Thursday, July 11, 2013

19 UHeart Organizing: A Tool-Tastic Solution

Amazing how inspiration can strike at any moment.  Contributor Sarah had that happen to her while shopping one day.  Inspiration struck and drove a simple and sweet organizing project that left her smiling big when all was said and done.  Here she is now to share her tool-tastic storage solution for her craft room desk.

I have lived with my craft room in its current state for about 4 years now. I love many things about it but there are also some things that could stand improvement. Over the past year, since I started visiting with all of you on IHeart Organizing, I have been evaluating how I use the space and identifying changes that will make it even more functional for me. My first change was so simple and yet it has significantly changed the effectiveness of my work space.

While creating good organization can take time — and is time well spent — I believe that good storage solutions are ones that are easy to use {with a little periodic maintenance thrown in for good measure}. With this priority in mind, any system I implement has to make it easy for me to find things and even easier to put them away. Otherwise, I just end up with piles of things around my house waiting until I have time to put them away.

So when we first moved into our home and I started organizing the craft room I had been dreaming about for years, I purchased a number of three-drawer bins for storing my craft tools. I have a drawer for adhesives, one for colored pens, another for scissors and so on. Each drawer is clearly labeled and contains a finite number of items, which means it fulfills my easy-to-find-easy-to-put-away rule.

This drawer system has worked great for me for many years, with one exception. After I began working in my space, I realized it would be much more efficient if the tools I use all the time lived together in their own designated container, rather than fishing one after the other out of its own drawer each time I craft.

I originally purchased this cutie from the Container Store to serve as my tool caddy.

The problem with this one is that the tools couldn’t really stand up and I had to dig in the bottom when retrieving shorter items, like my adhesive runner. {Don’t worry, it’s now gotten a new lease on life as a remote caddy, a task to which it is ideally suited}.

Good idea in theory, but just didn’t solve the problem as well as I had hoped. And then one day I received divine inspiration while signing my charge slip at a local store: beans! You know how every cash stand known to man has a container full of beans, holding a supply of pens for customers to use? Works even better for craft tools! I needed three items to complete this project:
  • A container to fill with beans. I went with an 8.5” tall flower pot.
  • A shallow dish to hold the items that weren’t really suited to the beans.
  • Bags of pinto beans. I used six bags because of the size of the pot.

I actually purchased all my items, because I was specifically looking to infuse a bit of yellow and deep pink into my craft space, but it would be just as easy to complete this project with cute containers found around the home. The flower pot I purchased from Home Goods and the adorable tulip bowel is from Target’s summer dishware collection {have a mentioned I love repurposing kitchen items for my craft space?}. The beans I scored for ONE DOLLAR PER BAG at the dollar store {special shout out to my other favorite Jen for that tip!}. 

I filled the pot with the beans, stopping about 2” from the rim. I kept evaluating as I emptied the bags into the pot to make sure 1) the tools would sit tall enough in the container so I could conveniently reach them; 2) the beans were compact enough that the tools would stay standing up {thus solving the issue with my original tool caddy}; and 3) the beans were loose enough to allow me to easily get the tools in and out.

Then it was time to load in the tools! First, I filled the flower pot with the items that would work well in the beans, like writing utensils, scissors and blades, glue pens and rulers.

Next I filled the shallow bowl with my smaller everyday tools: adhesive runner, tape and post it notes.

My craft table also doubles as a desk, for when I work from home, am working on grad school homework or writing. So my tool caddy provides the added bonus of putting writing utensils and post-it notes within quick reach for those tasks as well!

But I was not done yet! While I like storing my tools in a sensible and pretty container, the reality is that I also need to use them. If I am working on a project where I use one tool repeatedly, I don’t return it to its container between uses. As a result, things get strewn all over my table, meaning I have to keep moving things out of the way as I am working or if I want to take a break from the project. The problem gets even worse if I’m working with little items, like brads, buttons or flowers.

So that got me thinking… What if I had a small tray to keep my tools on while I’m working on a project and second tray to corral any embellishments I’m working with? Back to Target I went and found the perfect solution in the children’s dishware aisle {again, you may already have something on hand that works well, especially you parents out there, but I had a particular size and color scheme in mind and I got these for practically nothing!}.

When the embellishment tray is not in use, it tucks into the space next to one of my drawers. If I need to take a break in the middle of a project and use my desk for something else, I just slip the tray on top of the drawer, where the tiny items stay protected and safe from curious hands {or in my case, curious puppies} until I am ready to work on the project again.

My tool tray lives under the flower pot and bowl when it’s not in use. That way, it’s easy to find when I’m ready to use my tools and it makes the whole kit and caboodle easy to move if I need extra space on my work table.

It is absurd how much joy this simple change has brought me. Every time I step into my craft room, I fall in ♥ all over again. And even better, it is amazing how well this solution works for me. My craft table is now in a constant state of neatness, it is unbelievably easy for me to grab the right tool when I need it and I feel like I am a more efficient crafter as a result. Who knew such a small project could do so much?

How have you changed your space to fit the way you work?  Have you recently introduced a new storage solution that transformed your work space?

"My name is Sarah Eelkema and I live in a suburb of Minneapolis, MN with my husband of almost two years, Eric, and our two adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Hermes and Brontë. I am a Communications Consultant by day and by night/weekend/any spare moment, I indulge in my passion for writing, crafting and organizing. I am honored to share with all you dedicated iHeart fans my tips, tricks and secrets for organized crafting, which will not only help you get control of your craft clutter but also allow you to make more efficient and productive use of your precious crafting time. While I am blessed with an entire craft room, I promise to explain how all the solutions I share can be tailored to your specific situation, whether it be a dedicated room, a small storage space or mobile crafting. In the meantime, Happy Crafting!"


  1. Great idea! Any ideas what you could use besides beans? I dumped all of my bean tables and stuff after mice got into the bean table at my son's kindergarten class and left behind a lot of "evidence" in the beans. Gave me the heeby-jeebies about keeping beans around!

    1. You could use glass stones instead of beans or rice. Coffee beans work great as well, and smell good too!


  2. This is a great idea! You could also use smooth stones from the craft store/ or décor sections...

  3. I was just trying to solve this exact dilemma! Thanks for the tips, I'm off to buy some Pinto beans!

  4. I was going to say the same thing, Sarah! It's a spendier option, but it would look adorable. Another idea would be to use plastic beads, like Perler beads, which again will cost a little more, but you can probably find them on discount at a craft store.

    :) Sarah

  5. Brilliant ideas here. I am more than happy with my current tool caddy, but that tip about having a tray for while working on projects - genius! Thanks so much for sharing! :)

  6. Love the bean idea. I use a tiny Pyrex bowl to corral small odds and ends. I found an 8x8 box at Michaels to hold my post-it's, pencil sharpener, tape, glue runner, and paper clips.

  7. Great idea. And this is total frivolity, but do you know how easily beans, lentils and such DYE? Toss them in a zipper bag, add some alcohol inks and shake til coated. Can you see hot pink beans inside that yellow vase?

    1. Oh boy, might have to add that to add that to the project list!


  8. You could also be using coffee beans (now I am not exactly sure if mice are going after coffee beans but I never had a problem). I love using coffee beans as they give the room a really nice roasted coffee bean smell - just as you if you were in the grocery isle where they grind your beans. I love the smell it starts out strong but tapers down to a real nice faint odor and you could use all kinds of flavors as well if you love one more than another. This of course is a very personal decision. Rocks, marbles or sand can work just as well.

  9. Cute! I never would have thought to use beans! And I love your use of trays (in pretty colors!) for projects that are "in process." Thanks so much for sharing, Sarah and Jen!

    ~Abby =)

  10. I had one other thought as I was brushing my teeth this morning. :) You could also try florists foam. It requires a bit more effort in the set up to carve out exact spots for your tools and a bit more precision when putting tools away, but still a great end result, I think.


  11. I absolutely love the yellow pot and the bean idea is genius!

  12. Great ideas! Can't wait to implement these in my craft space.


  13. I've always used rice. I never thought of beans.

  14. I love the fact that you suggested the kids dishes at Target and how the plate becomes a tray when not in use.

  15. Dried beans are notorious for containing pantry moth larvae. If you have never dealt with the nightmare of an infestation, keep it that way. Try using plastic beads instead of beans. You can get big (and cheap) bags of plastic beads in most craft sections of stores like Walmart, Target, etc.


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