My time in the shop is precious. When I'm occupied doing other things, I often dream about getting back in the shop and doing some woodworking. But sometimes, I spend a few hours in the shop not woodworking, but cleaning. But isn't that just plain boring? In many ways it is, but in many other ways, it is a chance to rejuvenate my energies and focus on my next projects.
Now, I'm not the type that minds a bit of clutter (in fact, I often tolerate obscene amounts of it on just about every horizontal surface). I like the pile of shavings that grow while I'm in the heat of working on dimensions of doing joinery. But when starting something new, stumbling over old cutoffs and shavings from the last project just feels like an energy drag. Getting those cleaned up and out of the way not only clears away the physical barriers of the last project, but the psychological baggage of it as well.
And cleaning is also great for getting back in touch with how the shop is set up. Getting a good flow going is essential to making good progress while woodworking; moving from task to task, shifting from one operation to another without having to stop and think "ok, now how the hell am I going to move things around to do this?" is paramount. So I find that during the between project clean up a good time to tweak and adjust those things that I put off because I was too busy in the middle of something.
For example, when I replaced my powered miter saw with my hand powered miter box last year, I set the level of the miter box's deck just a hair too low compared to the two countertops on either side that support longer stock. That meant that sometimes when I was at the bottom of a cut, the blade would start to bind as the two pieces pushed in on it. It wasn't bad enough to get me to fix it before, but today, when I was placing it back after cleaning around it, I took the time to set the level correctly. Shop improved. In another case, I had screwed on a holder for storing the 4" dust collector hose that serves my bandsaw and jointer, but I'd used short 3/8" screws, and of course, one day they pulled out. The holder had been sitting on a nearby shelf useless for a couple of months. During this cleaning, I took the time to re-attach it with deeper screws. Etc etc. Not earth shaking, but anything that improves my flow during a project means that much more time of focus on the woodworking, and less on fussing around with some little shop annoyance.
So, finally after a few hours of sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, sorting, storing, labeling, adjusting, moving, and clearing, the shop is back, and ready for new projects.