Wednesday, February 10, 2016

52 The Ultimate Craft Closet Organization

As I was sitting and sorting through piles of craft supplies, my dear friend Cassie looked at me and asked, "Do you really love doing this?"

I looked back with a jumbo-sized smile and said, "Absolutely!"

She then questioned, "Even for other people?  All of this work and you don't even get to enjoy the long term benefits."

I quickly replied, "But that couldn't be further from the truth.  You see, just watching piles become smaller, categories become clear and systems unfold, is a joy that I take with me from each project I work on.  The excitement in knowing that someone else is going to have a positively impacted experience due to the time spent rearranging and purging, makes my heart wear a permagrin for the following days, months and even years.  Understanding the impact an organized space can have on someone when all is said and done, makes it one rewarding job.  Now, when do we get to take a break for some more tacos?"

When Cassie first moved into her home a year ago, she texted me a picture of her new craft closet.  We both turned giddy at the amount of space she had to work with, which was nothing short of dreamy.  The large closet sports double doors that swing wide open to reveal an abundance of space ideal for gift wrapping essentials, craft supplies, sewing notions, photography equipment, office supplies and blog projecting materials.

Although the initial closet came with a basic organizational system previously installed, we both saw a world of potential in the space.  Cassie started by tapping into a system that worked in her previous home, a door organized to the brim with gift wrapping supplies, and doubled the idea on the opposite door to include a space to store a plethora of paints and finishes.  She shared that story with us here.

Over time, the lack of proper systems and stacks of unpacked boxes created a messier closet situation for Cassie and her family.

Given her line of work (cough, blogging, cough), and the fact that her daughter is in love with her daily crafting sessions, it was finally time for Cassie to whip this closet into organizational shape.  And can you imagine my excitement when she consulted with me on this dreamy project?!  Um, twist my arm Sugarplum!

In order to really make this space work for Cassie and her boxes and bins of supplies, she decided to remove the previous system and replace it with a wall-to-wall Elfa from The Container Store.

I mean, can you even?  It doesn't even begin to resemble the same closet!  The amount of storage space she now had available to her basically quadrupled times fifty and add at least six more high fives (my kind of math).  She shared more about the installation process on her blog here.

And once the closet was installed, I packed up my suitcase and flew off to Texas for girl time and organizational bliss.  Although I could just pile on photo after photo of detailed storage delight, I thought I would talk through the thought process we went through while putting the finishing touches on this craftastic space.


Cassie had a really good idea of what she had waiting for her inside of the bins, baskets and boxes that still needed to be unpacked.  She also knew that her previous closet system just was not doing a great job of maximizing her closet walls to the fullest.  She was able to meet with a specialist at The Container Store to put together a design that would offer her years of flexibility.  The beautiful thing about Elfa is that it is on a track system, allowing every last component to be moved and swapped as needs change.  Cassie went all in by pairing large drawers with rows of shelving and a wall of pegboard.  It really gave her a great base to start with, and thanks to the flexibility of the system, we were able to make a few slight modifications as we moved forward with the project.


We didn't even take time to get out of our pajamas for this part as I believe it is important to be happy and comfortable while we work.  Although this step is mostly self explanatory, we took time to go through every last item in Cassie's piles.  I asked her the "keep or toss?" questions while also writing down a list of general and more specific categories that were naturally forming as we went.  An example of a general category would be sewing; while more specific sub-categories of sewing would be fabrics, mediums, dyes, tools, etc....

Now, let's take a second to chat about craft supplies.  The thing is, once you buy a supply for a specific project, you almost always have leftovers of that supply to store.  Those leftovers can quickly grow and grow over time, especially when your job causes you to reach for them on a frequent basis.  And if you have kids, you may find endless benefits in keeping a well stocked craft closet.  While sorting, there were many supplies which ended up in a discard pile.  Those items can now be donated to local libraries, schools, churches, shelters, care centers and donation facilities.  The remainder of Cassie's crafts were broken down into those specific categories I mentioned above.


After the items were sorted into each category, I wrote down the category and we talked through the best bin/container option for each.  We used many of these principles while making our decisions.  We talked about the amount of each category to be stored, frequency of use, placement in the closet, etc...

Cassie already had quite a few smaller containers that she had acquired over the years, which we took inventory of and utilized throughout the project.  However, she did make a couple of purchases to be sure her supplies could adapt to her new closet setup.

For the majority of the smaller crafty items, we found ourselves loving these clear shoe boxes.  Did you know you could purchase an entire carton at a time for a slightly discounted price?  And after using these clear shoe bins for this project, I may never reach for another brand.  #amazingquality  Not only are they clear, making it easy to see contents, but they also stack beautifully and offer a clean and simple appearance.  We also used some over-sized rugby bins for concealing the clutter of larger project based items and table setting props.  Everything else went straight into Elfa drawers and components.


Because much of the storage throughout the closet is clear or easy-to-see and access, we originally thought we would be off of the hook with the need for an abundance of labels.  However, because those clear bins stacked and many were placed on higher shelves (making it nearly impossible to see the contents), all of the clear bins received labels.  And you know that darling daughter I have mentioned a few times now?  The girl LOVES crafting with her mama's supplies.  In fact, this is just as much a closet for her.

Once you add multiple people to the mix, the chance of things making their way back to the same place twice, is reduced significantly.  Labels keep everyone on the same page, so we decided to just go hog wild with labels galore.

For the plastic bins, we found some new adhesive label holders at The Container Store (adhesive also meaning: simple).  We liked that they covered much of the face of the bin and offered a generous area to create large lettering, ideal for reading the bins placed up on higher shelving.

Elfa offers specific labels that clip to the drawers and bins with ease, so we went the easy route with those and put them to work as they were intended.  The best part is that they pair perfectly with label maker tape.

And for the rugby bins, I created labels using Pages on my laptop and pasting them to some thicker cardstock gift tags Cassie had in her stash.  A little ribbon later and the purple tags were stealing the entire show.

Quick Tip:  Also use labels to act as friendly reminders.  Cassie knows that there are a few pair of scissors that should only be used with fabrics, but that is not something her nine year old thinks about in the spur of the moment.  A happy little label tag should do the trick of reminding her which scissors are off limits.


The final step was to put everything away in the new closet.  We talked a lot about the types of supplies she finds herself reaching for on a daily, weekly, monthly and less frequent basis.  We started with her sewing machine, which was bulky and one of the larger items she needed to store.  Not only is it used from time-to-time, it is also too heavy to store up high.

Above the sewing machine, clear bins were stacked.  The items used frequently (adhesives, punches, etc...) were placed at Cassie's main level while less used items went on the upper shelves.

The drawers were great for holding bulkier items, such as stacks of fabrics and photography equipment, along with Cassie's office supplies.  Inside of the drawers we were able to make the most of the large area by adding many smaller bins and boxes that Cassie already had on hand from her last craft closet.

Thanks to the adjustable shelving, the jumbo rugby bins take center stage and remind Cassie that she has some future blog projects to tackle.  The green boxes above are also from her previous closet, and are currently empty and ready for any overflow items that she needs to temporarily store.

The far right of the closet was left open to accommodate tall bolts of fabric, photography boards and lighting kits.

And of course I wouldn't recommend anything other than clear acrylic magazine files to hold Cassie's impressive stack of publications that feature her awesomeness.

Can we take a minute to just ooh and ahh over the pegboard?  It offered additional flexibility for Cassie's most frequently accessed supplies.  Have you seen her work pom-pom magic yet?  If you know her, you will understand why those are hanging out front and center.  The pegboard system allowed us to add a combination of hooks, bins and shelves, giving us quite a few options to select from for each type of craft being stored in this area of the closet.  So much versatility, I can't even articulate my over-the-top excitement any longer.


We added a tray to the station so that Cassie can load up supplies, take them back to her desk or downstairs to photograph, and easily return them when she is done.  The tray is pretty enough to remain camped out on the work surface in-between sessions.

Maximize your closets by utilizing all area from wall to wall and ceiling to floor.  Don't forget the incredible amount of space also offered on the backs of doors.  Bonus points are given for utilizing a closet system that can be adjusted and modified as needs change.

Add thick lining to metal shelving to create a work surface that doesn't allow for small bits and pieces to fall through the cracks.  It also acts as a nice spot to pull the bins to while selecting project materials.

Consider the benefit of cohesive storage.  What really makes this closet work for Cassie, is that the storage is streamlined and unified.  The clear bins stack together and all sport the same labels, the previous green bins line together and conceal smaller random clutter, and three rugby bins hold larger items (versus random bins and boxes spread throughout).  When it came time to label, we also considered the colors that were being used, and they all played off of other areas of the closet.  For example, the purple tags on the stripe bins pick up the color from the floral bins near the floor.  Craft supplies can be very busy on their own, so streamlined storage solutions can really reduce additional eye confusion.  Random, smaller leftover storage pieces work great inside of the drawers and larger bins as dividers.

Last but not least, if it is not broken, don't fix it.  The door system Cassie installed months earlier was working just as she hoped, so it didn't require much attention beyond a few small container swaps.  There were a few other times in which Cassie already had a system down to a science, and we were able to trust that our efforts were better spent on areas that hadn't been addressed yet.


I don't know that I have ever had this much fun working on a project before.  We laughed hard and frequently, yet also found ourselves in the throes of deep and meaningful conversation.  We ate delicious food and listened to music from a variety of genres.  We sorted and labeled and organized while sporting our coziest clothing.  And when all was said and done, we spoiled ourselves with a massage and more tacos.  100% my idea of a dream date.  In fact, I am thinking of starting an organizing workshop that includes taco eating, pajama parties, 80's music and endless sorting and label making sessions.  Am I the only one who would have fun at something like this?

I can't thank Cassie enough for inviting me to work with her on this project, and for hosting me for a few very appreciated days away.  Organizing is always fun for me, but nothing compares to doing it with someone I click with so well.  On the last day, I caught her just standing in front of her closet smiling and gazing at all of the loveliness, and it solidified my response to her when she asked about the joy I get from helping others with their spaces.

If y'all have any questions regarding additional product supply sources spotted throughout this post, be sure to head over to Cassie's blog for even more project details.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

15 Do it Yourself: Paper Sorting Organizer

Hello everyone!  How was your weekend?  I just returned home from a whirlwind trip to Texas to hang with my pal, Cassie.  She had a fun organizational project in the works and I couldn't miss out on the fun.  So we sorted, labeled and ate delicious Tex-Mex multiple times per day.  I can't wait to share more about her project this week; so start preparing to experience new organizational highs unlike any you have felt before...

While Cassie's closet included a lot of planning and thinking, today's project was THE BEST happy accident.  It was not at all planned; it was about as last minute as they come.  It turned out to be pure organizational gold in my eyes, so I thought I would quickly share more about the DIY paper sorting system shared in our recent charging station cabinet post.  And by "more" I mean how we made it!

This post wasn't quite planned so a few photos from the beginning of the process are missing, so I will do my best to explain things in detail.  And the reason for the unplanned post is because this project was also unplanned.  It was the result of my husband getting creative out of my desperation.

We tend to work on our projects late into the night, after our boys are tucked soundly into their beds.  Organizing the charging cabinet was no exception.  I was in the process of trying to get a plethora of things done before heading away for a few days, and as I was putting together our charging cabinet, I hit a few walls.  First, I didn't initially plan for the small shelving pocket to be created to hold the power strip and excess bulk of cords.  That added shelf impacted my initial plans to use magazine files for the boy's homework slots, they were now too tall to fit.  My next plan was to scour my personal office supplies; surely I had paper sorting trays coming out of my ears.  I was able to hunt down two of this kind... one of that kind... and even a few that were too deep for the cabinet.  None that actually stacked nicely together or truly fit the cabinet specs.  You know how it goes.

The last thing I wanted to do was spend any more money because the charging organizer was already a bit pricier than I initially thought it would be.  It was time to get creative.

Bryan always knows when something is bugging me.  He is good at reading me and knowing just the right time to swoop in with a solution.  Traveling for a few days is always extra stressful for me, and he knew I really needed to get this cabinet finished up so I would have time to photograph everything before heading to the airport the following day.  Out to the garage he went.

And wouldn't you know it, we had just enough melamine scrap pieces from previous closet shelving projects.  At the moment, our garage is a disaster from the past year of renovating and house projects, and it was time to put our jumbo scrap pile to good use. Up until this very moment I was frustrated and embarrassed of our cluttered garage and the fact we are parking outside... Suddenly I was grateful!

melamine boards | iron-on edge tape | flat head screws | flat head screw covers | escutcheon pins | label holders

Together we came up with specific cut measurements, based on the amount of space we had available in the cabinet, the thickness of the boards and the number of open slots we needed.  We also ensured the opening to the organizer was wide enough for paper to slide in at landscape orientation.

Each opening would be 12" wide, so Bryan cut four boards at 12" wide by 10" deep.  We had right around 11" of space between our cabinet shelves, so he cut two more boards for the sides of the organizer at 10 1/2" high by 10" deep.  He then measured and marked the two end boards where each interior board would evenly be located.

Up to this point, he didn't take any photos because it was about 11:30 p.m. in a dark garage and I was inside already working on another project. #typical  One tip he did have is to remember to use painter's tape when cutting the melamine to avoid splintering/chipping of the finish (white caulk can also help to fill any imperfections at the end as well).  At this point, he was mindful of the measurements in relation to the finished edges of the boards as he ran them through his table saw (doing his best to keep all nice edges in the front of the organizer).

For the following steps, we actually took it back apart a bit to show what we didn't photograph while initially making it (that is why you already see shelves lined with paper above).

Once the boards were cut and the lines were drawn and his holes were marked, Bryan pre-drilled through the side boards and interior boards to prep for the screws.  It is OK if the holes chip a bit; we have a solution for that in a minute.

After the holes were pre-drilled through the side and into the shelving, we used flat head screws to put the piece together (I believe they were just some regular drywall or wood screws).

The pencil lines easily wiped away with the help of a damp magic eraser.

If you have ever worked with white Closetmaid pieces before, you may know they always come with a baggie of little white screw caps.  We had a drawer of these on hand in our storage room, saved up from a few previous organizational projects.  If you don't have any on hand, they are easy to find at most home improvement stores.

We pressed the plugs into the flat head screw with the help of the round end of a screwdriver (a hammer would also do the trick).  These caps will clean up any drilling marks and hide those dark screw heads.

Lastly, we wanted to put the finishing touches on all of the unfinished edges of the white melamine boards.  The boards and the iron-on edge tape are both 3/4" thick/wide.

We cut the tape close to the length we needed to finish the top edges, snipping it just a bit long on both ends.

A heated iron (with no steam) only took a minute to set the adhesive portion of the tape.

While a utility knife easily sliced the excess tape for a nice and clean finish.

I like to collect label holders from local thrift and antique stores when I see them, because I know I will always have projects that require labeling.  I dug through my bin of labels and came up with some that were just the right size.  They were initially an older silver finish, so they received a little gold gilding.  A little more pre-drilling and we affixed the labels with some very small escutcheon pins.

All finished!

Just the addition of the tape and those screw plugs took the piece to a nice and polished finish.  We just love how we were able to create something at the last minute that worked better than anything else we could have purchased.  Although I usually advise against it, there are times when it is worth it to hold on to extra hardware and wood scraps.  Especially if you love to get creative and save a buck or two.

The slotted shelves were lined with decorative scrap-booking paper from a colored paper pack, and affixed with double stick tape.  I love the color it added to the cabinet and that the paper helps to visually distinguish each slot for the boys.

I can't help but feel all warm and fuzzy about these projects.  Maybe I need to sit and pout in front of cabinets and closets more often as I loved seeing Bryan get so creative in a pinch.  And although not all of these projects-on-a-whim end up with happily ever after, this one was just too good not to share.

Have you recently been creative in order to finish up a project or to save some hard earned moola?  Tell me about organizers that you have created when you are knee deep into a project and unwilling (or unable) to stop just to head to the store.

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