When you consider other stuff you own, it usually comes in multiples and tends to be relatively uniform. Most items in your clothes wardrobe are of similar size, and can be folded and stored in a consistent manner, cutlery neatly fits into a cutlery tray, and shoes fit into a shoe rack.
The same cannot be said for arts and crafts materials. Just imagine the kind of thing an arts and crafts wardrobe holds – as indicated in the intro to this article – and you’ll see what I mean: arts and crafts stuff brings together a whole lot of elements that plague other items as well, but usually things are either bulky, or unwieldy, or heavy, or expensive, or guilt-laden, or fiddly, but rarely all of those at once.
The wide range of size and materials offers a particular challenge to storage solutions: on one end of the scale you’ll need a spot for long thing like wooden sticks, metal rods and the like, and on the other end of the spectrum there are oodles of small items like glass beads, tiny jewels, glitter, sand, paper clips and similar items in all manner of incompatible storage containers.
And then there’s a huge array of items that sit in between but are not any easier to store: large pieces of floppy canvas that cannot be folded, oversized pieces of paper and cardboard, paint in jars and tubes, and that’s without even looking at crayons, pencils and brushes of all shapes and sizes.
All of those and many other items have one thing in common: they defy normal storage options: put all the small things in a drawer and what you end up with is a rattling drawer full of stuff you’ll never be able to sort through again. As for large stuff: these items usually end up stacked in a corner, each of them blocking everything else.
I suppose you get the picture now: organising arts and crafts materials is an art in itself. As usual, however, it starts with you: in my experience, a lot of what is classified as “arts and crafts materials” could also be called “randomised leftovers with vague arts and crafts value I was too lazy to get rid of”. Add to that the fact that vague ideas what to do with any of this have been floating around your mind for years and years and you ‘never got around to really doing it’.
Can you spot a pattern? Arts and crafts activities are to a large degree about being creative with the materials at hand and this empowers our natural tendency to hang on to stuff. It is believed that the creativity stems from exposure to all those materials, but I beg to differ: I think that having things in boxes and tins that you cannot see only adds to a sense of feeling crowded in. Also, after a while everything looks likely to become useful for some kind of project in the future and ends up in this space, for better or worse!
So, as usual, the first step to get this organised is simple: make choices, separate what is “arts and crafts and useful” from what is “just sitting in the way forever and gathering dust”, and then discard everything that is in the second category without remorse. After all, you have already decided that it’s not useful, right?
Most people find that this first triage means that half of their rubbish (yes: that’s exactly what it was) has gone and much space has become available. A welcome side effect of this triage is that all the shelves will most likely be empty by now. This is the perfect time to bring out a damp cloth and clean the surfaces (you’d be amazed how much dust and grime accumulates in between all that stuff).
You’ll likely have found that a lot of the containers you have chosen for your stuff is insufficient or not all that useful: this is your chance to reorganise the little bits into their most efficient containers. You might even be able to fall back on some storage items that contained things you have classified as rubbish earlier.
This leaves the last job: you’ll have to sort through what is left and assign spots that make sense: this tends to be a balancing act between using the space efficiently and keeping stuff together that belongs together. If you are a painter, you’ll want canvas, frames, paint and brushes (and brush cleaner) somewhere together, but those items have such different sizes that they will not necessarily fit in the same spot, unless you are ready to sacrifice lots of space.
As you can see: even with a bit of organisation, arts and crafts materials need a lot of space, and my top tip for those of you who engage in this activity is to find a dedicated space in your home where you can leave things lying around without negatively affecting your daily life.
However, the most important of tips: while there is nothing wrong with picking up new hobbies as you go along, you may want to consider that past hobbies may no longer be on top of your mind and you don’t need to keep the stuff associated with those!
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.