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Start at the end to create order out of chaos on site

Nick Inman charts the ups and downs of doing it himself in our regular column... here, the important point of organising work space

When you start a new project – say, like me, a French farmhouse that needs major restoration – you have one big advantage that you shouldn’t let slip away. You can decide where everything goes.

This may seem a secondary concern when you are still planning, but once you are in the thick of building work, you will realise how important it is to organise your space and you’ll wish you did it at the outset. As soon as the first lorry turns up, you have to decide where it all is placed – whether neatly stacked out of the way or placed somewhere you will trip over it every half an hour.

The last thing you want to do is dump everything on the lawn in front of the house until you have time and energy to sort it.

Remember the organisation is not just for you but for anyone who helps you with the house. If they can’t see a system, they’ll stick stuff wherever they feel like it and things will only get worse.

If you arrange a party of friends to bring 200 pantiles down from the roof and tell them to stack them somewhere in the garden with the idea of shifting them to a permanent location later, where they are is where they will stay until the next owner of the house finds them overgrown with ivy.

So, start at the end of the process by deciding where you are going to put your rubbish.

You will generate more than you think. Hack even a small hole in an old wall and you will be surprised at just how much rubble comes out.

A lot of rubbish can and should be recycled. I sort and sieve all building materials, placing it in plastic dustbins or other containers so I know where to find fine sand that I can mix with cement, or coarse rubble to fill a hole.

Everything organic goes on the compost heap, chopped if necessary. Damaged but still serviceable timber can be used as garden poles and fences.

Scraps of wood are stored dry in old removals boxes to go on the stove in winter.

Sawdust I use for mopping up oil or making homemade filler (with wood glue).

Plastic sheet and large pieces of cardboard come in handy for shielding furniture from dust or protecting services while working above them.

Once you have a system of disposal you can start planning where to store new materials.

Some of these are immovable – pallets of bricks or a pile of building sand (also messy).

Some are heavy – sacks of cement – and while you can shift them, you don’t want to have to displace them too often.

These need to be kept out of the way, while the materials you will be working with daily must be near at hand.

All the above does not mean that I am not forever tidying up my own mess, but at least I know where things are supposed to go – and that helps make me feel things are in some sort of order.

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