Post #2. Part of a series of posts about organizing your creative space. See #1 here.

First Things, First

OK. You’ve come to grips with the fact that things need to change, and now you’re ready to get started. Where to start? It seems hopeless! The first step may be the toughest, but it’s also the most important. You are going to have to put your hands on EVERY art/craft supply you own over the next couple of days. And I mean ALL of it.

Supplies that help:
-Clear sandwich bags
-trash bags
-boxes (Big ones and shallow ones. You can get them for free at the grocery store, just ask customer service and you can pick them up the next day. Pineapple boxes are great!)
-shelves, bookcases, cabinets

If you don’t have some of this stuff, you don't need to buy it before you can get cleaned up. Find a substitution. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will have an organized space. You can buy storage shelves (or whatever) later if you need to.

I am really good at rationalizing my mess and making excuses to delay getting organized. The morning I was about to start this process myself two weeks ago, I reasoned, “But I can’t get started yet, I need to get some baskets and another shelf for storage.” With tough love my boyfriend sternly said to me “I think you know what you NEED to do.” I didn’t want to hear it. Still, I needed to just dive in. Other things can wait. You need to get your studio and home organized. It will improve almost every aspect of your life.

Grab a Recycling bin and/or trash bag and go ahead and clear out any obvious things that can go away- paper, fabric and thread that is too small to do anything with, packaging, plastic bags from purchases.

Now focus on one little corner or one box of junk and start sorting. You will need to put each object in one of these places:
1. Trash/Recycling Bag
2. Goodwill Bag- Not trash, but you can part with it.
3. Things to Keep

As you find things you want to keep, start making piles of similar things. I put things together that I use together, and I had a rule that I could only have one storage place per type of item. For example- I had a printmaking pile. And I had a scissors pile. I do use scissors during printmaking, but since I was storing scissors together, I couldn’t put any of them in the printmaking pile. Make sense? Grouped piles will start to naturally form as you go through your stuff, so don’t get stressed out about labeling a pile right away. See what you instinctively put together- groupings may form that you didn’t realize were there. Stick to your piles as you are sorting.

Once you get to the point where you have, for example, a pile of all the tape you own, go ahead and give it it’s own Ziploc bag or small box. You may find it necessary to go through each pile once it's grouped to organize and purge once again. If you put it in a box, label it. Go ahead and make a storage place for it. That way, if you find more tape while you are sorting, you already have a place to put it. This will build your confidence and momentum.

Systematically move though your space a little at a time. It is possible to have a lot of stuff and still be organized, but you have to make a system. My theory with the boxes is that in the future when I need something, I can pull the box down off the shelf and rummage through the box- instead of rummaging through the entire shelf. It will seem neater, and I am still allowed to rummage! Win-win!


Here are some of the boxes that I labeled for my own studio:
-branding materials
-hair clip hardware
-fabric for this season
-other fabric
-spray paint
-shipping stuff
-hand tools (scissors, Xacto knives, etc.)
-Pile of all stray paper that I could use later for projects or scratch paper
-assorted envelopes
-greeting cards
-buttons: store in sectioned storage containers for easy viewing

I also made boxes for objects that required some kind of action before they could be stored away or sent out of my studio. So I had Things to Finish (Soon!), Ideas that will soon be reality, Stuff to Blog, Inbox (paperwork that needs immediate attention) and Inspirations. I also made a big box of “personal craft projects” and moved this out of my work area and into my bedroom. Pretty much everything else could just be stored.

It will probably take you a few days to get through everything, or maybe longer. But it is crucial to keep a positive attitude and be persistent. Allow yourself to take breaks occasionally and reflect on how well you are doing! And don’t let yourself off the hook or settle for a semi-neat space. If you need to, think of this process as your punishment for letting it get to this state. You got yourself into this mess (literally), and YOU ARE GOING TO GET YOURSELF OUT. But don’t be too hard on yourself, and remeber, as Cherry Jeffs points out in his concise article How to Keep the Artists Studio Clutter Free Forever, “this kind of studio purge should never have to be done again.”

Now get to sorting! You can do it!


  1. Great blog! Thanks so much for the organizing tips--and for donating to Goodwill!

  2. Thanks Aleigh! No problem. I hope other people will donate too!!

    More organization posts are coming.