The thrill of making progress assembling your DIY project can quickly be overshadowed by the frustration of a missing part or piece of hardware that you're pretty sure you set down right there. Despite how confident we all are in our memory and ability to stay organized and remember exactly where each piece went, a little preparation and awareness goes a long way.
Read the tips on Hagerty.com: https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/5-tips-to-stay-organized-in-the-garage/
I do small engine repair, and if I'm unfamiliar with something, I take pictures. One thing I always do if possible, is put screws, bolts & nuts back where they came from instead of having a mess of hardware in a tray and trying to figure out where they came out of.
I use little cheap plastic bags to put all the little parts in w a piece with part description with the part. Good ideas you posted, wonderful thanks! And I totally clean or paint parts as I remove them.
A magnetic white board on the door of a nearby metal cabinet, or your side of your tool box for listing "to-do" tasks is simple and handy. Sure paper works trapped under a wiper, but the dry erase maker in colors possibly signifying degree of importance (ex red/yellow/green) is simple and efficient.
One thing I do is clean as I disassemble and make a note for action on that part of what I need to do before reassembly. So if when I remove the horn and I know it doesn’t work I can make a note to send it out for repair or replacement. That way the part is ready to install when I get to that point instead of installing a bad part.
This works fairly well for me, when I have an item that doesn't have an obvious place to belong, such as a new wrench in my toolbox drawer with the other wrenches, I hold it in my hand and think...if I was looking for this item later, where is the first place I would look to find it? That's where I put it.
I like how the article doesn't correct the problem.....the ' Can't Let It Go Problem" I reached that point about 5 years after we built the new garage. Moving two things to get one was my breaking point.... LET IT GO!!!!!! Don't box it up and find a spot for it.....LET IT GO.......
Here's one that's served me well for decades: Keep tools and supplies in separate storage systems. I used to mix supplies like nuts, bolts, sandpaper, glue in with the wrenches, sockets, pliers and other stuff. It was maddening. Consciously separating them out makes finding that special tube of Loctite a lot easier.
Another rule I follow is to clean the shop/garage/work space before starting a job and ALWAYS after. If the floor is clean, it's far easier to find that retaining clip that sprung off than a floor covered with leaves and dirt.
I never close a drawer completely on my tool chest until all the tools that go in that drawer are back in and in their spot. It really helps when cleaning up and I notice that some tool is still where it's not supposed to be by simply glancing at my tool chest.
I am a strong believer in seeing what you got! I used to have much of my hand tools hanging from peg hooks on a full sheet of 8ft X 4ft pegboard. When I moved I decided to go to a much bigger tool chest instead and save some walking. Bought all the little organizers, dividers, blah blah. Well, after about 9 months, I hung new peg board, emptied my new chest, sold it, and never looked back. I can find what I want in a flash and just as important as I get older - when I'm done with a project I can instantly see dozens of tools and if there missing wrench or socket or screwdriver that I left under the hood or rolled under the seat, I go looking for it.
I really appreciate this article and the time everyone took to add comments. I am always wondering if there are ways I can be more organized, so every suggestion helps, if only to confirm I am pretty well organized. I organize my storage of shop supplies grouped together the way my auto parts store organizes its customer access area - oil and grease together, aerosol lubricants together, autobody supplies together, clips and fasteners separate from nuts and bolts, etc. They figured a logical organization of products, so I just use theirs. "Bolts in baggies" is a good idea - I write where they came from on a slip of paper and slip it in the bag. I have a workbench and a separate parts table for new, rebuilt, and waiting to be rebuilt parts. My workbench is covered with sheet metal - a good hard surface and easy to clean up spills - and I dont accumulate parts repairs in progress on my workbench. Specialized tools are stored together, away from other tools. If I buy a special tool for something, such as stainless repair, the tool goes with the supplies for that, so that I am not tempted to grab it to use for something it should not be used for (or someone does not borrow it to use for something it should not be used for). On the other hand, general purpose tools always go with like tools so I don't have to remember what I use to tool for last time. My shop is not a storage room for the lawn mower and sports equipment. And, finally, I have lots of cabinets and drawers to store everything away in. Realistically, this is my plan, but apparently I am still in training to accomplish it.
Back in my gunsmithing days, my mentor gave me this tip. Peel a trip of two inch masking tape and put it sticky side up on the bench. When you're doing something on a delicate item, such as a carburetor, put each screw, spring, etc. on the tape in the order it came off. It's kind of like the egg carton idea but it won't scatter things across the shop if it gets accidently knocked off the bench.
When I am starting a disassembly on my workbench I lay out a fresh sheet of builder's paper, the kind that is used to protect floors and such. It makes it easy to clean the bench after you're done, just roll it up and throw it away along with all the grease, oil and other crud.
A lot of us buy a "parts car", but don't keep it assembled because we lack the space. If you have a lot of parts that aren't going to be used any time soon, get them out of the garage. The running joke is that I've got a three-car garage and a two-car attic, but keeping it all bagged and tagged and stored out of harms way sure makes doing work in the garage a lot easier.
When rebuilding components with lots of small parts, e.g. carburetor, etc., I use styrofoam egg cartons to keep the parts organized. As I go through disassembly, I place the parts in the cells of the egg cartons going from left to right in the order I disassemble the component. On reassembly, I just go in reverse order, emptying each cell as I go.
I also save and use plastic containers with snap-on lids that lunch meats come to store small parts in until time for reinstallation. Painter's tape and a sharpie pen make quick, removable labels that I stick on the ends of the containers that are easily readable when stacking the containers several high on metal storage shelves.
i have tried using sandwich bags as has been suggested, and for certain items, the only way to go. for lots of small stuff, not. at my age i have lots of empty pill bottles, plastic lids that lock. peel off the lable, and use painters tape to id contents (eg horn mount bolts), easier to search through than baggies. the other good suggestion i saw was to re-install the fasteners into whatever threaded holes they came out of, especially when they all have different lengths, eg a water pump mounting. PS anybody need pill bottles? LOL
I use a plastic parts box from Harbor Freight. Print a number over each compartment on the lid. Put nuts and bolts in each and write the compartment number on sheet of paper with corresponding number and description on it
I like using those small sauce cups that come with takeout for organizing small parts, put a label on the lid, then closing it up. Also, when possible, put fasteners back in place after removing the part.
Cell phones these days are a godsend. Not only can you take a photo but also video. I use the video function to make sure of the sequence of which a part comes apart & the proper way to reconstruct it! You can also make comments on your video if needed.
With big projects I always keep a clipboard near by to make a note of parts that need to be ordered.
I make it a habit to save those Chinese food trays and the soup containers our take-out comes in. They are very handy for those little parts Kyle was showing.
Been doing the "final" assembly on my "Blue Heinz" 57 Chevy project recently and found it very convenient to load the top of one of my Rubermaid carts with a bunch of the most common tools (sockets, extensions, ratchets, combo wrenches, etc. Really convenient to just roll the cart over right next to wherever you are working. Very quickly, everything finds its "normal" place on the cart so it's easy to keep it organized and everything is right there whenever you need it.
One of the best practices I learned in my 34 years at Lockheed is " clean as you go". Keeping your work place clean and organized is essential when you are working on aircraft. When you finish one operation it's good practice to clean up, sort the parts you've been working on and put up tools that you won't need for the next operation. At break times (lunch, dinner) everything should be orderly and cleaned up. At the end of the day tools should be put back where they belong and you should spend a few minutes cleaning up.
I remember Art Balbini my auto shop teacher at Mira Costa HS in Manhattan Beach, CA calling for "clean-up" 15 minutes before the bell rang. Sort of stuck with me. Wife gives me the "15 minute warning" before dinner, and I stop what I'm doing and get things cleaned and put away. Makes it more fun to get back at it when I am able