Get Organized: Bead Storage Checklist

If beads are so small, how could I be running out of storage space?  For the last year or so, I've been buying random containers for beads and creating a bead tower in my basement.  Sounds cool, but it's actually a little scary!  When I was working on submissions for Stringing a few weeks ago, I realized that it was taking me twice as long to design pieces because I was spending time hunting down beads, rather than playing with them.  I thought I was organized, but I really wasn't. 

According to an article titled "Creative Organization" in the new issue of Studios, I made a common mistake.  Buying containers should be your last step in organizing, not your first.  Instead, you should start by sorting.  While my beads were mostly sorted by type (gemstone, glass, pearls, etc.), I also separated out recent purchases so they would be easier to find.  I didn't realize until I started sorting everything that having this separate "new" category actually made it harder to find those beads!

Now that I've finished sorting and donating any beads I can't use, I'm ready to tackle the storage question!  I've been re-reading the top organization tips from the contest held earlier on Beading Daily this year, browsing the related posts on the forums (share your space, garage storage, organization), and flipping through my copy of Studios.  My conclusion?  While there is not one-size-fits-all solution, it's helpful to hear about other people's solutions and pick the ones that work for you.  Here are some storage features I'm considering:

  • Access:  Can I easily reach everything I need without digging through layers?  (This is what drives me crazy about my current seed bead box!)
  • Accountability:  Because I submit designs to magazines, I need to keep track of where I bought every single bead.  Right now, I'm doing this by marking the packages of beads, but I could create a system separate from my storage like a computer file.
  • Categories:  Sort by bead color, type, size?  If I change the way I sort, I may need additional containers.
  • Clarity:  Do I need to see inside the container or will something opaque work?  (I've found that if I can't see it, I generally forget I have it.)
  • Cost:  Will I still have money left for beads?
  • Expandability:  How long before I run out of room?  Are there extra pockets or drawers?  Can I easily get additional matching containers?
  • Green:  Can I repurpose something?  A spice rack for jars of beads?   A lunch box for a mini beading travel kit?
  • Inspiration:  Does just seeing my bead storage inspire me to create?
  • Portability: Can I easily tote my beads upstairs or across the country?
  • Security:  Will my beads be safe?  (I'm not worried about theft, but about paws and little hands!)
  • Sentimentality:  Can I make a family connection?  In Studios, I saw lots of artists using  heirlooms like teapots, purses, and suitcases as storage options. 
  • Studio Space:  Will it fit?  I love the idea of a giant, bead-filled armoire, but I'm not sure where I could put it!

For more ideas on organization and storage, see the new issue of Studios magazine.  (It's the one with this cute cat on the cover!) There are some very helpful articles like "85 Ways to Organize" and "Creative Organization," plus lots of photos of real-life artist studios, including beaders and jewelry artists like Beth Quinn, Judi Goolsby, Fran Meneley, and Susan Lenart Kazmer.  I loved seeing the old mannequin in Beth Quinn's studio–she uses it to take photos of her jewelry, but also keeps it "dressed" in pearls and vintage rhinestones when not in use.  Buy a copy of Studios today.

What organization tips do you have?  How do you sort your beads?  I'd love to hear what works for you! Share your ideas on the website.

Michelle Mach shares beading news, contests, reader galleries, and other beady stuff every Monday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Michelle, please post them on the website.

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