Jan 242015

This entire week, I have been touching on some of my goals for 2015. I discussed streamlining my creative process, or being more efficient, in Efficiency meets serenpidity. In Using paper scraps to craft accent flowers, I stressed my desire to shop less and use existing materials more. Optimizing my craft storage and working space is also on my list of goals for 2015. In May of last year, I finally retired from my 12-year stint as Co-Affiliate Training Director for Iowa’s Destination Imagination program, which involved keeping lots of records and tracking many different projects simultaneously. During five years of that same period, I developed a gifted education after-school enrichment program for local elementary schools, and taught German at those same schools and out of my home for even longer. While most people who know me claim that my approach to projects is organized—and they are correct if they look through my computer files—what they don’t see are the cartons of paper files, the books, binders, and hands-on materials that have accumulated on shelves, the garage, the basement, and even in my crafting areas. What in the world do retired teachers do with all of their materials?!

Training materials collage

So, one of my goals this year is not only to reduce the space training materials occupy, but to use that same space for my crafting materials that, quite frankly, spill onto every horizontal space I can find in the house. It is a struggle to keep the kitchen table cleared, as it is the biggest working-height flat space. After every work session, I have promised myself to put things away. But wait a moment! There are a couple of working spaces available that may not need to be torn down daily . . . if only I can clear them off first.

In my sewing room, I removed the laptop on the writing desk to turn it into a cutting table/paper crafting surface. However, I can hardly use it in its current state. Hopefully the incentive to clean up this desk will follow soon, since it’s embarrassing to see this mess on the Web.

Writing Desk

In the basement, there is an old dining room table I inherited from my mom after she passed away that is actually bigger than the kitchen table, if only I would sweep it clean. I have no idea what is buried on the other side of the light box, which also needs to be relocated. Obviously, this mess is worse than the one in the sewing room, but not by much.

Basement table

As for my paper crafting studio, that is where I store tools, paper and paper crafting embellishments. It’s also where my laptop resides, so it’s my writing room. And if we have a guest, it can be a spare bedroom. In a word, it’s not a good place to craft! I do have a nice view outside of my window, though—rain, sunshine, or snow.

Looking out the window

And then there are the put-aways. (Don’t tell me you don’t have such a thing!) Sitting in a basket (and elsewhere) are paper crafting tools and supplies that need to be put away. Sometimes items sit in one place because I haven’t yet settled on a practical storage system.

Basket of put-aways

Previously I stored wood-mounted rubber stamps in plastic see-through shoe boxes. While they fit nicely (jigsaw-style, that is), you can imagine what happened when I needed the stamp at the bottom of the box. The box got dumped. Recently I discovered these shallow clam shell-type plastic packages at my local scrapbooking store. They are called Stufftainers™ by Stampendous, and come in all kinds of depths, ranging from 7/16 inch to one inch. This is the “thicker” size (actually labeled that way), recommended for organizing your wood-mounted stamps. I store my containers on a shelf, stacked, but the Stampendous folks suggest storing them vertically in a magazine rack, color-coding them with ribbon tied to the tab that is intended for hanging the Stufftainers.

Stufftainers by Stampendous

They work quite nicely for my collection of Faber-Castell Gelatos water-soluble crayons and related supplies, too.


In short, 2015 will be a year when I will work toward better organization of work space and supplies. I’m sure it will be a continuing goal. When you craft, it’s the nature of the beast to spread your things out to make selections. In fact, that chaos inspires creativity until . . . it blocks you because there are too many choices and/or no space in which to create. What are some of your favorite ways to control creative chaos? Let me know in the comments below.

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Apr 152014

Included with our most recent water utility bill was a notice for our annual spring clean-up curbside collection. This is always a reminder that I need to assess what craft organization systems are working well, and which ones need to be updated or discarded. For that reason, I love reading blog posts about organizing systems, or magazines such as Stampington’s Where Women Create and Cloth Paper Scissors’ Studios. They are filled with numerous tips.

You’ll recall that in a previous post I described the paper stacking trays I purchased as Archiver’s stores nationwide were going out of business. This tray system is working quite well, and I rate it 4 stars. Next to it is a stack of plastic shoe boxes that store rubber stamps, acrylic stamping pads, dry adhesives and other paper crafting supplies. While the boxes fit in that space very nicely, they have a tendency to lean—and I’m always afraid they will topple. Still, I don’t know what else would fit in that space, and so far this system seems to be working, so I’m giving it 3 stars.


Buttons are one of those craft-and-sewing supplies that seem to take on a life of their own, spilling into every corner you can imagine. I don’t have a lot of space in my paper crafting studio, so I tend to fit the buttons into containers with a small footprint. I use a rotating spice rack for some buttons, and stack round compartmentalized boxes on old CD spindles for others. A wall cubbyhole system holds jars with buttons, as well as other odds and ends. If I had a larger room, I might use a set of stacking mini-drawers you can pick up in any hardware or home improvement store, but with a limited amount of space, these multiple systems work pretty well. I’ll give all of them 4 stars.

Button Storage

Many of my paper crafting supplies defy categorization, so I clip them onto a rotating clip-it rack. For the most part, this system works well, but it does have a tendency to get crowded, and I don’t like the fact that the clips get tangled up with each other, or that removal of items from a clip is sometimes what the British might call “fiddly.” Although it’s a vertical storage system, it takes up more space than I’d like. It was definitely an expensive purchase. This organizing system gets 2.5 stars.

Clip-it rotating rack

I discovered that I had too many adhesive crystals and pearls to fit easily on the above rack, so I re-purposed a tiered brochure holder from the office supply store. It’s easy to organize the supplies into basic categories, is extremely portable, and takes up very little space. Four stars!

Crystals-and-pearls storage

I have stored colored pencils in fabric cases, hinged-lid plastic boxes and in margarine tubs. Honestly, the easiest method of storage is probably the last one, although it’s not particularly attractive. I discovered an unused acrylic canister in my kitchen cupboards that works just as well, and looks better. I like being able to see the pencil leads, so vertical storage works best for me. This system gets 4 stars.

Colored pencils storage

Though technically not located in my paper crafting studio, but instead in my sewing room, this thimble rack stores ribbon wound onto cardboard squares. The ribbon is sorted by color and is visible and accessible—and the system itself is kind of fun to look at. If there is any drawback to it at all, it’s that not all of my ribbons fit into the cubbies and have to be stored in a drawer using a similar organization system. I view this as a shopping issue, however, not an organization one. I rate this system 4 stars.

Ribbon storage

Some of the best storage systems, I think, fit the following criteria:

  • They don’t require you to redesign your entire space.
  • They can be used in multiple ways and in various arrangements.
  • They don’t rob the piggy bank.
  • They don’t gobble up crafting space.
  • They’re not an eyesore.
  • They are sometimes re-purposed items.
  • They’re not so fussy that they get in the way of your crafting.
  • They’re fun!

What storage tools have you discovered that you can’t do without? Can you name some other factors that you consider when you select a storage system for your crafts?

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Mar 152012

In a previous post, I wrote about the cutting tools that paper crafters tend to collect. For me, scissors take up a lot of space, requiring multiple storage solutions. My own solutions include a mug rack, a necklace stand, a plastic flower pot from a floral shop, and a wood-bottomed bag I purchased at a local craft fair.

There are commercial scissor racks that you can purchase from an artist or school supply warehouse, but why not make your own, customizing it for both the quantity and types of scissors you have? That’s what April of A Joy 2 Scrap did when she designed her own compact scissor stand. She took 2 squares of wood, drilled holes in one of them for 15 pairs of scissors, and elevated one square above the other with four dowels. She points out that the bottom piece of wood lends stability to her stand, as well as prevents the scissor tips from marring any flat surfaces.

A Joy 2 Scrap scissor solution - enlarged

Sometimes simplicity is the best scissor storage solution. “I store my scissors in a plastic cup,” says Rose of The Beadings and Buttons of Randomcreative.  I have done the same when I move a paper crafting project from one room to another and want to contain my mess!

Scissors cup used by Rose Clearfield of The Beadings and Buttons of Randomcreative

“I use a utensil caddy from Pampered Chef for my scissors,” says Edi of Memories for Life Scrapbooks. “I hate to cook, but they still make great gadgets.” Edi’s utensil caddy spins, making retrieval of the tool she needs quick and easy.

Pampered Chef utensil holder used by Edi Royer of Memories for Life Scrapbooks

Hannah of Rubies and Pearls has a scissor storage system that was inspired by candle centerpieces she created for her own wedding. Instead of inserting candles in pearl-filled glass vases, Hannah inserted her craft scissors. She finished off the look with a ribbon—pretty and clever!

Wedding centerpiece-inspired solution by Hannah of Rubies and Pearls

This past fall, school teacher Janet Malone from Nashville, Tennessee moved to a new art room that had less space than her previous classroom. She had to find creative storage solutions for many different items, including scissors. She spotted a photo of knife storage bars from Ikea on Pinterest, which sparked an idea. Instead of buying the knife racks (which wasn’t possible because Nashville does not have an Ikea store), Janet purchased magnetized tool racks from Home Depot for $12, and attached them to a storage cabinet that placed the scissors high enough that kindergartners cannot easily reach them, yet still accessible when needed in a hurry. What a great idea!

Magnetized tool racks from Home Depot by Janet Malone of Ms. Malone’s Art Room

Sometimes you simply want to be able to quickly locate a single pair of scissors you use frequently. A good way to do so (and to keep the scissors from scratching wood surfaces) is to upcycle a potholder, which is what Jan of Grandma Jan’s Corner did with the cute scissor holder shown below.

Scissor holder by Jan of Grandma Jan's Corner

When Marissa of Skooks’ Playground reorganized her sewing room, she was inspired by reading about others’ sewing spaces. She found a metal home decor wall rack at Hobby Lobby on clearance for two dollars, spray painted it to fit the rest of her room, and hung up her “ridiculously large scissors” on the hooks. I think I have walked past items like this a million times, and never thought about using them this way!

Wire home decor rack used by Marissa of Skooks’ Playground

Have you ever thought about using a toothbrush holder for your scissors? That’s the surprising idea that Dee of La-Dee-Da Creations came up with when she transformed an empty room in her home into a craft room. She found her toothbrush holder at Walmart, along with a matching waste basket.

Toothbrush holder used by Dee of La-Dee-Da Creations

Patti of Patti’s Paper Play transferred her edge-cutting scissors from a shoe box to cup hooks attached to the bottom of a wood shelf.  “I can easily grab the pair I want and find that I use them more now that they are out in the open,” Patti says. For a room with limited space, this is a great (and visible) solution.

Cup hook storage system by Patti LeMay of Patti's Paper Play

There are probably other scissor storage ideas out there, among them hanging scissors from S-hooks on a pegboard, but I’d love to hear your additional ideas. Thanks to all of the individuals who contributed their photos to this post.

© 2012 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Permission granted by photo owners for inclusion in this post.