Engineer’s guide to housekeeping

So, you have been a geek your entire short life. At this rate your chances of getting hitch and having a lived in house mate :) is practically nil. An engineer likes nothing better than to hide behind his workbench all day tinkering on his stuffs. There is hardly time for his meal let alone cleaning up after himself. But that is no excuse for living in a pigsty.

The last months or so, I have been letting things slide and it has resulted in a mess. As I spend the week cleaning up, I got plenty of time for reflection on what went wrong. There is a mental list I kept, which helped in the past. But unemployment (yeah, tough luck in this stupid economic crisis) has made me forgot the list. Thus, a week wasted cleaning things up.

Don’t create a mess

This is the most fundamental point, but we do tend inadvetently to create a mess. Say you got some paperwork. Don’t stack them in the corner of your workbench. As soon as you got it, put it in a proper place.

Every week, I got a bunch of mails: bills and what not. I would stack those somewhere, and get to them over the weekend. During work week, you just want to lie back after work and relax. Being unemployed has throw a monkey wrench at this routine. I got myself occupied with various activities at odd hours. The result has been that the stack of mails kept growing and growing. Now, it is taking me hours to sort through them.

Before putting anything down, think whether that is the right place to put it. If not, you would need to move it to it’s proper place later anyway. So why not do that in the first place and save an additional step.

Get organised

Which is why you need to get organised. Have a system in place where you can put your stuffs away. This system should also make it easy for you to go through the stuffs occasionally and bin outdated materials.

Returning back to the stack of mails, I kept file folders with multiple compartments. Each type of mails went into one compartment in chronological order. Anything older than say, two years, are easily removed and shredded.

Reduce junk

The pack rat mentality is difficult to avoid. And I do admit I fell victim in a few area. For instance, I have a whole collection of books. They were nicely arranged in a corner of the spare room when I first moved in. But I remembered the hassle of lugging huge boxes everytime I moved. So a few years ago, I decided to stop purchasing new books. Any book I couldn’t rent, I either don’t buy it in the first place, or give it / throw it away after I’m done. But occasionally, I still ended up with a few new books and soon, the shelves are overflowing.

The point here is not to purchase stuffs callously. Think what it’s for and how long you are going to use it, if at all. Then, every once in a while, you got to be ruthless and go through the pile of junks you have accumulated and bin anything you haven’t use in a long while.

Innovative storage system

Sometimes, it just make sense to find the perfect innovative storage system. As a example, folding and putting away the cleaned laundry is something we would rather not do. The real time waster here is the folding part; thus, I have done away with it. This is not to say I stuff everything away into the closet and create another mess there, albeit out of sight. Instead, I have a time-saving system: I use clothes hangers for everything except the small items. No folding required, just hang it up neatly in the closet.

For the small items, just throw them into small open shelves in your closet (I have a canvas shelves system from Ikea).


Another problem is cleaning up. Dust and hair gathered quickly, cobweb formed in the corners, the bathroom get dirty, etc. In this modern world, the chores have been made easier by all sorts of innovations.

I use a kick ass vacuum cleaner for the occasional dusting. It easily cut down hours of house cleaning to a couple of minutes. Until robot butler becomes available cheaply, I uses a Roomba for cleaning the floor.

More time to hide …

With some good habits, you could take the chores out of house chores. Hence, more time to hide behind the workbench.

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