Moving Your Bead Stash: A New Chance to Organize Your Beads

As you read this, picture me packing up a U-Haul for my move across town. I've been in this house for nine years now, and sorting through all the stuff of my life has been daunting. For instance, why do I have two irons-did I think having two might make me want to iron? And what's with these old love letters from high school? Oh, and I haven't even mentioned my beading studio. Nine years is a long time to let a bead stash ferment in one place, and its growth has definitely been . . . well, let's call it "healthy."

As I box up my beads and supplies this week, I'm organizing and condensing. But I'm also dreaming about how I'd like to set up my new studio. I thought you might be interested to read about a few of the things I'm considering: Maybe they'll help you reorganize your stash, too?

Sift through unused beads
I have a lot of beads that just need to go. Many of these are nice beads, but I've had them for twenty years and they still haven't been used. I know someone else could look at them with fresh eyes and create something beautiful. So I may just bring them to my next bead group meeting and let folks have at'em.

Sort your bead leftovers
Before I load my stash into the moving truck, I'm going to take the opportunity to put like beads together. For instance, I have hundreds of little plastic baggies with just a smattering of seed beads in each. Some are leftover from projects, others are from photo shoots, and all just clutter up my workbench.

I've decided it's time to stop thinking I'm going to put them back in their proper tubes-that just ain't gonna happen. Instead, I'm going to dump them all into a bucket and call it a seed-bead salsa. I'll use this colorful mixture for seed-bead projects like those featured in "Simply Seeds," a fun, seed-bead-focused department found in each issue of Beadwork Magazine. 

Organize your bead containers
I'm labeling all the other moving boxes ("Kitchen," "Bedroom," etc.), so I'm going to ride this organizational wave and take the time to label all my storage boxes, too. I've always depended on the see-through quality of the storage boxes to know what's inside, but it'll be nice to have everything clearly labeled, too.

I've been able to keep my studio neat by storing my little bead boxes on top of one another on my closet shelves, but they've been difficult to get to. In my new studio I'm going to store them in these easily accessible drawers that I can roll under my workbench.


Dream of beads at the ready
I'll also be utilizing these big storage cabinets that used to store tools in the garage. Now they'll be used for storing my big bead boxes. The ones shown here contain the kits I sell when I teach, but this system will work great for any of my big bead storage boxes. Plus, when I label them like this, they'll be easily identifiable and I won't have to scramble around looking for them like I've done in the past.

Have you moved your bead stash recently? What tips do you have for the rest of us? Please share your organizational epiphanies below!


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About jeancampbell

Jean Campbell is the founding editor (and currently the senior editor) of Beadwork magazine and has written and edited more than 45 beading books. She has written for Beading Daily and has appeared on the DIY Jewelry Making show, The Shay Pendray Show, and PBS' Beads, Baubles, and Jewels where she gives how-to instructions, provides inspiration, and lends crafting advice. Jean teaches jewelry-making workshops throughout the United States and calls Minneapolis home.

63 thoughts on “Moving Your Bead Stash: A New Chance to Organize Your Beads

  1. The card shop next to our bead shop was clearing out some rotating card racks. I snagged some, not knowing what to do with them (free stuff!). I sold one, hang finished jewelry on one, put bags of unfinished projects in another, and the best- put baggies of seed beads in clear cd cases in another. They are neat, easy to see, and I can put hundreds of cases on one rack!

  2. I had stored my seed beads by size, then by color. Neither worked. I now store my seed beads (bagged) in containers I buy at the hardware store That are eight drawers down and eight drawers across. Across one row is all my beads in one color. Down one column is all my beads in one size – so if I need silver 15os I can go to one drawer. My larger beads are stored by color for the most part in see through boxes with compartments.

  3. I save my tic tak containers, add small crystals and label them. Not only are they visible, but when I need more I know exactly what they are and where I got them.

  4. I just love the organizers from Craft Mates! The smaller canvas organizers can sit on a shelf just like a binder and are so much neater than the other options I’ve checked out, and are so easy to take out with me when I’m on the go. I can use one whole organizer just for findings, another for crystals, etc. I got mine at Omer des Serres in Montreal, but you can order them from other stores listed on their website.

    Oh yes, I almost forgot to tell you… Each row of storage found in the canvas organizer is locked – all you have to do is push the slider from the side and this will allow you to open as many of the compartments as you wish without worrying you’ll accidently open other compartments while you are working.

  5. p.s. to my previous comment… When I am storing new beads, etc. I pull off the price sticker and add the number of beads or findings that I got for that price. If it isn’t obvious from the price sticker where I bought it, I add the store name too and then stick it on one of the walls of the compartment (I’ll add other details like if it’s real silver, etc.). If there is no sticker I just cut a small square of paper and write it all down while I still have the bill handy and slide the paper into the compartment along the wall of the compartment.

  6. I just made a move after 8 years and I can understand how you feel! Most of my stash are in clear Sterilite 8.5×11 drawers (labelled on the outside semi-precious tones, S. crystals, fresh water pearls, etc.). For the move, I put each drawerful of my beauties into gallon bags and wrote the contents on the outside, so when I unpack I just empty the contents by their respective drawer.
    I have still yet to collect empty shoe boxes to use to hold my seed beads collection. I am planning to sort by size and finish and labeling the outside of the boxes.

  7. To organize my tubes of seed beads I took a piece of 1 x 2 wood and drilled holes in two rows, but in a staggered pattern. I stand the tubes up in this and that way I can see what colors I have at a glance. Now I won’t be buying the same colors over and over ’cause I can’t tell if I have them. I’m thinking of patenting it. : > )

  8. I used to use the compartmental boxes usually used for embroidery thread for all my beads, but I would always forget what I had them and where they were, because they were not in plain view. Sooooo, I went to a local building center and purchased several 12×12 peg boards and peg hooks, and I re-strung ALL of my pearls, fire polish, etc. and hung them all up on the pegs by categories and color. I never been so organized and all I have to do is say I need a “red fire polish size 4mm”, and BAM! there it is. I also have all of my Swarovski bicones, in bead tubes hung up there also by color and size. I hope you all will consider this, it is amazing and everything at my fingertips! It was fun to see my 94 year old mother and her 12 year old great granddaughter stringing beads together.
    Kim T.

  9. As a dedicated beader and Professional Organizer, I have a couple of suggestions to add here:

    * Be careful how much weight you load in plastic drawers. If the drawers are too heavy, they will sag and be very hard to open. The same goes for cabinets with chipboard shelves. If you find that shelves in your storage cabinet are sagging, purchase a 3/4″ diameter dowel, cut two pieces to size to “correct the sag” (push the shelf up to it’s non-saggy state before you measure) then place the dowels in the center of the shelf, one each at the front and rear. No more sag, and no access lost!

    * Label early, label often: you really should own a P-touch or similar label maker (I have two!). Label both ends as well as the lid of your boxes – that way if you put the box back with the “wrong side” facing out, you still have a label to read.

    * I transfer all of my seed beads to small plastic zipper bags then peel off the label on the bead tube and stick it on the bag. If I need more of that bead, I have the name of the shop, bead color and finish, and manufacturer easily accessible.

    * I keep one shoebox-size plastic box loaded with “Project Packs” – a ready-to-go project in a zipper bag I can grab to take with me. It’s an easy way to bring a project along when I go to my father-in-law’s house for a weekend. Project pack and my work box and I am good to go.

    * Work box: I have one plastic container I use to keep a selection of needles, scissors, airplane-friendly thread cutter, thimble, beeswax, pen and pad, measuring tape, bead mat, plastic spoon, and other items I use all the time. the box moves around the house with me and I have all the supplies I need.

    * Plastic spoon: your best friend for picking up beads from a mat! when I teach classes, I always add “plastic spoon” to the supply list and no one ever brings one. After they see how quickly I pick up the beads on my mat, they become believers!

  10. I keep my gemstones in freezer ziplock bags with the label, and then store them all in a wheeled zippered pilots case. it has pull out handle for wheeling and not having to bend down. it also has buckle straps for loading on canvas carry totes for seed beads and glass components. front of large wheeled case, has 2 large compartment zippered pouches, one of which goes the length of the case, the shorter one also has a front zippered pouch. These hold my design book (pictures of past designs or graphs of new ones) long ruler, tweezers, zipper bag of safety pins (i use them to hang up necklaces on displays when at craft shows (pin head is upside down and to the fabric, clasp hooks onto to head) shorter pouch holds stringing cable wire spools, hand tools (pliers, crimps cutters) etc and outside pocket holds beading needles, threaders, nylon beading thread, etc

    Inside of wheeled case, has 2 zippered pouches on the lid, one holds all the spare ziplock bags, both new and reuseables, other one holds price tags, small plaque tags for quick identify on display tables, spare business cards, order forms etc.

    the smaller totes i use, both have shoulder straps, but are way too heavy to use them as they are plastic snapped kind, but the smaller of the two has one zipper that goes all along one side (much like soft sided lunch boxes for school age). Has long velcro flap pockets on side (holds 2 of the smaller slide lock bead compartments, inside flap has 4 of these velcro flapped pockets. I manage to get 3 layers of the slide lock small compartment bead boxes (formerly stored in Craft Mate binders, which i found to become loose and dump out the boxes if not picked up right) and 2 of the larger compartment double slide lock bead boxes (by Craft Mate) I use these to hold all the seed beads i use as well as all the bugle beads in 3 sizes. the two double boxes hold my cloisonnes beads. the larger zippered box tote, has zippers that open the top flap (that is also secured with velcro) as well as opening the front to allow compartment boxes to act as pull outs (no dividers between boxes) This tote holds all my glass component beads sorted by color. there are 5 boxes. there is also enough room to house a zippered carry case of hand tools for bead work between the boxes and the top flap. Also on the inside of the top, are 2 rows of wide elastic for more tool storage. on the sides are velcro flapped pockets. one has pocket that is entire height of tote, other is shorter. i use the shorter ones to hold the spools of stringing cable, the longer to hold 6inch ruler or long tweezers with scoop on end.

  11. I have discovered superb organizational items at hardware stores. My favorite beads and beading/wire wrapping items are placed in two smaller cases that have two drawers and a flip top hinge lid I found at a Lowe’s hardware. I tend to browse for storage at every place I go now. You would be surprised at what you can find hidden in some aisle or corner. I carry these boxes in large wheeled suitcases for craft booths at sales events.

    One time I found very strong shoe boxes by the case at Sam’s club. I bought them at the best price ever. Glad I stocked up because that was a one time buy for them. Now, I always check with signage of the store to see if my new favorite organizers are normal stock or special buys. I stock up as fast as I can on the really great special buys. I have never regretted the stocking up of organizers. They tend to change contents but I rarely get rid of organizers. These boxes also go in my suitcases. Talk about EASY traveling. I have three of these suitcases.

    One thing I did discover is dollar store items can become fragile. TEST the plastics before buying. I also tape any boxes or drawers shut when I am traveling or I stuff table cloths in to keep boxes from shifting around. I have had spills.

  12. I always hated to have to bring out all my bead boxes to find the colors and types I wanted. So I got smart and rearranged them by color. My metal beads are in two boxes and my large focal beads in a couple more. Fused glass takes up a couple of other boxes. All my boxes are labeled so I know what’s there. I do still have two large boxes full of miscellaneous beads, broken jewelry, garage sale finds…. But overall, it’s much easier now when I’m working on a project to find just what I want.

  13. I always hated to have to bring out all my bead boxes to find the colors and types I wanted. So I got smart and rearranged them by color. My metal beads are in two boxes and my large focal beads in a couple more. Fused glass takes up a couple of other boxes. All my boxes are labeled so I know what’s there. I do still have two large boxes full of miscellaneous beads, broken jewelry, garage sale finds…. But overall, it’s much easier now when I’m working on a project to find just what I want.

  14. You might just have the greatest timing on this post ever. Yesterday my mother told me I needed to clear out my room at her house. And my beads. She said she was going to make my room into a “hangout” room, because I no longer live there. So I must bring all of it to my current living space. Thanks for the tips!

  15. Great tips!
    I have been on a mission to organize my space as well. When my 12×11 space is out of control, I tend to become the itinerant beader… any space will do.

    I added another row 2′ of peg board above the 2′ already there. Adding one corner gives me 14 linear feet x 4 feet high to hang my seeds on. I hang them by size then broken down by color. I need them visible to pull new color ways. I did invest in the highest quality UVA/UVB windows and additional shade treatment to protect my beads.

    One great tip my beader friend Met Innmon gave me, was some translucent shoe boxes from Home Depot that are .99 each. I can put all the beads needed for a project or kit broken down by color palette. They stack well in book shelves that are lined up below my seeds.

    My biggest challenge??? Bead filing! I have a basket that is current pretty full that needs to go back on the wall.

    I also found a 4′ x 18″ folding table at a garage sale that is PERFECT for the stuff that accumulates and that keeps my drafting table free (or one would think) for beading! My computer is in there as well, so I can write instructions as I bead.

    The other walls are filled with kid’s artwork, photos and the stuff of life! I have one washcloth from Japan that reads: “TINY STUDIO: In the midst of a glittering nature, we can always fine time to make ourselves totally at home.”

    When my space is comfortable and well organized it frees my mind to wander with the beads! Happy Beading!

  16. The absolute best investment I ever made was these mini stackables from bestcraftorganizer. They advertise in all the bead magazines. I cannot begin to tell you how they changed my beading. Instead of having to search through plastic boxes on top of other plastic boxes, and opaque shoeboxes that held other items, all unorganized, everything is now organized by color, (I used ROYGBIV plus black and white) by size, and by type. So if I want red 11’s I go to the top drawer of my 11’s stackable. If I want red 8’s, they are in a corresponding spot in a different stackable. I did they same with all the findings., silver tone in one and gold tones in another.They do cost, but the company is a dream to work with, and the items are made in Canada (I think) and everything was machined very well.

  17. I’m currently moving my bead stash, as well, and although I’m not reorganizing everything at this time, I did buy a few of those locking Craft Mate organizers. After taking one out of its plastic clamshell box, I began looking for the little “recycle” mark, but couldn’t find one. Not wanting to throw them in the trash, I decided to use them to store large tubes of beads, packages of beading needles, and spools of the hand-quilting thread I use for stringing seed beads. The packaging isn’t as sturdy as the containers, but they are clear, stackable and reclosable, making them good for storing items I don’t need frequent access to. And they get a second life outside of the landfill.

  18. I keep my beads separated by type and/or color, (crystals, stones, pearls, shells, etc.) in those flat plastic containers divided into 20 squares or so. I used to just stack them up, but it was hard to get a box from the middle of the stack. So now I use those plastic stacking paper units (office supplies) to put the boxes in. You can grab a box from it’s own little shelf and put it back with ease. They fit perfectly. I used Sharpies to label the front of each box for even quicker ID.

    I keep my seed beads in the long tubes. I separate them by color and stand them up in plastic frozen juice containers that I cut down to about 3 1/2 inches tall. Then I keep the containers in those stacking bins that are open from the front.

  19. hi! enjoy your e-mails. i would like to make an offer to buy— and pay postage— your leftover beads. im fairly new at this but i do have a great creative streak and am totally frustrated by the same ol, same ol! i just cant find anything different and ive got a feeling that your leftovers will be different. would you pls contace me by e-mail or call me at 719 358 9444?hope to hear from you soon!!! I would really really appreciate it. thanks have a Blessed day! kalyna

  20. Good luck with your move! I abhor moving. It seems like something that I do frequently and it’s a bane to my psychological existence. I’m still unpacking and I’ve been here since last November!

  21. I keep my all beads and findings in the craft plastic baggies sized that fits the quantity on hand. Then using stackable three-drawer sets from Target I keep them by color (black, red, blue, green, purple, silver, gold, copper, etc.). I pull a drawer by color or items when needed and then sort through the baggies in the drawer. I often find more than what I was looking for (which is a good thing and often happily changes my designs).

    In the baggies I keep the original purchase paper labels or card stock that items were attached to. When I purchase things, I immediately mark with permanent marker where purchased, the price plus the tax and cost per item on the back, front or inside of these cards so I have it for inventory costs and production costs when making things and it’s always handy inside the bag with the product.

  22. I’ve been beading for less than a year and I’m still trying to learn various techniques and stitches. In my quest to have all of the tools, beads, string, wire,storage containers and numerous other items that I find critically essential, I have amassed quite a collection, which due to lack of space, I must keep in my bedroom. At this point I have a rolling 3 drawer cart that stores some of my storage containers and other items, I love it because it holds so much and since the top has a lip around it, I attached an adhesive backed piece of felt and I use it for jewelry making. When I’m done with it I just put everything back in the drawers and roll it back in it’s place. I also have a 4 shelf bookcase that I have taken one of the shelves and designated it for my storage boxes and beading magazines. I have my beads stored by color and each container is labeled. This really works for me because my apartment is small and although I have a lot of beading materials, it stays neat and compact and accessable. As time goes on and I eventually move to a larger place, I already have plans to have my beading room and I will have 2 or 3 bookcases and several more rolling drawer carts and maybe a couple of storage cabinets. Starting out with such limited space has given me a greater appreciation for multipurpose items. I shop at thrift stores and yard sales and I look for unique storage items that are small but can hold a variety of items. One item I want to mention, I got from JoAnn Fabrics, it’s a small bead storage container that holds 52 small boxes and 2 larger ones, they were on sale for half price so I bought 5 of them and they are excellent containers. Instead of having storage boxes all over the place, I just take out the small boxes with the colors I need. Our local DollarTree Store has small storage bins with the lid that interlocks, and I have 4 of them for my tools,storage bags and other incidentals, they are great because they don’t take up a lot of space and they are stackable. My advice is to choose storage items carefully, I have beads of every size and color and they are neatly stored, easily moved, easily accessable and take up very little space.

  23. I’m not moving, but I went through a much-needed organizing “blitz” of my studio a couple of months ago. It was tedious and it took awhile because I insisted on putting every little bead back where it came from, but now I’m SO glad I did. I moved all of my sterling, gold-fill, brass, copper, etc. to a plastic rolling organizer. Wire, charms, clasps, jump rings and other findings are housed by like-item in labeled zippered bags to protect them from oxidation. All the drawers are labeled, too, so finding things is a breeze! When I moved the metals out of my bead cabinet, this freed up room for more beads, so now I have room to grow. I can now find things immediately. It also prevents over-buying since I now know exactly what I have. Organizing takes some time in the beginning but it saves time later on so you can be more productive.

  24. I also recently moved to a new location, a 200 mile move. I have been beading for 30 years and I have more beads than any one person probably should. I have always had my beads in labeled containers, but I went a bit further. When I was packing them all up. I would not let them go into the U-Haul. No way these are as precious as my vintage strawberry items. SO I got a few of the rubbermaid tubs and as I was packing those bead goodies up I packed them by type. All seed bead items in one tub. All lampwork boxes in another tub and etc. I had plenty of room this way to stack those tubs on top of each other in my suburban and drove them to my new home myself. My hubby did help load and unload those tubs as they were heavy. I now have a super large craft room with each section dedicated to its own type of craft. My shelves for beading allow me to see each and every labeled container. I love it. I’m also a member of a monthly bead exchange club so I get to de-stash beads I’ve not used for years.
    Super loving my new home. Hugs June

  25. I work mainly with 6-10mm glass and stone beads, cabochons, focals, drops, and am starting to learn wire wrapping and chain maille. I was using those divided plastic boxes you can get at a craft/hobby store, but I was up to 5 large and 2 smaller ones with no end in sight. So I ordered (from Amazon) two metal cabinets with drawers. One has 36 drawers about 5 inches long, 1.5-2 inches across, and and inch deep. the other cabinet, instead of all drawers the same size, has two rows of 3 drawers each of larger drawers (2 to 3 times the size of the regular drawers). They can all be divided in two with partitions (you have to buy those separately) but I’ve found the large drawers are perfect for holding my drops, focals and cabochons as well as wrapping and chain maille wire. The drawers can be labeled, but they are clear so you can see what’s in them. What I find handy is I can pull out the drawers I want to use and slide them back in place when I’m done….much tidier. One caveat: the dividers come from a different company, they are brittle plastic (I broke 4 of them when I was separating them) and they leave a gap at the bottom instead of meeting up snug with the drawer. I got around this problem easily enough by simply running a bead of glue on each side of the partition and letting it cure.
    Here’s a link the cabinet with the large drawers on the bottom:

  26. One of my sisters lives near an Indian reservation. I sent her a lot of beads to share with the people on the reservation.

    A lot of Native Americans live off of the profits they make by selling their handmade jewelry, and it helps them get through hard times.

    Some schools are glad to get donated beads, also.

  27. I moved cross-country (from the Carolinas to WA state) several years ago, and had to organize my beads and supplies for that trip! In the process I discovered that what works, for me, is organization by color. So now, all my beads are in divided storage boxes, and laveled by color: Blues (with the boxes numbered, oldest beads first, as: I, II, III, etc), Greens, Earth Tones; Reds and Bricks; Pastels; Pearls (White) and Pearls (Colors); etc, etc, et al They sit, end-out, with labels on top and end, on bookcases especially for this purpose!

    There are, though, a couple of “Miscellaneous”-type boxes for odds ‘n’ ends: little baggies of crystals, and leftovers. So the system isn’t perfect!

    Focals and pendants go in their own section of boxes–many boxes!–labeled I through, uhm… I think I’m up to XII now! Since there’s no good way to label these by color–at least that I’ve found!–they’re sort of stored by type, with the oldest labeled with the lowest numbers (I, II, III, etc) Cabs have a few boxes of their own, as do findings, according to material–Silver, Gold Fill, Copper, etc.

    As I’ve noted, this system isn’t perfect, but I can–usually!–find what I’m looking for without too much difficulty or stress!

    Happy moving!


  28. WOW – what a lot of great tips. I am SO in need of getting all of my stash organized. I really envy all of you who have a studio or craft room – my house is small and my beading area is my dining room (we rarely use it anyway). I have taken over the table – altho I do need to share it with my husband during tax season as he is a seasonal tax preparer. I have seed bead tubes in bags sorted by color, beads in bags in tubs sorted by color, findings sorted by gold / silver / copper etc. in smaller bins, all of it piled on one end of the table with the overflow on 2 snack tray tables and more overflowing onto what is supposed to be the server to my DR set. I need to do better labeling – you all have really inspired me. Finding a particular type or color of bead that I am sure I have (somewhere) is often a very frustrating process – although I sometimes find something I had totally forgotten I had – sort of like a surprise. Then of course there is the issue of organizing the completed projects…that is my current goal as I am preparing for some craft shows coming up soon. I am the first to admit that organization is not my strength, but you all have greatly inspired me…now if I could just figure out how to stretch my house….
    Bless you all – beaders are the BEST!!!!

  29. Perhaps a bag of those beads you’ve had for 20 years might be a great prize for a contest, or for your 100th FB fan, or just a comment (using the random generator).

  30. I bought several of those 3-sided canvas bead towers that have elastic slots that hold tubes of beads. Each canvas holds about 250 tubes and folds into a see-thru carrying case. I have one case with just my crystals, one with my Delicas, 2 cases with seed beads and another with findings that fit into tubes (all organized by size and color). Because not all my beads were in tubes I also had to buy a few hundred empty tubes. Even though it is heavy to do so, I can now carry 3-4 cases with 250 tubes in each in just on hand (holding the carrying straps. Then when I get to class, they can be opened to stand up for easy display. The towers are about $10 each and the tubes were about 20 cents each, so it cost me to get this organized and portable, but I love it!

  31. Some great storage/org tips and ideas!
    I have all my seed beads in tubes, then in a 3 drawer roll cabinet – drawers by size, plastic baskets in each drawer to sort into color groups. I then use the clear divided boxes for storing findings, one for gold clasps, another for silver, another for crimp tubes/covers, etc. For metal and crystal beads, I like the clear plastic cases that hold the tictac style boxes, you can see what is there without opening each box.
    For anyone with just a bit of computer skill, I set up a spreadsheet using Excel. One page for seed beads, one for natural stones, another for glass beads, etc. I buy most of my beads/supplies online and enter the bead info into this spread sheet from the order invoice: color, size, pkg size, cost, vendor, etc. Each line is numbered, and I write that number on each package, tube, or box of each item.
    I like this because I can search the spreadsheet by color, size, vendor, product number for whatever I am looking for. As well, it makes it easy to reorder any item – all the info about each item is on one line. (it takes a small amt of time to enter the info when you purchase new items, but worth it when looking for something). As well, when I’m going thru the online sites and find great sales, I can open the spreadsheet and check if it is an item i’ve already got!
    Last tip, I keep a small plastic box (lid went missing long ago) on my worktop – I can drop in any odd bead(s) found on the floor or left over from projects right in there. Then if I need just a single or couple beads, I have a handy variety to look thru. When it gets too full, I’ll make a bracelet or someother small project and use up a bunch – always with an interesting mix of beads I probably wouldn’t have normally put together. 🙂

  32. my mum gave me a scrapbooking tote for christmas , i use that to store all my bead’s , i have a container that i put all my glass bead mixes , by colure , in zip lock bages , i then have my finding’s in stackable , screw top containers , then , i have my pliers next to them , have containers to put wire by colure , then on top i have 2 small divders containers , i keep chech glass in and i keep all the rest on top , i have a 3 tier tool box to keep all of my seed beads in , my 11″s delica’s , and all the tools for seed beading . i keep my seed beads in litte screw top containers . i will have to get more tool boxes , totes for any more beads i get .

  33. i really liked this posting. we moved into a house last fall after RVing for 5 years. i have been sorting out beads that i haven’t used, won’t use and can’t think of a thing to make with them. it has been well worth it and those beads i gave first to a co-workers GF who beads and the ones she didn’t want i gave to a friend who beads. i have craft mates (the jumbo size with 14 slots per unit) that are now organized by color and am sorting out findings by color. i know of another person who because she uses seed beads almost exclusively went and bought the clear deli containers (rectangle shape from Safeway) since you have have 3 different sizes and the same size lid for all 3 sizes and hers are all sorted by color. hers is a great system. i went with the craft mates because we were traveling and the locking system save me from 5200 bead pick up.

  34. Thanks for the timely post and for all the great organizing ideas. I’m getting ready to move and will luckily have a whole room to myself in the new house so I’ve been reading everyone’s comments with interest. I feel like I’m relatively organized but there’s always room for improvement. What I really need is a magic wand or Tinkerbell to come live with me to put everything back in order after every project I get supplies out for! Getting organized is easy-staying organized is the challenge.

  35. I keep my gemstones still on the strand, in a big box.

    My seed beads hanks in a little drawer device like at hardware stores.

    Tubes of beads in about box.

    Crystals in the stacking, screw together tubes

    And findings in clear separator boxes.

    I tried the plastic baggies, but once they got even the least bit wrinkled, it drove me nuts!

  36. Discipline is the key with your bits of this and that. I’ve set myself the task of using what I have in stock with a new design. It’s difficult but out of the pain and misery, I have designed some of my best pieces. When I’ve finished, I look at the design and wonder how I made it. Comes back to old-fashioned “have-to”. What’s in the larder? What’s in the garden? On purpose, I’ve set myself the boundaries of what I can use. Like the competitions. We know today, the brain will make new neural pathways, increasing the brains’ capacity. Push your boundaries. You will surprise yourself. We can be lazy if I can be mean, when we buy such delicious new components we fancy. I also know we can design and make stupendous designs using what we have in stock. Push the brain, till it hurts. Alzheimers and dementia – watch my dust. Carole K.

  37. I really LOVE my triple large cabinet w/drawers from for my beads, cabs, stones, wire, findings, etc. You can choose from diff sized drawers and diff size cabinets and label drawers, etc. Great for seed bead storage too. Granted, it won’t work well if you are one of these people that has to “see” your colors all the time. For me, I was like that and I just got to a point where the beads were winning, too “noisy” so to speak, lol, and I like them much better in the drawers. For my other glass beads, when I was traveling w/work back in 2006, my company had me living at the Marriot for about 4 months and I collected their mini mustard and ketchup glass jars. Cleaned, they are just the PERFECT size for the deeper drawers and I store my different shaped beads by color in those. they lay in there on their sides nicely and always envoke a smile when I open that drawer.

    I recently also purchased a new work desk from Ballard Designs. It’s calles a sawhorse desk. It has a wonderful working area on top and the sides have shelves that are perfect to hold baskets that hold kits neatly organized. Also, I keep different projects on jewelry display trays that stack nicely and they also fit on the desk shelves in a neat and orderly fashion. Organization is key for me right now because I share my bead space w/my painting space and canvases and easels, paints, etc., present their own problems. One day my studio room will be finished…. w/this economy not sure when and I can move ALL MY PASSIONS into their new commune. For now, this is how I exist.

    Oh, and on Ballard Designs should you decide to check out that wonderful desk, when you sign up, they give you a 20% off coupon and they run sales from time to time…. I got a DEAL on my desk because I didn’t order the trendy black or white desk AND I used my coupon too. As I say about my kitty…. I am pleased as pie! Ok. My 4 cents (adjusting for the inflation….lol) – everyone have a wonderful day of beading!


  38. I really LOVE my triple large cabinet w/drawers from for my beads, cabs, stones, wire, findings, etc. You can choose from diff sized drawers and diff size cabinets and label drawers, etc. Great for seed bead storage too. Granted, it won’t work well if you are one of these people that has to “see” your colors all the time. For me, I was like that and I just got to a point where the beads were winning, too “noisy” so to speak, lol, and I like them much better in the drawers. For my other glass beads, when I was traveling w/work back in 2006, my company had me living at the Marriot for about 4 months and I collected their mini mustard and ketchup glass jars. Cleaned, they are just the PERFECT size for the deeper drawers and I store my different shaped beads by color in those. they lay in there on their sides nicely and always envoke a smile when I open that drawer.

    I recently also purchased a new work desk from Ballard Designs. It’s calles a sawhorse desk. It has a wonderful working area on top and the sides have shelves that are perfect to hold baskets that hold kits neatly organized. Also, I keep different projects on jewelry display trays that stack nicely and they also fit on the desk shelves in a neat and orderly fashion. Organization is key for me right now because I share my bead space w/my painting space and canvases and easels, paints, etc., present their own problems. One day my studio room will be finished…. w/this economy not sure when and I can move ALL MY PASSIONS into their new commune. For now, this is how I exist.

    Oh, and on Ballard Designs should you decide to check out that wonderful desk, when you sign up, they give you a 20% off coupon and they run sales from time to time…. I got a DEAL on my desk because I didn’t order the trendy black or white desk AND I used my coupon too. As I say about my kitty…. I am pleased as pie! Ok. My 4 cents (adjusting for the inflation….lol) – everyone have a wonderful day of beading!


  39. I’m part of a military family & we’ve moved every year for the last 6 years. I never know what kind of creative space I’ll have, so the name of the game for me is to be flexible & creative.
    I use a mix of functional, storage clear bead storage boxes with compartments, to pretty, re-purposed glass globes & altered Ikea spice bottles.
    I’m lucky right now that I have an entire guest room. I have a table in front of the window that I do most of my work from & a large armoire furniture piece for storage. I display finished pieces on top of the dresser in the room. I use traditional & non-traditional jewelry organizers to display them.

  40. Love this article as it really hit home, I have recently moved not once but twice after residing in the same home for 15 years. I realized I had a problem after my “bead bins” out numbered my clothing and show bins which people who know me thought I was joking. so i took the opportunity to go thru every bead and box and organize like I have wanted ot for years. i find the plastic containers for beads to be useful and easy to label but for my higher end beads I have used decorative cigar boxes as they are easy stack and label as well as look decorative on my shelves at my new beading area/studio. i have now invested in the drawers for under my workbench as this is an awesome idea. Thanks for the tip!!

  41. I love all the suggestions on storing beads. I have the tall Sterlite 7 drawer on wheels cabinet and love it. But…. what I found works great for it is empty plastic egg cartons. I cut the lids off and can get 30 spots in one. I have my misc beads in it (the ones that I have just a few but love). Also, have the gray 8 tall 6 accross from Home Depot container. My husband had found them and used them for his nuts and bolts in the workshop, so why not. I love it. I use a large wooden drawer organizater for my the pieces I use everyday. Thanks again for the great website and all the comments. Every little bit helps..

  42. The next time you are at your optometrist’s, check out the clear plastic stackable shallow tray-boxes that they use for eye glass frames and prescriptions….

    I purchased a couple of boxes(of boxes) from their supplier to hold my beads by colour. I can now store plastic bags, loose beads and any shape of tube in one box as well as see what colour is there. I then stack them in between my shallow IKEA shelves where my entire collection is stored.


  43. I used to store by plastic bags inside plastic containers but I got frustrated trying to find items. I started using the variety of gem jars and plastic stackable display trays. I had an old CD shelf that I stored them on ‘temporarily’ when moving into the new house and found it was a perfect fit. I can see into each tray, the gem jars have clear lids so I can see what is in each one, and best of all, I can pull out individual gem jars when doing projects so I never have to worry about the restocking of unused pieces… they just go back in their tray because the whole group of them was pulled out. I never want to go back to plastic bags. This is so wonderful.

  44. I found great storage containers at Harbor Freight. They are very sturdy and a bit larger than ones found in craft stores, (and usually cheaper). My favorite find is a carrying case with 10 removable clear plastic cases. Each case has different size compartment i.e 1 has five long slots, 1 has 10 square slots, 1 has no compartment etc. When closed, the lid shuts tight & the beads/findings can not fall over into the next slot. Each case is about 7Lx4Wx1in deep. I store all my findings, needles, & sm spools of wire in them. I have other containers from HarborFreight but the above mentioned are my favorite. I’m just not crazy about the tonka yellow carry case!:)

  45. A few people mentioned the Craft Mate containers. You can get the exact same
    containers for less money by buying the pill organizer version of them at places
    like Wal-Mart. Check out the lids of your Craft Mate containers and you’ll notice
    they have Braille dots on them to distinguish the days of the week 🙂

  46. I read in one of the beading journals about how well a computer hutch-type desk performs for a work space and organizational space. Shortly after that, a lady at work was selling one, so I snagged it. It does work great. Her idea was to use the slideout keyboard tray for the bead board. That doesn’t quite give me enough work space, so I have a separate little folding table in front with a light and all my tools. But the hutch is great for organizing everything because it has all the little cubbyholes. It has a pullout drawer below with space above it that would be for a printer. On the walls on the inside of the cabinet I put some of those stick-on hooks where I hang strands of beads. I hung some over-the-door hooks (bathrobe hooks) on the outside of the doors to hang finished projects. I open the doors and have access to all my beads, findings, wire, etc. When not beading, I can stick everything inside, close it up, and it doesn’t look like such a jumbled mess to other eyes. It also takes up much less space in the corner of my family room than my previous bead table and boxes everywhere.


  47. I belong to a local (Charlotte, NC) beading group called CAJA. This is what we do:

    Bead Soup is for leftover or ‘lost’ beads – you select a dish or container, keep it on your working surface and throw in the beads that are now ‘loners’ after a project or those pesky beads you find on the floor and don’t want to put away. Next month (August), at our normal meetup, we are going to learn how to make resin beads using our soup and bezels.

    Bead Swap is for those beads that don’t inspire us or that we are ready to let someone else use – we accept these donations at monthly meetups and quarterly we set them out for members to look through and make selections to take home with them.

    Storage? Anne keeps her beads color sorted and labeled and alphabetized. Pat likes her seeds in rectangular flip top boxes that are labeled by name, size, colr and amount. These are kept is flat plastic containers and each container holds specific beads (Delicas vs hex vs bugle, etc) Everyone treats their Delicas as gold and stores them appropriately.

    I you aren’t going to label like crazy, please keep them in plastic containers so that you can see what you have. I cannot wait to move my purchases from bags to plastic containers – the bags don’t store neatly and they are no fun to paw through when i want to work with them.

  48. I bought a cherry changing table when my first grandchild was born. I never used the bottom shelves for changing – just the top. So, I got the Stanley yellow and black containers from Lowe’s and I put them two by two on each shelf and stack them 5 high. I can fit 24 of them on the shelves and the floor. I label each storage container with a Sharpie – most are colors, some are for hanks of seed beads, some for silver, some for tools, some for projects. I haven’t decided what to do with the other 10 containers.

    The best thing about the Stanley storage containers is that the inserts can be moved from container to container and the beads never go from one insert to another.

  49. We JUST moved our entire warehouse across the state…oh boy. I’ve moved it a couple of times but not this far, actually, we are getting better with each move..we keep outgrowing our warehouse.
    We use tackle boxes that I’ve ripped the lids off to inventory everything and the system, of course, tells me where they are all at. Then went to a retail shop supply store and have metal shelving that can hold ALOT of weight. The lids go back on and carefully packed into the back of the car, with no space left…the drive carefully and HOPE nobody slams on their brakes. We only tipped one out of 100’s of these boxes, phew! The worst part is when you get where your going and have to unpack, and remember where it all went!
    Now, for my personal stash of seed beads and filler stuff..yep, that’s a wreck, in a huge rubber tub, seed bead salsa, for sure!
    It’s been awesome to read everyone’s ideas, if I ever get the ambition to organize that tub, in the meantime, I’m just glad the store is orgainzed!

  50. Moving the Bead Stash

    Over the last few months I have been in the process of moving house. We have the luxury of getting a lot of work done in the new place prior to listing our old house and moving. This has afforded me time to set up the studio of my dreams.

    In the old house I had a pretty good set up, with tons of built in shelving for storage, but my workshop area was quite spread out and there was no place for me to leave my major tools set up at the ready. Of course this inhibits stealing a few minutes (ok hours) here and there as I have to set up and take down on top of creating.

    The new house has a great workshop space for me to be able to have everything in one place and walk away and close the door in the middle of the project. What makes it great? The room is off the attached garage, which has an indoor entrance from the house. It also has an outdoor separate entrance and three lovely windows that open for ventilation and provide a lovely southern exposure to the Saint Lawrence River. Thee walls are cement block, which relieves my nervousness about compressed gas and setting my house on fire! I was also able to paint it in cheery and inspiring yellow and orange without offending my husband’s sensibilities. A huge old oak bookcase was left in the house, so that along with some surplus cabinets from the kitchen provide both closed and open shelving for storage and display.

    Here are a few of the bead/shop organizational changes I decided to make:

    1) In my earliest days of beading, I bought a lot or plated findings and more economical beads that I grew out of quite quickly. Investing a lot of time an creative energy in my work called for high quality materials, so the original stuff has sat around for a few years. It was taking up valuable space in fishing tackle boxes. I organized like items in zip lock baggies that I keep saving as new supplies are delivered. Like groups of items were then organized in labeled opaque larger plastic boxes that I had on hand. These can be taken to workshops etc. for students to use as they are getting their feet wet.

    2) The divided fishing tackle boxes then provided the perfect place to store my polymer clay. I got this tip a while ago from a fellow clay buddy (can’t remember who but I think it might have been Sandy Willis). The small clay block fit neatly in the individual compartments, and larger clay blocks were cut up to fit. The containers don’t need to be air tight for polymer clay and the type of plastic used in these boxes, translucent and pliable, probably polyethylene, does not react with the clay. The transparent brittle plastic found in some containers ( probably polycarbonate) is a no- no for polymer as there is a chemical reaction between it and the clay. I was able to organize the clay according to the spectrum, but we’ll see how long that lasts!

    3) Baggies of like coloured gemstones are grouped in translucent plastic bins. Likewise pearls, seed beeds, metals, and findings are organized in these containers and grouped together in various cupboards. I’m not sure I like having to open cupboard doors and bend down in some cases to get at my stash, so display in open shelves may go the way of the dinosaur and the beads may take their place in the light of day.

    4) A large workbench, fashioned by my husband, takes up the east wall and enables me to have all of my tools visible and at the ready.

    5) Organizing pliers, hammers, files etc. has gone through various unsatisfactory incarnations. A nylon bag with pockets for the pliers served for a while, but the number of pliers soon outgrew the bag and storing them jaws down meant a lot of hunting around for the ones I wanted. I could never remember which colours of handles belonged to which pliers. I tried a commercial wooden plier rack, but found the depressions too shallow and they kept toppling over like dominoes. The latest was a tip I think I picked up on Beading Daily. I cut holes in the plastic lids of containers and was able to store hammers and pliers handles down through the holes so I can see what I need. This works pretty well, but the plastic lids are weakened and brittle from all the cutting. On my last trip to the dollar store I found some wooden boxes with a wooden slide out front. They are meant to carry wine and have a rope handle. I can cut holes in the wooden lids much like the plastic ones, and it will be neater and sturdier. Transporting the tools to a workshop means sliding off the front to stash the tools, grabbing the handle, and away I go.

    6) A set of shallow shelves, that my husband had previously built to organize my clay, now stores inks, paints, mica powders, etc in a single row so that it is easy to pick out the ones I want to use.

    Moyra “Radically” Riley

  51. I have probably more Delicas then the local bead shops put together. However, everytime I get a new batch of Delicas in before putting them away I put them into my Access database. That way no duplicating beads, now to figure how to get it onto my smart phone so I will always have the list handy. After recording them I put them in those nice little “tic tac” boxes, there are so many sizes now and 5 grams fit perfectly into the smallest. I then label them and put them into the snapware plastic containers. These are great they snap together and you can keep everything organized. I had used different methods before but this is compact, and because the beads are in their “own” container no worry about accidently having another section open and spilling the whole kit and kaboodle. I also do the same for my crystals and other beads. I try to color code everything. The nice thing about the snapware is they snackable so you can get them as high as you like. I perfer 3 to a stack. You can get them at Joann’s. Snapware now has a new one I found at Christmas his is about half as deep as the other ones and they are great for if you are going somewhere. Or you just want to keep your tools or current project in them.

    I really appreciated what you said about all the loose beads. Good Idea. Have a good move. Last time when we moved, before putting moving, I started a corner with “garage sale” items for either before or after the move. Depending on the time frame.

    Enjoy your beading.

  52. I KEEEP A LARGER FLATTER CLEAR PLASTIC HARDWARE BOX with sections – FOR FISHING ETC. – BUT IT is called Sorting. leftovers of seed beads, small beads, gold, silver, brass, etc. each go in a colour section. Also findings etc.
    From time to time I can take the box and file away in boxes where they belong.
    This aves me clanup time, sorting time!

  53. I KEEEP A LARGER FLATTER CLEAR PLASTIC HARDWARE BOX with sections – FOR FISHING ETC. – BUT IT is called Sorting. leftovers of seed beads, small beads, gold, silver, brass, etc. each go in a colour section. Also findings etc.
    From time to time I can take the box and file away in boxes where they belong.
    This aves me clanup time, sorting time!

  54. Sorting: Use a flat box (hardware store cheaper) with movable blatic dividers – the low ones. I have a different section by colour, plus god silver etc., and earring findings. at the end of every project I collect the bags of large beads back where they came from, but all odds and ends ad sed beads etc. go in by bolour.
    One day when I feel like it, I take out my box of seed bead tubes, or my silver findings box – and put them away. this saves toens of loose thigns you dont want to do. I lvoe it, used system for 7 years now. judy.

  55. This article is just so timely for me. I’ve been laid up for 4 weeks now and can’t do much of anything. (Pinched Sciatic Nerve) but I can bead and organize my beads, while sitting down. My husband brings me my bead containers and I’ve been really sorting seed beads, spacers, jump rings, crimp beads, crystals, glass beads and then those beads that are specifically for MY jewelry. (I’m sure there’s more categories) I just started beading in July 2010, so I’ll throw nothing out, but I’ve purchased these fantastic small glass and/ or plastic containers that are easy to see through. I’ve even gotten these beautiful little glass bottles from a famous pancake place and keep the bottles for small items, like the spacers, etc. I also quilt, but beading is something I can while I’m in pain and can’t stand or move around!

  56. My beads and beading supplies have always been stored in the clear plastic boxes with dividers. Now I have some of the clear plastic boxes without dividers that I use to store my seed bead tubes. When I first started beading (or at least buying beads!) I would buy a case to hold them, as well. I already had a 3-shelf rolling cart that I used to store all my beads, bead supplies and tools. I still like the divided boxes for storage and whenever I purchase new beads, I cut the card or tab that the pkg. of beads is sealed with to include the description, quantity in pkg. and the price and slip that into the section where I put the beads after pouring them out of the pkg. they came in. I also purchased 2 small 3-drawer cases that I use to store findings (by finish), charms,colored jewels, thread and other stringing material. All of this was in the den next to my chair and as the collection outgrew its designated space I decided to move it upstairs to my 2nd bedroom -also where my computer is located. This room had not been used as a bedroom for at least 3 years and was fast becoming a “junk room” and I did not want that! Someone who had come in to help me get all my storage organized kept telling me “don’t overlook your vertical space” so I purchased a closet organizer system and my bead boxes now happily reside on those shelves on the wall over my worktable. I love it – everything is visible, and makes it much easier to find the color I am looking for! I am still in the process of getting everything sorted by color, but it is so much better than it was in the beginning. I did invest in a Brother P-touch labeler so I can label all the storage boxes by color and I still have room to put the shape, material – whatever I need to help me quickly identify what I am looking for. The only box that will not be sorted by color is one that is for holidays, and it includes Christmas, Mardi Gras, etc I do still use one of the 3-shelf rolling carts which fits perfectly under my work table. It holds gift boxes, mailing supplies, extra beading mats I found a small “basket-style” container with hooks that hangs on a lover shelf and that is where I keep my labels, glue dots and is a perfect place to hang my tools on the front side where they are just above eye-level. I have purchased Christmas ornaments on sale after Christmas to decorate and because they are seasonal, I have them stored in large plastic bins in the closet. I also have wired ribbon, decorative picks, glitter, etc. in those bins. If I am using several colors, shapes, sizes, etc. in a project I have used the muffin tin liners to hold a supply of each. It’s not all completed yet, but the changes I have already made make it so much easier to grab what I need for projects.

  57. This is a great article with wonderful suggestions!! I too use plastic dividers for all my beads and sort by type (gemstones, glass, seed, cabachons, dichroic etc) and then by color. My problem is I have over 200 pieces of jewelry made. ..How do you store them??? Usually I make jewelry in a set (necklace [or pendant], and/or bracelet and earrings.) I then name the set (it’s easier to remember what it looks like instead of numbering) I put in on a black card with it’s name in gold pen, with my business name, on the back I put the price, what it is made of and a sticker with my logo and address and put it all into in a zip lock bag and store in see thru plastic containers in alphabetical order by type (3 piece set, earrings only, fused glass sets, watches etc.). When I get to a show I set out the sets on cards with a few taken apart on set ups…but all have to be taken out of the bags and with handling the cards get to look “handled”. So I have to remake lots of cards after every show. How do you manage your stash of made jewelry between shows so that if you want to wear it you can find it but yet have it ready to show? I’m obviously at a loss. Space is at a premium ‘cuz I’m a bead junky!!! thanks jalayne

  58. I use bead books that I found at Michael’s. they have 8 covered trays to a book with 7 sections each for a total of 56 storage spaces. in addition to them taking up so little space, there is a tab on the side which releases the lids so they can be accessed one at a time without spilling anything. They run around $20 and are worth a million for the space saving organization they provide. I have 7 right now and know I will switch over till more. At Michael’s watch the back of your sales slip for money off coupons. I’ve gotten as much as 50% off.

  59. I’ve gone through several different ways of organizing my beads, and think I finally found something that’s working. I used to only use glass beads and occasionally crystals, but I’m also starting to use gemstone beads. For my glass beads (which I currently have the most of) I’m using Darice bead organizers, it’s a tray that holds 24 or so smaller jars. They take up much less room than the Craft Mates 14 compartment organizers I was using, plus they are clear so I can see everything. I also like the fact that I can pull out a few jars to take with me if I want a project on the go, instead of taking the entire tray. These are sorted by color, and before putting the beads in, I use my Cricut to cut out circles of scrap paper that fit the bottom of the jar, I write down important info on the bottom, stick it in the jar, then fill with beads. Again, easy to change and reused, if I run out of a certain bead, I just pull out the paper and put in new.

    I do still use the Craft Mates, but I only use them for my gemstones, pearls, and shells, since I don’t have as many of these. I sort these by material (pearls, shells, amethyst, jasper, etc.)

  60. Love all the ideas! I haven’t read them all yet but thought I would add a few of my own. I have saved the little pink sampling spoons from Baskin-Robbins to reach into the little plastic compartments in the CraftMates and other storage boxes. For arranging my own stash of jewelry, I found a plastic suitcase-style box at Michaels that has 2 rows of 3″ x 5″ plastic snap closure boxes which I labeled with type of metal jewelry (ie copper) or gemstone jewelry (ie labradorite). The only thing that I can’t fit into the boxes are wide bangle bracelets. The brand is Iris and is $39.99 but can be purchased when on sale 50% off or with 40% coupon. I was SO excited to find a fantastic deal at Big Lots a couple of years ago in the Clearance area. It is a real wood (not composite) hutch that I bought for a little over $100…which I couldn’t have bought a genuine wood bookshelf for anywhere that price. It is HUGE : 58 inches tall and 45 inches long with 3 shelves. (I can’t imagine this large a hutch fitting on top of a buffet.) I have filled the shelves with the 12 compartment plastic storage boxes which are arranged alphabetically & labeled by color, metal or bead type (acrylic, wood, pearls, shell, gemstone, etc. Because of the weight of the 29 storage boxes per shelf, I supported the middle of the shelves with 1/2 inch x 1 inch wood strips to keep the shelves from sagging and breaking. One other tip: I store a few T-pins in the middle layer of a 1 inch block of packing foam that is the size of a deck of cards. I use the foam to support my (card stock) earring cards when I poke holes in the cards for the earwires to go through.