Since I was a little kid I always dreamed of having my own lab at home. While my friends wanted to be astronauts or police officers, I was content with the idea of being a mad scientist, toiling away in his basement on his latest crazy invention. Well ya'know, I did also want to be an astronaut but that's a whole different story.

Then as I got older I made the questionable decision of allowing my passion for technology to draw me into the IT industry. I had the skills and the money wasn't bad, but it wasn't what set my soul on fire. Then came kids, and with them the all-too-slow realisation that decades had passed without truly nourishing what my soul desired - to create!

So here I am, a 40-odd year old IT professional, with a broad set of skills (jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none) and a passion to create new things. What to do?

Sounds like its about time to build that home lab I always dreamed about!

Location, location, location

The first order of business is to choose a location, of course. But where to put it?

We built this house with a home office that we called "the computer room" which is where my computer lives, along with all of the kids' as well. It is almost exactly 10 sq metres - about the size of a small bedroom. For the first few years I occupied it by myself with a small amount of desk space for the odd child who needed to use their laptop. But as the kids needed to use their laptops more, it became apparent that a room with a random assortment of desks wasn't going to cut it.

So in September 2019 I decided it was time to re-imagine the room by building a series of benches to line all the walls. This would allow maximum use of the space with minimal fuss. I measured it all out and made the trip to Bunnings to buy four large lengths of timber benching and a bunch of table legs.

Here is what it looked like before.. well, after I cleaned out the boxes of crap I had stored in there.

After that photo was taken, I pulled out my PC, moved out the desks and gave the floor a bloody good vacuum!

Then, bring in the benches! No progress shots from the build of those, but the assembly was a piece of cake. One of them needed a 400mm trim which I got Bunnings to do for me when I bought the timber, and the rest fit perfectly at stock length - WIN! Just needed to screw on the legs (6 per bench on the full-length ones and 4 on the shorter one) and Bob's your mother's brother.

Nothing too fancy but serviceable. You can even see my 3D printer (Cocoon Create ModelMaker in the background). The plan was that the space to my right would be where I set up a small electronics / 3D printing workbench and then the rest of the space can be for the kids. Humble, but a start.

So after the above photo was taken, we bought some office chairs and set up permanent spots for the kids. And then the boxes came back in. With a vengeance. We had so much crap in the house and soon every bit of free space above and below the benches was occupied by boxes, and random other stuff that needed to be stored.

My assortment of random electronics gear (Arduino stuff mostly) was packed into boxes for later review. Except that review never came. As we worked on decluttering other parts of the house, as well as emptying our storage unit (which had all of the clutter from our previous house still contained within) there just didn't seem to be any time to fix my own space. And so, the clutter took over.

And then came COVID.

A New Hope

After spending god-knows-how-long decluttering other parts of the house, my attention finally turned to the Computer Room. I had enough. And I started pulling out boxes of things and going through them. It was cathartic. But also demoralising, because the sheer size of the job really sunk in.

After countless hours and days of hard work, here is the current state of affairs (child included for scale).

Yep, not even kidding. That is AFTER a heinous amount of stuff has come out already!

The future is bright though. I’m starting to work on better ways to store the stuff that belongs in this space, I’ve got a new 3D printer on the way and plans for building a shed out back.

I've decided to get serious about this, so let's go on an adventure together :)

And if you feel inspired by my journey or just want to support me, please buy me a coffee!