DIY Parents: How to Organize the Craft Supplies

There’s a distinct downside to having art- and craft-loving kids. Namely: all that art- and craft-making stuff. Not to mention, the pile-up of the arts and crafts themselves. Find yourself vacuuming up perfectly good beads because you just can’t stand the never-ending sprawl of them across the living room floor? Or secretly tossing projects-in-process into the trash, then pretending you have no idea what became of them when your kid asks? Then you’ve clearly hit your craft-clutter limit.

Never fear, you can take this matter firmly into your own hands. For tips on how to make sense of your mess, we turned to Mabel’s Labels founder (and mom of six), Julie Cole—a woman who knows more than possibly anyone about getting and staying organized.

Toss it. Before you can even begin to tidy up, you first need to assess what should stay and what absolutely needs to go. Markers that don’t work anymore, paint brushes that have lost their bristles, yellowing wads of craft paper—all this should be sent straight to the trashcan. Also remember that not every piece of art your kid makes is created equal. Assess each one honestly, then hold on to those that really mean something to you and your family, and the ones that exhibit that special kid-art-genius flair.

Sort it. Set aside a little time each night or every weekend to pick through the crafty “keep” pile. This is the time to find the stray colored pencils, the paint tubes that wound up under the bathroom sink, the buttons that somehow got mixed in with the souvenir seashells, and put them all to rights—each kind of thing in its own designated pile. You might find more things that need to be deaccessioned. You will certainly discover which items you’ll need to replace—and which you never want to buy again (glitter, anyone? We didn’t think so).

Set it up. If you didn’t have a dedicated crafting area before, designate one now. Or, reclaim an established area with force and conviction. Even apartment dwellers can eek out a little room on the coffee table that’s just for making things, and one shelf (or three) that’s just for craft storage. Maybe your über-crafty kid wants to turn over part of his or her room to the endeavor. In which case, you can reassign closet, desk, and shelf space there. The real work? Making sure that the craft space stays a craft space and that supplies don’t leak out all over the rest of the house.

Stash it. Now it’s time to put everything away. For the big stuff, like rolls of paper and ribbon, and paint and crayon sets, pick up or repurpose some bright, colorful plastic bins that will fit neatly on your shelves. Stash smaller items like beads, buttons, rubber bands, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners in lidded glass jars. Frequently-used items like markers and pencils and even paintbrushes can be stashed in table-top canisters. Give all your bins and containers a home within easy reach of your smallest crafter. And be sure to label everything clearly, for easy cleanup today and hopefully forever!

Photographs courtesy of Mabel’s Labels