by Susan Caplan McCarthy
Several years back, I opened an Etsy store. As a yarn crafter, deciding to market my projects meant that I COULD BUY AS MUCH YARN AS I WANTED! I hadn’t heard of minimalism and I was still of the mindset that as long as I kept things organized I could have as much yarn as I wanted. Because, you know, it was a business expense.
I had boxes and bins of yarn that fit into a spare closet. The boxes didn’t even take up all the space in the closet, so, it wasn’t that much.
A few times, I’d go online and order one skein of yarn in EVERY color of a particular yarn. I still get giddy thinking of that. It’s embarrassing to admit, but, damn, it was fun to open a box and see all those colors.
I made dozens of different items. Four different style fashion scarves. Crocheted necklaces and bracelets. Coasters. Washcloths. Coffee cup sleeves. Little round makeup remover cloths. Zippered pouches. Phone covers. Tablet covers. Hats, fingerless gloves, winter scarves. I opened a second Etsy shop to sell crocheted cat toys – balls, mice, pretty things to tease your cat with, fish, twisty spirals, and other catnip-stuffed items. I’m probably forgetting some things.
I lined part of a wall in the second bedroom that acted as my office with 18 and 30 qt. plastic storage bins that were well-labeled with the specific category of items in each bin. Like I said, I was organized. I wasn’t paying attention to all the stock I’d created. I’d taken to heart the advice I’d read about keeping my shop well-stocked.
Along with the Etsy shops, I rented space in three different gift shops and spent weekends at craft fairs. After a few years, I burnt out. Other things demanded my attention. I pulled out of the rental spaces and the craft fairs. I closed the Etsy shop with the cat toys. And, then, I closed my main shop. I gave away the items that were left.
For a few years, I tortured everyone I knew with gifts of crocheted food and animals. I made a hundred hats, donated them to charity, and started working on a new batch.
And, then, this summer, I thought of re-opening the shop.
But, this time, I didn’t want to go crazy.
I decided to stick with beanie-style hats crocheted with two strands of multicolor yarn held together. I go all relaxed and meditative with this pattern, so there’s a bonus for me. To keep things simple, I created a list of rules to follow.
When I wrote a series of four articles about decluttering, organizing, storing, and then maintaining art and craft supplies … and then still had enough to say for a small book, I was coming from a place where I knew what a lot of art and craft supplies shoved into a room looked like.
I reopened the shop, Wee Cat Creations, a couple of weeks ago so I can be all smug about following my rules so far. However, I know that I’m coming at running a craft business from a different angle than before. Simpler doesn’t equal boring. More doesn’t equal better. Organized doesn’t equal useful. Right now, I’ll go for less equals more.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
This is the fourth and final article in the series on organizing art and craft supplies.
You’ve sorted and decluttered your art and craft supplies. You’ve noticed what you use most frequently and should keep handy. You’ve stored and labeled your supplies, so you know where to find them. And … a week later it looks like a hurricane tore through your supplies. Why, oh, why, after all of that thought and work did things descend into chaos?
Getting Organized Is Only Part of the Solution
When you declutter, sort, and group similar supplies, you’re creating your definition of organized. You notice how often you use, say, washi tape, and either keep it on your worktable or you store it in a bin that sits on a shelf for when you need it.
However, you may have some crafts that you do seasonally, and so, the bins of wreath-making supplies that sat in your basement for ten months and now filling a corner of your craft room or living room. You may be frustrated by this chaos, but, notice that it is just temporary.
Keeping Art and Craft Supplies Organized
To maintain organization, you need to plan to tidy your area every time you make art. I’m sorry to say there is no magic solution to this. No matter how much time you spent deciding how to organize your supplies, you still need to clean up when you’re done.
However, by sorting your stuff into well-labeled bins, you are making it so much easier to clean up. Really. You don’t have to think about where stuff goes. You don’t need to worry about finding space to squeeze something into a storage container.
Teach kids to clean up their craft projects and supplies when they’re done. Make certain they can reach where their supplies are stored and understand where to put things so that they can find them next time. (Online, I see quite a few over-the-door organizers with clear pockets filled with kids’ craft supplies.)
If you find that you’re having a difficult time keeping your craft area organized, ask, “What’s the problem?” You may realize that you want your work table closer to your supply shelves. Or, you may realize that supplies you don’t use very often have been given prime real estate; while the items you use all the time aren’t as accessible.
Sometimes, the answer may not be obvious, and you have to keep asking, “What’s the problem?” Is it as simple as, “I don’t leave myself time to clean up?” Or, does the issue seem more complex? “I keep my cardstock in a pile and every time I take a piece, I mess up the pile so that the colors are no longer sorted, and I can’t see what I have, and the paper gets bent.” And you realize in this twist of problems, you need something with trays that will allow you to sort the paper by color.
Maintaining your art and craft storage will always involve some tweaking as you lose interest in some crafts while expanding your interest in others.
Please share this article with your crafting friends or pin on Pinterest.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
This is the third part of a series of articles about organizing your art and craft supplies.
If you are a maker, you may have realized that having your art and craft supplies throughout your house can hamper your creativity. How frustrating is it to know you have a certain material only to waste time looking for it (and then having it show up after you’ve purchased replacements)?
In the first two articles in this series, you sorted and evaluated the supplies that you have and then considered how often you use the different materials. Now, you want to decide how to store what you use so the things you use most frequently are the most available.
Open Storage or Closed Storage?
One of the first things to consider is whether you want to look at your supplies or not. Do you find visual clutter distracting or even upsetting? Chances are that you wouldn’t appreciate having your supplies out in the open. Here you might be better off with a cubby storage system where you can hide supplies in fabric drawers or other closed containers.
If you are an “out of sight, out of mind” person, then putting supplies in drawers or opaque boxes will cause you to lose things, no matter how well labeled the boxes are. Seeing the actual item is a huge help.
I love clear bins or drawers because they control the chaos and eliminate visual clutter while still allowing you to see the items. Pop these bins onto shelves and you can see what you have without dealing with stuff all over the place.
Stationary Storage or Mobile?
Do you have a craft room? Do you have a corner of a room that you can dedicate to your art and craft supplies? Or, are you limited in space, so you need to keep your supplies in a closet and only pull out what you are working with at the moment?
Decide if your supplies for each type of craft can fit in a storage box that you carry to where you are going to make art or if a rolling cart with drawers or lidded boxes will work best.
The problem with large bins or boxes is that if you have a lot of small supplies loose in the box, it becomes too easy to lose track of them. You might have to have a bin filled with smaller bins or rely on a rolling cart of drawers, so you can sort supplies.
For example, if you scrapbook, you know you don’t want a single bin with a jumble of paper, scissors, adhesives, embellishments, glitter, pens, paper trimmers, and all that stuff bouncing over one another because supplies will get ruined or misplaced in the mess.
Even if you have a dedicated craft space, you may have some supplies that you take with you to different places – watercolors, pastels, drawing supplies, cross stitch, knitting/crochet. There are a wide variety of cases, totes, tackle boxes, and divided boxes that allow you to take your crafts with you while keeping supplies organized.
Label Your Art and Craft Supplies
Even if you are using clear boxes, bins, or drawers, you still want to label them. You can use a label maker or handwrite your labels. If you aren’t the only one to use the supplies, you may even want to label the edge of the shelf so that the bins are returned to the proper location (and remain easy-to-find).
Using the Art and Craft Storage that You Have
Again, whether you find visual clutter exciting or exhausting, containing items in well-labeled, clear boxes, bins, or drawers given you the best of both worlds. What if you already have fabric or yarn in opaque bins and you don’t plan on buying new bins (I wouldn’t)?
If you are using opaque containers, your key to finding what you want with ease will be based on how you sort your materials. For example, you may keep Christmas fabric in one bin with florals in another. You may group yarn by color or type or texture, depending on how you use your supplies. Once you sort your supplies, write your labels so they are specific.
Although you may balk at spending money on art and craft storage when you can use a random assortment of baskets and cardboard boxes from around your home, storing your supplies in an organized manner makes it easier for you to use your time creating beautiful things instead of looking for the materials you want.
Have a great tip for storing art and craft supplies? Please comment below ....
In the final part of this series, I’ll cover suggestions for the most difficult step – maintaining organized supplies.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
This is part two of a series on arts and crafts.
You love making arts and crafts, but that doesn’t mean you love chaos. While some artists and crafters thrive in a space where supplies intermingle and perhaps generate ideas for new creations; others find visual clutter draining.
In the first part of this series, How to Declutter Your Art and Craft Supplies, I explained how to clear materials that you no longer use or that you have in excess. When you start thinking about how you want to organize the supplies you’re keeping, consider if the organizing tools you’ve been using have helped or hindered you.
Your Organizing Needs
For example, you may have a lot of craft supplies stored in cardboard boxes. Even if you have the boxes labeled with the contents, not seeing what you have might lead you to purchasing stuff you already have. Maybe you have to paw through oversized bins to find what you’re looking for because stuff isn’t sorted.
If you like your storage, but you think you just need more, consider if you really need to declutter so you have fewer supplies. If a bin doesn’t close or a drawer doesn’t shut, is there a reason to keep everything you are storing? Temporary excess, because you’re working on holiday gifts, doesn’t really require more storage, just acceptance that the situation is temporarily more chaotic than you’d like.
The number of media you engage in, how much stuff for you have for each medium, and how often you make those types of projects affect how you organize your supplies. You want to think about this before you decide to store your supplies on your desk, a shelf, or in a closet.
Where Do You Make Art?
Do you have a dedicated workspace? Do you store supplies near the area you work? Some media are portable – if you do watercolors or knit, then you can store supplies in one place and make art somewhere else. On the other hand, if you scrapbook or make cards, you need your supplies where you do this work.
Thinking of how and where you make art can help you decide where you need to find your supplies. Don’t think that you need a dedicated craft room or a craft/office space to be organized.
The Art and Craft Supplies You Need Now
The supplies you need now are whatever you are using for the current project. If your current project does not use colored pencils, then you don’t want those pencils in your work area.
The Art Supplies You Need Soon
If you engage in a variety of media, what you need now and what you need soon may stay in flux. Today you need this, tomorrow you need that. You want the materials that you’ll need soon to be handy. You don’t want to put these supplies in a big storage box in your basement.
Can you find someplace more accessible? I know, you have limited space in your home, so you need to examine what is important to you. If you make art or you craft nearly every day, the time you are investing in creating beautiful things suggests this is a priority for you. If you do most of your crafting in the fall, then you don’t need bins of supplies in the corner of your living room.
The Craft Supplies You Need Later
You can define ‘later’ how you wish. Maybe every Sunday afternoon, you plan an hour or two for scrapbooking. You don’t use your supplies any other day of the week. In this case, you wouldn’t need the pens, decorative scissors, or adhesives you use to sit out on your desk.
If the other days of the week, you use your desk for sorting the mail or your kids sit there to do homework, you don’t want a Mason jar of decorative edge scissors sitting on a shelf as a distraction.
Craft Supplies You Rarely Use
Maybe you make candles a couple of times a year or once a year for a week you make Christmas wreaths. You don’t need these supplies sitting in the corner of your living room. These supplies can live in the basement or the back of a closet. If you must shuffle around a few things to reach what you want, that isn’t a big deal since you don’t use these items that often. However, if the items are buried under so much stuff that it takes you a half hour to reach what you want, you should ask why and how so much stuff got in the way.
In Part Three, I’ll talk about the shelves, cubbies, drawers, bins, etc. that you can use to store your supplies. Along with thinking about how often you use your supplies, consider how visible you want your supplies. Would you want items in clear bins or opaque, cloth drawers? Do you need to or want to move your supplies to different locations?
I’ve been curating a board on Pinterest for organizing art and craft supplies, if you are looking for some images of organized craft rooms and spaces.
Please comment below about your challenges or solutions with organizing your art and craft supplies.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
I’ll be addressing ways to organize art and craft supplies in a few posts over the next couple of weeks. (I’ll fit in some non-craft specific articles in between for those folks not interested in this topic.
I can’t remember what book, blog, or article I was reading a short time ago that suggested that if you wanted to minimize your stuff – and you were a crafter or artist, you should switch from a less stuff-intensive craft, such as quilting to something with fewer supplies – like calligraphy.
I was appalled.
I’m gathering that the author would not consider themselves a maker.
If you make art as a hobbyist or business owner or teacher, you wouldn’t switch from cake decorating to quilling for the sake of less stuff.
When people minimalize their stuff and their schedule, they do so intentionally to have more time to do what they enjoy. What if you wanted to simplify your life so you had more time to knit for charity or paint watercolor landscapes?
It is true that making art involves stuff. So, what do you do about your art and craft supplies when you are decluttering and organizing other areas of your home?
I’ve recently finished writing a 50-page book on How to Organize Art and Craft Supplies. I’ve taught art and craft classes for weeklong creative art summer camps as well as homeschool and afterschool programs for fourteen of the past twenty years. I’ve also drawn, painted, done origami, made handcrafted journals and books, done rubber stamp and sticker art, knit, crocheted, made cards, and tried calligraphy, basket weaving, spinning and weaving.
When it comes to organizing art and craft supplies, you still follow the basic principles of decluttering and organizing. However, you may end up with more stuff in this category that you’d have after cleaning your closet.
How to Declutter Art and Craft Supplies
Remember, you can declutter your supplies, but not someone else’s stuff. If you have kids, ask them to help you sort through what they have. Ask them if there is stuff they don’t like.
Also, do you have duplicate supplies? Maybe you forgot that you had a brand-new skein of black yarn at home when you added another one to your shopping cart while at the craft store. Maybe you couldn’t find your tube white acrylic paint and bought more. Gathering your supplies showed that you have four new or nearly new tubes of white paint.
If you have an excess of white paint, pink cardstock, or black yarn, either give away the excess or make a point of using it in your next few products so to bring your stock down to a more manageable inventory.
In the next article, I’ll talk about organizing your supplies. In the meantime, look at the supplies you are keeping. Do you like the bins, shelves, cubbies, and other organizers you use to store your supplies? Do you like the space where you make art? Do you like the space where you store your supplies? Do you have other options?
If you have an area that you’d like some tips and techniques for decluttering and organizing, tell me about it in the comments below and it may become the topic for a future article.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm a professional organizer-coach with 26 years' experience as a teacher. I believe that an organized home isn't your destination but a step on the path toward the life you want to create. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; and speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.