Monday, June 15, 2009

Organize Your Stuff Challenge - Week 4

We love it but it's so darned tricky to store because it takes up so much room. I'm talking about all that PAPER! Thankfully, it's fairly simple to organize. You only really have 2 choices - you can go vertical or you can go horizontal. Once you pick your main method, it will help to determine your storage options.

I have done both, and found that I preferred the vertical, especially using the Cropper Hopper paper holders. You can easily flip through the papers to see what you have, you don't have an issue with dust, and all the papers are easily accessible. The only downside is that it takes up horizontal space. If you're tight on room, this may not be the best option for you.

Which leads me to horizontal storage, like paper shelf units. If you have a small space, you only need a 12x12 block of floor space to go with stacked units. You can stack up to the ceiling, and that's pretty nifty. The problems I personally had with horizontal storage was dust on the top sheet, and remembering what I had on the very bottom of each stack. Sometimes I would want that bottom paper and would just say "forget it!" with the thought of taking out all the sheets above it. Which is probably why I kept some stuff from 1991 for so long. I did see a tip to combat the dust issue tho - put a 12x12 page protector on the top sheet of each stack. Problem solved!

So now you know the 2 ways of storing paper, I've got options for both you horizontal and vertical organizers. Click on the links to see if you can find something that works for you, or if there's something around the house that you can modify. Please note that the links I posted are intended to give you a visual idea of what it is I'm talking about - it doesn't mean I endorse the product or the store. It means I googled "file cart" and found the picture I wanted.

VERTICAL (that is, the paper stands up):

Hanging file folders, in rolling carts or file cabinets:
Cropper Hopper paper files: Oriental Trading has a cheaper version of these, and Karen Foster has some with metal rims. You can also make your own from USPS Priority Mail boxes - cover them in fabric or paper to match your decor. Please only use ones you receive, tho - otherwise it's stealing.
12 x 12 wire cubes:
Desktop files:
If you have a cube unit like the Expedit from Ikea, you can store paper right on the shelf:
You can also stack paper upright in metal, fabric or woven baskets. Check out Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Container Store and Pottery Barn for options.
Expandable portable paper files, great for crops:
Mimi makes one as well:
Place paper in zip-top bags and hang from skirt hangers:
The Paper Packer organizer - binder-type, great for on a shelf and it's portable:
Here's a cascade file that's great for smaller stashes:

HORIZONTAL (that is, the paper lies flat):

Display Dynamics paper trays (with or without lips): - DD has a range of products up to huge stacking towers. If you prefer wire units, check out West End:
Iris lidded boxes in hanging closet organizers:
Wire cube systems: (you can easily make this by taking the wire cube units from Target or the like and attaching the "extra" sides to the interior for shelves by using zip ties)
Multi-bin literature sorters:
Wood shelves/cube systems:
Plastic storage drawers:
Plastic storage boxes: Crop In Style P3 paper tote - this is no longer being produced, but I've come across ads for it on Ebay and Craigslist. If it's what you're looking for, it may be worth the hunt:
Mini stackables cabinet units:
Pizza boxes - easy to decorate and stack, and beyond cheap!

Now you have some ideas of WHAT to store your paper in, let's talk about HOW to store your paper. Options include:

1 - By brand. This is a good idea if you scrap entire lines (ie, collection kits) or know what each manufacturer produces. If you don't know Pink Paislee from Luxe, then move on. This system would best work for a scrapper who picks out a photo and says "This has a Basic Grey feel to it."

2 - By color. If you match paper to your photos, this is a great way of storing paper. This system would work best for a scrapper who picks out a photo and says "Some orange dots would make that blue bathing suit just pop!"

3 - By theme. Lots of scrappers who do theme pages find this to be a working solution. This system would work best for a scrapper who picks out a photo and says "I need some wave paper to go with this pool theme!"

So which one are YOU?

I think most of us can figure out one category that will work, but get tangled up along the way - mainly the paper that goes into more than one category (not so much if you sort by brand, but the other 2 options will get you in this spot). That's ok. Just because you choose color, you don't have to be a purist. You modify the system that works best for you.

For example, in my personal system - I do all 3! I only recently added "by brand" to my organization. All my cardstock is by color, one per paper holder. On patterned paper, I have it sorted by color first (ie, a red page with white polka dots goes in the red patterned paper holder). If it's a paper that can go in multiple bins (ie, a blue paper with large orange dots on it), then I file it by theme or pattern. In this case, it would go in my Dots file. But if those dots happened to be flip flops, then I'd put it in my Summer file. Get the idea? You can have as many or as few categories as you need. I think I have about 10 themes, based on the type of pages I create.

The one downside I found to this method is losing my paper lines. For example - I recently finished an album on our family vacation to San Francisco. I wanted to use the American Crafts Metropolitan line for the entire album. It took me about 3 weeks to go through every single paper bin I had to pull out paper from that line. I was miserable. So I'm doing a little reorganization to tweak that problem. I'm now pulling out the major manufacturers in each patterned paper bin (the lines I tend to like to match, like American Crafts and Basic Grey) and putting those behind a divided tab within that bin. So all my purple patterned paper is still in the purple patterned paper bin - but if I need a sheet that happens to be in the Basic Grey Periphery line, it's behind a tab in that bin. So far, it's been working pretty good!

One last area I want to touch on are those dreaded paper stacks. You know, the ones that look so neat and organized sitting on the shelf at Michaels, then you get them home and have no idea what to do with them. Once again, an easy fix - you have 2 options. You can keep them together or separate them with the rest of your paper. If you tend to use your stacks a lot, like the coordination factor, and know what's in each one, then I would keep them together. Store them in the same manner as you do the rest of your paper (I saw that one Pea suggested to label the spines if you store them vertically - brilliant!). BUT - if you spend more time looking through your stacks than actually scrapping, then I would sort them out with the rest of your paper. I went this route and never regretted it - it's saved me so much time in looking for the papers I want.

So, your challenge this week is multiple:

First, I want you to figure out how you want to store your paper - let your available space guide you. Decide on if you want to go vertical or horizontal.

Next, explore your storage options in each of this category. You will need to Get Real with your stash - you're going to need enough holders for your current paper and more, because you truly are kidding yourself if you think you'll only use your stash and never buy another sheet of paper again in your lifetime. Use this time to purge as well - will you really use that pink glitter princess paper when you have 5 boys? Give it to someone who can use it, and you'll free up room for all that grungy dirty stuff that boys love. When you choose your storage method, look around for options that suit your style. If you're into shabby chic, and want to use magazine holders, then don't get the ugly black plastic ones from Walmart. Find some nice cheap woven-look ones, or cover cardboard ones in fabric. The time to add style to your space is as you go along - not by sticking letters on the wall and a nice rug at the very end. And make sure your storage choice will fit in your space as well - don't go out and buy 40 vertical files when you have 3' of shelf space. That just isn't going to work. Trust me.

Third, decide on how you're going to store your paper - by brand, by theme, by color, or a combination.

Finally - start sorting and purging. What worked best for me - get the biggest, baddest table you can find. Put a sticky note labeled with each of your categories in spots about 1' apart on this table, in rows. Then grab a stack of papers and start sorting. If you have a short stack, it shouldn't take you longer than an episode of Law and Order. If you're a hoarder like me, you may have to settle in for the full season of 24. Either way, just keep plugging away on it, your "to file" stack will get shorter over time. Once you have everything sorted, put it in the appropriate holder and allow it back in your space. It will be happy to see its friends.

I would love to see before and after pictures of your paper extravaganza! Even "in-process" would be great, share your pain! Below is a picture of my system, which I looooove - easy to navigate and the kids can't get the cabinets open, whoo hoo! I use the Cropper Hopper vertical paper files. I have 50 of them (yes, I have a problem, I know that). I have them arranged by color, my multi-colored by theme, within each of those are my special brands, and then my specialty papers (chipboard sheets, lace paper, transparencies, etc). Everything is labeled (of course). I've had this system for about 7 years now and it's been working great for me.

In closing, I want to add my 10 rules for organizing. I'm going to post these at the end of every challenge, because I think they are very, very important. I want you to keep them in mind as you tackle each of these projects - they will make your life easier and the task less daunting.

1. Label your containers.
2. Be consistent in your methods.
3. Don't be too specific - your search for your items within your space should be short and simple.
4. Your organizational method should be easy to take out AND put away.
5. When organizing, break any large piles into smaller groupings. Have a 2 foot tall stack of paper to sort? Do it in 1" high chunks, it will be easier to handle mentally.
6. If it's something that you use on almost every project, then keep it within reach of your main scrap area.
7. Don't stress your containers. Get a new system or purge your stash.
8. For most items, product packaging adds bulk. Toss it. One exception - rub ons.
9. Repurpose when you can - almost anything can be painted or covered in paper/fabric.
10. THE GOLDEN RULE - FIRST choose an organizational method, THEN choose a container that fits your space and style. Always shop for containers with a list in hand - a beautiful container is simply clutter if it doesn't have a dedicated purpose in your space!

Your paper dilemma has now been solved. Congratulations! Now go get yourself a milkshake and I'll see you back here for Week 5.



  1. Great ideas!! Love it! I have my paper is too many places...I have a system I like but need to bring them all together in one place so I am not traveling all over the place while I scrap..LOL!!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. P.S. Thanks for taking this on and spending all the time researching/posting links..I spent hours looking through the dream room links.

  4. I just saw your weekly schedule and found that scraps is next week's I deleted my post containing that question.

    I will state again that I am joining this late, and will try to post pics. Are we posting them in our comments? I would love feedback ....

    Paper is a huge source of contention ...and re-organization for me. I have three areas of paper and would love to condense, but I don't know that I can as I wish to keep SU cardstock separate and my old CM isn't 12 x 12.

    off to get some pics...

  5. as always a wonderful post. This is one area that I'm satisfied with. I have one cropper hopper with all of my cardstock and then one of the smaller inserts with pp in it. I keep overflow in a sterilite drawer. I keep my stacks together as they are few and I know what they are and tend to use them up quickly.

  6. Stacy,

    I could not find an e-mail address for you, sorry to post here:

    Hello! I am the national Scrapbooking & Stamping Examiner and the DC Paper Craft Examiner for and I want to let you know that I published a feature article about your Organization Challenge today:

    If you would like me to include your last name, please send it to me.

    Thank you so much for the inspiration!


    Michelle Vocke
    DC Paper Craft Examiner

    Scrapbooking & Stamping Examiner

  7. Great post again today Stacy. I'm well on target with the schedule you've set forth for us. The past couple of days and this weekend, I've been doing the decluttering and putting things back where they are supposed to. I'm in the process now of installing some vertical shelves so that I can finally house all my papers that are already sorted/labeled in various CH Holders together in one place. Else, right now, its underneath the dining table, behind couch in living room, etc. It'll be wonderful to get it all in one place. Not sure how much I'll get done tonight.

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. My challenge pictures are up and running. Please check it out and I welcome feedback.

    click on my name, or go to "'.

  11. April, I don't know how to post back on your blog, so I'm posting here and hope you see it. :)
    First of all I have to tell you THANK you for responding. I am very new to blogging and it took a while to get it all together - I've been checking and checking for comments in response to my posts and you are the first one! ;) you made my day! Hubby and I have discussed both options but the shelves are shallow and a few things hang over - so it's hard to cabinet them - but maybe I could do like the bottom half and make the top half the 'pretty' part? Also, it's a cheap laminate covering on the shelves and I'm afraid paint will chip, but I'm going to try it. I'm thinking if I mottle the paint (sort of like sponge painting) then if it chips, I can touch it up without it being an obvious thing. Laminate doesn't paint well....
    Thanks for posting - I hope this challenge works for us.

    June 16

  12. Stacy, thanks for your response about NB. I would love some feedback as we travel through this challenge. I posted pics ... (sad as they are..)

  13. Excellent ideas, great links... love this challenge and can't wait to get started getting my stuff organized (once it gets delivered and unpacked). I currently use vertical and horizontal storage -- have all my cardstock (solid colors, textured, specialty papers) in the vertical paper holders and I love them -- easy to find and grab what I need quickly. And I keep my paper kits together, organized by product line / vendor (SU, CTMH) stored vertically on a Display Dynamics storage unit. It works great for me.

  14. I love this post/challenge!! Thanks SOOO much for doing this! I will have to take pics and put them on my blog. . .

  15. oh my goodness.. I am still working on week three-- while doing week 4 too---
    Can I just mention that I found the very first scrapbook I bought circa 2002-- Susan Branch-- That is still in the box because I thought it was too pretty to use??? Never used-- oh and it came with its own stickers!! hahaha I have also found no less than 15 mini books (and I am still cleaning out areas to move furniture around) that I have bought but never used???? For now I am storing things in shoe boxes until we get to that part of the challenge!!