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.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tool Storage - my newest solution

Art supplies in a tackle box
When I was in college I took several art classes.  Art classes require supplies.  I purchased a simple tackle box - the single cantilever tray type.  This worked fine.  However when I switched to making miniatures I found this box to no longer fit my needs.  It was mostly the tacky glue bottle.  Most bottles did not fit into the box.  Secondly if the bottle did then it had to lay on its side.  This might be ok if the bottle was really full as the glue would still come out but if not, then the glue would take too long to come out. (Tacky glue, unlike plain white glue, is not thin and doesn't run to the end; instead it settles making it harder to push out when it is not at the tip.) This meant that if I used that  box I was pretty much left with carrying the glue bottle separately.

Oh No! Glue Disaster
My replacement for the tackle box was a simple plastic box - similar to a shoebox.  Only problem with this was everything was jumbled together. 
Then one day, I didn't have the glue bottle in the box - it was a new bottle and I laid it on top of a project I was working on.  I left it in a car and the heat from the day caused the glue to expand and the lid to come off - out poured glue all over the project.  That was the last time I ever considered placing a glue bottle on a project - even unfinished.

Traveling Solution - wicker baskets
For many years, I would travel (by car) to mini club and so I needed to take my tools and other supplies with me.  So a traveling tool solution was what I wanted.
For many years - 20 +, I would say, I used a wicker basket for my tool storage.  Here is some photos:
In the front of this basket I had glued together two clear cosmetic organizers.  The kind that have various sections. 

Most of my tools fit in this section, including, scissors, tweezers, knives, small rulers, extra blades, toothpicks, pencils, sanding sticks and whatever tool I used regularly.  In the back area I stored glues, boxes with clamps, a small cutting matt, and a small plastic gluing jig.
The back was also a catch-all area for a bottle of paint or whatever if I was traveling to miniature meetings.  I usually kept a small glass bottle that the glue bottle could sit in with the tip down.  If the bottle leaked then it would leak into the glass, not my basket.

When I traveled to mini meeting and needed extra space such as for a project or additional tools or items to work on this project, I would use an additional larger wicker basket that I kept for that purpose.  I still use this basket as needed.

Downsizing meant I needed smaller tools
A few years ago I downsized my miniatures, I decided I would focus on smaller scale miniatures.  I downsized by selling or gifting anything in larger scales that I didn't have definite plans for.  I also did the same for supplies that were excessive amounts - who needs yards of fabric in a larger scale when focusing on smaller ones?
This downsizing also included my tools.  For my tools this meant I was no longer trying to carry larger tools.  I didn't sell or gift any tools unless they were duplicates, I just found a place to store them until needed for a specifically. 
I limited what I put in my tool basket to only small sized tools.  So instead of a 12 inch and a 6 inch ruler, I only kept the 6 inch ruler.  The 12 inch ruler was left behind in my studio unless I knew I was going to use it specifically. 

smaller is not necessarily better
On a side note - smaller is not necessarily better.  I purchased a small handled plier set.  I couldn't use them as they were too small.  I did sell or give those away as I knew they were of no use to me.

Overflow tool storage
All of my overflow tools remain in my studio area and are stored in a drawer cabinet. 
I have them sorted by type of tool.  So there is a drawer for punches, fancy scissors, spare paint brushes, pliers, sharp tools and other misc, tools.

Time for a change
Recently I decided that I was ready for a change.  My basket was starting to be too full.  This was due to both adding things I don't necessarily need in my tool box and also a change in what I wanted to store there. 
I decided I would search for something different.  My search turned up many options.  I was actually surprised by what I found.  This surprise was both good and bad.
First the good...
I was leaning towards an enclosed box - most likely in a tackle box style.  I have a stacking caddy with the latches on the end that has a lid. These snap together and has three layers and the lid. I do have one of these I use for a particular set of tools that I carry with me to somewhere. 
There are two things I do not like about this style of box.  One is the latches.  Seems like a good idea at first being able to add levels to the lid, but they are a pain.  Maybe it is this particular brand which is a knock-off.  The second thing I don't like is that the sections are too open.  It is fine for the use I have it for which is teaching crafts to kids, but not for my mini tools.

Next I looked at tackle boxes.  Tackle boxes today come in two basic styles.  One is a box with trays that cantilever when the lid is opened.  I had one of those.  My problem with this style was two fold, the  issue of wanting my glue to stand up.  I could never find a box that allowed my glue bottle to stand up as the area it might sit was never deep enough unless I went to a very big box, which I didn't want to do. 
The other type of tackle boxes I see is the ones with plastic divided boxes in a shelf like set up.

How I solved my glue bottle problem...
First I have discovered that I really prefer a small glue bottle.  One solution was the tip bottle in the glass holder.  Only problem with it is that it was often dried up and I had to clean it out.  Doable but not fun every time I mini.  My problem is that I too often would think I was going to come back and mini a day or two and then real life kept me from it.
My favorite solution is a glue pen, but even it has issues. The type I use has a lid with a pin that fits into the tip.  This pin has a tendency to get broken. Secondly, the glue dries up.  Of course this is true for many glue bottles.  I have found that it is fine if I leave it on its side as I am working. 
Another answer I have found is to buy the smallest bottle I can find.  I figure if I throw away half a bottle because it is dried up, then there is no savings in a bigger bottle.  Smaller bottles also fit into my tool box much easier.

Hard sided tackle box with divided box
Searching for a hard sided tackle box that has the divided boxes, I found several choices in size.  I was leaning towards the smaller one, but was open to a medium size one for the difference in the style of divided box that was offered in the bottom section. 
My first choice became a Plano 1354 4-By Rack System 3500 Size Tackle Box.  I went with a cranberry colored one, but I did find this same style in different colors.  One in particular that is marketed to the craft industry is called Creative Options Creative Options Grab 'n Go Rack Storage System.  This one is same just a different color and different price.  I am more a red person and I didn't see paying more just because it was called something different.
My second choice was a Plano 1364 4-By Rack System 3650 Size Tackle Box.  This one was slightly larger than the 1354 and provided two different style divided boxes.  This one can also be found in the Creative Options colors and is called a Creative Options 13-Inch by 10-Inch by 14-Inch Grab and Go 3-by Rack System.  These two variations were similar in price. 

I ordered the Plano 1354 first because I liked the price and also it matched with my overall size desires.  I figured if I decided it wouldn't work, I could send it back.  Although when it got to the house both hubby and daughter said they would take it if I didn't want it.

Before I share pics of the Plano 1354 and my set up, here's the bad stuff I feel about the craft organizers I found.
First tackle boxes are designed for fishing lures.  The shapes of compartments are not made for craft tools or supplies even when they are marketed to craft industry.  The manufacturers have simply made them in different colors and relabeled them.  I found this to be true of the boxes marketed to the art industry as well.  This isn't a deal breaker but it is still sad.  Maybe I shouldn't complain and be happy that we can now find boxes that are in different colors.  No, I am still sad.  But I will still buy them.  LOL
So here is my new toolbox

Let me be clear - this is small.  I had to make some choices in what I could put in this box.  I also made some modifications.
I started putting different tools into the boxes.  I grouped them together by type.  I discarded tools that wouldn't fit or were redundant - really I don't need 6 emery boards, 4 different knives and 2 of each kind, etc.  I had to make some hard decisions on things I felt before were essential, but maybe I can work around that.

Once I decided what I wanted in each box I labeled the boxes.

I decided that I wanted to have my small cutting matt in my tool box.  This was something I could have bought another one that was smaller, but it nearly fit and I determined that I did not have to have the full size that it was.  I only needed to cut off a small section about one inch on one side.  I debated having it in the top section.  In order to do that I had to configure a way to hold it so it would not get warped.  I may still do what I was considering, but for now I did not.   I cut the cutting board so it would fit between the divided boxes.

I also added funny labels to the top of each box.

This last one also shows the cutting matt and how it was trimmed to fit. 

I did make some modifications to the boxes once I decided what needed to go into them.
I used my multi-purpose tool to cut away the two center walls so that the scissors would fit.  Then I used the dividers provided to close off the top section.
In another box, I also modified cutting away a wall to allow bigger items to be in the box.  Without the modifications, only narrow (1 inch) tools would fit.

In this one the same modification - removed a portion of two walls - was done but the divider is inserted in the center section to keep those items housed.

Oh and that pesky glue bottle - I now have two in my toolbox.

My most recent purchase of small glue bottles was a cross between a small bottle and the glue pen.  There were two bottles or tubes of glue in the package.  The smaller one is shown in the left side of the above picture.
The other bottle I have in my toolbox is in the top section (shown below).  At least until I know I can count on the small pen anyway.

The top section is a catchall area and I am using it to contain certain larger items and also as a open space to add to as needed.  That is one advantage to working in smaller scales. Some kits will fit easily in this section. 
This a section where I may yet modify. I am considering drilling holes in the ribs; then adding a thin sheet of flexible plastic cut to fit that can hang via thread or elastic bands from the lid.  Being flexible would allow items below it to bend it if needed, but contain some items that can fit up inside the lid.  This divider would help make this area more organized as well and not just a jumble.   

What I really like about this toolbox
I really like the flip down front - it can be flipped up and the lever like latches don't have to be latched in order for the divided boxes to stay.  Although for travel of any kind, I would latch them.
I like that the boxes are divided which allows flexibility for the various items I might wish to store there.
I like that is small and compact.  There really is no wasted space. 

What I don't like about this toolbox but none are deal breakers for me
I don't like how hard the latches on the divided boxes are to close.  Fortunately they don't have to latch for what I am storing and also the outside flip front latches just fine if the boxes themselves are not latched.
The divided boxes are all the same - would have been nice to have same size but different configurations of the divided sections.  I did search to see if could find a same size box that would fit the slot but haven't yet.

I am still considering adding either of the next size, but don't really need it as all my secondary tools are safely stored in the drawer cabinet.  Course if I get it from one of the hobby chain stores and use a coupon....