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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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