Craft Storage: Twenty Storage Lessons Learned

Messy Drawer

My Desk Drawer: Before  . . . and After.

I’ve spent the past several months cleaning up my clutter. I began in my craft area and have now moved on to cleaning up my home office and bedroom’s surfaces and storage space. I fully intend to look into every drawer, shelf and box in this house and sort every bit of it out. We’ve lived here for almost thirty years, so it will take a while. But that is OK. I’m still working on this project, chipping away at it a little at a time but even though I still have a way to go, I’ve learned quite a few lessons along the way. Here they are (in no particular order):

1) Keep the craft supplies you use most close . . . but don’t relegate other supplies to the back corners permanently unless you never want to use them again! (See the “Keeping Stamping Supplies Close” blog post.)

2) Label everything. I tend to think of ingenious places (that seem totally logical at the time) to store my craft supplies and then months later can’t for the life of me remember where I put them. If everything has a label, at least if you forget, you can read labels to find it. Make sure your labels are detailed enough that you’ll know every type of thing in the drawer or in the box or on the shelf.

3) Try for a mix of storage units if you have the space. Some supplies are best stored in shallow drawers. Some need deep drawers. Some do better on a shelf. Others work best hung up on a vertical surface and others can simply sit out near at hand. Don’t assume that everything can be stored in the same type of storage. (Maybe it can, but it might not be the BEST way to store things.)

4) Plastic is your friend. Most moist or wet art mediums can dry out over time. An inkpad in a Ziploc bag or in its original shrink wrap will last longer than an unwrapped inkpad. So if you buy an extra pad or bottle, don’t take off the shrink wrap until you are ready to use it. Paint in a jar with plastic wrap stretched beneath the lid or that still retains the original foil seal will dry out more slowly than a jar simply screwed tight. Plastic drawers and trays are also helpful when something you are storing inevitably spills or leaks (easier clean up.)

5) Some things do better upside down. Acrylic paint is designed to dry when it interacts with air. Store it upside down in the jar to expose less of it to air and slow down drying time. Some jars and bottles of ink or embossing powder have solid lids. If you store them in a drawer where you will be looking down at the lids to pick them out, either make an inked/painted label for the top of the jar or bottle or store them upside down so you can see the color through the bottom of the jar.

6) Some things do better right side up. Paintbrushes should be stored either on their sides or with the brush tip up. If you store them brush side down, the bristles will bend and never be the same and can become unusable.

7) Always wash all the paint out of brushes and sponges after each use (especially if you are using acrylic paint) if you don’t want to have to throw them away later.

8) Don’t put too much of anything in any storage space unless you never want to use it. Stuffing drawers too full makes you not want to get into that drawer to get out and use whatever it is. It also can cause damage if things get bent, torn or tangled.

9) Sort and reorganize your space periodically. In the process, you’ll find things you’ve forgotten you have and get inspired to use those forgotten tools and supplies. Working in a cluttered messy space can dim creativity. A fresh space can invigorate it again. When your area is neat and there is easy to access storage space for everything, you are more likely to keep it neat.

10) When planning storage, keep in mind not only the dimensions of what you want to store but also the weight. Putting too much weight on a shelf or in a drawer just invites sagging drawers and shelves.

11) Store like things together whenever possible. Store inkpads together. Store inks together. Store fibers in one place. Store paper in one place. EXCEPT, if you don’t have room to store everything in one room and have a lot of something; then store a small portion near your work area and the rest elsewhere. Replenish as needed. If you must store things apart and are worried that you’ll forget you have them, include a small Post-it note on the last of that supply reminding you of where the rest is stored.

12)  Some things need to be portable in a group and others don’t. I like to store supplies for side crafts together in a box or drawer that can be removed from the unit when needed. So when I want to work with metal, I pull out the entire metal drawer that holds pieces of metal, metal working tools and metal paints out and bring the whole thing to my working area. Same for wire, candle making, polymer clay, etc. It’s like having a complete kit for that activity in a drawer.

13) Put heavy awkward things on a low shelf. Put things on high shelves that you don’t use as often and/or that are lighter weight and easy to get down.

14) Divide out supplies as needed. When you first start stamping, you might just need one drawer to hold ink bottles and paints. As you start collecting more, your storage may need to expand to two drawers, one for ink and one for paint. As you collect more, you may need to subdivide into types of ink and types of paint.  If you find any type of supply is a jumble and you have trouble finding something specific within the jumble, it is a sign that you need to divide things out. It might need a separate additional drawer or box or other container or it might need a divided container like a divided plastic storage unit or partitions in a drawer.

15) When you are really serious about sorting through your craft stuff (or anything in your house for that matter) and weeding out the excess, don’t just open the drawers or look at shelves and then only remove what you don’t want anymore. Take everything out of the drawer or off the shelf, even if you think you want everything there. Take the opportunity to clean the now empty drawer or shelf. Then only put back the things that you know there is some chance that you will use. You may be surprised to find that there really are things in the drawer that you either don’t want or that are in the wrong place. What’s left should be tossed, given away or sold at a yardsale or EBay, etc.

16) There is a fine line between clutter and useful supplies. A drawer or surface holding a tangle of paper clips, pens and pencils, markers, scissors, etc, and other random bits and pieces is a barely usable mess. It’s clutter. But if you divide out the contents into categories and put each category into its own container, that same useless clutter has become an organized assortment of handy supplies. It is the same content; the only thing different is that they are sorted and separated.

17) Sometimes confining things in a wide open box or basket is better than lining them up in that same surface space. When lined up individually, they can get knocked over and be spread around and wind up taking more space. Confined to an appropriately sized container, they stay put but can still be easily accessed.

18) If you have a huge mess to tackle, it is easy to be intimidated by it and give up before you even begin. Instead, break it down to smaller doable chunks of work. Pick one set of drawers for one afternoon. Do a set of shelves another day. Clean out half a closet one day and the other half another day. Peck away at it and then pat yourself on the back for each success. Let each success encourage you to tackle another small area.

19) There is all kinds of storage out there to be bought. Don’t just look in one type of store. Look in craft supply stores. Look in grocery stores and in big box stores that sell everything. Look at the local hardware store. Look online. Look at yardsales and flea markets. Look in your recycling bin and in the old furniture you may have tucked away in the corners that could be re-purposed. Look for display units at stores that are closing or that are changing their layout. Possibilities are everywhere!

20) No one person has all the answers for how to store your stamping stuff. You are likely to come up with ideas for yourself as you come across storage pieces in stores, yard sales, etc. But pretty much everything that you need to store has probably been stored by a stamper before you. Poke around on the internet for storage ideas that you can incorporate into your own stamp room. (Many of VSN’s print issues also included Stamp Room articles showing how different stampers stored their stuff.) Ideas are all around you and many stampers are willing to share what they’ve done online. You just need to look!

Like everyone, I’m still learning as I go and finding new (at least new to me) ways to sort that stuff I’ve got so that I can find it when I need it. These are the lessons I’ve learned so far. If you have discovered some of your own that you’d like to share, please do!

Nancie, VSN

Previous Stamp & Supply Storage Posts:

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Nancie Waterman

Nancie Waterman created and self published Vamp Stamp News magazine for nearly twenty years. These days, Nancie creates and posts monthly eArticles on stamping topics on the Vamp Stamp News website (

3 thoughts on “Craft Storage: Twenty Storage Lessons Learned”

  1. Thanks for all the great suggestions Nancie. It’s a continuing battle to keep the scales leaning on the creative side versus tipping to the collector side!

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