Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mess/Clean (in that order)

July 10, 2012

Prepare to be wowed!

We often depend heavily on Davis when he comes for a visit.  Not that we're enfeebled or anything like that, but I think there is an American (perhaps worldwide) tradition of celebrating an anticipated homecoming of a grown child by having some (not too many) undone chores waiting.  (NOTE BENE:  if this tradition doesn't exist, it should).

Davis has always cheerfully complied--changing hard-to-reach light bulbs, planting waiting shrubs, and on several occasions washing and staining the deck and porch.  We (in this case, Davis and I) have been working on a plan for him to pave the backyard slab with festive brickwork, but with just a week in town, we didn't get to that this time.

Instead we tackled the shed--built in 1994.  And since the move-in that summer, many things have gone in but few have come back out.  Did I mention this is Walter's shed?  Did I mention that despite much lobbying for at least a decade, it has never been cleaned or even really tidied up since the day we moved in?  Here's a visual tour (I'm thinking these photos could be the basis for The Ultimate I Spy Hidden Object book:  20-pack of Coors Light, manual sheep shears, hummingbird feeder, kayak caddy):

Of course, the first step was to pull everything out.  We grouped like with like as we worked and hoped that Walter would wheel out at some point and give us at least tacit permission to throw some things away.  You can see in the upper left corner of the first photo below that we set up a comfy seat for him to make his pronouncements from (it remained empty, save to hold the laptop so we could listen to pandora while we worked).

After we got it all out and did some heavy-duty cleaning (and, unfortunately, spilling almost a quart of oil that a random rodent had gnawed a hole in.  NOTE BENE:  there are many great sources and an equal number of not-so-great sources of information on the internet about what to do when you spill a quart of oil on your shop floor), we were none too certain it would go back in and look any different than it had before.  

As you probably know (through observation of others, not through your own personal experience), once an organizing system gets out of control, it's easier to buy a "new thing" that you need rather than spend time looking for the one you already own that's "in there some place."  Plus you run out of time, so when you finish the project you toss the "new thing" in the shed with a promise to put it away in the "right" place when you have the time.  That is how you might end up with multiple versions of the same needle-nosed pliers, paint accoutrements, or sprinkler parts.

This is especially true on items like nuts and bolts and other kinds of fasteners, which were strewn about in yogurt cups, Texmati rice containers, pill bottles, and every flat surface in the shed.  Davis and his friend Sam took the time to do fine-grain sorting and build a maintainable system to store and later locate these items:

This was not quick work.  But it yielded good results.  You can't really tell, but the nuts in the drawers on the top row are sorted (and labeled) by size in each drawer and by types in sections within each drawer that Davis fabricated out of corrugated plastic, AND they match to the bolts in the drawer directly underneath which are also sort by size, type, and length.

And in case you are wondering, we freecycled, recycled, and shared quite a lot that we took out of the shed (with Walter's blessing, no less).  I think Davis and I were hoping to thin things out by 5-10%, and we may have hit 15-18%.


We (Davis and I) thought the things on the table were throw-away-able, but this is the stack that Walter is going to work on and fix.  And if that doesn't materialize, at least we will have a pictorial record and know for sure when we have reached the bottom layer next time we have to excavate the shed.


  1. I think Davis and Sam working in white shirts is one of the more impressive aspects of the entire project.

  2. Wow, Vickie. Looks great. We did a similar project on our "front hall" -- which had gotten to be the repository of too many things "waiting" to come into the house or to leave it (it all started with a borrowed piano that I thought was leaving, but which is still there) -- it was so bad that when we were done we realized we had discovered an upright vacuum cleaner. It is not ours (we have a central vacuum system). We have no idea whose it is, or when it arrived. Huh! But your shed inspires me to tackle our basement (same visuals, bigger square footage).

    1. Good luck with a basement! Definitely sounds like a much bigger project, unless you have someone ruthless on the giveaway/throwaway piece. This took a few days to clean out but much longer to put things back in so they were both neat and able to be found by Walter, the main user.

  3. Wow!!! We need to do that too to our shed and room! Love it!!! Of course, I would probably have to go garage selling to look for organizational containers! :)

    1. Missed you at lunch today. How about a lanyard workshop on the 27th? I'd love to see you and hug those tall young men I see on your Facebook page. We didn't buy any new organizing containers for our project!

  4. Holy cow, that's impressive....