The shop is probably the only place in my life where I am truly organized, and it is by necessity. There simply isn't any room for chaos. Chaos, in fact, is not only frustrating, it is dangerous when power tools are involved When I am in the shop, I try to move deliberately, and that won't work if things are disorganized. So over the years I've developed some habits to help me keep things squared away. Here are three that I've found particularly useful:
1) Each day I go into the shop to work, I spend the first few minutes cleaning up. I sweep the floors and tables, and put anything away left out from a previous work session (or from the general devolution that always seems to occur when I've been absent from the shop for long periods of time). Aside from the organizational benefits, I think of this time as a meditative warm-up to the day.
2) I put things away as I go along. Constantly. Sometimes it means I put a block plane back in its cubbyhole only to get it out again a few minutes later--and I do it over and over throughout the day. No matter. I know where it is at that moment I need it. Even so, it never fails that the second law of thermodynamics eventually kicks in and order starts to dissolve when a project is under way. Soon enough, the block plane doesn't get put away, the tape measure has walked off to the other side of the room, and my pencil is not to be found, even though I just had it in my hand. So about once every two hours, I stop working and put everything back in its respective place. Instead of being an interruption, it makes for a refreshing break in the action.
3) Finally, I do one thing each session to improve something about the shop. It might be as big and involved as making a jig for the table saw, or as small as cleaning the windows. The important thing is to keep myself in a maintenence frame of mind. Beside the obvious benefit of not getting so far behind in my chores that I never want to work on them, this daily maintenance is a form of giving back to the shop, which over the years has given so much to me. Today it was cleaning and re-sharpening a scratch awl:
In a disorderly world, this routine settles me.