The Amateur Amateur: Sad Shack
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
No matter what, straightening up the shack will require
buying something new!
February 20, 2005
My shack is a
mess. I can barely move around in it because of all the stuff on the
floor. Every surface is littered with junk. There is no proper desk,
so I can only sit near
my transceiver or near
computer--and then I must lean waaaay
forward in my chair to
use them. I have no decent surface on which to write. I frequently
lose things in the shack and often buy duplicates of items I didn't
know I already had. I didn't start out planning to have a messy
shack, but, then, who really does?
I don't want visitors to see how the rest of my
to clean up the clutter. I don't necessarily want to make my shack a
showcase, because I don't really plan to take anyone down there. (For
starters, I wouldn't want anyone to see how awful the rest
the basement looks.) No, I just want a shack where I can sit
comfortably and enjoy Amateur Radio. Just three things are holding me
back: Money, moving, and sorting.
If nothing else,
I'm sure most of you can identify with the money
matter what I have on hand, straightening up the shack will require
buying something new. In my case the new item most likely would be a
desk or computer table. In fact, my wife Nancy and I recently went
shopping for one. We drove to a nearby office supply store and spent
a long time comparing the virtues of one desk over another. Would
this one be large enough for both the computer and the transceiver?
Would that one fit in the available space? Was the nice oak one deep
enough to hold my computer monitor?
In the end we
finally selected the one that should have been an obvious choice from
the get go--the most expensive one. We then wearily dragged ourselves
up to the checkout counter only to be told that particular model was
out of stock. At once disappointed (it had taken a long time to
select the perfect
model) and elated (we wouldn't have to
spend all that money) we drove home and deferred the whole matter of
getting a desk for the shack to some later date.
I can only sit near my transceiver.
As for the
issue, well, let's just say I'm not as hale and hearty
(nor as young) as I once was. Not that I wasn't just
when I was young, but at least I could move heavy stuff around
without fear of putting myself out of commission for a month. You
see, no matter what I decide to do with my shack, it will undoubtedly
involve moving something large, something that probably doesn't want
to be moved, something that will likely get very upset if I do
try to move it.
outcome will be one of the following: (1) The object won't budge at
all until I apply sufficient force, then it will break. (2) The
object won't move at all until I apply sufficient force, then I
will break. (3) The object won't move at all until I apply
sufficient force, at which point it will suddenly break free and
crash into something else, which will fall over and strike a third
object, and so on until the cascading disaster has destroyed
everything in the basement and seriously weakened the foundations of
No, I am not
looking forward to the moving
part of rehabilitating my shack.
And then there is
stage. As I said, the floor and all surfaces are
littered with junk. Some of it is useful, some very likely is not.
Either way, fixing up the shack will require going through all of
it--every odd bit of wire, every strange gizmo whose function has
been forgotten over time--and deciding what to do with it.
Should I throw it
away? That would be the easiest choice, because if I decide to keep
an item, I must then find a place to stash it. I know that will be a
tough decision, because if I'd known where to put it in the first
place, it wouldn't have would up on the floor. Not only that, but I'd
better put it someplace where I can find it later, assuming that I'll
ever use it. This means putting it where it is very visible or
storing it in a well-labeled container. And, of course, I will need a
lot of containers. And labels. So sorting is not only labor
intensive, it is also mentally stressful.
One byproduct of sorting through the disorder is discovering
One byproduct of sorting through the disorder is discovering unfinished
projects. I might, for instance, find an adapter I was building that
has a PL-259 connector on one end and bare wire on the other.
"Oh yeah, I
meant to get a BNC connector for the other end of that," I'll
muse, dropping it onto my workbench and promptly feeling the very
fact of its existence slipping away once more.
though, I will discover a lot of stray papers, notes, plans and such.
Some of them will contain dates and frequencies, possibly for some
nets of interest, or perhaps for some events that I probably missed.
Many of the notes will relate to projects I've contemplated or even
started, but never actually pursued. There are, for example, lots of
notes on packet radio, Morse code practice, weather nets, slow scan
television, amateur satellites, and dozens of other subjects that I
have, however briefly, considered interesting.
These papers are
both harder and easier to sort than physical items. They are harder
to sort because if I still intend to follow up on the subject matter,
then I'll need to start a notebook or a folder and properly file
them. Generally, though, they are easier to sort because the
information they contain is hopelessly out of date, and I can simply
column was probably a bad idea. After cataloging all of the
difficulties attendant to cleaning up my shack, I find that I no
longer have the enthusiasm to follow through with it. If only I had
some valid reason to avoid the task.
When is the ARRL's "Messiest Shack" competition?
Editor's note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant,
Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name
-- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a
rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His
wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related
Readers are invited to contact the author via e-mail,
© 2005 American Radio Relay League