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New Thought On Storing Physical Objects

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  • New Thought On Storing Physical Objects

    Here is a thought I had on dealing with rarely used bulky items around the house that you want/need, like soldering irons, your harmonica, your spare camera, etc. This is the kind of stuff you would ideally want you to trash, because you never use it- But these things are _expensive_, and you'll kick yourself a year later if you no longer have such items when you need them...

    Here's why such items are so difficult to put into a storage/reference system:

    1. They cannot be put into an orderly row of labeled files because of their size/shape
    2. Only a few items can fit into a single container (compared with paper records)
    3. If you use an alphabetical system (based on topic/project/person/company) you would constantly have to shuffle items between containers in order to maintain the system, due to space limitations.

    My idea is to treat all your paper GTD reference items and bulk objects as part of the same "reference" bucket. When an paper or physical object needs to be placed into "reference" use the following algorithm:

    - If it is a paper item, just place it into the reference file in the standard GTD manner in a standard folder (i.e. a phone bill goes under "phone" in the reference).
    - If it is a physical, non-flat object:
    1. Attach a unique number label to it (start with 1, 2, 3, etc.)
    2. Throw the item into an empty storage bin.
    3. Put a paper note in the paper reference file (i.e. a funky phone adapter gets a paper note under the "phone" reference file with its unique number on it)
    4. Keep putting the next items in the same bin
    5. Once the bin is full, put a label on the bin with the numbers it contains
    6. Start a new bin

    Since new items always go into the newest bin, you never have to shuffle items between bins to keep the order correct. The only time you'd have to shuffle items between bins is once a year or so when you clean out the bins for things that have been obsoleted. My idea ain't brain surgery (and may not be new, for all I know), but sounds like a useful refinement on the face of it...

    Comments? Suggestions? Critiques? What do you think?

  • #2
    Number recycling

    Do you suggest to recycle unique item labels (numbers) after the yearly clean out? I mean use again the numbers left unlinked to the objects. If so what about the situation when the new object is bigger than the previous and you cannot put it in the bin where the number belongs to.


    • #3

      > Do you suggest to recycle unique item labels (numbers) after the yearly clean out?

      No- numbers would never be changed on an item and numbers would never be re-used... Even after a lifetime it's unlikely that you would own more than 9999 such objects, and four-digit codes are really quite managable, so this would be unnecessary.

      What you might do, though, is clean the stuff out of the "1-30" bin and the "31-60" bin and consolidate them to a single "1-60" if some of the items are obsoleted.


      • #4
        physical objects

        drcode, you are swell. I'll be purging and reorganizing the basement and garage the next few weekends, and your suggestion is ingenious. To me, you have adeptly applied the "A" of Julie Morgenstern's SPACE (Sort, Purge, Analyze, Containerize, Equalize).


        • #5
          Yeah, this is really cool. I worked in a warehouse where we inventoried product using a similar system -- why did it never occur to me to try it at home?

          If you were feeling ambitious, you could set up a simple 2-column spreadsheet (Col 1: bin, Col 2: item) instead of using a folder. The benefit is that you could print the spreadsheet occasionally and keep it down in your storage area -- no running back and forth to get your index, and no worry that you might ever lose the index.


          • #6
            If you have lots of smaller things and tagging/indexing everything is a pain, you can lay out all the objects on a table and take a digital photo of them before you stick them back in the box and store them.

            It's not very hard later to go through a bunch of photos until you find the item you're looking for, then go grab that box out of the garage.


            • #7
              Digital photo lists.

              Using digital photo for indexing small objects is really awesome idea . Some of your lists may have graphical (photo) format
              It is the era of digital cameras built-in in evey gadget (cell phone, PDA, MP3 player).


              • #8
                I think this is a great idea and intend to implement it during my next attack on my storage space. I thought of a few things:
                - I don't see the need of a physical label on each object. I don't see what purpose it serves, as I would have to keep a list of the objects in any case.
                - I will be mainly retro-fitting the system to an existing situation i.e. the object are already in their bins. So my procedure will be:

                1 Go to garage armed with paper, pen, labels, felt-tip pen, digital camera
                2 Make four columns on paper, with headers Container ID, Description, Object Number, Object Description
                3 Label first storage bin with an ID ("A", for example). Write A and its description on the paper e.g. A / White Plastic Box in columns 1 and 2.
                4 Identify contents. Then do one of the following:
                a. If objects are small and numerous, photograph them. Write "Photo" under Object Number in col 3. Later on the PC, name the photograph file "A", or A_white_plastic_box. Now I can always find A and see what is inside.
                b. If objects are not suitable for photography, write a number and description for each object in the third and fourth columns, e.g."1/Phone adaptor". Continue listing objects 2,3,4 etc.
                5 Label next storage bin B and continue as above.

                This list could go in a spreadsheet so if there were a huge number of objects they could be sorted alphabetically so I could find them more easily, but I hope I have not got that many!


                • #9
                  Limit the physical objects storage.

                  My idea is to limit the physical objects storage. You should get rid of ALL the things that you don't need anymore. Old stuff itself and old stuff management focuses your mind on past instead of future. So:
                  1) Review the contents of your garage and get rid of not needed stuff.
                  2) Once again review the things that survived the first step and get rid of not needed stuff.
                  3) Do it again until nothing has left or you are satisfied with the result .
                  4) Put the "remains" in storage box(es) and label them (the boxes).
                  Do this procedure yearly but try to get rid of not needed stuff in "real time" (if you bought the new PDA decide what to do with the previous one (backup device?, your own museum?, eBay?).


                  • #10
                    I have been using a system similar to that proposed by drcode for many years and it works well. I got started when I had to move, so I packed everything into boxes, numbered each box, and kept a list of what I put into each box. This way, when I arrived at my new house, I knew what box to look in for the toaster or whatever I was seeking. After unpacking, I had about 20 boxes left with stuff in them. I stacked the boxes in my basement and used the list to keep track.

                    Minor points:
                    1) I didn't number or label the items in the boxes. Since the items had personal meaning and weren't just meaningless inventory parts, I could easily recognize them by description.
                    2) I found that I could describe most items briefly in a way that called to mind exactly what they were. Instead of "Boots, Raichle, black, size 10, leather," I would write down "ugly swamp boots." I borrowed this trick from a memory improvement course I once took that recommended that you use silly or outrageous mental pictures because they are easier to remember.
                    3) the most challenging part is keeping the list up to date when you remove something. After a few times looking for something in a box and not finding it because your significant other removed it, one tends to lose trust in the sysytem.