Managing Limited Desktop Space and Multiple Projects





Introduction: Managing Limited Desktop Space and Multiple Projects

I have many varied interests,  and most  require some amount of free work space on my desk.  I do not always finish what I've started in one sitting, or one day, or even one week.  In the mean time, the space occupied by whatever current project often needs to be cleared for something else.   It got to be a drag to have relocate numerous tools, wires,  bits of this and that, especially if I had something in a precarious stage of assembly.    I can't afford to have a different desk for every project, so I've settled on the next best thing: different self-contained work areas.  It's a crazy simple but super effective solution.

Step 1: The Limited Work Area

This is my desktop on a god day.   I have a industrial banquet table for my desk, and it holds  assorted hardware, such as a 24" monitor, a printer, and some audio  equipment.   There's a area I clear that's generally sufficient for assembly activity, such as making popup books or hacking on an Arduino.

I've placed two rulers in the picture to give a sense of size.

Step 2: Filling the Space

When  I have  a project, rather than just working directly on the desktop, I use a serving tray instead.  Not everything always fits, but the main goal is to use it to hold items that would be awkward to otherwise move then later recreate.

In this picture I'm playing around with  an Arduino Lilypad.  If i need this space for something else I can easily pick up the tray without everything on it and place it elsewhere within having to dismantle stuff.

Step 3: Reusing the Space

If I decide to change projects and work, say, on a popup book, I just move the one tray and bring over another, with the project still intact.

Note that when moving and storing a tray I often need to do some stacking, which I'l unstack when actually using the tray contents.  But I do manage to avoid having to individually relocate dozens of pieces.

Step 4: Where Projects Sleep

I have more free shelf space than free desk space, so the Neurogami laboratory has assorted trays shelved here and there.

Step 5: Materials

I purchased a number of basic plastic trays of assorted colors at Target,  for about USD $1 each.   They work pretty well, though there is some slight bowing in the middle of the tray.

If you find that you need a more solid flat surface consider getting metal cookie baking  trays.   They're likely going to be more expensive than plastic trays, but still relatively cheap (about  USD  $6  each).  If you are reluctant to do your work on a metal surface you can cover it with contact paper.

You need to be mindful of the tray depth, and the size of the tray handles.  In my initial tray hunt I came across some nice solid plastic trays that would have worked great but the side walls were too high.  High tray walls can get in the way of your hands, like working inside of a box.  Wide tray handles are not a problem per se, but they increase the amount of free desk and shelf space you need for the tray, and you are better off finding longer trays with short handles to maximize your work area.



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    With many projects going the tray idea is Great, Being a "piler" this will
    help keep small stuff. Banquet tables are great also!

    pink wire.jpg

    Banquet tables are *solid*. You could probably dance on one. They're also relatively cheap.

    Better the spend furniture money on a better chair then a fancy desk.

    This is a great storage idea thanks so much for sharing. I'm setting up a space in the corner of my workshop single garage for doing my electronics projects and have been wondering how to accommodate multiple unfinished projects in the one space. Using your idea I'm making some 15"x20" trays using left over thin ply I have and gluing 1/4" edges round them to stop bits rolling off.

    Thanks to others also for contributing too with the tray storage ideas. I'm building a rack out of an old computer desk frame I have, which will roll under the workbench, to store the trays in.

    ingenious! like it!

    I want to design a shelf just for project storage. I also want trays without rims, the rims would hurt my arms. Maybe little slices of foam padding as a short rim. The shelves would resemble a small flat file. Thanks for getting me thinking.

    "I also want trays without rims, the rims would hurt my arms. Maybe little slices of foam padding as a short rim."

    Rims are tricky. I looked at a number of trays that were quite solid and maybe a little larger than the typical cookie tray, but the walls were always just too high making it awkward to reach in and around. On the other hand, having at least some sort of rim keeps things from rolling or sliding off, especially when moving trays around.

    A tray with foldable sides would be ideal.

    Unfortunately I may be forced from my small rural property into a small apartment. With only myself, I don't have to make comprise with anyone. I don't care it looks like I'm living in the middle of a workshop. Visitors that matter will adjust.

    I have the same "problem" there any "help" for us?

    "The Cult of Done Manifesto" by Bre Pettis and Kio Stark may help:

    My summary: Don't waste your time chasing perfection - you may never catch it! Everything is a draft - you can always do it again better next time if that becomes necessary!

    Thanks...we all need a "little help" at times..