Some life lessons require additional reinforcement from time to time. This week I was strongly encouraged to remember a lesson that can be summarised as: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” It was first uttered like that to me a quarter of a century ago by a client who used it frequently around their staff.

It means that all the stuff that fills up the space around you, in this case, physical stuff, needs to have a specific home and if you’re not actively using it, that is where it should be. This is useful in a context where you have lots of little things that you need from time-to-time, or if you have several people dependent on the availability of a single thing, like say the labelling machine used to tag equipment.

The other day an incident involving a tiny tablet that went flying across the kitchen bench, bounced over the edge and vanished, not helped by the fact that taking the tablet was time sensitive and the fact that the vacuum cleaner was right there - no the tablet was not inside, I checked. I walked around the bench to the other side and started rolling on the ground with the aid of the torch on my phone. Ten minutes in, still nothing. I remembered that my go-bag has a torch, so I went to get it from its place.

One problem, it wasn’t there. I turned the bag upside down and went through it. Nope, no torch. That’s two things that vanished. Neither has resurfaced at this point. I went to the chemist to get another tablet and took it 40 minutes late.

The torch however was not so easy to resolve.

My, what I call go-bag, has a bunch of life affirming essentials. It started pretty soon after becoming a radio amateur. It has two jumpers, long-leg underwear, an under shirt, a towel and a microfibre cloth, leather gloves, mosquito net, medication, band-aids, toilet paper, soap and some empty bags. It also has a torch, well, not right now it doesn’t.

After failing on my mission to locate the torch, I started stuffing the contents of my go-bag, straight back into its bag, only to realise that I wasn’t helping future me. I stopped, pulled everything back out and started folding everything neatly. Then I repacked the bag.

I’ve put in a stand-by torch, in Dutch they’re called a “knijpkat”, or a mechanically operated torch. You squeeze it in your hand and in doing so you move a dynamo that charges either a battery or a capacitor. It’s called a “pinch cat” because it sounds a little like that. The light is fine for getting around in the dark, but you wouldn’t mistake it for a super bright, eyeball burning, LED torch.

In case you’re wondering why I’m going into such detail about this, it’s because you never know when you need something. It might be urgent, or it might not be. Having your stuff organised in such a way that you can find it, can sometimes be the difference between life and death.

Now I get it. Not everyone works like this. I have for decades had a system on my desk where I know where all the bits of paper are and it’s not helpful if someone cleans it up, because at that point I have no reference to anything and I will have to go through the whole box of things to find what I need.

When my partner and I travelled around Australia in an Iveco Daily stuffed to the gunnels with electronics equipment, clothes, food, camping gear, a two metre satellite dish and plenty of other things, I had a system that involved four filing cabinets bolted into the van, combined with a dozen or more crates, metal hooks, straps and a safe. I was forever putting things away in the exact same place, each time.

It’s not a process that comes naturally to everyone and so we settled on a process where I would pack the van so I could lay my hands on anything within seconds, from the socket set to the satellite signal finder, from a clean pair of shorts to a raincoat, from a fuel funnel to a water funnel. Pro-tip, don’t mix the two. Tools aside, of course this system also applies to the first aid kit and the fire extinguisher, the fire blanket, band-aids and medication, and in this case a torch.

You might ask how this could apply to amateur radio. Go-bag aside, looking around my radio shack, it has lots of little things, like adaptors, measuring gadgets, chargers, fly leads, microphone clips, coax switches and plenty of other stuff.

If everything in your shack is in use, this isn’t an issue, but if you’re like me and don’t have your NanoVNA, and all the SMA to something adaptors, or plenty of other things lying around for that “just in case” time, then having a place for everything and everything in its place is a very productive way to keep things organised so you don’t spend half your life looking for things.

Similarly, if you know where your portable shack is, your battery charger, an emergency antenna, or some other essential item, you’ll discover that when it comes down to the pointy end of a situation, this might make a difference.

So, how do you keep your life, and shack, organised and what other processes and methods have you tried?

I’m Onno VK6FLAB

    • Onno (VK6FLAB)OP
      33 months ago

      The trick is to just start small. One thing at a time. Just use the thing and put it back in the same place. If you find that you need two things at the same time, put them together. Rinse and repeat.

  • Matthias HB9EGM
    13 months ago

    When I’m searching for a gizmo, and finally find it, I put it back where I first started looking for it, not where I found it.

    This leads to a shack that looks extremely messy for an outsider, but I can easily find my stuff.