How to confront your Gunpla backlog during quarantine

There’s a global pandemic going on, and Gunpla builders are doing their part to self-quarantine and help flatten the Covid-19 curve. If you’re lucky enough to be stuck at home, that means ample time to finally tackle that massive Gunpla backlog. Feeling flummoxed on how to begin the task? Contributor Julie Low, who previously taught us about photography, has the answers:

With everything going on in the world currently, taking care of yourself is vital to helping you to recharge and take care of others. So you shouldn’t feel guilty about focusing on your hobbies in this difficult time. Staying responsibly indoors can be a great opportunity to approach Gunpla from a different way than usual: by taking inventory of your mobile kit backlog at home.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an incredibly messy person. I’m the type to just leave tools lying around, to be content with my own sense of chaos that is my desk, and to rely purely on memory and assumption when starting, or resuming, any project. However, speaking from personal experience, that just leads to more stress and frustration over time, and I think I can safely assume we all need less of that at the moment.

While some of the ideas and suggestions I give may be things you’ve already tried or heard about, trust me when I say they really do work. So humour me for a moment or two with these tips:

Clean Your Desk

My workspace tidied up while not in use.

Not to sound too much like the overbearing Chinese auntie I’m slowly transforming into, but keeping a neat and tidy workspace is crucial. It’s a chore we all dislike to some degree, but it’s true that by maintaining a workspace that’s free of clutter, you’re also keeping the clutter out of your head.

Even if it’s just a temporary sweep of every scrap into a spare box you have and every bit of rubbish into a wastebasket, it’s a good start to getting you on the right track. You’ll find it becomes a somewhat therapeutic ritual as you declutter and start to better understand what is and isn’t needed in your Gunpla space. You don’t necessarily need to go full Marie Kondo and question which tools and supplies make your soul happy! Just figure out what bare essentials are always necessary on your table and add and subtract from there.

It’s also important that your Gunpla space be separate from your regular workspace if that’s possible for your living situation. It can be your coffee table, any spare counter space you have, or even where you normally eat so long as it’s cleaned before and after. Your Gunpla space should be a separate place for fun. This is similar to the principle of trying not to bring work home, which is unavoidable for so many of us at the moment. Making space to keep your hobbies and job separate can signal to your brain when it’s time to unwind.

Sort Your Sprues

I organise spare Gunpla parts in a plastic tackle box.

Gunpla is a great hobby in terms of it providing a great starting point for any type of organisation. The kit box has everything you need in it to build your standard model, so there’s your storage space, right? Well, consider the amount of physical space each cardboard box takes up. Sure, HG and RG boxes don’t seem like much, but any of us who’ve been in the game for even a few months can attest to how quickly you become an unintentional pack rat with how high those piles of boxes quickly stack up.

Organisation is key. Once you have a clean and tidy set-up, you can figure out an organisational tool that works best for you. A few ideas:

  • A simple plastic tackle box can help you divide spare parts into compartments by colour or sprue;
  • A tiny set of drawers allows you to stack your parts vertically to maximize a smaller amount of desk space;
  • A metal file organizer that can sort your sprues side-by-side. You’ll be able to see all the sprues for one project at a glance without taking up too much space;
  • You can use spare boxes, like shoeboxes, to consolidate several projects into. Label them with painters’ tape so you know which projects are inside which boxes.

Luckily these are all things you can easily find at local stores or even at home. Places like Muji, IKEA, Target, or a hardware store will all stock these types of storage and organisation solutions. If you’re able to get them delivered directly to your door so you can keep safe inside, all the better!

If those suggestions don’t fit you, though, you could even go fancier and get a sprue holder, like this one on Etsy. I have one that I got from eBay years ago and it’s a pretty handy tool. It lets you keep track of a typical HG kit’s worth of sprues all at once, while taking up a relatively low footprint on your workspace as it can be folded up and stored in any desk drawer when not in-use. This is more suitable, though, for folks who don’t have a Gunpla backlog haunting them and are just occasional builders.

Resist Unnecessary Purchases

They say there’s two hobbies within Gunpla: Building/painting your kits and buying them. This is all too true, as any of us fixated on the hobby can attest to. It’s nothing weird, it’s the same for any retail therapy. Clicking a button or swiping a card and having something brand new and shiny sets off a nice little dopamine kick in our brains. However, that high doesn’t last forever and before you know it, you have more kits than you have shelf space.

If you’re the blessed person who already has enough restraint to only buy a kit after every build is complete, then you’re already set. But for the rest of us, this is a discipline that must be built up through practice. I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else. It’s hard to ignore the siren call of a new kit still in shrink-wrap or a limited P-Bandai item spotted on eBay for a discounted price, or some cute SD kits that can distract you during a lunch break. You just gotta say no, though.

Look around your hobby space. Are there still another one or two kits, at least, lying around still incomplete or even in their original box? Hold off on that new purchase then. If you’re truly intent on putting any dent into your Gunpla backlog during this difficult period, then it’s time to exercise smart purchasing habits. New kits come and go, better deals will always crop up, and your old plastic is just begging to be built, posed, and displayed. Don’t deny it that opportunity. Finish what you’ve started, and it’ll make it all the more rewarding when you do get that fun new delivery in the next time you order something.

Try Using A Kanban Board

My Gunpla Kanban board in Trello.

This is still a new tool to me, but it’s so far been helpful in my hobby progress. Basically a Kanban board is a tool used in project management that helps you visualise goals by laying out your backlog, your current projects, future projects, and what you’ve completed so far. You can make your own with some free wall space and a few different colors of sticky notes. It’s a really simple idea, but I find it’s effective at helping me better understand focus on a To-Do list.

The best thing about a Kanban board is that you can make it suit your own personal needs. I’ve seen variations where people add their wish lists as a potential reward column, once they’ve finished a certain amount of their backlog. Some people prefer theirs to be a purely digital tool, something they whip up in Word or Excel, while others also prefer a physical board with post-it notes and cards. I’ve seen people organise multiple Kanban boards for their HGs, MGs, and RGs separately so they can shuffle around projects more easily. A few even have been using theirs to plan for the next Gunpla Builders World Cup. Personally, I have a Kanban board that I keep in the digital organising service, Trello, which you can see above.

Kanban boards are an incredibly versatile way to organise your thoughts, and it’s definitely worth a try. Even just keeping it simple at first with only “To-Do” and “Completed” columns can better help you focus. The goal of a Kanban board also gives you a concrete visual piece of evidence, beyond your kits themselves, of your own hobby progress. After using it for a short while, it’s really nice to pull mine up and see just how many projects I’ve completed over a few days, which leads into my last point.

Be Kind To Yourself

How my workspace looks while I’m using it.

I’m not going to beat around the bush, times are incredibly tough right now. A lot of us are facing social, physical, and financial stress that we haven’t previously encountered, and for a few of us our existing anxieties have been amplified because of the global situation. So making sure that you take care of yourself is really important, and that means actively making sure that you are giving yourself care and love. This means building and painting our Gunpla at our own pace, being proud of our own little victories and achievements at home, and knowing when to take a step back and have a little break.

A lot of these suggestions aren’t going to suit everyone, but I really do encourage folks to give them a shot. They say it only takes human brains a couple of weeks to fully settle into new routines, and right now a lot of us have nothing but time so two weeks is a healthy price to invest in trying new things. There are also plenty of other things you can try as well; Make an Instagram account to show off your projects, play your favourite Gundam OSTs to keep you motivated (I personally recommend the Iron-Blooded Orphans score to get your fingers itching to build), join a community where you can trade models and tips, find online hobby streams and tutorials where you can settle in and learn something new even if you aren’t currently making any Gunpla.

There’s a social aspect to hobbying that some of us have lost right now, but we’re also in an age where we have more information at our fingertips than we know what to do with. Take advantage of that and use this time to explore what you love about Gunpla and any other hobbies you already have, or have newly discovered, during this time. Don’t think so much about productivity, but more what you can potentially achieve and most importantly what makes you happy. Think about what you can do right now to be the happiest hobbyist you can be.

Julie has been making models for most of her life, with Gunpla being an old flame of hers that has rekindled over the past couple of years. When she’s not building kits, Julie is on Audio Entropy where she co-hosts several podcasts, speaking publicly about LGBTQIA+ issues, and finding whatever time is left in the day to draw and take photos. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram, where you’ll catch all of the above along with her cooking, fellow hobby love of Warhammer, and gushing about the latest tokusatsu or anime series.

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