Monday, June 29, 2009

Organize Your Stuff Challenge - Week 6

It's time to get down and dirty with the mainstays of scrapbooking, our photos. I'll be covering both print and digital at the same time. This is not going to be one of those challenge weeks in which you'll be done by Sunday. But - you WILL have a system in place by then and be on your way to getting your photos in order, and that's what's important. Don't feel rushed on this process. Each step you take will get your closer to your goal, so keep plugging away!

I'm covering print and digital together because I strongly feel that your systems should match. It seems silly to have one method of organizing your print images and then try to remember where you have them stored on your hard drive. If your systems mirror each other, they you'll always know where to look!

So, first let's talk about how to organize your photos. Some good news - you have 2 choices. You can organize chronologically or by subject. See how easy that was? Not painful at all. Now, which one you choose should depend on how you scrap. And you can even combine the 2 if that works for you. I think the vast majority of us think chronologically, even if you don't scrap chronologically, because it's easier to find events when you've lived them - everyone knows what year their first child was born, their wedding day(s), etc. So it makes sense to file your photos of these events accordingly. But - if you do a lot of heritage photos, or photos where the dates really don't mean much to you - organizing by subject or theme may be the way to go. Which ever system you choose to store your print photos by, do the same on the computer. So if you have a box of photos labeled "Great-Aunt Sally", then you should have a folder under "Pictures" on your computer labeled "Great-Aunt Sally" as well. For chronological organizers, go with the year and then month, or you could also sort by year and quarters (ie, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter). Within each month or quarter, you could also break it down into more specific events, if you tend to take a lot of event-based photos. So each print storage will have divided tabs with 1998 Spring, and you'll have a "1998 Spring" folder on your computer as well for those same digital images. Make sense?

If you don't know the date of a photo, you can take a guess. This doesn't have to be hard, and the Photo Police aren't going to haul you off if you mess up. It might help to have a folder for several years of photos (for example, 1970-1975) if you only have a handful of pictures and you don't know the exact dates. It will be close enough to find them when you need them. And that's the main goal of this challenge - not to necessarily have your photos in their exact locations by date or subject, but have them in locations where you'll remember to look for them when you need them! So tweak the system to work with how your mind works.

For those of you ready for a real overhaul, I'm going to recommend Stacy Julian's Library of Memories. Her class on Big Picture Scrapbooking starts next February, but you can do it on your own anytime with the help of her book, Photo Freedom. I just finished her class and it was the best money I have ever spent. The system entails 3 methods of storage:

1. Photo albums, which serve as storage binders for photos to be scrapped. Which means you can easily flip through and view ALL your pictures - no more digging through boxes. And your family can enjoy looking at them in the meantime as well. These photos are all stored chronologically, by year and by quarter. This is a fluid system - photos go out to scrapbook pages, newly printed photos go in their spots in the binders.
2. Card files, which serve to "age" photos and enable you to make connections between seemingly unrelated pictures for more meaningful scrapbooking. Photos in this file are sorted by themes and categories, with dates not being an issue. I found several pictures of my 2 kids doing the same thing, wearing the same clothes, or playing with the same toys but in different years. I could not have discovered those easily if the photos were stored by year in boxes. But with my file, they were stored together in my "play" category, which enabled me to find them quickly and do a really neat layout.
3. Photo boxes, which are termed "cold storage." These are photos which you do not want to scrap, really don't have a place in your card file, but you also don't want to toss them, either. I have a lot of photos in here from my childhood - homes I lived in for just a while, my pet mice (which only live 2 years, so they don't make a huge impact in your life, but they were cute!), some pictures of my old garden. These photos are out of the way and out of mind - they're no longer clutter.

If this system sounds like it will work for you, I wholeheartedly recommend Stacy's book - give it a try. If you are still struggling, then sign up for her class in 2010. It will really change your scrapbooking.

Now that the infomercial is done, where to actually store all your photos, now that you know how to organize them? There are several options for print photos - I'll give you some links, and then I'll tell you about my favorite method. Please note that the links I posted are intended to give you a visual idea of what it is I'm talking about - it doesn't mean I endorse the product or the store. Whichever products you decide on, make sure they're archivally safe for photos if you intend to store them long-term. If you're housing them short term until you can scrap them, then it's not so much an issue.

Good ol' photo storage boxes: There are literally thousands of types out there, from expensive linen, to moderately priced ones at Pottery Barn, to $1.50 ones at Hobby Lobby.
The Memory Dock system: They also have a great drawer unit for oversized prints.
Creative Memories Power Sort system: Cropper Hopper Photo Organization system:
Expandable photo organizers:
Rubbermaid photo storage box:
Index card files:
Photo Albums:
Stack photos in fabric, metal or woven bins
4-drawer wooden cube units:

Once you've decided HOW to organize your photos and WHAT to store them in, let's go on to the actual process of organizing. I won't lie to you - this is going to be only slightly less painful than a root canal. But like a root canal, once it's done, it's DONE! So, grab your novacaine, and here we go:

First - grab all your photos. Ones in boxes, in albums, still in the envelopes from Walgreens, the ones you were going to take to a crop 4 months ago, the stack that you blackmail your children with. Every last photograph.

Second - find the biggest, baddest table you can. You're going to sort these photos into stacks by year if organizing chronologically, or by subject if you're going that route. If you have a LOT of photos (like 20+ years), start in decades first, then move on to the individual years. You should have a good pile for each year/subject when you're done. If you're organizing by subject, then skip to the final step. Just like any other scrap supply, this is also a good time to purge. Remember, this is just ink on paper - it can go in the trash, it's ok. Toss out photos that are blurry, dark, have a huge thumb in the middle, or ones you just don't want anymore. It's ok to toss. Trust me.

Third - once it's narrowed down to year, grab a pile and sort by month. A lot of times, you'll have no idea on the date. One option is to guess by the season in the photo. If that doesn't work, see if you can find the original image on your computer if it's a printed digital photo. They will usually have a date stamp.

Finally - label your dividers and start filling your containers with the appropriate photos. Once your container is full, put it back in your space. Make sure to label the outside of your container with the dates or subject as well.

Digital organization is a lot less messy! My best advice is to get some sort of tagging software - I use Windows Photo Gallery in Vista for PC, I've heard iPhoto in Mac is wonderful. Picasa, Adobe Bridge and Adobe Photoshop Elements also have tagging. What is tagging? Exactly what it sounds like - you are going to put a digital label on your photo. So all your photos of Princess the cat are going to have a "Princess" tag on them. You can tag any photo with any label that will help you narrow down and find that photo later on. So if you are trying to locate the photo of your daughter Roxy playing with Princess, and can't remember the date or even the year on that picture, you can do a search in your tagging program for "Princess Roxy" and it will pull up every single image on your computer with those 2 tags that you placed on it. Pretty neat, huh? In addition, some programs - like Windows Photo Gallery - have a star rating system, from no stars to 5 stars. I know a lot of scrappers like to "judge" their photos using this system. For me, I use all or none. If it's a photo I loved enough to get printed, it gets 5 stars. If it's a photo I like but will likely never display nor scrap, but I don't want to delete it, it gets no stars, so I know I never printed it. If I want to pull up all the photos I printed in Spring 2008, all I have to do is click on my Spring 2008 photo and pull up my 5 stars. Easy!

I know that organizing your digital collection is likely the most overwhelming task in this entire challenge, so take baby steps. Do it in 15 minute chunks - not enough time to drive you batty, but enough time so that you can make a serious dent in your filing and tagging. First step - if organizing chronologically, set up your folders by year and then subfolders by month/quarter. Other methods - set up folders the way it makes sense to you (person, place, thing, etc). That will take you 15 minutes or less, and look how cool that already looks!!! It already feels like you've made a difference. Then start slowly, one "old" folder at a time, moving your photos to their new home. Once the "old" folder is empty, delete it Soon, you'll have more photos in your new system than old! When your photos are in their new homes, then go back and revisit the pictures in each folder. Set up your tag system (I found this easiest to do as I went along, since you never know what tags you're going to need), and place the appropriate tags on each picture. 15 minutes a day, and you'll slowly but surely make progress. You can do this!!!

Here are some tips to keeping up with your newly organized system:

1. Set a regular date to download your photo card and print your images. It can be weekly, monthly, quarterly - whatever works for you. Put it in your datebook or your calendar. Treat it like any other thing on your schedule - getting your teeth cleaned, giving your dog heartworm meds, getting a pedicure. If it's on your to-do list, then get it done. I have mine monthly on the 1st of every month - I download my card and edit my photos on the 1st, upload and order from my online print service on the 2nd. Super quick and easy. Since I do it monthly, I don't have a huge amount of photos, either - which makes it easier on the budget as well.
2. Always, always date your photos on the back. It sounds time consuming, but it really isn't. Get a Staz-On black ink pad and a cheap date stamp from an office supply store. Use your digital date stamp on your original image on the computer as a guide. I usually group all my photos together by the same date, flip them over, cascade them (overlap slightly), and just stamp stamp stamp. Takes me maybe 10 minutes to do 200 photos. I upload once a month, so that's 10 minutes of your time once a month to date your photos. Not a huge commitment, huh?
3. Once you get your photos dated, file them. Put them in their appropriate container or in an addressed envelope, if they're going to family or friends. The less time they spend on your scrap space, the less chance they'll have to become clutter.
4. I cannot stress this enough - back up your photos! Use at least 2 different methods and 2 different locations. There are many options - external hard drives, CDs, online backups solutions are a few. I backup each of my quarterly photos on CD once I'm done with that folder. I also subscribe to an online service which automatically backs up the folders I tell it to once a week. This is a huge load off of my mind. You computer WILL crash at some point - it's not a matter of "if," but a matter of "when." So take steps now to protect your photos.
Here are the photos of my storage system. I love it. It has completely rejuvenated my scrapbooking - it's so easy to find whatever photos I want to scrap, that I've been overwhelmed with ideas lately. Which is a good thing!
These are my storage binders. Like Photo Freedom suggests, I limit myself to 15 - if I have more pictures than binders, then it means I need to start scrapping more. Every photo I intend to scrap goes in these binders.
A close up of my system. The binders house years, divided up into quarters by season. They're also numbered on the bottom so I can put them back on the shelf quickly and easily. These are the 3-up, 3-ring binders from Pioneer. Not beautiful to look at, but they're a real workhorse. The 3-ring binder aspect is especially important - you can get bound albums for much, much cheaper, but then you can't remove or re-shuffle pages when you clear out a good chunk of your binder. And that's pretty important.
A typical binder interior. Can you see now how easy this is? Suppose I'm in the mood to scrap, I have 20 minutes until I need to leave to pick up the kid from school. I pull out a binder and pull out a kit - either one you've purchased or one you've assembled ahead of time. Flip through the binder until you get a good color match, and viola! You're already halfway done with a layout. Isn't that cool?
These are my Memory Dock drawers. I think they've been discontinued, but you may find some on clearance. They house any photos that are larger or smaller than 4x6. I'm not totally thrilled with these - the drawers are hard to pull out - but I don't access them a lot so it's ok.
These are my category drawers. Just metal card files from Staples. I have photos by theme in here - you store photos in ways to make connections, not necessarily event-based. So a lot of my non-scrapped extra photos from a certain event can be placed in these drawers - like my son eating Easter candy could be put under "food," instead of "Easter." I also have personality categories to house all those quirks about my my oldest will turn just about anything into a hat. Those pictures go in the "hats" divider in his personality tab. Or all the photos I have of him sucking his thumb - I have a "thumb" category as well. For future blackmail, I have a "tantrum" category - I really hope that comes in handy someday.
A close up of one of the drawers. I don't have a ton of photos in them - the idea is to be selective and let the drawers grow and evolve over time.
Finally, these are the cold storage boxes. They used to house my entire photo collection - I had 20 boxes of photos. And even though they were organized by date, you can imagine how UNinspired I was to scrap - just the thought of going through all 20 boxes to find some pictures, no thank you! I now have these 3 as "cold storage," meaning they house photos that I don't want to scrap, don't have a place in my category drawers, and I don't want to toss out. They are loosely organized in here and out of my way, which is exactly how I need them to be. If I ever DO need them, I know where to find them.
In closing, I want to add my 10 rules for organizing. I'm going to post these at the end of every challenge, because I think they are very, very important. I want you to keep them in mind as you tackle each of these projects - they will make your life easier and the task less daunting.

1. Label your containers.
2. Be consistent in your methods.
3. Don't be too specific - your search for your items within your space should be short and simple.
4. Your organizational method should be easy to take out AND put away.
5. When organizing, break any large piles into smaller groupings. Have a 2 foot tall stack of paper to sort? Do it in 1" high chunks, it will be easier to handle mentally.
6. If it's something that you use on almost every project, then keep it within reach of your main scrap area.
7. Don't stress your containers. Get a new system or purge your stash.
8. For most items, product packaging adds bulk. Toss it. With once exception - rub ons.
9. Repurpose when you can - almost anything can be painted or covered in paper/fabric.
10. THE GOLDEN RULE - FIRST choose an organizational method, THEN choose a container that fits your space and style. Always shop for containers with a list in hand - a beautiful container is simply clutter if it doesn't have a dedicated purpose in your space!

Your photo dilemma has now been solved. Congratulations! Go give David Duchovny a kiss for me and I'll see you back here for Week 7.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Organize Your Stuff Challenge - Week 5

We're going to work on taming your angry hordes of scrap paper this week! I don't know why we feel guilty about tossing a 4" square piece of printed paper that cost less than pennies to produce, but we do. So let's get a handle on the baskets and drawers full of them. If we can't toss 'em, might as well store 'em!

First off - time to get real (oooh, a Dr. Phil moment here!). Are your scraps working for you? Do you even need them, or is guilt just making you save each little piece? If you truly DO use your scraps, then you need to organize. But if you can't think of a reason to keep them - you NEVER touch them, except to move them out of the way - then seriously think about donating them to a charity that can use them, or simply putting them in the recycling bin. This will be one less piece of clutter in your space, and you can take this week off organizing-wise.

If you DO use your scraps, then you need to decide what to keep and what to trash. What constitutes a scrap, anyway? For me, anything less than 12x12 is a scrap (I only scrap 12x12 layouts). So all my 8.5x11 papers, 8x8 papers, etc. go in my scrap drawers. The smallest paper I keep is 2x2 - I almost never use small pieces, so anything less than that size immediately goes in the trash. You may use smaller pieces tho - so decide where to draw the line on keep versus toss, and stick to it.

Once you've decided your guidelines on what to keep, you're going to need to figure out an organizational method. The most common way of organizing scraps is by color - I use red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, black/white, brown and multi. You can also sort them by size, or intended use - like photo mats and borders. Do what works best for you and how you use your scraps.

Let's get to organizing!

1. Dump out all your scraps. Or collect them from your table top, under your chair, the cat's mouth, etc. You want them all in one big lovely messy pile. Resist the urge to play in it - but oh my gosh, wouldn't that rock???

2. Sort into smaller piles by color, shape or whatever system you've come up with. As you're sorting, toss out the following: anything bent, anything too small to use, anything torn, and anything ugly. If you have scraps in odd shapes, trim them up so that they're more usable.

3. Take a good look at your pile sizes. Keep this image in your head as you check out the list of possible solutions below. You're going to look for a container that fits your scrap piles (including future growth), your scrapping style, and your available space.

Here are the options I've found for storing scraps. Check them out, and find one that will work best for you. Please note that the links I posted are intended to give you a visual idea of what it is I'm talking about - it doesn't mean I endorse the product or the store.
Hanging file folders in a mobile cart or a filing cabinet:
Cropper Hopper vertical organizers, especially the paper packs:
If you don't have a lot of scraps, consider storing them with your non-scrap paper stash.
A 3-ring binder with page protectors
You can store scraps in envelopes - choose the size based on your pile, and store upright in pretty bins or baskets.
3-drawer plastic units, in 12x12 or 8.5x11 - these are stackable as well, which makes it easy to have one color per drawer:
Put scraps in zip top bags - you can hang them from a Clip It Up, a rod, or a skirt hanger, or sit the bags upright in bins or boxes.

Below are photos of my scrap storage - my map drawer. It's from Pottery Barn and is no longer being made - I was able to snag it at 80% off at an outlet store, I just about screamed like a little girl when I saw it in the warehouse. I have 2 colors per drawer, with the bottom drawer housing all my multi-colored scraps. In each drawer, I have the scraps divided by size. In the larger bins (all of these are from the Container Store:, I have my larger scrap papers. In front of these bins are my long, skinny border strips. In the middle, 2 smaller bins hold my 2-4" scraps. In front of these middle bins are my photo mats. Each drawer is arranged like this. It took me less than a week to arrange, even with a very grabby infant in the middle of my scrap pile.

In closing, I want to add my 10 rules for organizing. I'm going to post these at the end of every challenge, because I think that they are very, very important. I want you to keep them in mind as you tackle each of these projects - they will make your life easier and the task less daunting.

1. Label your containers.
2. Be consistent in your methods.
3. Don't be too specific - your search for your items within your space should be short and simple.
4. Your organizational method should be easy to take out AND put away.
5. When organizing, break any large piles into smaller groupings. Have a 2 foot tall stack of paper to sort? Do it in 1" high chunks, it will be easier to handle mentally.
6. If it's something that you use on almost every project, then keep it within reach of your main scrap area.
7. Don't stress your containers. Get a new system or purge your stash.
8. For most items, product packaging adds bulk. Toss it. One exception - rub ons.
9. Repurpose when you can - almost anything can be painted or covered in paper/fabric.
10. THE GOLDEN RULE - FIRST choose an organizational method, THEN choose a container that fits your space and style. Always shop for containers with a list in hand - a beautiful container is simply clutter if it doesn't have a dedicated purpose in your space!

Your scrap paper dilemma has now been solved. Congratulations! Grab a lemonade (spiked, if you prefer) and go soak up some sun, I'll see you back here for Week 6.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Organize Your Stuff Challenge - Week 4

We love it but it's so darned tricky to store because it takes up so much room. I'm talking about all that PAPER! Thankfully, it's fairly simple to organize. You only really have 2 choices - you can go vertical or you can go horizontal. Once you pick your main method, it will help to determine your storage options.

I have done both, and found that I preferred the vertical, especially using the Cropper Hopper paper holders. You can easily flip through the papers to see what you have, you don't have an issue with dust, and all the papers are easily accessible. The only downside is that it takes up horizontal space. If you're tight on room, this may not be the best option for you.

Which leads me to horizontal storage, like paper shelf units. If you have a small space, you only need a 12x12 block of floor space to go with stacked units. You can stack up to the ceiling, and that's pretty nifty. The problems I personally had with horizontal storage was dust on the top sheet, and remembering what I had on the very bottom of each stack. Sometimes I would want that bottom paper and would just say "forget it!" with the thought of taking out all the sheets above it. Which is probably why I kept some stuff from 1991 for so long. I did see a tip to combat the dust issue tho - put a 12x12 page protector on the top sheet of each stack. Problem solved!

So now you know the 2 ways of storing paper, I've got options for both you horizontal and vertical organizers. Click on the links to see if you can find something that works for you, or if there's something around the house that you can modify. Please note that the links I posted are intended to give you a visual idea of what it is I'm talking about - it doesn't mean I endorse the product or the store. It means I googled "file cart" and found the picture I wanted.

VERTICAL (that is, the paper stands up):

Hanging file folders, in rolling carts or file cabinets:
Cropper Hopper paper files: Oriental Trading has a cheaper version of these, and Karen Foster has some with metal rims. You can also make your own from USPS Priority Mail boxes - cover them in fabric or paper to match your decor. Please only use ones you receive, tho - otherwise it's stealing.
12 x 12 wire cubes:
Desktop files:
If you have a cube unit like the Expedit from Ikea, you can store paper right on the shelf:
You can also stack paper upright in metal, fabric or woven baskets. Check out Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Container Store and Pottery Barn for options.
Expandable portable paper files, great for crops:
Mimi makes one as well:
Place paper in zip-top bags and hang from skirt hangers:
The Paper Packer organizer - binder-type, great for on a shelf and it's portable:
Here's a cascade file that's great for smaller stashes:

HORIZONTAL (that is, the paper lies flat):

Display Dynamics paper trays (with or without lips): - DD has a range of products up to huge stacking towers. If you prefer wire units, check out West End:
Iris lidded boxes in hanging closet organizers:
Wire cube systems: (you can easily make this by taking the wire cube units from Target or the like and attaching the "extra" sides to the interior for shelves by using zip ties)
Multi-bin literature sorters:
Wood shelves/cube systems:
Plastic storage drawers:
Plastic storage boxes: Crop In Style P3 paper tote - this is no longer being produced, but I've come across ads for it on Ebay and Craigslist. If it's what you're looking for, it may be worth the hunt:
Mini stackables cabinet units:
Pizza boxes - easy to decorate and stack, and beyond cheap!

Now you have some ideas of WHAT to store your paper in, let's talk about HOW to store your paper. Options include:

1 - By brand. This is a good idea if you scrap entire lines (ie, collection kits) or know what each manufacturer produces. If you don't know Pink Paislee from Luxe, then move on. This system would best work for a scrapper who picks out a photo and says "This has a Basic Grey feel to it."

2 - By color. If you match paper to your photos, this is a great way of storing paper. This system would work best for a scrapper who picks out a photo and says "Some orange dots would make that blue bathing suit just pop!"

3 - By theme. Lots of scrappers who do theme pages find this to be a working solution. This system would work best for a scrapper who picks out a photo and says "I need some wave paper to go with this pool theme!"

So which one are YOU?

I think most of us can figure out one category that will work, but get tangled up along the way - mainly the paper that goes into more than one category (not so much if you sort by brand, but the other 2 options will get you in this spot). That's ok. Just because you choose color, you don't have to be a purist. You modify the system that works best for you.

For example, in my personal system - I do all 3! I only recently added "by brand" to my organization. All my cardstock is by color, one per paper holder. On patterned paper, I have it sorted by color first (ie, a red page with white polka dots goes in the red patterned paper holder). If it's a paper that can go in multiple bins (ie, a blue paper with large orange dots on it), then I file it by theme or pattern. In this case, it would go in my Dots file. But if those dots happened to be flip flops, then I'd put it in my Summer file. Get the idea? You can have as many or as few categories as you need. I think I have about 10 themes, based on the type of pages I create.

The one downside I found to this method is losing my paper lines. For example - I recently finished an album on our family vacation to San Francisco. I wanted to use the American Crafts Metropolitan line for the entire album. It took me about 3 weeks to go through every single paper bin I had to pull out paper from that line. I was miserable. So I'm doing a little reorganization to tweak that problem. I'm now pulling out the major manufacturers in each patterned paper bin (the lines I tend to like to match, like American Crafts and Basic Grey) and putting those behind a divided tab within that bin. So all my purple patterned paper is still in the purple patterned paper bin - but if I need a sheet that happens to be in the Basic Grey Periphery line, it's behind a tab in that bin. So far, it's been working pretty good!

One last area I want to touch on are those dreaded paper stacks. You know, the ones that look so neat and organized sitting on the shelf at Michaels, then you get them home and have no idea what to do with them. Once again, an easy fix - you have 2 options. You can keep them together or separate them with the rest of your paper. If you tend to use your stacks a lot, like the coordination factor, and know what's in each one, then I would keep them together. Store them in the same manner as you do the rest of your paper (I saw that one Pea suggested to label the spines if you store them vertically - brilliant!). BUT - if you spend more time looking through your stacks than actually scrapping, then I would sort them out with the rest of your paper. I went this route and never regretted it - it's saved me so much time in looking for the papers I want.

So, your challenge this week is multiple:

First, I want you to figure out how you want to store your paper - let your available space guide you. Decide on if you want to go vertical or horizontal.

Next, explore your storage options in each of this category. You will need to Get Real with your stash - you're going to need enough holders for your current paper and more, because you truly are kidding yourself if you think you'll only use your stash and never buy another sheet of paper again in your lifetime. Use this time to purge as well - will you really use that pink glitter princess paper when you have 5 boys? Give it to someone who can use it, and you'll free up room for all that grungy dirty stuff that boys love. When you choose your storage method, look around for options that suit your style. If you're into shabby chic, and want to use magazine holders, then don't get the ugly black plastic ones from Walmart. Find some nice cheap woven-look ones, or cover cardboard ones in fabric. The time to add style to your space is as you go along - not by sticking letters on the wall and a nice rug at the very end. And make sure your storage choice will fit in your space as well - don't go out and buy 40 vertical files when you have 3' of shelf space. That just isn't going to work. Trust me.

Third, decide on how you're going to store your paper - by brand, by theme, by color, or a combination.

Finally - start sorting and purging. What worked best for me - get the biggest, baddest table you can find. Put a sticky note labeled with each of your categories in spots about 1' apart on this table, in rows. Then grab a stack of papers and start sorting. If you have a short stack, it shouldn't take you longer than an episode of Law and Order. If you're a hoarder like me, you may have to settle in for the full season of 24. Either way, just keep plugging away on it, your "to file" stack will get shorter over time. Once you have everything sorted, put it in the appropriate holder and allow it back in your space. It will be happy to see its friends.

I would love to see before and after pictures of your paper extravaganza! Even "in-process" would be great, share your pain! Below is a picture of my system, which I looooove - easy to navigate and the kids can't get the cabinets open, whoo hoo! I use the Cropper Hopper vertical paper files. I have 50 of them (yes, I have a problem, I know that). I have them arranged by color, my multi-colored by theme, within each of those are my special brands, and then my specialty papers (chipboard sheets, lace paper, transparencies, etc). Everything is labeled (of course). I've had this system for about 7 years now and it's been working great for me.

In closing, I want to add my 10 rules for organizing. I'm going to post these at the end of every challenge, because I think they are very, very important. I want you to keep them in mind as you tackle each of these projects - they will make your life easier and the task less daunting.

1. Label your containers.
2. Be consistent in your methods.
3. Don't be too specific - your search for your items within your space should be short and simple.
4. Your organizational method should be easy to take out AND put away.
5. When organizing, break any large piles into smaller groupings. Have a 2 foot tall stack of paper to sort? Do it in 1" high chunks, it will be easier to handle mentally.
6. If it's something that you use on almost every project, then keep it within reach of your main scrap area.
7. Don't stress your containers. Get a new system or purge your stash.
8. For most items, product packaging adds bulk. Toss it. One exception - rub ons.
9. Repurpose when you can - almost anything can be painted or covered in paper/fabric.
10. THE GOLDEN RULE - FIRST choose an organizational method, THEN choose a container that fits your space and style. Always shop for containers with a list in hand - a beautiful container is simply clutter if it doesn't have a dedicated purpose in your space!

Your paper dilemma has now been solved. Congratulations! Now go get yourself a milkshake and I'll see you back here for Week 5.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Organize Your Stuff Challenge - Week 3

Welcome to Week 3 of the Organize Your Stuff Challenge! By now, you should be pumped up (with or without caffeine) and ready to go get that space of your dreams! This week, no more lists - you're going to start seeing results.

Today you are going to make a decision. A big one. And this is one that only YOU can make. You are going to decide whether you want to start small or go for broke.

Let me explain.

If you choose to start small, you will choose one problem area. Choose the one that first comes up on the Challenge list. Say you can't find a good way to organize your stamps. You are going to get all your stamps together. Every last one of them. And put them in a large box. And remove this box from the room. And not touch this box until Week 13, when we tackle the stamps. You will leave your other problem areas untouched until you conquer your stamp issues, and then you will come back to this Challenge at a later time and go over the next problem area.

If you choose to go for broke, you are going to get several boxes. As many as you need. You are going to box up each of your problem areas in a box, label that box, and take it out of your scrap space. That box will not be allowed back into your scrap space until it decides to behave nicely. Which means it had better be in its working container, all neat and organized. Then it may return to play with the rest of your supplies. This will also mean that you will be without a lot of your supplies until you get your act together and organize. Which may be exactly what you need.
So which one should you choose? YOU know you. I don't. But here are some guidelines:

If you are 100% committed to this challenge and want to completely reorganize your scrap space; if you are the type of person who can complete a project, no matter how long it takes; if you don't get easily discouraged or sidetracked - I would choose option 2. Go for it.

HOWEVER - if you aren't sure you have the time/money/interest to keep up with us; if you get bored with projects easily and lose interest; if you are just casually looking for some ideas and not up for an overhaul just yet - I would choose option 1. You can always go back and box up more problem areas if you need to at any given time.

Special note for some of the Challenge followers - and you know who you are, because I saw the photos you posted of your (ahem) "scrap space." If your room is a catch-all for diapers, too-small clothes, boxes of fake flowers that you bought at a garage sale, and at a place where you can't even find your computer monitor (how does that happen???), then my advice is to suck it up and go for broke. Get a LOT of boxes. Go to Target or Big Lots, you can get free ones if you ask. You're going to not only have boxes for your scrap supplies, but I want you to set up 3 more categories - SELL, ATTIC/BASEMENT, and GIVE AWAY. As you're uncluttering your space, if it doesn't involve scrapping, put it in one of these boxes. Oh, and get a REALLY large garbage bag as well for the trash. Take one item at a time from your space and put it into one of the above categories, or if it has a home in another room in your house, then put it away. Then take the boxes and do something with them - I'd box up the "Sell" stuff for now and tackle that once this Challenge is over. Take the "Give Away" box to Goodwill this weekend. And put the "Attic/Basement" box in it's proper location as soon as it's packed up. Get them OUT of your space. I want you to spend this week making your room a clean slate.

For the record - I went for broke on my space. I was also in the position that we just moved into a new (to us) house, tho. I refused to unbox any of my scrapping stuff until I had my organizational systems in place. I did one type of supply at a time, pretty much following the list from the overview. I would figure out how to store it, get the supplies, organize, THEN put it in my space. Slowly my empty room filled up with clearly labeled boxes and pretty containers that housed my stash, exactly where I needed it to be. It was heaven. I cannot tell you how easy it is to organize when you have a clean slate to work with. Nothing in your space, at all. You see options and possibilities that weren't there before, because they were obscured by other supplies. It allows you to move furniture and possibly even change locations in your home. It took me about 4 months to get the room up and functional. I have done minor tweaking since then, but no overhauls. It hasn't needed it. And if I ever did choose to do an overhaul again, I wouldn't hesitate to box everything up and take it out of the room. Despite the overwhelming stack of scrapping boxes in my kid's room, it was definitely easier for me than trying to work in a cluttered space. I'd get sidetracked into other projects, I know it.

Now, I have a special assignment to those of you who chose to go for broke. This is the week to get your "pretty things" rolling. Your space is empty - there's no better time to paint if you need to, change out the flooring, put up that new light fixture. Or at the very least, VACUUM it. It will be a nightmare to try to do some of these things when your supplies are back in the room, trust me. Also, if you have your space cleared out - it's time to think, is this where you want your space to be? If you have a spare room, it's a no-brainer. Or if Mr. Duchovny converted your garage into a studio for you while you were taking a bubble bath, then you're set. But if you're in a corner, a closet or the dining room - now is the time to make sure that your space is optimal. Maybe you've been thinking about moving out of the basement to the spare room? Or moving out of the linen closet to a dining room armoire unit? You already have your things packed up - why not? And since we'll be taking a week at a time to move everything back in, you'll have plenty of time to get your new space ready. So think about it. If you're not ready to take action, then don't. But I just want you to be aware that this is a perfect time to do it. To help you out, I'm including a bonus post this week. It's a monster list of links to spaces I've come across that I think are spectacular. Not all are rooms - some are corners, closets, you name it. But they are so well done that they will give you loads of inspiration and a jump start on your design file. I've also included some tips for designing your own space and would be happy to aid in space planning for anyone doing a full remodel. So go check out that bonus when you get a chance.

Anyways, you choose an option and grab your box(es) this week. Clear out your space - that will make you feel better immediately. And feel free to post pictures. The girl with the most boxes this week wins!

See you in Week 4 - we're going to start big - PAPER!


Organize Your Stuff Challenge - Week 3 BONUS - for my overhaulers

Welcome to the Organize Your Stuff Challenge - Week 3 BONUS! This post is specifically for those of you who have chosen to go off the deep end with me and are going to completely overhaul your space. You're just as crazy as I am - hallelujah, there are others out there!

Today I want to cover some of the basics of room design and space planning. If you have a blank slate to work with and don't know where to start, I hopefully can offer some pointers that can get you going in the right direction. This is called a bonus because it's not part of the main challenge. If I included it in the challenge, people would likely egg my house. Do not look at this post and completely flip out and grab your meds, thinking this has to be done in a week. That's insane. This is a just a guide - a collection of things I've come across in designing MY scrap space. It took me months to plan my space, with most of it done sitting on the couch in the evenings while watching TV. So many people have said that they don't know where to even start when designing a scrap area. Well, now you do. Take your time with it, take it step by step, relax, have fun, and it will get done. It's no different than if you were to remodel your kitchen. It's just another space in your house, but with a lot less silverware.

So, step one - if you haven't already done so, start a design file. These are the things you covet. They don't have to be the actual pieces that will go in your room - you're not ready for that yet. But these should be pictures of spaces, styles and storage options that make you truly Happy. What I did - I saved every picture that I loved to my computer, and when Walgreens had their cheap $0.10/print sale, I printed them out. I then filed them in a 3-ring binder by topic. So all my photos of workstations I loved and paint colors went into my Room Design section. All my pictures of neat ribbon storage ideas went under Ribbons. You get the idea. You can also save a little money and keep it digital - I'm a hands-on person tho, so I needed the photos. Don't limit yourself to only scrapping spaces - any color combinations you see that you love, non-scrapping furniture that would work, etc should go into your file. This can even include rooms in your own home! If your home is a black hole for inspiration, feel free to try some of my favorite sources - Target, Ikea, Umbra, West Elm, Land of Nod, Pottery Barn/Teen/Kids, Company Store/Company Kids, Exposures, Grandin Road, Crate and Barrel, Ballard Designs and Pier One. All have lots of fun ideas you can check out online.

Now, to get your design file filled with scrapbook-related things, it's a little more tricky. Most Peas know to do a search for "scrapbook room" in the Gallery and it will turn up a gazillion and a half rooms. You probably have a ton of those bookmarked already. So I'm not going to spend my time on those - if you haven't found that goldmine yet, scurry on over and check it out. My list below is from other sites I've found over time. I'm always on the lookout for spaces to drool over. Do a right-click and save picture for any ideas you love. It's long, but hopefully it will help you out.

Now if that won't keep you busy for at least a few hours - other good print sources include interior design magazines - Metropolitan Home, Traditional Home, House & Garden, Renovation Style, Interior Design, Architectural Digest are all great for ideas. There are also a few scrapbook organization books out there that have room ideas - check out your local library, free is good!

On to the planning. Now that you have some idea of what you want your room to feel like, your space design needs to encompass 3 basic things. First, it needs to function. Which means that it needs to fit YOUR style of scrapping. A standing island is useless if you sit to scrap! Second, it needs to be thought out in advance. PLAN this thing. Where will your main scrap area be? What tools need to be close by, which ones can be stored further away? Do you have kids - your sharp tools need to be out of reach then, maybe closed storage with child locks on it. How about workstations - one for stamping, one for die cuts, etc? These stations can be mobile as well, if you have a small space to work with. Keep these things in mind when setting up your zones. Finally, this is your creative haven. It needs to be uplifting, inspiring and a wonderful place you want to be in. Don't stick yourself in the damp, moldy basement just to have a large room, if you want to be with the rest of the family. A corner armoire can be just as functional in the dining room, where your kids are at. Find a space with light, one that you can add color and personalization to. If you're tight on space, get creative - even a small closet has wonderful potential. The key is to find a place where you will be happy and want to stay for a while so you won't have to go through this horrid planning process again.

So at this point, you should have a binder or file of sorts filled with things you love, and have chosen a space in your house where you will set up your scrap area. See how much progress you've made already? Yay! Now it's time to combine the two. Before any supplies go into your space, you need the basics - paint and furniture. Color is easy - go through your file. You should start seeing a trend in colors you've pulled. Maybe it's blues, or greens, or the black and white look. Start making decisions on the color scheme - treat your space like you would a layout. Choose your main colors and then have some accents (like embellishments!) that will pop.

Furniture is a little trickier. You first need to decide what you're going to do - use what you have, get a few new pieces, or get all new furniture for your scrap area. If you have a dream for your space but your budget doesn't match, then focus on the most important pieces and save up. If you do have the budget and are considering specialty pieces or built ins, then make sure you know what you're going to store where before making final decisions. I had my supplies mapped down to which drawer my paints were going in before I bought a single cabinet. Otherwise - what's the point of having a custom space if you have to tailor your stuff to fit in it? Design really is basic - figure out your method of organization first, then find stylish pieces that fit your space. If you have general ideas for all your supplies, wonderful. If not - hang in there through this challenge, and we'll figure it out together.

Once you have an idea of how your supplies will be stored (it doesn't have to be exact - like you want your ribbon hanging on the wall, but you don't have a hanger in mind yet), you need to get a room plan. Measure your space out with a tape measure, making sure to note any door and window locations (obviously you can't put a bookshelf behind a swinging door, but you CAN put one under a window!). Now, transfer these measurements to grid paper. Choose a scale - maybe a grid block on paper equals one foot of room space. Now you have your room drawn out, it's time to go to furniture. Measure the furniture you intend to use in your space (or if buying new, find the dimensions online). Draw them in the same scale on a separate piece of grid paper. Cut these pieces out, and you now have paper dolls of sorts to move about on your room diagram to see where things will go best. You can do this if you're doing cabinets as well - you can find the dimensions online. This is a cheap and easy way to plan a space - make sure you allow for movement, however. Usually 30" for aisles is a good start, and 36-40" behind chairs to allow someone to scoot back from a desk. Also keep in mind cabinet doors that open or drawers that pull out - that's important. Finally, make sure you take into account lighting and outlets. If you are planning on adding additional lighting, then you're set. But outlets are trickier and you don't want to drag an extension cord across your space for your sewing machine or tools, so set up your stations accordingly.

If you have a very small space to work with, it might be easier to draw the space in profile instead of in plan. Maximize your area by going vertical - in my old house, I had a small corner, so I used a computer hutch and stacked those 3-drawer Sterilite drawers about 4 high on top of that hutch. It rocked! I had to use a stepstool to get to the top drawers, but I only put my seldom used supplies up there so it worked out. I had 5 boxes across for a total of 20 drawer units - not bad for a small space! Closets are great areas - take out the clothes rod and you can go floor to ceiling with shelving. And it doesn't have to be all in one space either. If you have a small armoire unit in the dining room, you can have storage under the bed in another room, or a mobile cart or 2 in the closet - things like older photos, reference materials and completed albums can easily be stored elsewhere. Go on a house hunt and see what unused space you can find, you might surprise yourself. Make note of these little hidden gems on your space plan. You don't want to forget about them in the future.

At this point, all that's left is to put it all together. Get your paint colors on and your furniture in. Get each of your supplies in their appropriate containers and in their proper space in your room. Don't rush things. And if you get stuck, feel free to ask any questions - heck, you can even post your floor plan and I'll be happy to help you arrange things.

Have fun with this one!


Monday, June 1, 2009

Organization Challenge Week 2 - Brainstorming

Welcome to Week 2 of the Organize Your Stuff Challenge! Hopefully you all have gone through the process of scrapping and now have in your perfectly manicured little hands a list of your problem areas. This week, your challenge will be to figure out why these areas are hindering your scrapping, and what to do about them. I also want you to grab your trusty camera, because we're going to be posting some pictures this week.

First on our Challenge list - I want you to take a deep breath and leave your current world behind. Ignore the phone ringing and your kid screaming about something being on fire. Just take deep breaths, relax. Imagine you just woke up from 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep (ok, stop laughing). You feel refreshed, your mojo is strong, you grab your coffee and head to your scrap space. There are a trail of rose petals leading up to the magnificent French doors that is Your Room. The Scrap Fairy, in all her glorious grandeur, has visited last night (unfortunately, she didn't do the laundry, but we'll talk to her about that later). You now have the scrap space of your dreams! It's clean, it's tidy, it's free of dust/dead silverfish/things the cat coughed up. Don't wake up yet - what do you see? Are things in country woven baskets? Are they in sleek metal tins? Are there labels or do you just "know" where the supplies are at? Are your paints lined up on a shelf by color, or stashed in a drawer? Is the paper out for all to see, in racks or in cupboards? Does it feel like the loft space of a Manhattan artist, the cozy craft room of a southern cottage, maybe a porch of a shore house? This is YOUR dream room. There is no right and no wrong. This is a place where you spend so much of your time and creative energy - start envisioning what you want out of it. This is just brainstorming right now - leave out budget and space constraints. We'll deal with those later. Just have fun with it.

Now, you are still in your dream space. First thing I want you to do is to grab your list from last week. Start with problem area #1. I want you to write down all your thoughts on this area - why it's a problem, and what would make your life easier. Your dream room has no problems. Envision yourself in this space, creating the same layout that you did in week 1. How is this different from your reality? So, for my example - my monthly kits. Right now, in my reality, they're in plastic bags lined up on my desktop. I take out one, I can't get it back in, the others fall over. I hate that! But in my dream space....what if I had something to keep them upright? And in order? And maybe off my if I can stick them in a cabinet maybe. Or hang them up. That would work. See? Just jot down possibilities. Because in Week 8, when we get to kits, I may find something related to hanging or upright containers or the like that will "click" for me. But by jotting down ideas, I already have in my head a good start on how to get rid of this problem area. And if you can't think of any solutions, that's ok too - I'll give you plenty.

I don't want to talk budget and space yet, but I do want to focus on one practical aspect - how you work. I know everyone in this challenge has seen beautiful scrap rooms that they'd sacrifice their mother-in-law for. But if you have small kids who get into everything, then an open shelving system on the floor is not going to work for you, no matter how pretty it is. If you have room for one small scrap surface, then don't drool over a desktop tool caddy that takes up half the table. If you're a sitting scrapper, don't look into standing-height counters. So as we go along, keep your reality in mind. You CAN have a great, gorgeous space, and on your own terms. We're going to bring the items you covet into your reality with what you already have and own. It CAN be done. So keep this in mind as we go along - I want you to IMMEDIATELY rule out any storage solution that will not work with your lifestyle or your scrap space. No matter how appealing or pretty. Just cross it off. With a big black Sharpie.

Our final step in the challenge this week is - picture time! I think this is a great motivational tool - it's not meant to get you down in the dumps by looking at your photo (sans David Duchovny) and thinking, man, my space bites. You're going to post this photo and you're going to find that there are others out there much, much worse off than you are. And that will (sadly) boost your spirits. And if you have the absolute worst space posted, well - you have nowhere to go other than up, right? Let's keep those attitudes positive! You will also print this photo out and display it prominently in your space. Because when you're in Week 10, and you don't want to do this anymore because you feel like all you do is organize and nothing has changed, you're going to look at that picture and see how far you've come. And that will give you a second wind to tackle the rest of your list.

Here is the photo of my space, un-Photoshopped:

Overall, I'm happy with my space. It does need some tweaks tho. And some cleaning (I think that's jelly on my stamping cabinet....yuck, kids!!!).

See you all in Week 3 - get ready for a clean sweep, ladies!