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Organization Talk: Bits & Pieces

Perhaps the most perplexing scrapbook organization issue is what to do with all the other supplies scrapbookers have that I didn’t address in my previous article. Long gone are the days of just stickers and paper. With all the various items available it can be frustrating, and time consuming, to figure out how to store your things.

I’d love to have a bag like this one by Anna Griffin. The problem is, what would it hold? How would I use it? The answer, sadly, is that it would sit in the back of my closet. I mention this because it shows that the difference between what is lovely and what you want (versus what you need and what works) can be wildly different. There are two things that I find the simplest and most effective in most cases for storage:

1. Boxes. Usually in the form of plastic bins, crates, pull-out drawers, or any other item that you can put supplies into.

2. Shelves. Sometimes the easiest way to store things is simply by not putting them inside anything at all, but rather leaving them out but contained on a counter or shelf.

These are effective because they are basic, and they are smart picks because you can utilize them for absolutely anything. If you change your mind or your needs change, you won’t have invested in specialty storage items. With that in mind, there are a lot of other options, and today I will talk about the ways I use, and  other ways I have considered to use, to store my “other” supplies.

Ribbon storage is a tricky thing. I love dowels for rolls of ribbon and cool boxes like this one, but because I tend to buy single yards or ribbon that comes on cards, neither is a viable solution for me. I find containers with ribbon (loose) sorted by color to be the most effective method. I have heard that pinning lengths of ribbons to a string or even onto hangers in a closet is good, but I’ve yet to try it.

This unmounted stamp binder from the Idea-ology line by Tim Holtz is intriguing, and I know some people have great success with this kind of a system. I’ve just never been able to make it work long-term.

This holder for clear/unmounted stamps by 7 Gypsies is intriguing, I’m just not sure that it would hold enough or be the right size for my stamps to work well.

As far as wood mounted stamps go, I choose to store them on shelves around my studio. They’re out and visible, and easy to access. I have some older (rarely used) wood stamps stored in a box.

The supplies I have in boxes or on shelves right now depend on my frequency of use, and need to have at my fingertips. I keep most punches boxed:

Due to their frequency of use and to keep them away from prying preschooler fingers, I keep ink pads, paints, and mists up on high shelves just above my work surface.

Pens are a unique challenge, as most require you store them tip-down or sideways so that they do not dry out. I have a little box that I use (no idea where it came from) for most of my pens that keep them tucked right where I need them – within arms reach!

For my tools that get used often such as scissors, paint brushes, hole punches, and more I try to keep them in cups. I have this craft caddy (made by Fiskars a few years back) that I use for most things, but any kind of cup will work. The trick is finding ones that are a good size for the items you’re using them for.

This wraps up my articles for Scrapbook Update on storage and organization for now, but I have a feeling that I’ll be re-visiting some specific topics and challenges as I find solutions for myself. If you have any comments, or would like to add your own solutions please feel free to leave a comment here or contact me via e-mail at may@scrapbookupdate.com

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Organization: Digital Totes

Remember when I said that scrapbooking wasn’t really tote-able anymore? Oops, I meant paper scrapbooking wasn’t really tote-able anymore. But there’s another kind of scrapbooking that is still completely portable for a large portion of its practitioners: digital scrapbooking. And I’ve got the bags to prove it.

If you’ve got a laptop, you’ve got portable digital scrapbooking. The question is, how do you haul it with you? And what accessories do you need to take along? I’ll tell you what I use to haul my digital creative tools.

First, let’s talk about the all-important tote. I have several for my MacBook. (I actually own more camera and computer bags than I own shoes. Seriously.) Which bag I use depends on the situation.

My workhorse bag is by geek favorite Timbuk2. The San Francisco-based company makes premium bags that are functional and durable. Mine is a discontinued model called the Hacker, a vertical messenger bag which features tuck-away backpack straps as well as a messenger-style shoulder strap. It is very similar to the Blogger bag (the major difference was the backpack straps) that the company still offers, although the Hacker doesn’t have the TSA-compliant feature that version 2 of the Blogger has. The Blogger is available in several different colors. List price for it is $110 but it’s available for as little as $88 on Amazon.com depending on the color.

This bag has some features that I really like. It is very weatherproof (ever seen what a summer rain storm looks like in Florida?) when it is wet outside. There are lots of small pockets to corral my various small items like card readers and earbuds. And the laptop compartment is incredibly well cushioned and lined in lush, sturdy corduroy to protect my machine.

(Note for trade show attendees: I also have Timbuk2’s Hidden Tote, a zip-away tote that is made from fabric created from recycled plastic bottles. It is fabulous for throwing in my trade show roller bag and using for carrying the overflow of catalogs and handouts that I pick up over the course of the day.)

As much as I love my Hacker, however, it isn’t the perfect bag to take everywhere with me. When I fly, I am usually carrying both my dSLR camera and my laptop. There are advantages to being able to keep them with me in the same bag, so I have another bag  for my laptop when I fly: the Kata KT DR-467.

This bag is great because it keeps all my gear together but still fits under most airline seats, and gives me a little extra room for in-flight comforts. (When I don’t have my laptop with me, I frequently use this bag for hauling my camera gear on theme park day trips. The empty laptop compartment can hold souvenirs such as t-shirts or spare supplies for my daughter. It also comes with a foul weather cover in case we get caught outside in a shower.) The updated version of the bag (the Kata DR-467i Digital Rucksack) has a feature I really like – a tripod attachment – and sells for $89.90 on Amazon.

And of course, if you’ve ever seen me at CHA you know I also have a rolling bag for my laptop as well. Currently I’m using a Swiss Gear one that is styled like a catalog case. It would make a great companion if I wanted to attend a crop hybrid-style, with some digital and some paper gear.

All of these bags are functional, but they look, well, functional. So for the rare occasion when looks really do count, I have a leather bag that I picked up at an outlet that isn’t very practical but carries my laptop and lets me look good doing it. Sometimes we must suffer for fashion, right?

What goes in these bags is surprisingly minimal, at least as it relates to my creative pursuits. I have a Belkin Mini Surge Protector Dual USB Charger, a Sandisk MobileMate SD Plus USB Card Reader, and my power cord. I don’t carry a mouse, or other external devices. Occasionally I carry a Western Digital My Passport external hard drive for back-up purposes. I know some serious users will carry a small tablet device (you can even buy a case for some of the smaller Wacom ones). But for me I just stick to a trackpad when I  am on the go (and most of the time at home too). It keeps things simpler.

Using this system of bags keeps me pretty well equipped to be creative digitally anytime, any place!

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Organization: The Small Things

The littlest pieces of our scrapbooking stash can often be the most time and space consuming when it comes to storage and organization. Paper, stickers, brads, photos, and buttons – scrapbookers have dozens, if not hundreds, of these items they need to keep someplace. Today I am sharing my thoughts on storage and organization of these small items.

Perhaps one of the most debated topics in storage is patterned paper. By color? Style? Manufacturer? What’s the best way?

I believe vertical storage to be best, both for keeping paper from being damaged and for the ease of sorting through and finding what I want. Depending on your goals and what kinds of papers you keep, your needs for storage can vary greatly. Once upon a time I relied on a paper taker by Crop In Style for all of my paper. I have kept my cardstock in vertical storage by color for several years now, and I like the ease of use and being able to see when I’m running low in any given color at a quick glance.

While I like sorting my cardstock by color, I prefer to sort my patterned paper by brand. I find the vertical paper holders by Cropper Hopper to be phenomenal. Some of the ones I use today are the originals I purchased over five years ago – I’ve yet to replace any. To keep things from sliding around I keep them in a milk crate. This also allows me to store random papers between the files.

I used to keep my paper by color and patterns (polka dots, stripes, etc). However, I found that method to be a lot more work, and in the end more time consuming. When I would look for coordinating papers from a specific line or brand, I might have to look through all of my paper to find them. As you scrapbook, think about what would make things easier for you, and let that guide you in how you organize your supplies.

Next, let’s talk about stickers.

For the most part stickers and rub-ons get put into either a drawer or a small plastic tote (standing) where they’re easy to sort through. Lately though, I’ve been putting sticker sheets onto binder rings (available at any office store) and hanging them for storage. Being able to flip through the sheets quickly is a bonus, and I’ve found it to be a great way to keep new product out where I’ll see and use it.

The down side of the binder rings is that often you have to keep the stickers (or other items) in original packaging or punch a hole yourself. My solution has been to move them off of the binder ring and into a drawer or bin once they’ve been used a few times or no longer stay put well on the ring.

What about all those little bits? Rub-ons, tags, journaling papers, and other paper bits that need a home? To be honest, I’m not entirely happy with where I am at on this particular area of organization, but what I have for now is some very small drawers.

They are divided into small tags, journaling papers, and rub-ons. What I like about this is that it keeps things orderly, but I do not find digging through everything to be convenient for creating. I would consider either plastic bags (bound together with hole at top for binder ring) or perhaps a shoebox-sized container to keep the tags and papers in at this point, but I have hesitated because I’m not convinced either of those will be a better solution.

(Important to remember: Here in the real world, after the photos are taken, things are going to get used. Messed up. Worked with. Just because highly organized systems sound good, doesn’t mean that they work well.)

Next up is photos, and for me this is an easy one. I keep (fairly chronological)  Cropper Hopper Photo Cases full of my photos, as I choose to print any photos I want to keep. I consider digital files of my photos to be a back up, rather than my primary storage solution.

There are photo boxes of so many sizes and shapes, and some like the Memory Dock one pictured above come with a number of dividers to allow you to further organize your photos. While I like this concept in theory, once upon a time I tried to do this and found the set-size plastic photo holders to be too limiting. Sometimes I needed just a portion of one section for an event and then what? Do I add another event in? Leave the space blank? I wound up frustrated and wasting space. I like index cards in between events/dates in my photo storage boxes because they fit right in while allowing me to customize the amount of space taken by any given event.

I also keep a smaller box filled only with photos I’m wanting to scrapbook. Divided or open like the Martha Stewart box pictured above, it is a great way for me to keep photos grouped by layout, and access them quickly.

Finally, what about all those tiny items? Brads, buttons, pins, charms, photo corners, and other little bits can be frustrating because if they’re not stored in a easy-to-use fashion, you’ll spend a lot of time looking for that one special item. My first tip to you is something I learned from Tim Holtz: take stuff out of its packaging! By removing product from it’s packaging you’ll not only save space, but when you go to look for something it’ll be easier to find an item that will work for you.

Storage by type or by color are both equally effective in my experience. Stacy Julian has an excellent video blog series on her color storage system going on that I highly recommend watching to see embellishments stored in that way.

If your space is limited and you crop a lot, I cannot recommend the Urban Stamp Tote by MiMi enough. I purchased mine when it was brand new, and I’ve loved it ever since.

Don’t be put off by the name – I find it to be more useful for tiny bits than stamps of any kind. It can be kept open at home, then folded up, put in its tote, and hauled off to a crop. I consider it one of the best splurges I ever made in craft storage and organization.

Another choice for more compartments and a more permanent solution are boxes like this one by Craft Design. They are fantastic for tiny items, especially because keeping them in a shallow drawer makes them easy to access. Before you purchase a crafting one, though, visit your local home improvement store and look in the garage storage area. Storage boxes for nails, drill bits, and other small home improvement items are often a fraction of the price of crafting items if you don’t mind utilitarian colors like gray. Here’s one from Home Depot. Another great place to look is fishing or outdoor supplies. Tackle boxes are fantastic!

I keep color drawers for buttons, and I also put random bits and tiny chipboard by color in these drawers as well. What I love about a container like this is that the drawers come out. So if I am needing a number of green buttons, I can pull the drawer out and work with it, then return it to it’s spot when I am done. I choose not to organize everything by color though. I keep pins, charms, brads, and many other items according to item type. It’s a personal choice, and it works for me because all of my small bits and pieces are kept within my set of drawers here.

Jars are another great storage option for small pieces. Doodlebug has a series of jars available. I use some glass jam jars (purchased at the grocery store) that are wonderful. If plastic is a better option for you just look in the storage (or kitchen) departments of any store like Target. I keep my flowers in a plastic tub and dig through it when I want some, and I have used small jars for sequins, beads, and other small accents as well.

The bottom line? Personal preference, space, and style all need to be considered. Keeping things simple, and easy to both use and keep organized is key. One final tip I have to share is that I suggest avoiding lids. For some items in jars I think they’re fine, but in my experience when I use boxes, totes, or small containers with lids I end up throwing them (the lids) out. Why? I want ease of use, and for me sliding drawers or items with no lid is a step easier.

I will be sharing a third article on Friday covering the miscellaneous bits and pieces of my stash, along with a number of posts on my personal blog this week as well. If you have questions or comments I welcome them here, or I can be reached at may@scrapbookupdate.com

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Trends In Scrapbook Organization

As I began to put together the content for this special week on Scrapbook Update devoted to organization, it began to dawn on me just how much some things have changed in the world of scrapbook organization since I made my first page.

Ten years ago, for most scrapbookers, storage was all about totes they could use to haul their entire stash to regular crop events. “What’s new in organization?” really meant “What do the new totes look like?” in those days.

I remember in 2000 when the massive Crop-In-Style XXL tote came out. I was thrilled because it was big enough to haul most of the stuff I had accumulated as a scrapbook store employee buying with a discount. It wasn’t long before crops at the store I worked at were filled with people pulling the huge rolling tote, or one of the ones that followed it into the market.

But ten years has changed a lot in the scrapbook industry. Many places no longer have a local scrapbook store, and many of the remaining stores no longer host open cropping. Long-time scrappers have had time over the life of the industry to accumulate stashes that are way too large to haul with them. Scrapbooking has become less portable and has moved into permanent storage in our homes instead.

Because of all of this, we’re now seeing two distinct changes in scrapbook organizing: fewer and smaller totes, and a focus on home organizing.

There are certainly fewer totes on the market. Once-dominant tote manufacturer Crop-in-Style was part of the bundle of brands that Creativity Inc. recently sold to ANW Crestwood. Most of the CIS totes are currently out of production. Cropper Hopper, which started out manufacturing mostly portable storage, now focuses mostly on home storage products. A few other companies have entered this market but not with broadly successful product lines in recent years. ThermoWeb’s MiMi line of totes, with its focus on small, style-conscious totes, seems the closest thing to dominance in the market lately.

Small is the other trend in totes. Since it is impossible for most scrappers now to try to haul our entire stashes with us, totes are now mostly sized for hauling just the necessities for a crop event.

In fact, my current choice of tote, instead of the huge XXL I used to tow around, has become the much smaller MiMi Travelmate (pictured above). It’s just large enough to carry a few page kits and essential tools & supplies for a crop.

As scrapping has shifted largely to a home-based activity (and many scrappers have larger stashes that need storing), the majority of new scrapbook organizing products are now aimed at home storage in a permanent scrapbook space. The most popular current products, such as vertical paper holders and storage cubes, aren’t portable at all. Most of the new ones being introduced, and finding a foothold in the market, aren’t portable either.

One of the most successful new products in the market recently is an example of another major trend in scrapbook organization. The Clip-It-Up system by Simply Renee is typical of the “non-specific” types of scrapbook storage that are now dominating the home storage market. Items such as the Clip-It-Up, cubes, drawers and even vertical storage holders can be used for a variety of items. They aren’t designed for a single use, so they can be put to different uses as a scrapbooker’s style or taste (and thus the supplies they need to store) changes.

Another recent trend that has been created by the shift to home storage is that the appearance of our storage has started to matter more. Storage has become more than just functional – it has become decor. Gone are the days of practical but dull canvas totes. We want our storage to work and look good doing it, because we have to live with it every day. This trend is both recorded and fueled by regular magazine features on scrap spaces and by publications like Stampington’s “Where Women Create”.

Part of the search for items that look good while serving a practical purpose has lead many scrapbookers into another trend: repurposing items designed for other household purposes to use them for scrapbook storage. Decorative baskets, jars and canisters, wood shelves, spice racks, and curtain racks are among the household items that can find new (and decorative) use in a scrap space.

What trends are coming in the future? Stamping is currently becoming a hot market segment and it is under-served in the organization market. There aren’t a lot of organization products aimed at the large amount of clear stamps on the market, and no one has produced a “killer app” product yet for dealing with difficult to store items like wood-mounted stamps or ink pads. These sorts of items are the storage growth market of the future.


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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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