Sunday, December 14, 2014

Using Technology for Dinosaurs

I guess the first question I should answer is "Who am I calling a Dinosaur?"
Awhile back my parents were talking computers with my brother.  I don't know the whole conversation just that he called them Dinosaurs and that has stuck.
If we think about how fast technology changes and timeline that - well in comparison they are (assuming that dinos lived a really long time ago).  Sort of like the cat or dog years thing.  

I decided to write this article after reading some thing from another miniaturist encouraging other older miniaturists (by age not experience necessarily) to try learning the basics that they are interested in and then branching out.  I thought that was really good advice but I wanted to expand on that idea with some knowledge I particularly wanted to share.

Using help may require using different terms to find

When it comes to learning sometimes we want to look for help in a program or on the internet. Sometimes it is difficult to get help because of the terms used.  So my advice is to search with the words you think it might be called, then try different words to describe the task until can find the help needed.  

Learn the basics so can build on them

My second tip ties in with the first one - when help is provided in a program, it is a good idea to read the basic instructions.  This is because some programs like math build on knowing how to do other tasks.  We can't multiple or divide until we understand how to add and subtract.  Most programs have basic tools that we need to understand in order to do other tasks.

More than one way to do a task

I am a right click mouse person.  This just means that I like using the right click of a mouse to do things.  I love when programs have a good set of tasks on the right click menu.  But I am not trying to convert you to right clicking so much as to illustrate that there is often more than one way to do a task.  For example, to copy something I have highlighted, I can use the right click menu, use a shortcut key set like Ctrl + C keys or I can go to the menu.  There are also function keys (F12 = Save As).  For the shortcut combos and function keys I recommend doing a search.  I find that it is a good idea to find some to add to my personal 'toolbox'.  I don't need to know each one, but it is good to be aware of them so that if I am doing repetitive steps, then I can save myself some steps.
I also think it is good to review these as it could be there is one to add at a later time.  Maybe right now I don't need it but later I might find is useful.  
Also research the shortcut keys in a particular program as there may be more in one program vs another.

When learning, use real world for you tasks

If you take a class in a program or computer basics, make sure you are also trying to do the things you really want to learn.  I have bought books to learn how to use a program.  For example, I have Paint Shop Pro.  The book provided me with cd containing picture files I could use to make changes to.  Instead of using those pictures, I use a copy of one of my own.  Then when I see the results of that particular task, I know what it might be like for my real photos. The best teacher will be a task you really want done and you learn how to do it for yourself. If we use examples that aren't relevant, then learning process requires us to translate to what we might do with it.  I recommend that if you are taking a class, take an example of something you want to work on and ask the instructor to help with that.  Maybe you have to do so after the class is over, but I believe you will get more benefit from the class you take.  It may help the instructor with ideas of what to teach or to provide as examples.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

When I was in school I hated to practice, but there is a benefit to doing so.  This is true for digital tasks as well.  The more you do the task the better you will become at it.  But also it will give confidence to try again.  

Don't be afraid to try

I get it, computers and software can be intimidating.  There are terms that don't make sense, there are many options to choose from, and there is that scary time when the computer froze and I just knew it was my fault.  Today's computers are not perfect, sure we can mess them up doing the wrong thing or by not doing something (like making sure to keep an active anti-virus software running), but they have come a long way to making them easier to use.  
This is reaffirming what my miniaturist friend was saying.  When we try something we get a feel good when we are successful.  Trying things you want to do and being able to do them, will help to build on trying other things.  

Technology is ever changing. 

We need to change with it.  Change our attitude and try things again that maybe didn't work before.  A good example is cell phones, just 5 years ago, the number of minutes on a plan was a big deal and the cost to go over was exorbitant.  Today, we have plans that are unlimited for less than those 300 minutes a month plans.  The way it was a few years ago is not necessarily how it is now.  

I hope this article was helpful and encouraged you to learn or try something new.  If there is a particular topic you think I could cover or question you would like to ask, feel free to email me

Happy miniaturing!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

All the Trimmings - and more

All the Trimmings -

that is the label I have on my tin that I now keep most of my ribbons, bunka and other trims in.
When I first started in miniatures I had to buy trims nearly every time I needed something.  Over time, of course, I have been able to build up a good collection of different types and styles.  As my collection grew, the way that I store them has changed as well.  I believe I started storing them with the project.  Then as I finished a project they moved to a zip bag.  Then they were moved to a drawer - this being about the size of shoebox and was all jumbled together.  The zip bag was fine as it was a much smaller amount to sort through but the drawer was a mess.
The one on the left is ribbons that I am unlikely to use in miniatures for 1:48 scale, but I show as that is how that drawer was. The one on the right is a drawer of Christmas styles also unlikely to use in miniatures.
One day as I was getting everything out to find something, I realized that every time I needed something for a project I was pulling out two to three 3x5x3 inch plastic drawers,  and a cardboard drawer like above, and additionally I had stored some in a case binder that had business card holder pockets.  Oh wait, plus I had participated in a supply swap and it was in an additional cardboard drawer. I recognized after the other organizing I had been doing, that I needed to get my trims organized better as well.

My Solution

I started grouping the trims by color and putting then in smaller zip bags.  I even pulled the silk ribbon and bunka from their special smaller plastic drawers and put them in the zip bags.  This was a really big step for me as I was seemingly committed to the drawers for some reason.  I am not sure what my hang up was, maybe the way they looked in the drawer - all lined up like colored files that you could easily see which to grab, but it did take me a while before I decided to add them in the zip bags.  
My ultimate decision was 'what is the most efficient means to store these different types of trims?'  I thought about how I was getting out all these containers and only looking for a particular color.  It occurred to me finally that the most efficient way was to pull out a bag of the color I was looking for and then I could sort for the possible trims to use.  This truly was my best solution.

Next steps - adding more to the collection

A year or so ago, I lucked into a garage sale of items from a miniaturist who had passed.  The lady had a whole bunch of ribbon and other trims.  Her storage solution, as they were mostly ribbon, was to wrap them on paper towel tubes and then pin them.  These were in small paper shopping bags when I saw them.  I purchased the whole lot of bags and got over 200 different ones.  Granted there were some that I decided later that I could part with as they were larger in scale or a type of material that was not conducive to use in 1:48 scale which is what I prefer to work in.  Some of these tubes had 20 or so different trims/ribbons on them.  But the pins seemed to come loose and long term not a solution I wanted to keep.  Maybe it worked for her, but it wouldn't work for me.
So I removed each and wound them onto cards I made.  These cards are just some I cut from thin cardboard.  It is nice to have the ears on the cards, like the cross-stitch thread or bunka is sometimes seen on but I found it wasn't necessary.  To hold the end in place I cut a notch in the side or end of the card to insert the end of the ribbon/trim into.

Well, now my stash has grown and I needed to find a new container to hold it all.  I had been keeping them in a plastic box slightly smaller than the typical plastic shoe box.  But rather than switch to two boxes, which I needed to if I didn't have anything else, I switched to a tin that I have.  

This cookie tin is quite large as tins go and boxy.  I got it quite a few years ago.  I had been storing a project in it.  The tin did keep the dust out, but it was far too easy to forget what was in the tin where it was being stored.  I can't recall what exactly prompted me to change my usage of this tin from storing a project to storing the bags, but I did have to change my way of thinking.  If there truly is a second lesson to be learned here it is to always be willing to re-evaluate your storage options.

Large Tin used to store current collection

This tin was just right for my current collection.  However I always seem to go OCD about a storage solution and find some flaw.  The flaw in this was bags can't be sorted by color. Plus the bags are different sizes.  OK, I can deal with the not having them 'filed', but the bags sizes - I have do something about that.  Fortunately, I had spare bags available. I switched them to smaller bags.  I of course saved the larger zip bags.  Anything that couldn't fit into the smaller bags, well I just divided up the color - making a lighter and a darker of that color.

Alternative storage solution

A few paragraphs above I said a lesson I need to work on is to always be willing to re-evaluate storage solutions.  As I write this, I reminded myself of the remaining solution i have for my trims - a super cool binder - shaped like a box but it has the rings in it.  Inside I have business card pocket pages.  I confess that I am still using that binder.  Silly I know as the whole point of pulling everything into the tin was the make it easier to find what i might use, but I am still hanging on to a prior solution.  

I am not going to beat myself up over this.  I will do something about it.  But I mention it for two reasons - one to drive my point about re-evaluating solutions but secondly because it is truly a great storage solution.  The only problem with this solution for me is it currently cost prohibitive.  Only reason I started it was because I had been able to get the binder and the pocket pages when they were throwing away items at work.  This binder is called a case binder and they come in different colors and different thicknesses.  


I wrote about my fabric storage in a prior post.  It really is nothing fancy - a drawer of bags where the fabric is grouped in the bags by color.  I really only mention it here because yet again, I had a moment when I reminded myself about having more than one place for storing something.  One of the supply swaps I was in included fabric swatches.  Those swatches took a while to be moved to the fabric bags.  And it was not just because I hadn't gotten around to moving them.
I pulled the drawer out today just to see if there was really something to talk about.  Well, even though I had some new to me fabric, not in the bags, at least it was in the same drawer.  When I feel like sorting or I need a particular color then I will have them all in same place and not have to hunt down that new fabric.  That's probably when it will get sorted.  But I am okay with that.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Moving - Rearranging and Downsizing

Moving things around is a really good way to figure out what you have and consider better ways to organize.  Moving house can force us to choose whether we want to keep something or not, especially when the new space is smaller.  Smaller space can be a good thing if viewed from the idea that having things in reach makes one more efficient.  It doesn't have to be a bad thing as maybe the new space can afford more shelving or some other advantage previously unavailable.  So if moving to a smaller space, think of it as positive.  If nothing else, you will get the advantage of going through you things to be reminded of what you have already.  It might also inspire you to work on what you have.

Savers - Hoarders - call us what you will

I know that many miniaturists are savers - some might even call us hoarders - but I do not.  To me, a hoarder is someone who is unwilling to part with things that have no use to them and I believe that some of them have a real medical condition.  I know some things are relative as to whether they are useful, but from my perspective someone I would call a hoarder tends to not really have an answer as to why they have so much stuff.  Another aspect of being a hoarder is someone who will save too much.  Too much can also be relative as a person who makes a kits might have a justification for saving many of something so they can have enough for kits, where someone who only saves for themselves doesn't need a lifetime supply for ten people. Being a saver is one way to stretch the funds available, but there is truly a fine line between just right and too much.

So when it comes to tossing versus keeping here are some points to consider:

  • Do I have a current need for this item?
  • Do I foresee a future need?
  • Is it easily replaced?
  • Do I have too much/many?
  • Do I still have room for it?
  • Can I make it fit into a smaller space?
Each of these questions will be answered differently for different people and at different times.

Current need / Future need?

If there is a current need then by all means keep it.  However depending on the answer to other questions, may still be a candidate for tossing.
Speaking for myself, I am always saving for a future need.  However again, depending on my answer to other questions whether I will continue to save it.  The key here is to be honest with yourself and not just assume that keeping it is the best thing to do.  Moving it or continuing to store it may cost you, sometimes in terms of money but also in the weight it has on your mind. Granted there are some items that we know we should hang on to because of the next question.  

Easily replaced?  

In the miniature world, I learned early on that when it comes to one-of-a-kind items I may see at a show, I need to buy it if I can afford to do so.  The odds are that it won't be available in the future.  But when this question is applied to a material, particularly one that is common every day item that i am recycling - say an egg carton or plastic lids, then I need to limit myself to what I save.
Let's talk about egg cartons - the paper machie kind are good for cutting up to make faux stones, or torn apart and make tree bark.  The foam kind can also be cut up to make faux stone or bricks - just a different style.  Saving them is a good idea - but think about how many to save goes back to whether they are easily replaced.  So I say save a few and toss the rest unless your stock needs to be replenished.  Although I will admit it is ok to keep in mind that the egg sellers may switch from one to the other and sure that is when you probably will need more.  However if you are still connected to the internet, I would suggest to ask other miniaturists if they might be able to share as their egg seller may still have the other kind.

Too many?

One example of the too many question combined with the easily replaced comes to mind.  I have used butter dish lids for paint before. Since butter dishes are something I frequently empty, I don't save every lid as I don't use that many for minis.   I can wash them off and do so for a few times, but then will discard them. Usually by that time there is another one available. 
The big key about saving items is whether I have room to continue saving and whether I have used what I have saved. 

Fit in a smaller space?

When it comes to smaller spaces - one thing I do is remove the packaging.  For example, over the years I have participated in many swaps.  Each swapper wraps the item individually.  Fairly early on I decided to remove them from the wrapping and store the swap items in my divided boxes.  The notes that tell who made it were recorded and then I could discard the notes and the wrapping.  In this case it also makes it much easier to see what I have to use in a project. 

Saving or Tossing Organic Items

When it comes to organic items - here are a few more questions to consider?
  • Is this item spoiled?
  • Is this item contained to keep out critters?
  • If used in miniatures will it be safe from critters then?
  • Has the color changed since purchased?
  • If the color changes will I still be happy with it having been used in miniatures?

Item spoilage

Regarding that first organic question, several times I have chosen to throw out dried flowers because they were growing mold.  This is likely due to the humidity in my house - more so in my prior one as it was not controlled environmentally as well as the house I have now. It is possible that had the flowers been in a project they would not have the mold, but keep in mind these are still organic items and being dried doesn't always mean 'never going to change'.

Keep out the critters?

I have heard stories of how critters have eaten away bits that were glued down.   Also very important to store these items properly to keep the critters out.  Even more importantly is to get rid of the critters before storing.  Heating organic materials like sticks and pine cones to kill critters is a good idea. I tend to steer away from organic materials today because of critters and other issues - read on...

Color change

Exposure to light can change the color of materials that are not color fast.  Read labels.  I used a product clearly labeled as not color fast and then got it wet.  The color ran and I didn't want it in my project.  It was a serious task in order to remove it.  If I had read the label, I wouldn't have used it.
A friend of mine once made a garden of all dried items.  A few years later that garden looked drab and not nearly as nice, because the dried items faded.  There is a lot of time and effort put into making miniatures.  It is such a shame to waste said time and energy only to have it look less inviting a few years later. 
Organic materials are not the only things that can change color.  Take paper for example, ever notice how newsprint changes color overtime.  That's because it has lignin in it.  As lignin deteriorates, it gives off acid and that acid causes the color change.  
It is also good to have acid-free paper for the same reason.  Even if it doesn't change color - it can still cause damage to the miniature it is used in.  I spend too many hours making these wonderful collectibles to knowingly use materials that can damage it over time.
Protect things from light - sun and other sources of light can cause fading.  This is true for things besides organic materials and paper and include things such as paint and fabric.


Ten plus years ago, I decided to focus on 1:48 scale miniatures.  To be honest, I don't recall why I decided to stop making miniatures in 1:12 scale.  Maybe I got a wild hair and just decided I couldn't do it all.  There's a thought.  One that bears consideration for our lives, but will leave that for another day.  
Back to the 1:12 scale minis.  1:12 scale takes up more room than 1:48 scale is probably one of the big reasons I decided I would scale back.  I went through all my things - purchased items, finished items and supplies.  I photographed many of them and sold them online.  I kept a few projects already started - a scrapbook dome and my rabbit collection domes.  One rabbit dome was already full but the second one had not be made yet.  But I knew I wasn't going to stop collecting rabbits so I keep those things I knew would use in those projects.  The rest - either I sold, donated or gifted to my daughter who still has a 1:12 scale house.  
It felt good to downsize. It also helped clear my head of projects I was no longer going to do. Some of the projects I have adapted to 1:48 scale and most of the others I have abandoned.  In that sense - I cleared some space in my brain as these projects hadn't been started yet.

Tools - Downsized

I also downsized my tools.  Sort of.  Mostly this meant that bigger tools that I didn't use for 1:48 scale frequently were put away and not carried in my tool basket.  In this case, I just chose for my tool basket the smallest tool I was comfortable with to use most often.  For example, I have a 6 inch ruler, not my 12 inch in my tool basket (now tool box). I still have the 12,18, and 36 inch rulers available should I need them, but stored away.  In my tool box, I also keep a small square and small right angle.  I store these extra tools in drawers or on the wall - hanging on pins.  
Scissors for example - I have several in multiple sizes, but in my tool box is just a couple.  The bigger ones are put away.  I even gave away some.
When I switched from a tool basket to a small tool box, I had to be even more selective in my tools.  
Last year I purchased a bunch of tools at a garage sale.  Because I bought the whole lot, I got a great deal on the ones I really wanted.  There were many of tools I already had.  I picked through this bunch and kept the ones I really wanted.  Then I gifted the rest to two other miniaturists.  I could have kept that whole bunch, but instead I choose to pass them along simply because I knew that I didn't want to store them or deal with sorting through those when I really didn't need to.  Being a miniaturist, I love my tools, but I recognize when I have too many of something.  But twenty years ago, I might not have.  I have come a long way to being able to part with my things.

Fabric Stash Downsized

Fabric was a biggie that I downsized.  I used do some real life quilting and making my own clothes, so had accumulated some fabric.  When I downsized minis to 1:48 scale, I was very selective in what I kept of the fabric.  First, I examined the weave.  Would I use it in 1:48 scale?  How much could I reasonable use in 1:48 scale project (or projects if it was  common enough fabric)?  What about the print?  Really large scale flowers or prints - they were donated unless I felt I could possibly use a portion.  Anything I kept was a small amount unless I could see using quite a bit of it, such as to make kits.  Also fabric I felt I could reasonable purchase at anytime - well I keep a small amount as well.  Much of the excess was donated so someone else could benefit and I no longer needed to store. 

Landscaping supplies - 

I downsized these as well.  In this case it was to get rid of the excess - either in amount or the types I couldn't see being used in 1:48 scale. 
I still need to work on these.  Right now I have a large cardboard box in the closet of my studio room.  It houses the dried things that are bigger.  When I do landscaping I generally need to purge from this box due to spoilage.  Which should really tell me to stop using these type of things.  
My other location is a three-drawer cart sorted by color.  This works for now, but I want to review this storage for more focused divisions than just a drawer for greens, flower colors, and neutrals.  The main reason is to downsize this further - by consolidating all the same colors and texture into same bags.  I am quite sure that I have multiple bags of same things in this area. 


Again I will say that if moving - see it as an opportunity to explore new options, even if it is to a smaller space it doesn't have to be a bad thing.  Being more organized or more selective in what is stored may be the key to feeling freer and comfortable in the new space.
Rearranging things will remind us what we have.
Downsizing - also can be freeing - projects no longer weigh on the mind or take up space in our lives.  

Happy organizing and miniaturing!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Increasing Creativity

How being more organized has increased my creativity two times in the past week...

I have been working on a new workshop for the MicroMini Convention that is coming up in March of this year.  As I work on the various parts of the workshop, I have needed to look through my stash for items to complete it.

Looking for one thing I was reminded of another that I had.  This happened to me two times already in just the past week. 
The thing I am posting about is that, had I not organized my stash of beads all in one place, looking for one I wouldn't have noticed the other.  The same was true of another type of medium I have - plastic, that I looked for one and noticed another.  For neither example did the creative thought come when I saw it, it was afterwards.  Both came to me like the proverbial light bulb.  Bam! that would be a great idea for....

I know - from personal experience - that being more organized takes: time, effort and in some cases money.  Time is needed to do the sorting, effort needed to do the task and money sometimes for containers, shelves or whatever to store.  All of these are things that at different points in my life I didn't have. 
Time - do a little as you can.  Small increments add up. 
Effort - well it will be worth it in the end.  Both time and effort are saved when you can lay your hand on an item without searching. 
As for money, I am all about the recycling.  Use what you have now, upgrade later.  Even if that upgrade is just another recycling idea. 

Is my studio a wreck right now as I am working on this workshop?  You bet it is.  Am I constantly moving things to find stuff - yep.  Are all the flat surfaces covered in something?  Yes, that too.  But the supplies are where they are supposed to be. 
For example, When I need beads - I just pull out one of the two boxes I have them (in trays) and find what I need.  I can pull out that one small container from that location and put the rest back.  Later when I decide to switch to another project - that's when the clean up happens.  Would I stash that small container of beads in with the unfinished project?  Maybe, it all depends on whether I am likely to use all them.  Also it depends on how I feel about the project at the time of putting it away.  Whether it was specifically bought to meet a need for that project.  All good questions to think of when I decide where to put away. 
In general, I would more likely put the supply type item back with the others of that supply - so that small bead container would go back with the beads and not necessarily with the project box.  That way, if I needed it for another project it would get found in the beads and not have to remember which project I might have put it away with. 

Well, until I post again...
Happy Miniaturing and Happy Organizing them!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cottontail Cottage Studio has moved

Welcome to my new studio room.

My daughter moved out this past month and that freed up a room to make all my own.  No more did I need to take up space in my bedroom.  (I had about a third of it.)  You can see pictures of my old spot here.

Having a whole room, I knew that I was going to be spreading out.  After cleaning the carpets, I moved everything from the old space to the new room.  My hubby said it looked like my studio exploded in the new space.  Maybe I was over eager as I did have to move stuff more than if I had set it outside the room. 

We moved the shelves on railing from the old space - leaving some rails and a shelf in the bedroom for the tv accessories.  TV may be mounted to the wall but still have extras connected to it. 

Over last week, I got everything in place and I started sorting some things that were in multiple places.  It was truly tons of fun for me as I felt so inspired by my move.
One thing I was inspired to create was the sign for the room.  (Shown above)

I started adding new labels to boxes and drawers. 
Then my daughter comes over....  She said she had found some shelves.  She found out a business was closing and was selling everything including the fixtures.  So I got two new shelf units.  Used, but still good.  That meant I had to do more arranging. 

Finally here it is - my new studio room....

This is the view from the doorway.  To the left (where the snowy house is sitting) are two drawer carts.  Between them and the wall the black shelf is on is a closet door.  That closet now stores all the Christmas decorates and more. 
The black shelf was one of the shelves I got from the store that was closing.  The only bad thing was only one shelf is adjustable, but for the price I will live with that.
All the boxes at the bottom - got new labels and is where my future projects are stored.  Above that is some other projects in process and also various things (especially rabbits) that I like.  Top shelf is where I have various containers that may one day be a project container. 
Next to the black shelf is two cardboard chest of drawers.  These all got new labels as well. 
Beneath the window is a box for storing scrapbooking things - but because of the new shelves it is empty - whoo-oo!  I added a throw for the kitties to lay on.  Which they do.
To the right of the window is a card table that I have used for scrapbooking - in the living room mostly.  Now it has a permanent home.  The black shelf was the second shelf unit that was recently purchased.  I have room for both my saw and also scrapbooking supplies in the shelf.  This frees the table to be used for what I need at the time and not stuff on top of it as I had originally planned.  This extra chair provides a second spot for a kitty to lay as chosen by my Juni.

This view shows where the railing shelves went.  I had to rearrange half of this area when I got the two new to me black shelves.  In organizing this room I tried to put things I was likely to use most often as close as possible to the place that would be used.  In this case - many of the miniature making supplies are there next to the desk.  Under the desk to the right - there is a third cat spot available taken currently by my Logan kitty.  That corner is all my wood stuff and tall materials. 
Here's my desk in its new spot.  The rabbit shelf on top had been in storage.  I guess I thought I didn't have room for it here but I like have more of my rabbit collection on display.  The TV tray my netbook is on, makes a great side table.  I can have it out or not. 

So there you have it, my new studio location. 

Still organizing...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Storing Swaps and other finished items

This was previously posted on my smallpackages blog.  But after participating in the recent Quarter Connection online convention, I thought it was appropriate to revisit it here (with a few updates) on my organizing blog.

This storage solution works because I am storing 1/48th scale items. These are from mostly from online swaps or purchases from miniature shows.
I used to do a lot of swaps (make 10 same items - send to central point - get back 10 different items) and I still do the online convention totefavor swap ( make 50 items ... get back 50 different) for Quarter Connection. ( I don't so much enjoy making the multiples, but it is all worth it to get the different swaps back.)
The first big swap I did was for the first Quarter Connection online convention and I did 125. So I got back 125 and real fast I figured out I needed a way to store them. It was fun to look at them and read what the sender had written in their packaging but when it came to finding something to use, it was a nightmare. So one day I decided to do something about it.
Temporary storage for show and tell
For the recent convention - I made 27 swaps - received 24 back.  3 were donated to the convention to raise funds to cover the costs of mailing.  I also participated in a table swap.  I made 9 items and got 9 back. I also could have done 1 larger item, but ran out of time.  If I had - I would have gotten 1 larger swap back that would have been different than the rest of the swaps. 
So I have nearly 40 items that I want to show people.  Instead of taking them out of their packages individually to show and then re-wrap them, I will put them together in a divided box.  I hold them in place in the box with mini-hold, a waxy like product that is non-permanent, if I am worried they might get damaged moving around.  I can take that one box with me to show off and then later, I will transfer them to be with the rest of my swaps as discussed below.
Store Swaps or finished items in Divided Boxes -
I had purchased some divided boxes from Hobby Lobby. These boxes are the kind without the moveable dividers and that works. I still use those, but I prefer the ones made for fishing tackle (or whatever) that have the moveable dividers.
In this photo, the swap box contains furniture.
Store them by Theme or Type
In the cases where I was in a specific theme swap, I have them grouped together by the theme. However for the most part I do have them grouped with similar type of item.
Some of my other boxes are Kitchen, Garden, Building components, Holidays.
I also have a few boxes that are totally themed, like ME and fairy. These were swaps that were themed and although there might be a bed or a chair in them they have a special theme and I want them together by that theme/style.
Go 'Shopping' for a project
When I get ready to build a kit such as a house, I 'go shopping' in the appropriate swap box. I pull out anything I think might work with the house kit.
With regards to larger scales, I didn't have this volume issue that needed a storage solution. In that case, I generally stored furniture in a box together by room as well, I just didn't have so many. I also might have used a single box (probably a shoebox or other similar size container) per project.
Record who made what with detail
As for the names of who made the swaps I got, well, I write that down and then log in my computer. I have a excel file that lists what I got, when I got it and who it was from. My first list was lost so I don't have all the original makers unfortunately. One thing I have learned about doing that is this. Write it down and be detailed. Example, white bench by abc is not as good as white wood bench with painted purple flowers by abc. Because I have swapped so much I found it was important to be more detailed. I also write the initials on the bottom if I can. This helps to decide if it was by ac vs eg, unless made by two ac's. At least it gets me closer to recognizing who made what when I go to use it.
Yes, I like to record who made what that I use, so that is why having the database is important to me.
By recording it, I have no problem with separating that item from it's packaging which goes in my swap boxes by type or theme.
Alternative to divided boxes - make your own
Another idea for storing items where the divided boxes aren't available is to use mini muffin wrappers in larger tray type box (1 inch deep and cut the wrapper if needed.) Or make your own wrappers by folding into boxes to divide the tray. Just make sure the trays go into something with a lid.
Another person mentioned having some boxes with plastic lids. She said she could add the muffin type wrappers. I like that idea as you can see what is in the box without opening.
Another thing I like about the idea of trays, whether divided boxes or the just mentioned ones it that they can be stacked on a shelf and by labeling the ends you can pull out the box you need to 'shop' in at the moment.

This photo shows these divided boxes stacked on a shelf. The two boxes on their side on the right contain embroidery floss so no problem to have them on their side. Because I do not have the swaps in packaging I do not turn them on their side.
The slightly wider ones are the 'tackle' box type with moveable dividers. The shorter and narrow ones are from Hobby Lobby that do not have moveable dividers. If you can pick one or the other, I prefer the moveable dividers.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Review that Storage - You might find something you forgot

Camping Organization
My family has been going tent camping for ten years now. For several years we used storage tubs to hold our kitchen supplies. The tubs were rain proof but it was no fun to dig through the tub to find what we needed.  Nor was it fun when everything had to be put back just so.  My organizing solution was to use drawer carts instead of the tubs. The drawer carts make items so much easier to access.  We still use some tubs for food items and bigger kitchen supplies. To make the drawer carts rain proof, we purchased a vinyl grill cover that fits over them.

How Camping relates to Minis
Drawer carts aren't expensive but when every dollar counts, so temporary repurposing saves money.  The drawer carts I have are all used normally to hold miniature supplies.  Part of my camping routine now involves removing miniature supplies from a drawer cart and then filling it with the camping supplies.  I don't use the miniature supplies while camping so I just store them in whatever I have on hand.  When I return and unpack from camping I refill the drawer cart with the miniature supplies.  

Here is a pic of the filled drawer carts for camping: 

If you look closely at the pic you may see there is writing on the front of each drawer.  My family frequently asks me where is …? and this was my answer to that.  It didn’t stop the question, but it did reduce its use.

Labeling drawer carts
Since these carts are used for minis and only temporarily for camping, I use clear packing tape that I stick on the front.  Then I use a permanent marker to write the contents.  I have never bothered doing this labeling for the miniature supplies, but I should.   

Removing labels
I remove the packing tape label when we get back from camping so the mini supplies can go in instead.  If I ever buy a set just for camping then I would leave the labels on. Removing the tape/label is really easy and if any residue remains then I would use one of the citrus based cleaners which really work. 

More organization in drawer carts
This year I added some smaller bins in a drawer to help contain the silverware.  I am even thinking I want to look at a thrift store to find a used utensil drawer liner.   

Second drawer cart organizing solution for camping
This year I decided to take this idea one step further.  We normally use a bag of some kind to hold our clothes.  Packing a bag is one thing but living out of one is another.  I have tried using multiple smaller bags, but it was still a hassle.  I decided I wanted to store my clothes in drawers as well. 

Here it is view of my first choice which normally holds miniatures supplies: 

I removed all the miniature supplies and began packing my clothes in it.  Then my husband comes in an questions whether or not it would work.  His concern was would there be enough room for both our clothes – yes, and would it fit in our tent – no.  Our tent has sloped sides and we usually put the bags of clothes at the end of the bed where it is quite low. It can’t go there, but it could fit in the middle.  However that space is usually taken by beds.  So hubby convinced me this one wasn't going to work.  But I wasn't defeated about using drawers for our clothes yet.  
I had some other storage drawers around the house that I emptied. These provided my husband and I with two narrower drawers and one wider drawer each.  

These actually worked out way better than even the two carts I use for the kitchen things as we were able to stack them however we wanted.  In my hubby's case he uses a battery powered fan so he can sleep at night.  The fan always before sat on the bag of clothes and each night had to be adjusted so it would sit right.  This time he was able to set one drawer separately for the fan to set on.  These drawers also acted as bed side tables.  Another thing was that the combination of two sizes the drawers weren't straight up and down as in wider at the bottom and that worked great with the slope of the tent.

One serious advantage to the drawers is that when our tent was being flooded from the bottom up - our clothes were staying dry unlike a cloth bag would.  When it rained before, we would set the bags on the air mattresses, but didn't need to do that with these plastic drawers.

Storage Review
Finding that second camping storage solution had me emptying out current solutions for miniature supplies.  I rediscovered items I had forgotten I had. I found an unopened box of small plastic boxes that I thought had all been used up. It occurred to me that going through my storage could be a really good idea to help me be more organized. 

My suggestion is this: once a year, go through every box of storage, especially those spaces that don’t get opened very often.  Don't just open it to get something out.  Instead take everything out and look at what is stored in that space.  Even if all that gets done is putting everything back into the same storage box/bag, fresh memories of what was there will be created.

If doing this all at the same time is too much, do a few boxes each month or an area every other month, or whatever, but the point is to look at what you have so it becomes fresh or new.  This may even help for remembering not just what one has, but where things are. It may even help you decide to pay forward something to someone else, whether you sell it or give it.  It might help you to avoid buying two (or more) of something you already have.  It could spark a new bout of creativity.  At the very least, it will remind you of what you have.