Dec 182016
 

I’ve concluded that librarians, or at the very least, library clerks, are athletes in disguise. This weekend, as I was organizing my craft, needlework and sewing books, I rediscovered muscles I didn’t know I owned. Stacks of books moved from the floor to a bookcase, from the bottom shelf of one bookcase to the top shelf of an adjacent bookcase, and from left to right on one shelf after another. Needless to say, I knelt, stretched, stooped and lifted countless times. After swallowing some water and two Advil tablets, I promised myself once again not to let too many books collect in impressive stacks on the floor—or on any available horizontal surface—before returning them to their proper space on the bookshelf. Unfortunately, this is a promise I keep making and breaking. All I can say with certainty is that it’s a lot of work keeping a home library organized that probably rivals the collection at my local library.

As you look at the photo above, you may notice what appear to be dividers peeking out between groups of books. I got the idea at my local library, when I noticed they used plastic labeled dividers to subdivide some categories of books, making them easier to locate. I love this system. I labeled 8-1/2 x 11 sheets of white card stock and inserted them in clear sheet protectors, and it works great. No, I don’t use a Dewey Decimal system, although I seriously considered it at one point. Upon further consideration and the plea of “No, please don’t do that” from my husband, I came up with an alternate system that works for me. If you, too, are overwhelmed by the books in your collection, here are a few tips that may make your life easier.

Use a database

It isn’t enough, if you have a large collection of books, to keep them organized on shelves. Keep a list, whether you use a program like Microsoft Excel or iWork Numbers, or catalog your books using Library Thing or Goodreads.

For myself, I find it convenient to use an Excel workbook. This helps me track the books I own, and to some extent helps prevent me from purchasing duplicate titles if I remember to check my workbook before I go shopping. (This is a key point.) It also is a great way to determine actual book placement on my shelves. Within the workbook, individual worksheets are dedicated to each type of book. One of the columns contains an identifier that represents a subcategory, and these subcategories directly relate to the shelf dividers I use.

For each book, I enter the book’s title, author or editor, publisher, copyright date, main category, and subcategory. It sounds like a lot of work, I know, but you can enter a surprising amount of information while you enjoy a hot chocolate. What’s nice, too, is that you can sort this information according to your needs. I also find that it’s a good way to weed out outdated titles, especially when you take a good, hard look at some of the copyright dates.

Recycle magazines

Many craft magazines cost as much as the books you buy, and thus deserve a neat method of storage for the time you keep them. I don’t keep my magazines forever, mind you. I keep about two years’ worth of magazines, then remove the articles I find especially useful by slicing them out and scanning them. These digitized copies are, of course, for my personal use, and never get shared. I keep some of the illustrations to make bookmarks or gift tags that become giveaways. Then I put what’s left of the magazines in a recycle bin, and that’s the end of that. Some magazines do get passed on to other people or organizations for their enjoyment. But while I am storing the magazines, I keep them in magazine racks you can purchase from your local office supply store.

Cull the herd

As a writer, bookaholic, avid reader, and—yes, I admit it—once upon a time English major, I know how hard it is to get rid of books. But if you don’t, you simply won’t have space for new ones. We don’t want that to happen, do we? Your home is only so large. I have 14 bookcases that stand six feet tall—many more shelves of space than the average person, I know—but I continually run out of book space. And some of those bookcases are used not for books, but for craft supplies. These days, I don’t add many hardcover fiction books to my shelves, unless they are part of a series I have already begun in that fashion, or if they are such long novels that I have to page back to earlier chapters to look up some details. The rest of my new fiction novels are in digital form. I save a lot of bookshelf space by utilizing book apps on both my iPhone and iPad—among them iBooks, Nook, Kindle, Kobo, Free Books by Digital Press Publishing, and Bluefire Reader.

You can donate books to your local library, which will often sell them and use the monies to purchase new books. You can also donate books to senior communities, nursing homes, schools and thrift stores. You can sell some books to a bookstore—I use Half Price books, for example—or you can sell books on Amazon. You can exchange your read books for new titles via a book swap service—I use Paperback Swap, for instance.

Say goodbye to old encyclopedias

I finally thought with my head more than my heart, and decided to get rid of a set of World Book encyclopedias dating back to 1969. The white leather-bound, gold-edged volumes have long held a special place in my heart and on my shelves because I won them during junior high when I sent in a question to the “Ask Andy” column in the Milwaukee Journal. At that time school children were routinely invited to send in their seriously considered questions. Each week one question would be selected and answered by “Andy,” and the student received a complete set of “Aristocrat” World Book encyclopedias. I asked what the real job of a nurse was—a career I considered at one point but decided against. My question was selected, and I received a set of encyclopedias. It was a great prize, but in 2016 these encyclopedias are seriously outdated. Anything I want to know of a general nature can be found online in spades. Time to donate! The space I recover will be used for my books about writing, to which I refer far more often than the World Book encyclopedias that are moving on.

Leave room for expansion

I cannot state strongly enough how important it is to leave breathing room on your shelves for new books. If you’ve ever looked at home decorating magazines, you’ll notice that expansion space is provided with decorative bookends, vases, knickknacks and photo frames. That being said, I have no room for anything but books on my shelves. I love the decorator look, but need to think about functionality more than home dec because of the sheer volume of books I own. I do, however, take care not to squeeze books in so tightly that you can’t add a few new ones. If your cuticles begin bleeding when you insert or remove books, that’s a sure sign you’ve squeezed in too many titles.

Locate sturdy shelves

Locate the sturdiest shelves you can find, or make them yourself. A poorly made bookcase typically has shelves that bow as you add books. Ideally, bookshelves should measure at least one inch thick. Bookcases don’t have to be expensive, but they do have to be strong. If you’re fortunate enough to live near an IKEA store, you can purchase a set of sturdy, functional shelves you can assemble yourself. I don’t live near an IKEA store, so I ordered bookcases through my office supply store’s catalog service. They shipped the shelves directly to my home, and my husband assembled them.

If you have additional suggestions for organizing your home library, I’d love to hear them. Meanwhile, I will return to my own library and finish organizing its contents.

Full disclosure: Yes, I have worked in a library, and I seriously considered going into library science.

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Feb 212016
 

If we can avoid it, most of us prefer not to re-do our craft storage systems. We’d rather use that time for crafting! I’m no different—when I originally stored my wafer-thin steel dies and foam-backed dies inside a combination of three-ring binders and plastic storage boxes (see How to store your wafer-thin cutting dies), I felt pretty good about both systems.

Old Die Storage System

The binders I use for my thin foam-backed dies still work just fine, as this collection is not too large. But my collection of thin steel dies is immense, making it difficult to locate the one I need in a snap. I tried to solve this issue by developing a spreadsheet with a “Location” column (see Create a master inventory system for your cutting dies), but while this has helped me to locate the box or binder where dies are stored, it doesn’t allow me to zoom in on the exact location for dies stored in plastic boxes.

Die-Inventory-System-1024x707

I find myself paging through randomly stored magnetic sheets until I find the correct one. This can sometimes take quite a while.

ArtBin-Die-Storage-Box-1-1024x1024

In the end, I decided to adopt the wafer thin steel die storage system recommended by Jennifer of Jennifer McGuire Ink in her Craft Organization and Storage videos, among them Die Storage from 2013, and Staying Organized (Stamps, Dies and More) from 2015. Jennifer stores her dies upright in a combination of square 5×5 CD sleeves, 5×8 or 6×9 job ticket holders, and 5-5/8 x 7-3/8 inch Avery Elle Stamp & Die Storage Pockets. The pockets are then stacked, one behind the other, inside clear, sturdy InterDesign refrigerator bins you can purchase online or at your local Bed Bath & Beyond store in the kitchen storage section. This makes all dies easily visible and quick to find. The bins are portable, so you can store them on an open shelf or carry them to your worktable.

InterDesign Fridge Bin

Dies are separated into categories and identified with labeled dividers, and each die pocket is labeled, too. For the most part, I am using Avery Elle clear protective pockets as shown below.

Avery Elle Pockets

When I decided to adopt Jennifer’s system, I adapted a couple of elements to suit myself. First of all, Jennifer uses inexpensive colored vinyl folders to use as category dividers. She cuts them to size, rounds the corners, and tosses the leftover folder bits. I decided to use white kitchen cutting mats you can purchase from your local Dollar Store or online, and cut them to size in the same way that Jennifer does. The difference, I think, is mainly that your dividers will be white, and they may be cheaper to buy as a package of two cutting mats for one dollar than they would be if purchased as individual vinyl folders. On the other hand, if you prefer colored dividers, visit your local office supply store and purchase colored vinyl folders or vinyl index page dividers. Whether you use vinyl folders, pre-cut dividers (that you still have to trim), or vinyl cutting mats, they are all about equal in weight and sturdiness.

Kitchen Chopping Mats as Category Dividers

Jennifer uses a Brother label maker to label all of her category dividers and clear protective pockets. I own a Brother PT-D400 Label Maker, not the same model as Jennifer’s, but mine works pretty much the same as hers. If you purchase one, make sure you purchase an adapter with it, as it will save you the dollars you would otherwise spend on batteries.

Brother Label Maker

If you have a Brother label maker or are thinking about getting one, I highly recommend you watch Jennifer’s video, My Favorite Crafty Things: Organization from 2015 (advance the video to 8:08), where she provides tips for how to conserve your labeling tape. The label maker has a feature called “chain print” that allows you to print multiple labels closely together, instead of advancing the tape an inch or more after every label. After all of your labels are printed, you can snip the tape between labels with a pair of scissors.

Conserving Labeling Tape

The tapes, which do work well, have one drawback—they are rather expensive. If I buy labeling tape from my local office supply store, it costs $18.99 for 26.2 feet, so I look for a coupon first. Otherwise, I search online for the best deal, such as Amazon, where the last time I checked the cost was $9.66. Quite a difference!

Labeling Tape

Jennifer uses labeling tape for just about everything in her craft room. So far, in regard to die storage, I only use it for my category dividers.

Labeled Category Dividers
For my clear protective pockets, I use Avery Laser Labels 5267. Please note that these labels work for both laser and inkjet printers. The labels are compact, measuring ½ inch by 1-3/4 inches, and come 80 labels to a sheet. I use Arial Narrow in a 10-point font to identify the die’s manufacturer, design and item number.

Pocket Labels

I discovered one drawback to these labels: they peel off the clear protective pockets as quickly as you adhere them. The solution is easy. I insert a rectangle of white card stock inside each pocket to make the die visible, but also to provide a place for special instructions or a matching stamp. I insert the die in front of the card stock insert, and other items behind it. Instead of adhering the Avery label to the pocket, I stick it to the card stock insert. This system is much faster than using a label maker because you can type and print many labels in a jiffy. I save the file for these completed labels from one typing session to another so that I know where the next label is located. I simply highlight the new labels and print that selection.

Labeled Pockets with Dies

I have not completed my new die storage system, but as you can see, a refrigerator bin storage system holds many dies. In the photo below you see more than 90 dies, and there is space for many more. When not in use, I store the bin on a bookshelf. Otherwise, I simply move it to my craft table. One storage bin accommodates hundreds of dies. In contrast, my previous plastic box system stored fewer than half of my dies and took up four boxes.

Half-Filled Fridge Bin

You might be wondering what I will do with my old plastic die boxes. To be honest, I am still thinking about alternate uses; if you have suggestions, let me know in the comments below. I may sell them for $5 apiece, plus shipping. If you’re interested, you can email me at judynolan@aol.com. But the magnetic sheets inside them are being cut up, as needed, to accommodate layered sets of dies inside the pockets for the new system. Of course, some dies already come with magnetic sheets.

Pockets with Magnetic Sheet Inserts

If you have a boatload of wafer thin steel cutting dies, what storage system works best for you?

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Jul 312015
 

In yesterday’s post, I discussed a specific iPhone app, Craft Cabinet, which is designed for keeping track of your craft tools and supplies, as well as your projects. Unlike a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet in which you might enter inventory data into cells, Craft Cabinet is a general-purpose inventory system that uses visual lists (words and photos) for crafts. One of its advantages is that because it is so general, you can customize categories for any items you wish to enter. At the same time, one of the app’s disadvantages is that because it is so general, you have to take the time to create a system that works for you. In a perfect world, it would be great to use an inventory app that is tailor-made for your category of craft supplies.

Today’s post explores exactly that—a free inventory app designed for Tim Holtz’ mixed media craft supplies. The app is appropriately called Tim Holtz, whether you’re using the iPhone or Android version. While Craft Cabinet works only on iPhones, iPads and iPods, and doesn’t sync through the Cloud across devices, the Tim Holtz app does. If you’re carrying your smart phone with you into a store to buy some of his branded supplies and make changes to your inventory while you’re there, in other words, your tablet that waits for you on the coffee table at home reflects those same changes.

Tim Holz Icon

The Tim Holtz app is much more than an inventory system. It links you to Tim’s blog posts, his video tutorials, and his calendar that shows where he is touring. You can find his entire product list on the app, and create a wish list from it that you can use when you shop. If you’re not certain whether you have bought an item previously and want to avoid duplication, the inventory section of the app solves that problem. And, of course, you can use the app to follow Tim Holtz on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.

Opening Screen

The Inventory, Products and Wish List parts of the Tim Holtz app are interconnected. If you want to add items to either the Inventory or Wish List, click on the Products icon first, which shows seven product lines. The screenshot below shows only four product lines; you need to swipe through the screen of your device vertically to see the others.

Products Screen

One of the products I use most frequently is Distress Inks, which are part of the Ranger line. When you click on the Ranger icon, you’ll see four different categories of products: Adirondack Alcohol Inks, Adirondack Color Wash, Distress, and Other Ranger Products. If you’re looking for Distress Inks, of course, you’ll click on the Distress icon first, and then the Distress Inks icon.

Ranger Product Line

Distress Products

An alphabetized list appears, with checkmarks on the left side of individual products, and hearts on the right side. When you click on a checkmark, it changes to green and is added to your Inventory. If you click on a heart, it changes to red and is added to your Wish List. That’s about as complicated as the app gets when it comes to tracking your supplies.

Distress Inks

As much as I like the Tim Holtz app, like most apps it glitches every so often. When I accessed the app today, the two functions that weren’t working were the Videos and Facebook features. These are not essential, however, as I have alternative ways to access Tim Holtz videos and Facebook posts on my mobile and desktop devices. I assume the bugs will be fixed soon, as this app is updated regularly. The last update for the iPhone version, for example, was March 18, 2015.

Obviously, this app is geared toward a specific product line, but if you regularly purchase items in that line, the app is indispensable on your trips to the craft, hobby or scrapbooking store. I have a pretty large collection of Tim Holtz products, so this app prevents me from duplicating items on my shopping excursions—and it saves me a tremendous amount of time because I don’t have to create a catalog of the products first.

The next post in this craft inventory series will discuss another app geared toward a specific product line, so check back soon.

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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