Thursday, February 23, 2012

Stacks on Trays


Photo courtesy Flickr

At the moment, I’m mushing blindly toward some kind of maintenance summit. A number of small make and mend projects have accumulated close to the television, the only sane place to do such work. The TV’s in the 1890 version of a rec room, called the family parlor. It’s just off the pass pantry, a staging area between the living/dining area of the parlor and the noise and smells of the production kitchen.

The pass pantry has counter space on three sides of a small room, and it’s ideal for staging projects, or meals, for that matter. I have a dozen cafeteria-sized melamine trays that I picked up at the Great Big Northern European Home Furnishings Store. They’re the second set of a dozen trays I’ve bought-the first set were basketry and wore out. Every household should have at least a dozen identical trays. They’re critical for getting work done and for casual meal service. Commercial aluminum baking sheets or half sheets are chilly, effective, and recyclable.

The pantry seems to have been designed to support trays. Back in the day, the housekeeping staff was canny about setting up for the next meal while cleaning up after the current one. It was standard practice to set the breakfast table after the dinner dishes were washed. I often do the same, but set trays rather than trotting back and forth setting the table.

Each pesky maintenance chore sits on its own tray, so I don’t have to make basic decisions about the work flow more than once. They’re ordered in casual priority and fortunately, some tasks are flat enough that I can pile one on another. There’s a Japanese design principle that says to make room in the work flow so that when you get something done, there’s a place to put it. That’s the best and most effective argument for setting an interior to rights that I know.

A beloved uncle was a career Marine who worked with electronics. One day when he was back in the US, I happened to glance at his tool kit, recognizing almost nothing. Uncle James said the most important tool in the kit was the hammer  he used to demolish gear that was too far gone to be worth repairing but sound enough to generate hope.

What really counts in maintenance is turn around time. The tray system makes it impossible to hide the work. Keeping the Shamrock rolling tool chest in a corner of the kitchen has cut half an hour off the prep and clean-up time of each piece of work.

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