Messy Ham Shack (Chronicles of the Ham Radio Horder!)

Does your shack look like this?  I know most of the time mine does.  For the past year I have been contemplating just how to get a handle on the massive mess that is my shack.

It didn’t always used to be this way.  When I first bought my home, I saw the potential of a finished basement area that would be the ideal man-cave.  I had visions of all my favorite toys/hobbies neatly co-existing in one harmonious space.  In my mind I saw neatly built shelves displaying my massive ham radio collection with plenty of room for a dart board, a pool table and all my favorite bobbles on display while Kate Upton brought me a cold beer in a bikini.  So how did all this just go so terribly wrong?

Now my beloved man cave is a crazy mish-mash of wires, half completed projects, and parts all over the place.  I have noticed that I have small baggies with various parts still in new in unopened packages because I thought I would use it for a project, or something later.

Now, as a Ham I love a good hamfest (who doesn’t?) and find myself going to half a dozen of the flea market fests every year.  I seem to go berserk at these shows every time.  From buying some bits and parts to someone else’s junk that in my mind is the perfect project.  After the trip I seem to go down to the shack and deposit the bag of goodies that I just bought with every good intention on the desk, just to be forgotten in the rest of the clutter.

The Author’s messy workbench.

The Author’s clean workbench (a rarity!)

The worst bit for me is the workbench.  It seems to collect my mess like a huge magnet.  I have purchased the little organizer cabinets and the shelves to properly put things away, but they seldom if ever make it back to their little homes.  Every now and then I can convence myself that if I clean up first, then I can work on whatever project I want to.  This seems to help keep things tidy for a little while at least.

For me the mess just feels so overwhelming at times.  Like I don’t even know where to start with it.  I say things to myself like “If I just had some cabinets, or more shelves, I could keep things tidy.”

But the truth is that I buy and bring to my house too much stuff.  If I didn’t have 1/2 of the stuff I have now it would be easier to manage and keep things clean.  Us hams seem to have the dream of 90 MINT Collins radios <or substitute your favorite collectible boat anchor here> all on display for others to gawk at.  But the reality for most of us is quite different.  Boxes of parts for those favorite boat anchors to get them working stacked on the floor and wires all over the place.

My non-radio appreciating friends call my shack the “Cold War Nuclear Bunker” for it’s resemblance to such a place.  (First off it is underground in my basement, I have a lot of cold war era radio equipment, and lots of old radio books from the 1950’s and 60’s).  What I want is something…well….more….refined.

So, I have put a bit of a plan together.  My plan is to first move everything from my “bunker” place it in boxes and store it neatly in my utility room.  Once everything is moved out, I plan on cleaning the floors and painting the walls (perhaps the shack could use a new fung-shui by a lovely color of paint!)  Then installation of some shelves and cabinets.  Once it is clean to then move back in just the things that I need.  For the remainder, that is stuff for my entry into the flea market of the next local hamfest and or put it on QRZ.

(we’ll see what actually happens here – I am terrible at sticking with plans to clean up my shack).

George Ulm W9EVT’s awesome and tidy shack! (why can’t my shack look like this???)

Perhaps it would be inspirational to look at some clean and organized shacks.  I know there must be some neat and tidy shacks out there (although I would venture to say those shacks would be in the minority for us hams).

I have seen some guys with custom consoles with their gear installed that looked totally awesome.  Some shacks with all rack mount equipment and even built-in shelving systems with automatic doors!

More shelving and cupboards would be nice.  Modern desks seldom come with drawers anymore for whatever the reason, so where do you put things that would be nice to just shove in a cabinet and shut the door on?

Recently I have purchased several of the plastic see-through bins from my favorite local retailer.  I thought these might be good to put various bits and pieces in, but I could still see what was in them, so when I wanted something I can just look at them and see what was inside.  I think this might be a good way to store and organize everything.

My biggest problem really seems to be that when I go down to organize and clean everything, if I cannot get it done the way that I want to, perfectly, then I become disillusioned by the whole process.   This is a bit of perfectionism creeping in which is not a good thing.  People that are perfectionists are known for not getting anything finished beacuse they mainly find out that the world is not perfect and nothing they can do is going to make it so (hey at least I realize my main fault).

Anyway…that’s about enough for this blog post.  I plan on my spring cleaning to start soon and over the course of the next few weekends get things cleaned up a bit at a time.

Now…if I can just stay off the darn radio enough when I’m down there to clean…ta ta for now.

73! de Nick N9SJA

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