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.



  1. I have a tip for those who do not want to throw out their scraps but don't seem to use them either. When I'm putting adhesive on things, I'm not exactly "neat" about it. I often times go off the edges of items that are not straight edges. I wasn't using my scraps on my pages or cards, so I started using them under things that I knew I'd be messy with my adhesive on. Now I don't get gunk stuck to my table or cutting mat and that makes clean up and scrapping much easier in general!

    Thanks for doing this blog....I'm loving your tasks!

  2. Nice tip. I keep the subscription cards from the inside of magazines for this same purpose and I also do primer/practice stamps on them.

    This week is going to go fast thanks Wookie.

  3. Love that idea, Melissa. And I love this challenge. Currently my stuff is in boxes waiting to be moved, but as soon as I've unpacked, LOOK OUT!

  4. Love your system, Wookie! It never occured to me to have containers within the drawer to divide the sizes of scrap paper. Brilliant - many, many thanks for your time and effort!!!

  5. Great sugestions!
    My method is too simple, I keep the cardstock scraps with the large sheets (I organize by color so it all goes to the color box) same for patterns, it goes in the corresponding color set, but I think this only works with a smaller stack of product like mine, with more stash I guess the scraps will get lost...

  6. look please on my blog,to my hobby room

  7. Thank you soooo much, Wookiemouse! I finished my paper and now am now working on my scraps. I LOATHE scraps (becuase of the dam mess they are) and LOVE LOVE LOVE you for helping us out with this! I can't WAIT to see what you have in store for us through the rest of this challenge!!

  8. Found this WAY late (there are only a few weeks left) so I'm more than a few weeks behind.

    I just wanted to add that I store my paper and most of my scraps together. I have large ziplock-type bags that I got from CTMH. I sort my 12x12 by color, label the bag with a black sharpie and then put my 'scraps' of that color or pattern right back in that bag when done with a project. That way, the next time I pull that color out, I can see right away whether I have a scrap the right size in that color or if I have to actually cut a new sheet. I do have a small fabric basket and a larger plastic box for storing those last bits of odd paper (when there isn't enough of something left to warrant it's own bag any longer).

    Oh - and thank you so much for sharing this with the rest of us. It's encouraging to know that this is the system you used and that you've managed to keep it working for you so long!

  9. I just ordered the mobile file from Office Depot. Right now I have my scraps in a file cabinet, sorted by color families and this will work better, I can roll it over to where I am working and will be more likely to "use" those scraps I've been hoarding!!