The “Immediate Use” rule

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Blog entry by Blake posted 02-15-2008 08:12 PM 1698 reads 0 times favorited 26 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This blog was inspired by another LJ asking if anybody could think of a use for an old table saw fence, since they didn’t want to just get rid of it. I decided to respond in my own blog, so I don’t hijack his blog.

So if you find yourself wondering what use you could possibly come up with for that left over saw part from after the upgrade, or a box of extra plumbing fixtures from a remodel 7 years ago, or that broken table leg you’ve kept,

Or that bucket of random rusty bolts your dad kept around “just in case the right one was in there,” or that stack of recycled wood that you have been putting off using because its still full of nails that would have to be pulled first and its not really worth the effort,

Or that old ice chest with the whole in it that you’ve been meaning to fix (but they came on sale so cheap that you bought a new one), or that old bicycle that you haven’t rode since 1985, or that punching bag you bought in college, or that other radial arm saw you have been meaning to fix up (I’m guilty of this one!),

…consider this…

Why not just get rid of it?

Part of the way I keep my shop organized is making sure I don’t have anything around that I don’t really need. In fact, I go through my whole shop once in a while and just get rid of a ton of stuff that I know I won’t use. Then I reorganize and find that I have a lot more space for the things I do need.

The table saw fence left over from an upgrade is a prime example of one of those things that seems like a great idea to keep, but in five years it will probably still just be on the shelf. It’s just an old craftsman table saw fence. You might be able to come up with a use for it, by why bother? You could easily do without it and use something else.

My shop pretty much goes by the ”immediate use” rule: If I can’t immediately see what I am going to use it for, it doesn’t stay. This is something I came up with when I had to move into student dorms in college and barely had enough space to sleep.

This concept keeps my tiny shop in ship shape and I always know where to find the things I do need. I introduced this concept to my boss and we have been using it at work too. Our store has gotten SO much cleaner and more organized since. We have yet to say “boy, I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of that…” at either shop.

The I.U. rule should be re-evaluated at least once a year. Because you will realize that that item that you didn’t throw out last year (because you saw a use for it) is still just collecting dust in the corner.

I used to be a total pack rat, (and so did my boss) and it’s just a different way of looking at things. “I could probably find a use for this some day…” to “I’m probably not really gonna need this any time soon, or ever for that matter.”

It’s time to look around your shop. What could you get rid of? What haven’t you used for years? How much valuable shop space does it represent? Here in California its time for “Spring cleaning” (you folks in the rest of the country might have to wait a few months)… So this is the perfect time to start making a pile for the yard sale as well as the dump.

And just to rub it in, (sorry, but I must adhere to the Lumberjocks NPDH rule) here are some photos out my front door this morning, where it’s pretty much Spring in February:

So, are you a “pack rat” or have you always conformed to the I.U. rule? Have you thrown anything away lately that has just been lying around forever? Let me know if you decide to try this, and how it goes. I would love to hear about it. In fact, take some before and after pictures and post them here. Give us a list of the things you have either gotten rid of lately, or plan to get rid of.

-- Happy woodworking!

26 comments so far

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4014 days

#1 posted 02-15-2008 08:29 PM

Been wanting to get rid of the neighbors pesky little dog for awhile and your mentioning of salvaging that old ice chest gives me some ideas. Mmmm Hmmm. Yesssss. Maybe a little duct tape too. Could also use one for body parts as well.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Tony's profile


986 posts in 4054 days

#2 posted 02-15-2008 08:42 PM

I am also a horder of what if I can use it bit n pieces – I usually find a use for it sometime

Here is what was outside my front door this morning!



-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View Nils's profile


141 posts in 3888 days

#3 posted 02-15-2008 10:58 PM

Blake – as always, very insightful. Just sitting here at work (hmmm, probably shouldn’t be reading LJ, now, should I?) I can think of a couple of items, including an extra TS fence and two(!) miter gauges, that should just go on to their reward. In a shop the size of mine, those represent some significant fraction of the storage space!

-- Nils Davis, Menlo Park, CA

View Paul's profile


660 posts in 4116 days

#4 posted 02-15-2008 11:07 PM

You’re right. You’re right. I know.

But, if you’re a limited and half-way organized pack rat, (a box of plumbing stuff – a box of electrical stuff – box of heavy electrical cords – machine screws together, wood screws of general size together, etc.) instead of a “throw it in a pile” pack rat or “coffee cans full of every type of screw, bolt or nut” (like my Dad was) . . . . every once in a while you get the supreme satisfaction of moving ahead with a project out of your “might come in handy someday” stuff instead of waiting two weeks for mail order to arrive or burning 150 miles worth of gas to the woodworking store and back.

My greatest time saving success along this line was long ago removing from a re-purposed bed head board the four embedded metal pins on which the bed rails hang . In my projects section I show a restored head and footboard. I was able to go to my hardware cabinet and replace the missing pins with the ones I had saved. I made four others by cutting the smooth section from saved carriage bolts.

I think we agree on the basic point though. All things in moderation. There’s some c**p you will probably never use and it only gets in the way of finding the stuff you will use. My greatest weakness along this line though is throwing away even the smallest scrap of hardwood. What if I want to turn some knobs or carve a chess set?

-- Paul, Texas

View Tim Pursell's profile

Tim Pursell

499 posts in 3806 days

#5 posted 02-15-2008 11:10 PM

So true. I have to be one of the worlds worst pack-rats. I gotta toss out “stuff”! Too many years of a bad habit. Maybe this spring.


View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4012 days

#6 posted 02-16-2008 12:41 AM

But Blake, I have more than 2160 cubic feet to fill up above my shop!

All the stuff there came with me in my move from California. So I still have years and years of packing stuff
away before I need to think about getting rid of anything.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3898 days

#7 posted 02-16-2008 01:11 AM

I wish we all had your problem, Gary… Too much space ;)

By the way, WOOD DOESN’T COUNT in the I.U. rule. No way.

-- Happy woodworking!

View Zuki's profile


1404 posts in 4101 days

#8 posted 02-16-2008 01:30 AM

Blake . . . I think you and DW read from the same page. Sometimes I think if an item collects dust in the house . . . she will get rid of it. Thats why I keep moving. :-)

You did bring up some good points . . . Im gonna have to clean up my shop.

-- BLOG -

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 3839 days

#9 posted 02-16-2008 02:06 AM

How about offcuts. Those are my main weakness. I have two 35gal trash cans full of maple and white oak. And plywood, when is it small enough to throw away?

-- Scott - Chico California

View grovemadman's profile


556 posts in 3795 days

#10 posted 02-16-2008 03:07 AM

I agree with you Blake, I’ll be gittin’ around to that task shortly since I built more shelf space today. I have a gangload of space now. I should have my shop dialed in by next month this time.

-- --Chuck

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4350 days

#11 posted 02-16-2008 03:38 AM

I’m a recovering multiple generation pack-rat. I’ve always bounced between extremes of living in a museum and a monestary. (the latter has always felt better.) A friend of mine in High School grew up with a military dad, and wasn’t allowed more than 2 boxes of possessions. I could never have done that at the time, and am now envious of such rules.

When I was an exchange student, I managed to live out of two suitcases. why did my childhood bedroom erupt to fill a 1000 SF apt, then a 2000 SF home?

I do have some plastic bins, one for plumbing, electrical, etc… those don’t seem to be a problem, but all those coffee cans and grocery bags…

Thanks for this post, I am going to take this dictum to heart. For the house AND the home. Any projects I’ve started (and don’t forsee finishing) and all those containers of assorted junk are gonna be gonzo!

re: wood. I try not to save anything under 1 BF except for hardwood that can still be put on the lathe.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3807 days

#12 posted 02-16-2008 04:09 AM

I agree wholeheartedly. And while I’m here, if there’s anyone out there who wants to implement Blake’s suggestion and get rid of your hand tools, shoot me an email! Come on, you know you don’t need those ol’ things. Power tools are the future – embrace it and send me those junky relics sitting at the bottom of your tool chest.


-- Eric at

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4350 days

#13 posted 02-16-2008 04:27 AM

Funny Eric. Funny.


-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4424 days

#14 posted 02-16-2008 04:31 AM

I’m glad you threw in that wood rule Blake. I was wondering what I was going to do with all that 30 yr old cherry and walnut and 3 yr old cherry. etc.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4184 days

#15 posted 02-16-2008 01:35 PM

My family has the packrat gene and we were just discussing this at our last bonfire breakfast!

My aunt is know to have “everything” and people from her church, whenever in need of something, say “Hey, ask you-know-who. She’ll have it!” OR “This isn’t good for anything. I’ll give it to so-and-so. She’ll want it.” So all the “non-packrats” do all their storing at my aunt’s place and they know where to go when they want something.

Another point made was that all these antique collectors wouldn’t have had anything to collect if it wasn’t for the packrats of days gone by. We are saving the treasures for the next generations to discover.

Long live the packrats!!!

And here is a picture taken from my front door last week. Notice that there are no palm trees.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

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