Tips for organising busy spaces

crafts expert advice family organising free advice Oct 02, 2022
An assortment of brightly coloured paper, pencils, scissors and other craft supplies

Organising busy spaces with lots of fiddly components (like craft supplies) can be overwhelming. Follow these guidelines to reduce feeling overwhelmed when you DIY your home organisation.

It's rare for me to work on two similar spaces in one week. One of the things I love about my job is the variety it brings me. And yet this week served me up two very different crafting areas to organise; the first project was creating a craft cupboard for a family with three children, and the second was setting up a craft area within an office for an adult crafter. Even though the spaces to organise and the supplies were very different, I followed the same guidelines. 

Step 1: Sort and categorise in an open area

No matter what your starting point and end goal is, you're going to need to pull everything out of where it is currently stored. It is nigh on impossible to organise effectively in situ; for starters it's hard to create new systems on top of old systems, and I would assume that you need a new system because the old one isn't working! Especially with craft supplies, being able to see exactly how much you have in each category is important for every remaining step of the project. Skip this step at your peril!

As you sort your supplies, question EVERYTHING. How do I use this? Where would I look for this? Does this belong with this, or with that? Questions help you drill down to create effective categories that will form your zones later on. 

Oh, and at this stage eliminate any low-hanging fruit and declutter the stuff that is obviously not usable. Scraggly bits of paper, loose threads of wool or cotton, and so on. Have a rubbish and recycling bin handy to quickly eliminate these from your categories. 

Step 2: Thoroughly declutter your supplies

I'm a crafter; I love sewing, knitting, cross stitch, crochet, journalling, clay work and more. I also have a child who is hell-bent on keeping every empty toilet roll and scrap of paper in the name of art, so I completely understand the tendency to keep bits and pieces for crafting, as we see almost everything as a "resource" that we could use one day. However, if a category or zone is overwhelmed with resources, we'll often turn away from it because it is too hard to choose something to work with. So a thorough declutter is a great idea before you start setting up your system. Because you've already sorted and categorised in an open area, and because you have already eliminated the scrappy bits and pieces, the decluttering process should hopefully be a little easier. 

Focus on categories that are full, and look for reasons to get rid of things. On the chopping block for this step might be:

  • scruffy paintbrushes where the bristles all stick out in different directions. Keep only the brushes that are fluffy and look nice to use.
  • stubby pencils. Understand that no one is going to reach for the stubby, well-used pencil when there is a longer and new looking one available. 
  • found items like shells, leaves, twigs and stones. Nature is right outside your door; save only the really interesting pieces and return the rest to the natural environment. You can always search for more if inspiration strikes. 

Once again, asking questions will help you make decisions. If you find yourself stuck on letting something go, the key question that seems to unstick the clients that I work with is "What is the likelihood of you using this?" It usually produces a wry smile and the sticky piece is moving to the rubbish or recycling bins. 

Step 3: Assemble a range containers

Wherever possible, use what you have! Buying new containers isn't going to make your space stay organised, so pull together the stuff you already have in your home. I didn't use one new container when organising the craft supplies in either of the homes this week; instead we used cardboard boxes, plastic containers from the kitchen, shoe boxes (and lids, they're fantastic for organising drawers!), baskets, tubs and so on. 

Having everything you could possibly need at your disposal, in the same room as your craft set up, will make this process faster, I promise. Every time you leave the room to go searching for something, you're risking distraction and demotivation. Aim for a range of sizes and shapes, then it's simply a matter of matching your category size with the containers you have available.  

Step 4: Set up the system using zones

This is the step my clients typically find overwhelming; coincidentally it's the part I like the most! Not only is this where we need to make everything fit, but we need to consider how it will be used, who it will be used by, and somehow combine all of this into a functional space that can be maintained. The problem-solving nature of this step makes my heart sing... I know, I'm weird. 

I have three pieces of advice for you: firstly, place the big categories first. Eyeball the categories you have on the floor and choose the largest. Find a container that will house it all, and put that into your allocated space first. 

Secondly, aim for macro as opposed to micro zones. What I mean by this, is if you are into card making, for example, aim for a card making zone instead of separate zones for paper, envelopes, embellishments, and so on. This way when you think "card making", you go to one area to find what you're looking for, instead of several different areas. If you can create a macro zone for card making, and then neatly contain the sub categories within that zone, you're onto a winner. 

Thirdly, wherever possible, if you're organising into a cupboard or wardrobe, create zones that you can pull out and put away easily. Imagine grabbing just one card making container, knowing that everything you needed would be in there so you can enjoy your craft session without continually having to jump up to find things. Now imagine the end of your crafting session, when you can pop everything back in that box and know that the whole thing can just slot back into where you pulled it from. How good does that sound? Easy access to the crafting goods, and fast clean up at the end of it? Be still, my beating heart!

One final tip - it's gonna take time

... a whole lot of precious time. For the family project I worked on this week I partnered up with Jo and we both hustled for 3 hours. That's 6 hours total of organising for two experienced professionals with extremely methodical and organised brains. For the second project I worked directly with my client who had already completed most of Step 1 before I arrived. The scope for this project was a little more far reaching as it wasn't just crafts but a whole office set up with a range of different zones, but we both still worked for a solid 4.5 hours. If you are working on your own and have a lot of craft supplies, I'd allow a full day to finish this project, and prepare to be exhausted at the end of it. You'll want takeaways for dinner that night, for sure! 

While these are the steps I follow when organising busy spaces, there is so much more that goes into it. I create systems that are appropriate for the end user (it should be different for a 4 year old compared to a 40 year old user), simple to use, and easy to maintain. Maintenance is a key point; given the time you've invested into creating this space, you won't want to do again in a hurry, and we also don't want to spread into other spaces as new "resources" are acquired. I always make sure I leave my clients with space for zones to grow at least a little bit, and tips on how to keep things from descending into chaos again once crafting inspiration strikes. 

If you'd rather spend your precious time on creating than organising, call in the experts. Either myself or Jo would love to help you by creating the craft zone of your dreams. Book a free phone consultation today to get your project underway

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