Purging My Spare Parts Made Me Love My Garage Again

At 32 by 24 feet, my garage is not huge, but it is certainly big enough to work on fun toys and stash away projects. The line between workshop and storage facility can be a tough one to walk, and lately the hoarding portion of my brain has been winning the battle between making progress on projects and accumulating stuff.

After successfully balancing storage and workspace for three years, I found myself at a breaking point. I went out to the garage on a Saturday morning, hot coffee in hand, ready to work on something. I was greeted by the reality that, no matter what project I wanted to work on, I needed to rearrange some pile of stuff in order to get started on it. All three work surfaces—48 square feet of space—were covered.

Honda XR600R engine parts pile
This is supposed to be a no-parking zone! Kyle Smith

Having to shuffle junk to get work done was such a buzzkill that I did little more than pick up something, fiddle with it for a minute, and go back inside the house. The proverbial parking lot was full, the fire lane was occupied, and somehow there was even stuff parked on top. There was no more space to store things, which meant there was no more space to work on things.

This situation demanded that I purge all of my spare motorcycle parts. The stacks of metal and plastic had no real organization. Each bin was labeled “parts.” Just about every Honda XR that has crossed the threshold into this space has been partially, if not fully, disassembled. Some got put back together. For a long time any XR bit that I deemed “usable” I put on a shelf. After three years in this shop, it was time to re-evaluate my definition of what should be saved.

Everything that I had so carefully stacked on a shelf I pulled out and laid on the floor, where each part was inspected, wiped down, and finally sorted before going back onto the shelf—or into the discard pile. The sad reality of the task was learning just how much straight-up junk I was keeping. Why did I need three sets of bent-up foot pegs? Or two frayed clutch cables? Multiple sets of bent handlebars?

My system of storing parts was all wrong. A parts stash should not be a repository of anything that can be useful; it needs to be full of things that are worth storing. With great care I had assembled the perfect place to work on projects and then used it to store scrap metal.

It was a game of keeping the best and culling the rest. I have a few rare pieces and a few valuable ones, and even a couple that are both. I am oddly chuffed about my collection of cylinder heads, so I stored those carefully under the workbench. While most of the bent-up footpeg pile went into the scrap bin for recycling, I kept the best pair because I expect to do a restoration one day and I’m gambling that OEM pegs might be hard to find by then. (Only need one pair, though.) Anything I knew to be OEM-correct and of restoration quality I retained. Dozens of cables became a few good spares that could be used for test fitment or to allow a project to limp along until a new cable arrived in the mail—they are only $8 and still in mass production. The used countershaft sprockets felt so good to expunge that I can’t believe I ever held onto them at all.

Now that I’ve confronted my excess junk, all my projects will progress. The feeling is sublime: A clean workspace primed and ready to take advantage of any spare time I can find. Without the need to clean a spot before being productive, 30 minutes of work is actually 30 minutes of work, not 15 minutes of shuffling and 15 minutes of work. All that time adds up, but if you had told me I could find more time to work on projects by taking out the trash, I’d have called you crazy. Now I know it was me that was crazy. What was my plan for those worn-out rear sprockets, anyway?

 

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