Almost three years ago, in one of my very first posts, I wrote about the dangers of horizontal surfaces.
Horizontal surfaces have a tendency to collect tools, paperwork, parts, discarded gloves… you name it. How much cleaner, neater, and therefore more efficient would our operations be if we could get rid of non-essential horizontal surfaces?
Well, my friends, this is not just a danger at work… but also at home. Look around and admit it. Yes, I already know about your garage, but how about your dining room table? If you’re like me, steeped in the world of lean manufacturing for several years, clutter really gets to you. Perhaps after a long day of 5S’ing your manufacturing operation you simply don’t have the time or energy to address the home, or perhaps you are wise enough to know that your significant other may not be as hypersensitive about clutter as you are. But admit it, it does get to you, doesn’t it? Come on…!
I just shipped my wife and mother in-law off to Kona for a few days of R&R, so here I am in the house thinking about projects for the weekend. I don’t have far to look, and I realize I may have my work cut out for me. Want to take a quick tour?
Let’s begin in the dining room. The dining table itself is fairly clean, probably because it is rarely used. We generally eat more casually in the den, and the dining room is a bit out of the way. But we have one of those low built-in serving counters that separates the formal dining from the breakfast nook and kitchen, and it happens to be on the path from the front door to the main part of the house. So what happens on that horizontal surface? It becomes a repository for junk mail, in-process home/work transfer, and even a couple of old granite samples from when we remodeled our kitchen… six months ago. Want to know what’s stored in the cupboards beneath the counter? I don’t know… but I do know whatever it is hasn’t been used in several years.
So speaking of the breakfast nook… we rarely eat breakfast at home, prefering to relax at our local coffee shop. The local atmosphere in California’s last working fishing village can be rather interesting. Although the nook has a nice view of the ocean, it is rarely used, and therefore collects… stuff. Pens, papers, Christmas cards that haven’t been sent yet… you name it.
Let’s move on to the kitchen. Although the counter does look cluttered, it actually gets cleared daily. This is partly due to the fact we remodeled the kitchen several months ago, so now we like to keep it clean. I wonder if that will continue. But between the kitchen and the casual den there’s another horizontal surface… a low counter. And we know what that means…
Yep, a place to put stuff. A couple clipped newspaper articles, rice bag, some sort of exercise stretch band thingy… And don’t even look at the horizontal built-in shelves below it! Notice all that stuff stuck on the refrigerator? Some nice photos, but also reminders for appointments from a year or two ago and the occasional magnet chotsky. One of the few situations where a vertical surface can be as bad as a horizontal surface. We are replacing it with a new stainless steel fridge in a couple weeks… with the hidden side benefit being that magnets won’t stick!
On to the casual den itself, where there’s what most people would say is a nice shelf under a huge bay window. A great view, once you look over the assorted pens, papers, books, TV guide, remote controls, drink cups, and even a laptop. Yes, another evil horizontal surface. Sigh…
Then there’s the bedroom. A similar bay window over the bed, another horizontal surface. A great collector of TV remotes, books and magazines supposedly being read before going to sleep, and assortive decorative items.
Well you get the picture so I won’t bore you with photos of dressers, bathroom counters, assorted coffee and end tables, and my office. It’s actually not that bad. The floor, the largest horizontal surface and therefore potentially the biggest offender, is always clean. There are no clothes or dirty dishes lying around. The "stuff" that somehow finds its way to horizontal surfaces can be easily organized and put in its correct place… and for the most part that happens each week.
Eliminating the horizontal surfaces in a house might make the house lose value in the eyes of traditional homeowners. No counters, tables, or shelves? No built-ins? Egads! I actually wrote about this contrarian proposition last year in a post titled Less Storage Space Desired. But perhaps technology provides hope. Remember how the bedroom TV used to be a shelf? Sure you do! No longer… sort of hard to stack stuff on top of something an inch or so wide. And I could envision some cool architectual features where those shelves beneath the bay windows have an interesting 30 degree downward angle. Someday, when I build my own house.
Before I end I’ll show you one example where a horizontal surface is appreciated… by the two household felines. Especially since this particular surface gets the morning sun.