Monday, July 13, 2009

Organize Your Stuff Challenge - Week 8

This week's Challenge is near and dear to my heart, because I wrestled with a solution for so many years and just recently found a great solution. I'm talking about projects, unfinished pages, and kits. We ALL have them - pages that need a little something but you don't know what, so it gets put aside. Monthly kits that come in and get stashed on top of a desk, only to be lost under piles. Projects that you intend to start, but can't find the rest of the supplies for so they just sit there. I have some suggestions that will hopefully work for you - they may or may not, so if anyone else has found a great working solution, post it as well!

My idea is a take-off of Stacy Julian's "Start Here" jar from Photo Freedom. What you will need (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):

1. Some sort of enclosing system to hold 12x12 paper and elements. Some options include:
Zip lock bags:
Craft Keepers:
Snap-top Iris boxes:
3-drawer chests:
Page protectors
Expandable files:
Planning folders:
Paper pouches:

Note that some of the options are better suited for pages (ie, they won't hold bulky embellishments), while others will be better for projects or kits. I bought a 50 pk of bags off of Ebay for pretty cheap - they're 13x15", so they'll hold larger supplies, and they're thick enough not to tear. I don't need 50 bags right now, but I'm sure I'll find other uses for them, and they're cheaper in bulk than the large ziplocs you find at the grocery store. You can also split them with your friends, or use them for page kits. I use the Iris boxes for my larger projects (like baby albums) - I like that they stack and I can put a ton of stuff - including memorabilia - in them.

2. A way to store these enclosing systems. A bin, box, tiered skirt hangers, filing cabinet or upright holders (such as Cropper Hopper paper files) will work. If you're using page protectors, look into 3-ring binders. I went with the Cropper Hopper vertical paper holders. They hold the 13x15" ziploc bags beautifully.

3. Popsicle sticks. Raid your rub-on packs or your kid's art supplies.

4. A small can or jar to hold the sticks. I use a small wooden planter.

5. A black pen.

6. Your label maker (which should be permanently attached to your hip at this point).

How to do it: Place each one of your unfinished projects, layout, kits, etc in its own bag/container. Each bag gets a label - start with #1 and move up. You can label larger projects individually (ie, Baby Album). At the end, everything should be in a matching container so you can pull one out with ease. Place all these containers in numerical order in the larger bin or basket. So for my system, I have my ziploc bags labeled and stashed in the Cropper Hopper vertical files. I also use the Iris cases for my larger projects:

Grab your popsicle sticks. For each number on your bag, put the same number on your popsicle stick. This goes for your projects as well. So you should have a "1" popsicle stick, "2", etc and one labeled "Baby Album" (for example). Use as many sticks as you have bags/projects. Here are my sticks, feel free to dress them up:

Once you have all your sticks labeled, put them in your jar:

Ok, great! So now you have a jar full of popsicle sticks and you're probably thinking I'm nuts. Well, a little, but that's ok. This jar is going to be your little scrap angel who gets you moving in the right direction when you don't know where to begin. You know those moments - when you have 2 hours of freedom, you walk into your CLEAN scrap space, and think "OMG where do I start?" and log on to 2Peas instead and kill your 2 hours dead. You will not be doing that anymore. Instead, you're going to pull out a stick - randomly. Say your stick says "#6." Go to your bins and grab bag #6. It may be the kit you got in the mail yesterday - go find some pics and create a layout with it. It may be the page you set aside last August - finish that baby up! Work each project as long as you have time, and then re-file it when it's done - or keep on working if you have the mojo. Once the file is cleared out, recycle that bag for the next project or finished page. Or if you get stuck again, just re-file it - you'll come back to it next time you choose that stick. And you don't HAVE to use the sticks everytime - your system is now organized enough that you can flip through everything you have in-progress and choose a project that matches your mood. Isn't organization wonderful? Aaaahhh.

I want to quickly share one neat tip I found to keep track of your kits - take a picture of each one with all the contents spread out. You can then keep this with the kit itself (so you don't have to search through the whole kit), or in a separate notebook. And if you want to keep track of everything that you have page-wise, here's a very cool download I found from Becky Higgins. It will help you keep track of what's missing what.

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. With once 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!

Congratulations, your piles of projects, kits and pages have now been tamed! Raaar! Go relax with a latte and I'll see you back here for Week 9 - be ready ladies, we're going to get those embellishments in order!



  1. Hi there Stacy,
    A couple of questions! You bought bags from Ebay - were they the ones in your first link? what kind did you get?
    You have projects in both the Iris bins AND in your Cropper Hoppers? Are you putting the pictures in the bag too?

  2. I spent a little time organizing my Undone stuff earlier this year. I used CH paper files for the page kits, and Iris albums for theme albums in progress (I don't subscribe to a kit club).

    I quickly got very frustrated with the Iris boxes - they wouldn't stay closed! Stacked vertically or on top of each other, the clasp would pop open. And a couple of them only had a small stack of patterned paper and a few embellishments, so they weren't over full.

    After I dumped my pregnancy album kit on the floor for the second time, they all got returned. I'm still looking for an alternate solution. I'm interested in the ArtBin and Creative Options bins, but haven't seen them IRL to see if they'll fit on my shelves.

  3. Jo - the bags I have are identical to the one in the link, but I'm not sure if it's the same seller or not (I bought them a while ago!). For my projects - if they're small projects (ie, anything that can FIT in the ziploc!) then they go in the bag in the Cropper Hoppers. But if they're larger ones - like the Becky Higgins baby kits, a set of board books, etc - then I put them in the Iris boxes. I generally DON'T include pictures with my kits, because I don't know when an idea might hit that I want the photos used with another layout - and I don't want to be digging through all my kits to find that one photo I need.

    Bree - yeah, that's one of my complaints with the Iris boxes too. I just leave them unsnapped. :)


  4. I highly recommend the artbin boxes...they have latches that stay closed and handles that make transport super easy. I love the project jar idea...I might even get something done...2peas might miss me though....

  5. You are a girl after my own heart with your label maker.

  6. Then I think I'm missing the point of a 'kit'. So like if I'm doing a baby page, all the matching baby stuff is together so I can do a layout? is that it? I don't subscribe to monthly kit things if that's what ya'll are talking about.

  7. A kit can be many things. Most of mine ARE from monthly subscriptions. But they can also be a complete line (one of my "kits" is all the paper, die cuts, ribbon and embellies from Crate Paper Little Sprout - I usually break up most of my coordinates, but some of them are too cute and I like to keep them together). Kits can also be pages in progress - I have a few that I wasn't loving and got stumped, so I put them in a ziploc and filed it. Or they can be things you put together with photos - if I'm going to a crop in the future, then I will make page kits (with the photos) and put them in one of the Cropper Hopper files. When I need to pack for the crop, I just have to grab the ziplocs in that file!

  8. I found a great way to store my kits. I used the Zippy bags, put all papers and stickers/rubons/chipboard etc. in the bag with it. I labeled the bags by theme so a little easier for me to go right to what I want to scrapbook. I put them standing up in wire racks that are intended for sheet pans. They stay standing when I pull one out, they are easy to thumb through and easy to add too. The racks were a little more than $5 and it only took 3 to hold all of my kits that before were in about 4 verticle storage things, a large stack on my table and 5 Iris containers. Now they are much easier for me to use.

  9. You can get 2 1/2 gallon zippy bags at the grocery store for just a few dollars. There are 12 in a box and they have slider tops with a large area for writing on them. I use these in my own storage and for workshop supplies when I teach workshops. They hold lots of things and they hold up really well too.

  10. i love this idea. i never know where to start and some of my projects are sitting around half finished.

  11. I used to take the pic from the internet of the kit contents and print it and put it in the ziploc bag my kit came in. I haven't done that in a long time (years! LOL). I just put it away now before digging out a new one. I just need to find a way to keep my embellies close at hand. Cropper's don't stay snapped. I too still use them and don't worry about it. Mine are stacked in the closet on the shelf.