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Organizing Your Workspace

Posted by Danny Choo On Wed 2012/01/11 00:02 JST In Desk Diary
 156  992085 ja zh

One of the things I constantly think about is how to become more efficient at managing my time. I've got a note to write about Time Management in a separate post but today I'm going to talk about a few things we can do to save time by making sure that we spend absolutely no time at all looking for stuff - because looking for stuff does not make sense and is a complete waste of time.

For starters, I always make a point of getting rid of stuff that I dont want so that I can easily find the things that I do want. Imagine you have a drawer filled with 50 different items - 40 items are things which you never use but you want to keep around for a rainy day. The other 10 items are things which you use regularly. But because those 10 items are mixed in with the rest of the items, you waste your time rummaging around for what you are looking for.

In this case you should try to separate out the stuff that you dont or hardly ever use into a different location - better still - you should ask yourself if you really want to keep it.
Just like some animals, humans like to collect things - somethings are part of a hobby but then some things are just useless stuff that starts to pile up - either stuff that you bought or stuff that somebody gave to you. If somebody gives you something for free, its not actually free because you need time to look after it. You need to find somewhere to put it which will take up space.

Going back to the stuff that we dont really want - we still tend to keep them for a few reasons:-

  • We paid good money for it.
  • Somebody gave it to us and its worth a bit of money.
  • It could come in use some day - dont want to have to buy it again.

From the above we can see that all these reasons are to do with money.

Up until today, I've gotten rid of so much stuff that if I'd kept it around, I'd actually be loosing *a lot* of money. The reason is that I value my time more than I value money. If I kept stuff around which I didn't need, I would need to invest time into making storage for things which I do need - because the stuff which I dont need is taking up shelf space.
Unwanted items in some cases need looking after - wiping down or dusting off.

Having a lot of stuff around also means that I have an extra distraction - a distraction that I could do without especially when trying to reach my life goals in the limited amount of time I have left.

Now I'm not asking you to throw everything away and become an extreme minimalist - what I am recommending is that you go through all your belongings and think about whether they really add any value to your life.
Take for example "I have a bunch of figures in the office which are nice to look at that add value to my life" vs "I've got a bunch of old electronic equipment that I never use but they take up space - they add no value to my life."

Life is a journey where you start off with no belongings. During your journey, you will start to accumulate stuff but at the very end of your journey, you cant take any of it with you. Thus, does it not make sense that your belongings should only be of the type that add value to your journey?

I remember when I first started to travel in my 20's - I brought with me to Japan a huge suitcase + huge carry-on + kitchen sink. I had every "just in case" item one could think of which I would never end up using. The extra hassle I went through to carry all that crap just for a "just in case" was absolutely not worth it at all.

Life is just so damn precious that you should be focusing on living your passion and making achievements in life rather than being bogged down by stuff that you are hoarding for a rainy day.

This was our 37" Plasma TV which you have seen in our lounge. When I started to work at Amazon, we earned quite a bit of moolah so could afford to buy this TV which cost 420,000 yen (5467 USD) at the time. It survived an international trip to Seattle and it served us well for nearly 10 years.
But the TV is analog and does not support digital broadcasts that Japan switched over to last July. Its got no HDMI socket either. Its still good as a spare computer monitor or games machine screen though.
Its been sitting under our bed for the past year and would be sitting there taking up space and gathering even more dust for many years to come if I just left it there.

I did pay a lot for the TV but it has served us well for a long time so I'm not going to feel bad by letting it go. Was thinking of donating it to charity but many charity bodies dont just want everything and anything dumped onto them - they need stuff like food, clothes and money which they can put immediate use to.

I decided to give this away to a reader, so posted it on my Google Plus and tweeted it - a reader came and picked it up in the new year. I didn't charge her for it either as she was doing me a favor too - it actually costs money to throw away big stuff like this which is why you can find electronic equipment out on the streets from time to time dumped by folks who dont want to pay the fee.

What I'm trying to explain here is regardless of what you originally paid for something, if that item has served you well over a certain period of time then you need not feel that you still need to hang on to it especially if you dont use it anymore - remember that by keeping unwanted stuff around means that you are loosing time and money - unless you have ample space and have somebody else to look after it.

Once you learn how to get rid of unwanted stuff, you will start to mentally feel much more lightweight and able to focus on your life goals.

Anyway, in the first photo of this post, you saw the cabinet in the office where I keep most of my stuff. I used to have 3 drawers which would look like this on a good day...

...but often end up looking like this on a bad day. This would happen too often though and needed a solution. Here I had a bunch of cables which I've never used that ended up in the "may need it one day" - I compared the cost of keeping them around vs the cost of getting another one in the case that I really needed one of them one day - keeping unwanted cables proved to be way to costly - its just not a case of tying them up and keeping them in a corner either.
Unwanted cables mean that the amount of cables I need to rummage through to find what I want wastes my time.

I make a point of regularly going through and getting rid of stuff that I dont need which usually goes in the recycle or to victims who visit my office.
If you cant decide whether you want to keep something or not, you could ask yourself whether you have used it in the past year - if not then just get rid of it.

Anyway, after this round of cleaning, I still wanted to do something about those 3 drawers which often become a mess. The solution I came up with was to utilize the same space in the cabinet but make smaller compartments. I got a couple of these plastic drawers from Muji for 3,700 yen each.
The great thing about these is that I can stack them and add more storage whenever I need - its kinds like cloud computing in the real world ^^;

Muji also sells different sized box drawers which lock on to the stack that I already have - most of these are cheap at 800 yen upwards.

I had a few of these at home already so decided to get more and stack them up - all you need to do is remove the lid from each box which reveals pegs that lock on to the bottom of each new box.

The old plastic cabinet was given to a relative and here I am moving all the stuff into their new home.

Didn't have too much time so just stuffed everything in randomly.

Because I didn't spend time sorting everything out properly, I found myself opening each and every draw every time I was looking for something!

Bought a few more box drawers and stacked them to fill up the extra space. The new drawers come on wheels too which means I can now do dusting much more easily.

Each box drawer needed labeling so I decided to use a single kanji for each box.

For electrical cables I use [電] which means "electric", for USB, Firewire and other cables I use [線] which in this case means "cable", for video equipment I use [映] which in this case means "video" and so on.

All the power related cables go here. Put heavy stuff in the bottom drawers for stability. Also put precious stuff towards the bottom too in the event of an earthquake.

USB , Firewire and audio cables go here. After a while I end up with a million USB > Mini USB cables - again I dont have any need for that many so the rest are thrown out with the recyclables. Having a million USB cables means that it takes longer to find the cables that I really need.

All the video equipment goes here.

All the camera equipment goes here. Managed to get rid of my old Lumix GF1 and GF2 - looking for a home for this GH2.

[娘[むすめ]] (Musume) means "daughter"...

...and indeed there is a spare daughters body inside.

[接] means "attach" and I've got a load of attachments that go inside.

Mostly Mac, iPhone and other attachment type bits n bobs.

[名] is short for [名刺[めいし]] which means "business card" - inside I have further boxes which are meant for trading cards - you can get them from Amazon for 500 yen each.

Several hundred business cards in each box.

The top box is the most awkward to open so I put stuff which I hardly use in there which are consumable goods like printer ink, batteries and bulbs. But come to think about it, even electronic equipment should be thought of as consumables which we use for a limited time.

This drawer here for all sound related equipment.

[遊] is the kanji to mean "play".

Inside we have a load of gaming related stuff.

[保] means to "preserve" or "save".

And currently store all my HDDs here. Heavy stuff must be put at the bottom or the plastic boxes start to buckle if the contents are too heavy near the top.

Figma parts and other knick knacks go in these small draws which are also available from Muji.

A bit more easier to find stuff I want this way.

Often use these masks when filming Culture Japan.

These are USB 2.0/Firewire 800 dual drive Mirror Light cases which cost 11,990 yen each. Originally got them for Culture Japan production which involves a lot of data handling.

The great thing about these cases is that you can just remove the front and plonk in a drive without any screwing about (literally).

As for documents - I try to digitize as much as possible - you dont need a scanner - just take a photo of it. For the remaining documents, I use file cases like these which I got from 100 yen stores. Here I'm about to sort out that bulge on the right case.

I used to get trolled when I started to buy figures long time ago. Now I get trolled because I get all my figures for free ^o^
Anyway, this is my main figure display area. If I get a new figure that I really want to display, one would have to retire. I could get a case and start to bung them all inside but I would not be able to appreciate the ones in the back of the case which I can hardly see.

Anyway, thats it for now - the next Desk Diary post is about cable management and I want to talk about organizing your HDD too in a later post.
But before I leave you, do you have any room organizing tips that you would like to share with your comrades?

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