The rules of time and stuff

Human nature dictates that we acquire stuff. For some, it’s books or real estate. But for people like us who make things, itís tools, jars of nuts and bolts, rolls of wire, and stacks of wood.

Unfortunately, the need to acquire stuff is not counterbalanced by a need to get rid of stuff. Consequently, we end up with cabinets and garages and sheds full of stuff. Most of this accumulation is never used. Often this is because we can never find exactly what we need at the moment or we don’t have time to go through all of that stuff looking for a 3/8″ fine-thread nut when one can be had at the hardware store for a nickel.

We tend to procrastinate when it comes to doing something about all of the stuff, telling ourselves that one of these days we will go through it all and organize it. The problem is we never find the time. If we had the time, we never would have allowed this situation to develop in the first place.

The rule of time: You cannot find time, nor can you make time. The only way to get time is to take time.

The rule of stuff: Never bring an item into your shop without getting rid of an item.

Follow these rules and you will never find yourself overwhelmed by stuff and you will always have time to maintain the balance.



  • Don says:

    David is absolutely right on. My shop is jammed pack with stuff. Of course, all items are sometime need for a project. Another area of excess is in trade publictions. I save every one.

  • Chuck says:

    oops – I meant Amen, Brother!!

  • Dan Levin says:

    I agree with you 100%. Up until November of 2008, I had a cabinet shop in southeastern Connecticut. It was FULL of lumber that I had either bought or gotten for free. All of the free wood was from pallets. About ten years ago, I learned from Norm Abram how to build furniture out of pallet wood. Collecting the wood turned from an occasional pallet or two to an almost daily disease of hunting and bringing back to my shop as much as my vehicle could carry. I built many beautiful pieces for myself, ranging from a footstool to an entire bedroom set. In November, 2008, the economy and the foreclosure crisis caught up to me and I lost everything. As it turns out maybe losing all that wood was a blessing in disguise. Now I live in Burbank and I’m getting ready to start all over.

  • Patrick McCauley says:

    I have the 3 move rule.

    If I have to move something “I may need someday” to get at something else “that might come in handy” three times with out using it, then it goes.

    If it gets used, it’s status gets reset to zero.

    Works for me, well, sort of…


  • Curt says:

    I just can’t part with my stuff, I love my stuff! Would someone please point me the way to Stuffaholics anonymous

  • jayb says:

    I just moved 30 years of accumulated tools and hardware to a place in the country. remodeling my house and building a new shop are planned along with organizing all the thousands of nuts,bolts,screws and hardware i’ve accumulated. figure if i sort through all my stuff 3 or 4 hours a day for the next several months when my shop is built i will be organized for the first time in my life.Is this a pipe dream? I bought your book DeCristiforo on tools in 1977 and that was the start of my lifelong obsession on collecting tools and stuff to go along with it. I remembered writing you a letter thanking you at the time but i forgot to ask you about about “stuff” addiction. I guess its too late cause I still like finding some useless little piece of hardware and saying “oh yeah that was from that silly job in 85” the stuffaholics idea is a good one for us pack rats but i’m already in the procrastinators club.

  • Randy Walker says:

    You are so right Dave you HAVE to take time to clean your shop. I did it two years ago. I planned a weekend in late March. I told my wife and kids not to plan anything for me, that I intended to work on the shop all weekend long. Late that Friday night I got an emergency call from a friend of mine. He had been overwhelmed by large fish at a nearby lake and begged me to help him. I tried to explain that I had plans but he just wouldnít take no for an answer, so I ended up catching and cleaning fish all weekend instead. I havenít been able to make time since then.
    Randy Walker

  • Lonnie Major says:

    I can’t think of anybody I know that does not have a collected stuff addiction. I have certain things I made when I was in High School back in 1972! My artistic nature won’t let me get rid of it. Aside from that, there are times I have lost a lot of stuff I really needed due to having to relocate. It seems we are all in the same predicament.

  • Tom Ricci says:

    Now more than ever might be the time to get this problem under control. Many shops, business’and homes will become smaller or static in the years ahead. We may never see the kind of business activity that we have experienced in the last decade. Junk can be incredibly useful and valuable if you can get your hands on it when you need it and it is kept in good shape. Many trips to the store are avoided if your stash is organised. If you can’t properly store your “treasures” don’t bother collecting them. Your time would be better spent tuning up/maintaining the equipment you have, cleaning out the cruddy corners (fire hazards)of your shop, organizing jigs and fixtures. It boils down to valuing your time (finite), against the ‘stuff’,(infinite)!
    Have Fun!

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