Organizing Your Workspace

A place to put—and do—your stuff

For scrapbooking...and for so many other ventures...an organized workspace is the key to happiness and creativity. Here's the story of Studio E, and how you can create your space.

I’ve talked about tools, I’ve talked about supplies and embellishments– but where can you store them so they are convenient? And where can you work so that you can enjoy creating your scrapbooks?

For scrapbooking and so many other areas, organizing your workspace can be key to working happily. You want to be able to find your supplies easily, and you want to work in a comfortable space. I should know. I used to work in a mess. Now I don't. This is my story...

This is the Art Area of "Studio E," my scrapbooking workspace. You can see the work counter with drawers underneath. Lazy susans with glues, sprays, and other items are on the shelves. Farther to the right are tiered shelves with paints. The top shelf holds clear jars filled with beads, flowers, and other small items. The sloping ceiling didn’t allow for more shelves. On the left of this picture you can see the counter with a paper cutter, Xyron machine, and a toaster oven (not for toast– I use it when baking polymer clay). I use the counter to hold supplies within easy reach so that the main work counter is uncluttered. Under the counter are more drawers, and cabinets with slide-out shelves hold larger items.

 

Finding your space


Ideally, you should have a scrapbook space you could call your own. A spare bedroom, of course, is perfect. But there may be other underused rooms or areas you can claim. Perhaps you could convert a large walk-in closet. Not available? Even better might be an area of the basement or the attic. Maybe even the garage. Hold a yard sale or give unused stuff away and you can claim the space to make it your scrapbooking area. If that’s not possible, you might be able to establish your work area in a section of the family room, the laundry room, or your bedroom. Hunt around. Use your imagination as to what areas of existing rooms can be cleared out to make room for a table, chair, and storage.

If you still can’t find a place to be your permanent scrapbooking area, then set up temporary workspace in the kitchen or dining room. Many scrapbookers prefer working where they can have the company of their family rather than in the isolation of a separate room. So consider your personality when choosing a space.

Actually, the kitchen has a couple of advantages. For many scrapbooking procedures, it’s better to stand while you work, for example, when punching or rubber-stamping. The kitchen counter is just the right height. And being near the sink makes it convenient to wash glue or paint off your hands and brushes. See, not having a dedicated craft room is not so bad after all.

Furniture


It’s easy to get so involved in a project that you may find yourself spending long hours doing it. That’s the very important reason to have furniture that is comfortable, but, above all, ergonomically correct. The experts advise that your desk be at forearm level so your wrists can be straight. Your chair should allow your hips to be slightly higher than your knees, and your knees should be bent at a 90- degree angle and your feet flat on the floor (or resting on a footrest if necessary). An adjustable chair is the best way to get these features. (And if you’re spending hours upon hours at the computer, like I am, your chair and computer desk should have the same features.)

One more thing: lighting. Lots of it, but positioned so it doesn’t cast your shadow on your artwork. Lamps with a daylight color is best.

Organization


So many supplies, so many tools. You need places to put them– the things you’ll use most often near at hand, others placed where you can easily find them and know what you have. If you are not organized, you’ll find yourself searching all over for something or even buying the same thing a second time because you forgot that you had it. I speak from experience!

You're lucky you if you have an entire room or dedicated area where you can install shelves and cabinets. Or slat walls. Or pegboard. Or a hanging rod with hooks. You want to keep your work surface clear but still have your supplies within easy reach.

For a room that will be shared with other family activities, you can find storage units or modular units that include a desk, shelves, and drawers, and can be closed to hide your stash. If your budget doesn’t allow for all new furnishings, go to flea markets or see what you can get free at your local Freecycle (http://freecycle.org) on the Internet.

My office desk is against one wall, with shelves and cabinets. On the other wall are art, crafts, and scrapbooking books. On the top shelves are part of my collection of mugs related to photography.

 

A place to put your stuff

Where do you put those tools and supplies? Craft and scrapbook stores have containers that will work with many of your things, but I’ve found that my best sources are home accessories stores such as Bed, Bath, and Beyond; office-supply stores; hardware stores; Walmart; and, my favorite, The Container Store.

For example, at the home accessories store I bought two-tiered turntables to hold bottles of glitter and glue. I have expandable cabinet organizers – narrow tiers of shelves that sit on a bookshelf – that hold bottles of paint. Divided silverware trays keep my pens and small tools compartmentalized. A toolbox or tackle box makes a portable organizer of you have to set up in a family area.

Opposite the desk is this unit with shelves holding paper, fibers, and a few other things. Underneath are cabinets for infrequently used items.

 

I have loads of paper, which I’ve roughly sorted by color and type (printed scrapbooking paper and cardstock), and I keep them in racks meant for 8 ½ x 11-inch computer paper. There are racks at the craft store made specifically to hold scrapbook paper, but they are more expensive than the office-supply version. However, I did have to splurge on a holder for 12 x 12 papers.

Scrapbooking generates lots of leftover pieces of paper. If they are at least 3 x3 inches, save them. They’ll come in handy for mats, borders, punchies, and other embellishments. A handy way to keep them is in hanging file folders.

Many scrapbookers keep supplies in baskets. I find that baskets and boxes are inconvenient when they are stacked– to get a the contents of a box on the bottom of the stack, you have to find a place to put the upper boxes. Not for me. I bought stackable drawers, some meant for shirts, others for shoes; I can just pull open the drawer or take it all the way out without a problem.

My Space

Your needs are probably not the same as mine, but I think you will glean some ideas from "Studio E." I am a writer, photographer, mixed-media artist, as well as a scrapbooker. Until three years ago, I did everything on a desk in a 120-sq foot space in the spare bedroom. The printer that I use for photographs was in the middle of the room, which had to be connected every time I wanted to print photographs. I found myself working on top of piles of paper and generally feeling claustrophobic..My husband and I consulted with a contractor and architect who said it was possible to expand the room 300 percent. Wow! The economy was good at the time, and although I initially hesitated, we decided to go ahead and create "Studio E."

The desk holds three printers, two scanners, tons of paper, and many books on Photoshop.

 

It took two months for the contractors to knock out walls and make my new space. The workers got used to me and my camera, as I documented the progress almost every day; you can see it in this slideshow. I had the room painted white to give it an airy feeling, which I needed after too many years being cramped in a tiny, dark space. When the construction was finished, a separate company put down the flooring. I wanted flooring that would be easy to clean in case I spilled paint or glue, and we found a beautiful vinyl that looks like slabs of slate. I used a cabinet company to install shelves, drawers, and cabinets. These are not custom made units, but the wide range of available sizes made it seem like they were. The room is L-shaped, with three distinct areas: the office area with my original desk, the computer area with three printers and two scanners, and the art area with counters on two sides.

The only additional furniture I had to buy were two more chairs– one for the desk and a tall one for use at the counters. I usually like to stand when doing art– but not always. Although there is a great deal of ceiling light from the recessed fluorescent bulbs, I added daylight-balanced task lamps in each area. Good lighting, as I said, is very important.

My challenge was to plan where I wanted open shelves, cabinets with pull-out shelves, and drawers. My huge and constantly growing collection of books would need shelves. So would small and frequently used items, which could also add a colorful, decorative note against the room’s white walls. Bulky items would go in under-counter cabinets. Pens, small tools, punches, and other items would be conveniently placed in drawers. And so it went. I did a floor plan and worked with the cabinet company, who also offered additional suggestions.

Is my Studio E perfect? Almost. Because our village’s building code requires a specific amount of windows for the size of a room, I didn’t get all the wall– hence, storage– space I wanted, so I put small drawers of less-frequently used embellishments in another room. The most important accessory in that room is my labeler. Everything is labeled or I would have to spend hours looking for something.

I love working in Studio E. Everything is organized and lends itself to creating rather than searching. Organization is vital in any workspace. It’s important in a large area, even more so in a small one.

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