Getting a handle on your craft supplies

Janine Adams, owner of Peace of Mind Organizing in St. Louis, in her guest post today shares her seasoned, practical advice for keeping hobby supplies from taking over your home. Welcome, Janine!

Let’s face it, a lot of the fun of doing a craft and/or hobby is buying the supplies. But, if you spend more time buying supplies than actually creating things with them, you can have a storage and organization problem on your hands. (Supplies can even pile up on the most diligent crafter.)

If your craft area becomes overwhelmingly cluttered, it can do a number on your creative spirit. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. You can try this approach to gain control of your craft space–and create space to craft.

  • Contemplate categories: The key to organizing your craft space, in my experience, is to store everything in categories that make sense to you. Think of your favorite craft store. How do they organize their products? Perhaps you can replicate that category system in your own home. For example, I’m a knitter and I organize my yarn by weight, except certain yarn that I organize by fiber. (It makes sense to me and might not make sense to others, but that doesn’t really matter.)
  • Sort everything: Once you’ve decided on your categories, start sorting your supplies into those categories. You may end up modifying your categories a little, and that’s okay. If you run into unfinished projects, you can create a category for those, too. But do give some thought as to whether you’ll actually ever finish them. Why did you run out of steam on a certain project in the first place? If you don’t realistically think you’ll ever finish a project, perhaps you can deconstruct it and sort the components into their appropriate categories?
  • Weed mercilessly: You’ll have more space to craft if you have fewer supplies to store. Are there some supplies lurking there that no longer appeal to you? Perhaps your tastes have changed? Heck, there may be whole categories of crafts that you no longer do. Consider letting them go so they can be used by others.
  • Decide on containers: It’s so tempting to buy containers right away, but if you do it before the sorting and weeding process, you might end up with less-than-optimal storage solutions. Don’t limit your search to organizing and craft stores. You might find storage ideas at a sporting-goods store (I store my circular knitting needles in a tackle binder used for fishing, for instance), an office-supply store or a housewares store. IKEA is full of possibilities. Pinterest can be a great place to find innovative storage solutions. Also, check out the Creative Organizing blog of my friend and fellow professional organizer, Aby Garvey, co-author of the fabulous book The Organized and Inspired Scrapbooker.
  • Shop at home: Now that you have an organized craft space, you can save money and effort by using what you have, rather than going to the craft store. All that thought you gave to your categories can really come in handy when you shop your stash!

Routines can make even the most unsavory tasks easy

Janine Adams, owner of Peace of Mind Organizing in St. Louis, in her guest post today reminds us that the more routine a chore is, the less we have to think about it. Welcome back, Janine!

Good habits are important, but routines are golden. When you string more than one habit together to create a routine, you go on autopilot. You start getting things done without even thinking about it.

There are certain things in life we have to do even though we don’t love doing them. And, typically, the more frequently we do them, the easier they are to do. Take cleaning the bathroom, for instance. You can wipe down the bathroom surfaces (sink, faucet, toilet) every day. I do this after I floss my teeth. It’s easy and takes just seconds, because the fixtures never get disgusting since I do a little work on them every day.

It took me awhile to figure out that I could apply this principle to one of the most distasteful jobs I have to do as a pet owner. I adore my dog and my cat. But, I don’t love dealing with their waste. As a responsible pet owner, I don’t really have a choice, though.

I’ve always been diligent about cleaning up after my dogs on a walk. I never forget to take bags with me and I always pick up. I tried to be really diligent with the litter box as well. We have an automatic litter box for Joe, our orange tabby cat, but you still have to empty the container the waste is automatically raked into. And in recent years, Joe has let us know that he prefers having two litter boxes, so there are two to clean. (The second one isn’t automatic.) I’d try to do it daily, but it would sometimes slip my mind.

The back yard, though, was another matter. In my almost 20 years of dog ownership, I had a tendency to clean up the back yard after the dog only when it got so bad I couldn’t stand it anymore. It was such a loathsome task that I’d put it off as long as possible.

Then on the last day of 2010, I had an epiphany. The day got warm and the snow melted, revealing disgusting piles that had to be dealt with. As I picked up the loads of poo, I thought to myself that there must be a better way. How could I get myself to perform this distasteful task on a daily basis, when there would be only one or two piles to contend with?

I started thinking about the other routines I’d created, like the aforementioned wiping down of the bathroom surfaces. I realized that the key to my success was to link the new habit with an already engrained habit. In the case of the bathroom, I had linked wiping down the surfaces to brushing and flossing my teeth.

What else did I do every day that would logically form a routine with cleaning the cat box and scooping the back yard? Walking my standard poodle, Kirby! I decided that I’d finish my daily dog walk by scooping. It made sense, because I’d already be wearing weather-appropriate clothing and have poop bags on my person. I got really excited to try it.

I started January 1 and now do it every day. I come home from walking Kirby, make a beeline to Joe’s box, scoop it into a poop bag, proceed to the backyard and pick up there, using the same bag for the waste. I tie it up, put it in the dumpster behind my house, and the deed is done.

The great thing about this is that because it’s done so frequently, there’s little waste to deal with and it takes almost no time. Sheer quantity doesn’t make the task any more disgusting than it already is.

I really think that the key to my success here was making this daily habit part of a routine. I don’t have to remember to do it; it happens automatically after the walk. The other thing that has worked out so well is that I used logic in pairing the tasks to create a routine. When I added wiping the bathroom to my morning routine, I linked it to tasks I was already doing in the bathroom (brushing and flossing). In this case, I’ve linked two habits (walking the dog and dealing with animal waste) that are related.

It’s such a relief to have come up with a way to make this crappy, but necessary, chore less unsavory.

Uncluttering is not a competition

Janine Adams, owner of Peace of Mind Organizing in St. Louis, in her guest post today reminds all of us that we should make things as simple as we need things to be instead of uncluttering to impress others. When she’s not helping clients in person, she presents the electronic course Declutter Happy Hour. Welcome, Janine!

I had a dozen professional organizers come to my house for a social gathering recently. I’m a professional organizer myself, so that probably doesn’t sound like such a big deal. But it was.

I came to the organizing field by way of being a messy person who yearned to find organizing systems that work for me. I have huge empathy for my clients, which they love. I’m open about not being “born organized.” But there was something about a dozen organizers, whose homes in my imagination are beautifully organized (I’ve seen some of them and they are!) that made me quake in my boots. I’m president of the St. Louis chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers, so I felt like I had to live up to some unstated standard of organizational perfection.

As I looked around my 101-year-old house, envisioning what the organizers would see, all sorts of oddities that had been invisible to me for awhile jumped out. Like the heavy oak door that had fallen off its hinges, so it’s resting on its side in the dining room. Like the cluttered sun porch that really serves as a storage space. Like the dead TV in the dining room that’s waiting to be taken to the recycling place. Like the kitchen, last renovated in the 80s, that any normal middle-income couple would have renovated (probably more than once) in the 17 years we’ve owned the home.

I thought about trying to whip the place into a more presentable shape before the party (though I knew there was nothing I could do about the kitchen). I did tidy and clean, and the house looked as good as it ever does. But I decided to let go of this notion that I should present my home as some sort of paragon of organization. I decided to leave the heavy things in place, to just take out the recycling that had gathered in the sun porch and leave everything else there. I let go of worrying about someone opening the bathroom closet and seeing that it’s been on my decluttering to-do list for ages. I didn’t even make the bed–I just made our messy bedroom off limits.

And you know what? It was all good. Folks complimented the beauty of our old home (its wood trim and stained glass windows really are lovely). No one even looked out the kitchen window to the sun porch. They were all focused on one another, on chatting and having fun. Oh, and on the delicious cake my pastry-chef husband made.

This is a great lesson for me. I now know I can invite people into my home even if it doesn’t look perfect. I don’t have to be who I think people want me to be just because of my profession or my standing within it. I just need to be me. I’m comfortable with having a door on its side against the wall in my dining room, and everyone else seemed to be as well. Who knows, maybe my less-than-perfect home made some of those organizers feel better about theirs.