Top Organization Tips from Readers

Organization Tips Large and Small

Sometimes a small organizational tip can make a huge difference. My headpins are stored in tiny plastic bags and as a result, they are bent every which way. When contest finalist Susan Jacob mentioned that she kept her headpins straight by storing them in vials that was a light bulb moment for me!

Other tips made me rethink my whole notion of the creative process. Many beaders, for example, mentioned the importance of using containers like glass jars that let you see your collection. I never realized it before, but I do get more ideas when my beads are spread around me than when they are tidily tucked out of sight. No wonder I've been resisting the typical opaque storage containers!

Small Spaces = Organized Living?

Another surprise for me was the number of contest entrants live in studio apartments, motor homes, or other small spaces. By necessity, these folks are masters at organization. 

Frequent travelers also made up a large portion of the entrants. It's hard to think of a beading space that's smaller than an airplane seat nowadays, especially one in coach!

At right: Betty Neve and her daughter's solution to beading on airplanes–handmade twisted needles and a floss container cutter.

Popular Containers for Beads

Beaders love containers for other crafts like embroidery floss boxes and scrapbooking carts. They also are terrific recyclers with all sorts of containers from lunchmeat trays to an old wooden television case finding new life in the bead world. Tackle boxes were hugely popular, so make sure to check out the hardware and sporting goods stores in addition to craft stores when looking for suitable storage. No matter what kind of container you select, labeling is key–not just for you, but also for everyone in your household who might otherwise claim that container for their own. A few ideas for containers: 

  • Tic-Tac boxes
  • Cigar boxes
  • Spice racks
  • Pasta racks
  • Tie racks
  • Food containers
  • Pill boxes
  • Egg cartons
  • Muffin tins
  • Watchmaker cases
  • Recipe card boxes
  • Cosmetic bags
  • Ice cube trays
  • Shoe boxes
  • Jars (baby food, jam)

And the winners are . . .

Author Laura Levaas and I had a very challenging time selecting the winners from the 500+ entries in the Beader's Stash contest. Be sure to also check out the list of 30 finalists for more organization tips and ideas

Beyond the Bead
Marjorie Oxman
To keep my tools organized and easily accessible, I hung magnet knife blocks (from IKEA) on the wall, next to where I work. They hold quite a few beading tools within easy reach, and they cost only $14.99!

On the Cheap
Elizabeth Gorman
I sticky-tape a freezer bag to the side of my beading desk to put all the rubbish ends of threads, broken pieces of wire, etc. I only empty it when it is full. This saves time—you don’t have to look for ends of threads on the floorand it means no more stepping on broken bits of wire/metal! It is also very cheapyou can purchase a bag of 100 or more freezer bags for only $0.40 (AU)! 

Your Beading Place
Susan Nelson
Since I’ve just recently become a “professional” myself, measuring the length of pieces has become important. I decoupaged one of those sewing tape measures to the front edge of my beading table, so it’s easy to know how much wire used and the finished length.

On the Road
Betty Neve
Current restrictions on what you can take on a plane have presented the beadaholic with the challenge of what you can use to bead with on a long flight. Tip: Make your own safe needles out of 28 gauge twisted copper wire. Make a safe thread cutter by pulling the top off a dental floss packet, round and smooth the edges, drill a hole in it and attach it to your key ring along with some beads.

Bead Stash
Christine DeLio
To store my crystals, I purchased 100 10ml clear plastic lip balm jars with lids and small rare earth disc magnets. I used E6000 to glue a magnet to the bottom of each jar. I then purchased a large dry erase magnet board. I mounted the board on the wall and arranged the jars of crystals by size, shape, and color. You can label your sections on the board using a dry erase market. It’s easy to see your inventory and pick colors since the jars are clear, plus it uses vertical space. 

Congratulations to our five winners, each of whom will receive an autographed copy of Beader's Stash by Laura Levaas. This is a fun beading book with 40 projects of all types (stringing, wireworking, loomwork, felting, bead embroidery, weaving, soldering) from the top bead shops in the United States and Canada. Learn more about the book.

 Glass Bead Design Challenge – One Week Left

Have you submitted your challenge entry yet? Design a necklace, bracelet, or pair of earrings with any type of glass beads and you could win a cool new beading book or a beautiful starfish lampwork pendant by Stephanie Sersich. Deadline is Sunday, March 2, 2008. Enter the Glass Bead Challenge.

Michelle Mach shares beading news, contests, reader galleries, and other beady stuff every Monday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Michelle (or organization tips to share), please post them on the website.


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About Editor

I am the editor of Beading Daily.  My designs have appeared in a variety of publications, including Stringing, Step by Step Beads, Beadwork, and other publications.  If you have a great suggestion for Beading Daily, or just want to show off your latest project, send me an email!

25 thoughts on “Top Organization Tips from Readers

  1. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I also tried the Ikea magnet and my pliers became “magnetized”, so every time I manipulate metals other than silver, they stick to the pliers and it’s impossible to work with them. It’s been already 5 months that I don’t use my Ikea magnet and my pliers still attract particles of metal, mainly copper.

  2. I use a built-in computer desk for my bead work. I lined the keyboard drawer with glasswear shelf liner and it stores all my tools right under my work table. I also works great to catch dropped beads. I also attached an adhesive measuring tape from a sewing supply company to the front edge of the desk for measuring. Keeping my cat from sleeping in the middle of it all is the hardest part!

    Kim Frayer

  3. I have a tiny space that is my office/ studio behind my couch as a wall that splits up my living room I love those plastic drawers that sit on the floor and I have my jewelry supplies in those small drawers that you get in the hardware store for nuts and bolts etc. I lable each drawer with the supplies and keep a smaller set of drawers on my work table with just the basics I use for all my jewelry pieces. But I am still working on getting organized. 🙂

  4. Michelle,
    You can take scissors and needles on airplanes. I think the scissors blades have to be less than 4 inches long. I take my project in a small box that is sold as a travel first aid box, about 4 inches square, one inch high, with vellux lining. I can shut it quickly if there’s turbulence.
    Sally Popper

  5. Am I the only one who uses a standard bead stack to store beads? (the ones that screw into each other to form a stackable tower). They are clear and take up minimal space because they rise vertically. I actually used a picture that I took of my own bead tower as the layout photo on my website!! ( Can you tell? I drew each text link on top of a different row of the bead stack tower and curved the letters to match the shape! I was pretty proud of my layout idea lol. Anyways, for the beads that I have too many of to fit in a bead stack compartment, I noticed that lab urine storage containers are a good size and are transparent! So fake a urinary tract infection to get one from the lab!

  6. It has made my day to read the various clever tricks that were submitted. I felt an instant reaction when I read about the magnetic strips for our tools (I’ll definately visit one of our London IKEA stores this week!), also the tip to use a dental floss container with its simple cutting mechanism. So economical when I am travelling. Finally to be aware that opaque containers need to be thrown out! I have done so a few months ago, and now have wonderful clear see-through tic-tac boxes all arranged according to colour!
    This was such a good subject to tackle in ‘Beading Daily”.

  7. I’m glad Elizabeth Gorman shared her idea for using little plastic bags for small bits of trash. Because I am trying to be more “green” I recycle the little shopping bags the bead stores put my purchases in. I also have used the clean paper Starbucks cup when they have “double cupped” my beverage. Joanne

  8. Another tip I have is to use / buy (i bought mine for $2 from a second hand store) – a tie rack. The one I have has black rubber tips over the ends of the hooks – so the jewellery doesn’t tarnish.
    It is a great way to display as many or as little necklaces and bracelets as you want.
    I hang mine on the side of my beading desk (ex computer desk!) so that I can see my favourite pieces every time I sit down to bead.

    There are so many great tips, I haven’t even read through them yet!

  9. I purchased the magnetic strips but have not yet used them and I have the magnetic dry erase boards which are great for magnetic spice containers and watch makers cases. My best project was lining the walls of my craft room with pegboard. You can arrange hangers of all sorts on them to hold tools, supplies, bead strands, etc, I find the best prices for the pegs through harbor freight tools. Thanks to everyone for your great ideas. Now if I could only find the time to organize with all of the resources!!!

  10. I went to lowes and bought these organizers cabinets that have 60 drawers in it that men put screws and nut in and I have put my beads in them.I have bought 5 of them and could use a few more.The drawers are clear plastic so you can see what is in each of them.And when I go some place with my beads I bought a tackle box to cary with me.

  11. Craft store storage products can cost a small fortune. While wandering through our local Home Depot I happened to come upon the nuts, bolts, and tool storage products. I found an orange storage box with four plastic storage boxes with attached locking lids on them, within the unit. The boxes have dividers in them which you can move to accomodate your personal preferances. The entire unit has a handle for carring and they may be stacked and fastened together.

    I use a labeling device to make a label of what is contained in each box, such as crystals, sterling, gold, bali, semi precious, focal, pearls, findings and many other things.

    I also use one unit as a composition craft and go unit. Take one of the plastic storage boxes and load it up with findings, your intended focal point, thread, wire, and tools, then pull out the storages which contain the beads, pearls, gems etc. Assemble the containers in one of the four compartment units, take hold of the handle and off you go. Our church has a ‘Craft and Gab’ get together once a month. I love taking one unit with all my stuff in it to our get together.

    The best part of this great little unit is the price…less than $11.00. Purchasing the plastic storage compartments at a craft store would be around $32.00.

    Happy creating!

  12. I love books and magazines such as Beadwork. The magazines are full of inspiration and projects. When I find a project I know I will do, or an inspirational picture or ad, I pull out the 1″ wide masking tape.

    Pull of about 1 1/4″ start at the top (vertical) of the first page and attach the tape to the page so it will look like a tab. Write on the tab what the project is and what catagory you would put it in. As you continue to wander through the magazine or book adding tabs, move the tabs 1″ from the previous one so you can find the projects easily.

    Remember when you were in school doing a report that required tab seperating pages between sections of the report? This is what the end result should look like.

    If you find an advertisement that you want to investigate further, make tabs on the horizontal portion of the magazine.

    I also take it one step further by keeping all magizines in upright storage containers. They are sorted by magizine and date. The books are sorted by catagory and title on my studio shelves.

    Before storing them away, I input all the data I deem meaningful into an Access database. Now I can readily find the project or information I need. You could also do a simple Excel spreadsheet to create an accountability of your craft sorce projects.

    It will take some time to get things started, but when it is all done and you continue to MAINTAIN your database with new information from a new book or magazine, your creative life will be 100% better!

    Happy Crafting!

  13. You can find lip balm containers and other small jars at Majestic Mountain Sage ( or Brambleberry (… two of my favorite sites for one of my many OTHER hobbies. 😉 Think MMS is cheaper but couldn’t tell you off the top of my head.

    I find that the best storage method is one where the containers take the size of what they’re storing so there’s no wasted space (i.e. zippy bags!!) I sort my zippies by type and color and put them in the plastic tupperware-type shoeboxes.

  14. baby food now comes in small plastic containers. They are rectangular in shape with snap on lids. They stack nicely, and athe lids stay put.
    I use them to store small findings; they can be labelled using permanenet marker. Another terrific use is to put all the beads, findings etc for one project in a container, and just take it out when I wnat to workl on it, or take it with me!

  15. I like to re-purpose things, especially stuff that otherwise gets thrown out.
    My brother is an electrician, and electrical tape comes in these nice 3-1/2 inch round plastic boxes. They’re almost transparent, so you can see color and shape through them.
    Also, my shop is full of office file stack trays with clear acrylic photo box frames as drawers. You can often find both items in second hand stores. Way cheaper than tackle boxes or craft storage products.

  16. I also use those banks of drawers intended for screws and nails. I have six at the moment (15 little drawers in each one) – they stack, so I have 2 across and 3 high across the back of my worktable. Beads are sorted by type – one box is all stone beads, which are sorted by size and then color. One box is crystals, furnace glass and lampwork. One box is Czech Firepolish or pressed glass. I leave stone beads and pearls on the strand they came on to reduce the possibility of spills.
    As for reusing – I save ALL the tiny ziplock bags, vials, tubes and “tic-tac” type boxes that I buy beads in. If I buy beads that don’t come in a good container, I have plenty to choose from. Seed beadsI kep almost always in tubes or tic tac boxes, if I happen to buy them in bags I transfer to tubes. I am also a little obsessive about using just the “right” size container, so there is no wasted space.
    One of the best tips I ever heard was to put your bobbins of Nymo or Conso in a clear prescription bottle – they just fit!
    what I do need is a good way to keep the pliers, cutters and crimpers handy. Also, I am doing some metal work, so I need a place to stash chasing hammers, rawhide mallets and other larger tools…..

  17. Lori S was looking for a good way to store her pliers and hammers. I’ve been using a metal container from Michael’s, that I bought a few years ago. It looks like a bread pan, except the sides are a little higher, and it has flop-down handles attached to both long sides. It looks like galvanised metal, or maybe zinc. I’m sure it wasn’t expensive, but it works well for holding my pliers and smaller hammers. I put the pliers in with the handles down, stradeling the sides of the container, so the points are up, and I know which one I’m grabbing.This container is wide enough to be stable, and works better than the wooden rack that was included with my expensive tools.
    I would encourage everyone to be careful about the magnetic strips. You don’t want to magnetise your tools.
    I use specimen jars for my beads and findings. If you have a friend in medicine, just ask if he/she has access to such containers that come in procedure packs. If they happen not to get used for the patient, they will be discarded. Taking them home beats tossing them in the landfill.
    I am looking for some slightly larger containers to hold my longer headpins. I like the 3 inch size, and they are too long for my cups. Thanks, LaVonne

  18. I discovered, I can erase permenet marker, on my plastic containers by using a ‘Red School Eraser”. Cost much less than a label maker. I still use the label maker for my Larger storage containers.

  19. TOO LATE FOR THE 10 CENT DEAL??? I was very sceptical last time i saw this “deal”, but it really was 10 whole cents!!! that was so cool. thanks!!!