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Categorize to Organize: Part One

This is part 1 of 4 in a series about organizing your creative space, craft room or yarn stash.

It’s all fun and games until you need to find your size 7/4.5mm circular needles (in a very specific length), and then all bets are off.

Where could they be? You check all of your project bags, WIPs (works in progress) and drawers. You just bought another pair last month, for crying out loud!

If you’ve ever had to dive headfirst into your creative stash to find something (and came out a little worse for wear), this post is for you.

But to start, I need to tell you a secret: I’m not naturally very organized. It’s not as if I don’t know how; frankly, it’s more a matter of not having – or taking – the time. With my go-go-go personality and bottomless to-do list, I struggle to find ways to stay organized that don’t take a lot of extra time and energy. Most of my great ideas for organization ended up getting buried under piles of things I didn’t have time to put away.

If you, too, struggle with organizing your stash, I have good news: there’s hope for us. In my lifelong quest for an organized craft space, I’ve created a simple system for getting things under control. I want to find what I need, when I need it, and not waste time and money searching for it; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ordered a replacement for something that went missing, only to find it the very next week.

And if you’re thinking – But, Marie! There’s already a book about this! Yes, yes, I know it’s been done before. But the truth is, asking whether or not bins and bins full of yarn spark joy doesn’t help me get them under control. Of course they spark joy; that’s why I have so many of them! So while, yes, tools and tricks for getting organized exist all over the place, they don’t always work for creatives.

And that’s why we need our very own plan.

In part one of this series, we’re talking about taking the first step to getting your creative space into shape, knowing where your “stuff” is, and being able to access it easily when you need it. We start with: Categorize.

The first step to getting organized is to actually see what you have; I call this Ground Zero. It’s the part of the process that makes things noticeably worse before they get better, but it’s the only way to assess what you have so you can figure out where it needs to go.

  • Clear a big, open space on a table or floor
  • Take the lids off your totes
  • Dump the drawer contents in a box (or boxes)
  • Take the books off your shelves
  • Open every bin, check every nook, and expose every cranny
  • Make everything visible

If you find this overwhelming, you can start with one section at a time, but I find that it’s more effective to go all in.

Once everything has seen the light of day, divide the room (or table, or whatever applies) into two main categories:

Consumable vs. Durable

We have a tendency to look at our stash as one big mass of creative stuff. But the truth is, not everything in our stash carries the same amount of weight. When you start to look at your crafty bits through the “consumable vs. durable” lens, it gets easier to figure out how to get organized. So let’s start by talking about which is which.

Consumable: Yarn, thread, fabric, buttons, ribbon, highlighter tape, stitch markers, paper

If it’s something you can use up, or that you’ll need to replace frequently, it’s probably consumable.

Durable: Books, project bags, ball winder, swift, scissors, knitting needles (even though we do have to replace them now and then)

If it’s something you generally buy once and keep for years, it’s probably durable.

Knowing what’s consumable and what’s durable will help you prioritize, and will make it easier to decide how things should be stored. Not only that, but it makes shopping a lot easier, as well. This will make more sense as we go through the four steps. Once you’ve divided up your creative space into these two categories, you’re ready for step two: Prioritize. We’ll talk all about that next week. Stay tuned!

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