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Organization Talk: The Big Picture

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Organization Week on Scrapbook Update! This week we will be bringing our readers a whole series of articles on scrapbook organization. Today, we are starting out with May’s discussion on the basic philosophy of how she chooses products and systems to use that are right for her.

I have been crafting for a very long time, and struggling with organization and storage for nearly as long. From pulling supplies out to sit at a TV-table to having my own space, odds are I’ve crafted in nearly every way possible in every home I’ve lived in. This week, I will be sharing a three part series with my thoughts on craft storage and organization.

Whether you have a dedicated room or a shelf in a closet, a small or large stash of supplies, every crafter knows the need for storage and organization of supplies. I have three rules I believe in strongly when it comes to this stuff:

  • Simple is always best. While highly specialized products are visually appealing, the more simple methods are more versatile, and will serve you better over the years.
  • Be OK with change. Over the years, I have changed my style, needs, and way of creating (not to mention the space I craft in) too many times to count. I understand that change, re-organization, and re-prioritizing is not only OK, it’s part of the process.
  • It’s only good if it works for you. I will give a number of suggestions of items that have worked for me, but that doesn’t mean my way is the only way. Items are only useful if they are useful to you. Don’t jump on a bandwagon just so you’re not left out – do it your way and create happy.

To start off, I’m going to talk about the big stuff. Before you get into detailed organization and how you store ribbons and buttons, it’s important to think about how you’ll work, and what pieces you’ll need.

A wheeled tote may be just the solution for all your needs if you have a small stash and need something portable. For crafters who attend a lot of crops, or for those using dining room tables or other family areas for crafting, this can be a great product. I recommend MiMi brand to anyone looking for a great wheeled tote or bag of any kind. I’ve been really pleased with their products.

For a much less expensive alternative, I suggest a plastic milk crate. They can be purchased at any number of stores (Target, Wal-Mart, office supply chains, etc.) and are a great tool so long as you can lift them. I have been using this method for at least ten years, and not only is it budget-friendly, but as a basic container they are versatile and can hold any number of items or smaller storage containers.

What if you are fortunate enough to have space for a dedicated table or desk? My top suggestion is to go for a work surface that is both wide and deep to give you plenty of working space around your layouts, not just space for the 12×12 paper you may have out in front of you. I found the desk pictured above at Ikea, and it’s worked as everything from my scrapbooking table to printer and computer holder to kids’ art table. The desktop is adjustable and can be raised or lowered a great deal – something I’ve taken advantage of over the years to change it from standard seating height to bar stool/standing height. The single shelf above as well as the adjustable square shelf have made this a great piece in my studio.

Remember: A simple design that can suit your changing needs is a good thing.

My second suggestion, when it comes to tables and desks, is to look outside the craft zone. Crafters aren’t the only ones who need work tables. I found this heavy duty workbench (similar to this product) at Costco. Because I needed a long, narrow piece to fit my space, I purchased it. The height, which is great for standing scrappers as well as keeping little fingers off my stuff, is a huge benefit to my needs, and thanks to its simplicity it will work in any number of capacities as needed.

Important to remember: While plastic-top tables may be less expensive, keep in mind that some craft techniques demand a harder, less flexible surface such as wood and won’t work on softer, more flexible surfaces.

Finally, don’t forget to look around your own home, garage sales, and extended family for used items that are no longer needed. I have a desktop set of shelves and my children’s former diaper table both in my studio. I actually purchased the diaper table with a future sewing table in mind, so it’s nice to finally have it to myself!

Shelves like this by Doodlebug are adorable, and no doubt useful to as any variety of supplies can be stored on them. The price tag of such specialty craft items can be unfriendly to the modest budget though, and so before splurging I believe in making sure it’s the absolute perfect item for you. While much less attractive, I’ve found a number of simple shelving units (both wall and floor units) from hardware, bed & bath, and department stores (like Target) for a fraction of the price.

Bottom line: Let your needs, usage, space, and budget determine what you use – not trends or what looks cool!

My studio is in no way magazine perfect, or the vision of vintage shabby chic loveliness that I wish it could be. I choose to be OK with this because it’s the most useful, productive space I could imagine within my limitations of space and budget, and for that reason I am happy. Whatever your budget, style, and space restraints, making the most of existing furniture and purchasing pieces that will be useful to you in a number of ways is the first place to start.

Want to hear more? I will be posting two more organization posts here this week, as well as posts on my personal blog about my studio and organization as well.

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12 Responses to Organization Talk: The Big Picture

  1. Allison May 31, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    Great timing on this post. I move into a new space later this week, and my mind is racing about how to set up the new space. Function and budget are the major concerns.

  2. flowerdisco May 31, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    ORGANIZATION!!!! My family are always saying why do I have to keep moving things around (because then I do not remember where I put what, lol) but it is a way of life in the crafter world. I agree with you…you have to work with what works for you. My room is a mixed-match of every I can afford and finally I am learning what works and what doesn’t.
    Thanks for the article because when we first start crafting we think we need everything out in the market. LOL

  3. Jessica May 31, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    I have a small space at the back end of our living room. So organization is a constant element in my scrap time! I am always looking for new, inexpensive ways to store my goodies. And I’m always getting more goodies, so it’s a constant circle! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Barb May 31, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    Thanks for the great tips. Organization is always a thorn in my side, not just in scrap-land but throughout my life. I just have to keep telling myself that it is okay to purge and it is an ongoing process. Now if only I would consistently clean up when I finish something. Sigh.

    • Joanne May 31, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

      I agree with your insight !
      Only wish I had cleaned up from four projects ago… now I have made a mess in three rooms of the house. This stresses any organization system :)

  5. Marchelle Cometh May 31, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    May…this was fantastic…because it was REAL….like you said, not all of us are able to have a ‘trendy’ crafting area or the dream room….So I loved that you were helpful and realistic. I too have gone from the kitchen table to a little room and now that our daughter is getting married I am able to invade her bedroom w/ lots of crafting storage space and still keep it as a guest room. But it still is not like what I dream of in some magazines, but I’m not complaining, I have a lot of room and lots of inspiration. Have a great week and I look forward to learning more.

  6. Lesa May 31, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    Great post and it’s so nice to see that we are all in the same organizational boat! I started on the kitchen table and eventually moved to a room of my own. That was when my papercrafting supplies were overflowing their milk crate and I had to do something. Milk crates are very handy–mine corrals found items like interesting shaped boxes, produce bags and empty jars/cans. Having a craft room has also meant that I no longer have the sewing machine in the guest bedroom closet and fabric in under the bed boxes. The floral supplies left the hall closet and the gift wrap is no longer stashed in odd places around the house.
    I’m looking forward to seeing your next 2 posts and will visit your personal blog. Organizing all my crafty things is a never ending journey and I’m enjoying the ride. Thank you!

  7. Jennifer Earley May 31, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    Thanks for the tips! I’m always looking at stores for organizational storage needs, but not in the crafting/scrap booking section! Glad to know that I’m not the only one who uses milk crates too :)

  8. Vicki May 31, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

    Does this mean the book is going to be reprinted.. it has been unavailable for so long!

  9. Gab McCann June 2, 2010 at 5:37 am #

    Love those tips, thanks May. And yes Vicki I think the book is being reprinted!

  10. Kaisercraft June 2, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

    Thanks for a great post May!! Love your tips – and that doodlebug storage shelf is gorgeous!! Kaisercraft have some great storage solutions and tips on our blog featuring some of our design team member’s scrap studios!! http://www.kaisercraft.net/blog/category/storage/

  11. Beverly Jeffery June 4, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    I love your tips. Last summer I moved into my son’s old bedroom when he moved to the bonus room over our garage. My theme is a bit shabby chic mixed with eclectic I guess. I have a worksurface my hubby made for me years ago from an old door that he put a laminate top on. I also have a metal desk that he no longer needed from an office for his business. And one of my favorite things is a double student desk (metal on the bottom with 6 large drawers and a laminated top with a wood pattern that is a strange gray color. The metal part of the desk is what I call dormitory green as that was the color of my dorm room back in my college days many years ago. My husband works on job sites and his company was redoing a dorm and they were throwing the desks in dumpsters! We rescued two of them and I saved it for years until I had a space for it. Everything I have in my room is from Home Depot, Walmart, Target, a thrift/junk store, yard sale, or hand-me-down furniture.

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