Friday, January 21, 2011

Question of the Month--Organizing Tips?

Since so many of us do a studio clean out at the beginning of the year, our question for the month is: Do you have any organizing tips?

We'll start with advice from our resident organizing expert:


Ahhh, the “O” word…what an appropriate question for “Get Organized Month”!

As a professional organizer, I have organized many studio spaces. I’ve taught 3-hour workshops on the subject and many books have been written on how to organize art spaces. My favorite method for organizing an art space is to use Julie Morganstern’s SPACE system – sort, purge, assign a home, containerize, equalize (maintenance).

So I’ll begin with a quick sort of what’s visible, identifying items and categorizing them. Toss or recycle obvious trash. Separate out incomplete projects to be decided upon later (that’s a whole other topic). I’ll keep to that one area selected so the client and I will be able to see progress. Breaks are important during this process – and when the client and I come back from a break to see a beautifully organized area, we are encouraged to move on to the next section.

During the purging process, the client and I will be creating categories and thinking about what there is truly space for, how much time it will take to find supplies to create with, and which items to pass on to friends or charities.

Next we’ll be assigning a home for items. I like to have “like with like” and store adhesives together, beads in another area, tools for a particular project type together, tins on shelves…When like items are stored together, it’s easy to retrieve and put back frequently used items.

Containerize – this is where containers are decided upon. Many clients have all of the containers they need already (and have emptied during the sorting process). Choose containers that you love and that fit in with your personal style. You will also want your containers to be sturdy (and any drawers to open easily). Make sure the containers are a proper fit for the number of items you will be storing – leave room for adding new items as your work grows and changes.

Equalize – Evaluate new systems about two weeks after organizing. Does something need to be changed around? Integrate a periodic maintenance program into your lifestyle, keeping it simple. Ongoing maintenance will keep a system running smoothly.

Jennifer Campbell – Professional Organizer and Creativity Coach

Some of Jennifer's expertise in action:

And now how some of us non-professionals approach the problem.


I keep stuff in clear plastic tubs. Rather than pay money for them, I use the ones that my friend collects for me. She buys the organic spinach at Costco which comes in large rectangular plastic tubs. I have trouble separating the lid from the tub so I add a tab of masking tape at the corner. That way, I can lift up on the tab and the lid comes up. Presto!


I put like things with like. And they are in containers that are labeled, or see through. My studio is a bit like a 747 cockpit: very small but everything is within reach.

I’m also getting a Fujitsu Scan snap to scan magazine articles and class instructions so I can save space for other stuff. I’ll organize articles by media and such as calligraphy, watercolor, book arts etc.


I've learned that it doesn't really matter how well I organize my materials, as soon as I start a project, it looks like a tornado moved through. I guess my one tip is to clean up and organize materials between major projects so the pile doesn't get too bad. I tend to organize by color and have shelves of fabric stocked that way. But then there's a special bin for silks, one for velvets, one for hand-dyes. The plastic bins could easily take over my studio.


I'm the queen of organization because if my supplies aren't organized, I suffer from severe bouts of inertia. One of my favorite organizational tools is using inexpensive plastic drawers and bins, which I label using an old school labeler. I'm also a big fan of jars as I love the look it creates: a jumbled mess of order and you can see what's inside!

Scenes from Dayna's delicious studio:

She uses an old bed frame for display:


Well since I am so organized I just had to jump in.(ha) For me after this last go round of excavating long lost/ forgotten suplies, the #1 tip is if it's out of sight it's out of mind. Sooo, SEE through, think jars (thanks Dayna) clear containers, and big bold labels. Like supplies grouped. I just might start working efficently! but don't hold your breath


Since I'm going through this process of clearing out my studio, I like the idea of keeping art supplies in sight with clear containers and items easily marked. Thanks, Steph. I went to your blog and saw the great job that you did reorganizing your studio. It gives me hope to complete this project here.


The biggest organizational challenge in my workspace is finding what I need in order to work on a project. Spending time to search for things can easily bring the creative process to a grinding halt. A couple of things that help me are organizing supplies like beads and fabric according to color groups, and storing things in a way that they are always visible. For example, I find the clear plastic bead boxes very handy. Also, I keep fabric in large clear plastic boxes by color on shelves; not the prettiest arrangement, but it's function over form for me!

Suzanne's perfectly organized bead box:


This takes a little time at first, but when I'm done it is terrific. I found a great organization thing that works great for me. I have all my art supplies and other art pieces in plastic drawer units, as well in dressers and other stuff like that. I put everything away in the drawers. I put all the often used things in one location, all the sewing things next to my machine, etc. After it was all placed, I numbered every drawer (1,2, etc.). Then I made a list of everything in all the drawers, typed it in the computer listing the name of the item ( Scissors) and the drawer number (7).

After this task was finished, I hit sort and put everything in alphabetical order. Now I can find anything in a flash, and others in my family can find things they need to borrow as well.


I’ve been challenged by trying to design a space for two purposes. By day I am a management consultant—mostly head work on my computer and phone. I also aspire to making jewelry and paper arts—mostly hand work. I’ve finally resolved it by having two separate tables and ‘stations’ of storage around the room. Bookshelves and files for reference. Drawers and containers for art supplies. The best thing I EVER incorporated is my library catalogue with a drawer for every color bead and finding. It makes me feel like an organized artist!

Maggie's much coveted library catalogue:

Any other ideas? We always need them!

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