Contain the Chaos: Tips for Organizing Your Beads

When a customer makes his or her maiden voyage to Blue Door Beads, one of their first comments is, “Everything is laid out so nicely! I love how you have everything organized.” We say thank you and beam with pride, and then think to ourselves, “If they only knew how long it took to get things to where they are now!”

We know it, you know it: staying organized can be a pain in the butt, especially when it comes to organizing thousands & thousands of itty bitty things. Although our store displays may be neat and tidy, with a place for every bead and every bead in its place, allow us to show you what our staff project drawer looks like:
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Yup. Complete chaos. In our defense, we do have six different people contributing to this drawer, and many times we don’t have the time to tuck our projects away neatly (it’s a sign that we’re busy helping our fabulous customers, so actually, it’s a good thing!). However, it has gotten a little out of control. This week, we are planning to reorganize our project drawer, but before we do, we wanted to put some serious thought into how we might go about doing that. Here are a few ways we organize our beads and projects at home, plus a few tips we received from customers:

Organize by Color

Photo courtesy of Torie Jayne on Flickr.

Photo courtesy of Torie Jayne on Flickr.

Among Blue Door Beads staff, this was the most common way to organize our bead stashes. Chances are, when you are ready to create a piece of jewelry, you have a particular outfit you are hoping to match, or a dear friend who will be the recipient of your creation, who also happens to have a favorite color. These factors are usually at least the starting points of the design process, and even though most pieces of jewelry are created using many different colors, it’s much easier to choose from a rainbow of bead options when you have the full color spectrum of ROYGBIV right at your fingertips. (That’s a little bit of 7th grade science nerdiness for ya.)

Organize by Type of Bead

A lovely variety of wooden beads. Photo courtesy of karenkimmel.com.

A lovely variety of wooden beads. Photo courtesy of karenkimmel.com.

It is fairly common for longtime beaders to have a favorite type of bead, such as seed beads, Swarovski crystals, gemstones, or Czech glass. Some are easier to organize than others (seed beads typically come in standard-size tubes, for example), and grouping these certain beads together makes a lot of sense if you work with them exclusively. Someone who does primarily loomwork with delica seed beads is not going to want to have to pick out individual tubes from her red, orange, and yellow color sections — she would much rather have all of her seed beads together for easy access. Of course, one can organize by type of bead, then subcategorize by color — that is how we organize our displays here at the shop. Keep in mind, we have several hundred square footage at our disposal, but if you happen to be lucky enough to have your very own craft room (or are clever enough to maximize a tiny space in a creative way, like the folks who created the storage systems pictured at the end of this post), you can enjoy organizing your beads by type, then subcategorizing in as many ways as possible!

Organize by Size

Embossed Vintaj pendants, ready to be used in fabulous jewelry! Photo courtesy of vintaj.com

Large embossed Vintaj pendants, ready to be used in fabulous jewelry! Photo courtesy of vintaj.com

We’re not sure if this is the most accurate way to describe this method of organizing; perhaps we should change it to “Organize by Specialness.” A few of our customers have told us that they separate their focal pieces from their other beads, and these are typically larger beads & pendants. These “special” beads are often the jumping-off points for their designs, and of all the pieces they would like to have handy, these are the most important ones to have front and center.

Organize by Project
If you are working on a project, but you have come to a point where you need to stop (you have run out of spacer beads, dinner is ready and the dining room table needs to be cleared, etc.), it’s annoying to have to pack up your project completely. You were enjoying playing with some fun color combinations, but now you have to put your beads away — what if you forget which colors you enjoyed together? We have a simple solution for you: take a few of each type of bead you’re using in your project, put each style in its own mini Ziplock bag to keep them separate, put all of the bags in a larger Ziplock bag, then label the larger bag with the date you started your project. Then, pack up the majority of your beads until you’re ready to start the full-blown project again. Obviously, you can also include notes in your Ziplock about what next steps need to be taken, which may be helpful if you need to take your project with you to Blue Door Beads! Need headpins? Bring the entire bag with you so you can test your beads to ensure you buy headpins that are the correct gauge. The reason we recommend adding the start date is to remind yourself how long this unfinished project has been kicking around. Does the date say Dec. 2012? Maybe it’s time to either sit down and finally finish your project, or take the beads out and start a NEW project.

Hopefully the previous organizing options have inspired you to take out your bead stash, spend some time sorting your beads, and get reacquainted with some of your favorites! In closing, we would like to link you to some fun websites with more organizing tips (Jewelry Making Journal and Fave Crafts Blog), as well as leave you with some photos of clever, cool, and adorable bead storage options that give us serious storage envy. Enjoy!

An unused spice rack becomes the perfect place to store beads and buttons. Clever AND classy-looking! Photo courtesy of mamiejanes.blogspot.com

An unused spice rack becomes the perfect place to store beads and buttons. Clever AND classy-looking! Photo courtesy of mamiejanes.blogspot.com

Another magnetic bead organizer. This crafter decided to take an even more artistic approach and covered her base with fabric. Photo courtesy of mygirlishwhims.com

This crafter decided to take a very artistic approach to her bead storage: she covered an IKEA magnet board with fabric before sticking on her magnetic containers full of beads! Photo courtesy of mygirlishwhims.com

This clever crafter repurposed an old wine rack & turned it into a bead rack. Love it! Photo courtesy of calfinder.com

This clever crafter repurposed an old wine rack & turned it into a bead rack. Love it! Photo courtesy of calfinder.com

Although this wall-mounted storage is currently being used for paints, it would be easy enough to slide some boxes of beads in there instead! Photo courtesy of bubblewrappd.blogspot.com

Although this wall-mounted storage is currently being used for paints, it would be easy enough to slide some boxes of beads in there instead! Photo courtesy of bubblewrappd.blogspot.com

The mother of all bead storage! Holy cow! Photo courtesy of madamravendesigns.blogspot.com (recently deactivated)

The mother of all bead storage! Holy cow!
Photo courtesy of madamravendesigns.blogspot.com (recently deactivated)

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5 thoughts on “Contain the Chaos: Tips for Organizing Your Beads

  1. I’m feelin’ the spice rack and the magnetic Ikea gizmo. Can’t you just see lots of containers of Swarovski crystals? *swoon*

  2. Hi there,

    This is Julia from FaveCrafts. Just stopping by to say thanks for mentioning our blog in this post! We are so glad you like our site and have found it so helpful. Have a great day!

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