I know it’s around here someplace. . .
Hi there! Reader Tiffany Arp-Daleo is a multi-media artist, and in reply to my post of last week, “Ask Me Anything,” she wrote, “I’m always looking for organizing ideas, especially in my studio. I have so many supplies for so many projects and it’s always chaotic!” I had to laugh, because it’s something I struggle with also, but I promised I’d research any arts/creativity topic my readers have interest in.
Don’t you just hate it when you’re working on a project (or have a great idea you want to start on) and you can’t find an essential tool? Often it’s a case of having so much stuff that you can’t locate what you need. Have you ever made an emergency trip to the art store to buy a certain paint or pen, and then, weeks later, find you have multiples of that item? Organization is an important element in making best use of your creative time, energy, and resources.
I have art supplies in cups, drawers, and cubbies, in and on my desk and bookshelves and dresser and in my closet. They just go wherever I can shove them.
It’s frustrating. My husband and I live in the same house where we raised our five children, and now that it’s just the two of us, we no longer have enough space. I know what the problem is—Greg needs to get rid of his accumulated stuff. (My stuff couldn’t possibly be the problem. Could it?)
So how do I get a handle on this?
I spent a couple of days online reading articles about general organization and organizing art supplies in particular. Here’s what I learned:
“A collection should be curated.” In other words, everything you keep in your home should have purpose and/or value. Either you love it, or you use it. If it doesn’t fit either of those categories, it’s just clutter. Step one in organizing is:
Declutter. Get out all your art supplies and lay them out. Ruthlessly throw away anything that is unusable, such as pencil stubs, dried up paints and glue and erasers, pens and markers that no longer write, scissors that won’t cut, pencil sharpeners that don’t work anymore. Recycle old, wrinkly paper and plastic containers with a recycle symbol on them. Those supplies that are in great condition but you don’t really use (when was the last time you stenciled or bedazzled?) can be donated to a local school or an organization that teaches art or provides art therapy to children, the homeless, or veterans. (I once asked my daughter who teaches high school calculus if she had any use for stickers. The answer: a resounding yes. Her students still love getting them on their papers.)
Sort your supplies into categories. Large categories. Brushes here. Paints there. Pencils. Markers. Pens. Paper. You can subdivide the watercolors from the acrylics and the colored pencils from the mechanical pencils later.
Decide where all this stuff in going to go. Ideally, it should be in one general area. Your closet? Your desk? Your bookshelves? Your dresser? A file cabinet? Visualize what you want your space to look like. Do you want things hidden from sight, or out where you can see them? Maybe the larger things will go on a shelving unit in the closet and the small items in containers on your work table. “Organize for the available space, not for the stuff.” If you only have a drawer, organize for that drawer. (You may have to divest yourself of some more stuff. Consider it an investment in your sanity.)
Gather containers. You could spend a fortune getting matching bins, but really, using what you already have is easier on the environment as well as your pocketbook. You can use large, medium, and small boxes, baskets, jars, mugs, magazine files (great for upright storing of those pads of different papers), and/or cutlery trays. If you truly don’t have what you need, you can find a great selection to choose from at your local dollar store. (Extra points for skipping the designer container store.)
Put your supplies into containers, one category per container. Then put the container where it will live. Rule of thumb: start by putting your largest category into the largest (or most reasonably sized) container that will fit into your available space. Once that’s out of the way, you’ll be able to figure out your next steps.
Enjoy your newly organized workspace. Now that you know where everything is, you can concentrate on creating. Ahhhh!
Click this link to see some storage systems for art supplies.
If you’re a visual learner, you may enjoy these excellent organizational videos:
Now that I have a good idea how to proceed to organize my art supplies, I’m looking forward to this task getting done.