, I’ve got more on order, since daughter two wanted her soup organized.

I have been in acquisition mode for a long time.   My focus was on getting the stuff, not using it or organizing it.  I stacked it up with the idea I’d have a chance to better organize it later.  Um, not so much.  Then I had to move and organize the food for this lockdown, and that prompted putting up shelves, going through the stacks, getting them all in one place, and actually organizing the food.   I’ve been trying to make the space I need to organize the rest since then.  My progress has been – slow – and spotty.  But I am making progress.

The main thought to take away is, do what works for you.   If you can’t sleep at night without reviewing your spreadsheet and usage budgets, then do so.  If you are like me, and know were everything in your office is, but no one else could find a pen, that’s ok too, AS LONG AS YOU ARE THERE, BUT — you might not be…  part of really prepping is doing so so that your loved ones are still covered even if you aren’t there to help.  Take that into consideration for any system you use.

Any system is better than no system.  Any prepping is better than no prepping.  Don’t get hung up on designing or having the perfect system.   Perfect is very much the enemy of good enough.  Get started.  Build on what you have.  Always be improving your position.

And keep stacking.  😉