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Five tricks for a cleaner hackspace

bench 2013-12

Keeping a hackspace clean is a bit like herding cats – you’ve got to convince them it’s their idea. Here are a few tricks that I’ve picked up that seem to help.

Anything touching a horizontal surface should mobile

I like being able to clean right into the corners. Having less corners means less work. I don’t consider things that are mobile to have corners – they can be rolled out of the way and swept/mopped underneath.

The hackspace is a fertile place – so much so that if you put something down it will grow roots within hours. This is true on benches, the floor, and even shelves. Extremely heavy tools should either have locking casters or be very carefully planned. “Where will it live?” is the first question I ask of any new donation.

In the photo above I have a few bins on the floor. Please forgive me. In my office I have nothing on the floor under my bench. I will be updating this bench as soon as I have shelf space.

Transparent storage

Opaque boxes obfuscate their contents. If someone wants a thing and they don’t know the name of the thing then it should be easy for them to go looking. Checking that a box is correctly labelled or empty is also hard with an opaque box.

Recycled cardboard boxes are opaque, can be soiled, and can’t be stacked very high.

Clear plastic shoe boxes are easy to see into and (in my neighborhood) easy to acquire.

Labels inside boxes

At first I wrote on the outside of boxes. When the boxes changed contents the labels were out of date and ugly. I taped over them and wrote new labels, which only made the problem worse.

One day in my dad’s basement I noticed that he folded a piece of paper into an L shape and placed it in the front of his plastic part drawers. When he changed the contents of a box all he had to do was turn over the label and write a new name. Heck, he could do it 4 times on a single L piece. No glue required, the outside shape of the container didn’t affect the readability, and the label could come from recycled paper. Nice!

We also tried putting a second piece turned to a side of the box that lists the contents of the box. Nobody seemed to care, so I vote that one a fail.

Simple addressing = things put themselves away

Every storage shelving unit and every bench has a letter code. Every shelf in the lettered unit has a number. Every label in a clear box has the letter-number code. That way a box that is in the wrong place is obvious and the correct home for a box is simple to figure out.

Our shelves are all 4 feet long and we didn’t see a need for more fine-grain addressing. In the previous space we had a name for each bench, letters went up the shelves above the bench, and numbers went left to right, starting at zero. There was no code for bench top because nothing should live there! Even the 3d printers are on shelf A and the filament above it on shelf B. If they need to be fixed they come down to the bench long enough to get mended.

Continual refinement

Eat it, breath it, dream it, live it: Kaizen. Always be on the lookout for something that could be better. If you can’t find any more try asking someone else.

Speaking of which… I’ve shared my successes & failures. How about you?

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