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Mission Impossible: Organizing My Beads

Posted by Ali on November 11 at 03:09 pm

photoThis past weekend, I found myself going through my now out-of-control bead room with Payton. I thought it would be an easy project to gather all of my favorite finds and organize them while she was playing with some fabric beads. There can’t be too many favorites, right? Well, as it turns out I have a lot of favorites and a lot of beads in general. Then I thought, at least I can thin out my bead stash by donating or reselling. The problem with that is that my favorite beads change with the seasons, my mood, etc. What am I supposed to do? This is my mission for November: Get my stash together before I start jamming on Christmas jewelry for gifts.

This is what I’ve tried in the past that worked at the time:

  • Dixie cups: Works for holding head pins and eye pins
  • Big red “keg” cups or a box: Works great for holding tools (these were always on hand in college :) )
  • Tackle boxes: traveling with beads. They have great little compartments for taking beads on the go. The only problem is that I now have too many beads to choose from and the tackle box I would need is the size of a small piece of luggage. I will say though that this also worked great when Kevin and I lived in a small apartment and I had to bead at the dining table. Tackle boxes are also great for storing glass or cz beads.
  • Plastic storage drawers on wheels: This worked in my apartment when I didn’t have a permanent beading spot. What I didn’t like about this storage method is that if you make the drawers heavy with too many beads, they don’t pull out very easily.
  • Beads in baggies inside of Tupperware bins with lids: This option worked great for the last year and I think that concept behind it could still work if I could find a better storage option. I used to store all my gemstones together, all my pearls together, all my vintage together, all my glass together…you get the drift. The problem then became that I would miss out on using a cool red bead because I had only been looking in my gemstone bin. I then decided that the best way to organize my beads because of the way I design was to do it based on color, regardless of material. For instance, I take all of my red beads no matter the type, put each in a Ziploc bag and put it in the bin labeled RED.

photoThe last option is by far my favorite for actual bead storage. The only remaining issue is that Payton likes to play with beads almost as much as I do. Our house is not huge, so her playroom doubles as my beading room. There are two problems with this. First, I have a limited amount of space to work with. Second, every time I go in the room, my beads are pulled out of their containers and strewn across the floor, because my little designer has been hard at work when I wasn’t looking :) I think what’ll happen is that I will find an amazingly perfect desk and come up with a fantastic wall storage for above. Sounds realistic right?

I would love to see pictures of your bead storage and/or studios. Not necessarily your beading desk or table, but the place where you store the beads and supplies you’re not actively working with.

What you think the best method for organizing your beads, tools, and projects is?

What special circumstances have you had to work with?

Please help!

Read the comments (or add your own)

  1. Terri-Mono
    Terri-Mono says:

    I like separating my beads by color in little plastic storage bags. Then I put all of one color in a bucket. It is really great when I can find a bucket that matches my color of beads(like pink & purple Easter pails). Then I store the buckets on a baby changing table I got from a resale store. The changing table sits beside my work table. (I still need to find a brown bucket)

  2. Lynn in Oz
    Lynn in Oz says:

    I am a little anal about my beads, and have them organised by type and colour.

    I buy these great Tic Tac containers that fit inside 4x6inch plastic containers- easy to see and find what I want at a glance.

    However these are only good for beads up to about 6mm (fine for me as I use seed beads mostly).

    I store bigger beads in round stackable clear containers that I get from the same place as the tic tac containers.

    For anything bigger (cabochons, buttons, chunky beads etc) i used clear screw top honey jars.

    Attachment

  3. Janz Joolz
    Janz Joolz says:

    My stash is sorted by color in plastic divided containers (similar to the top photo in the article). I used a label maker to indicate the colors in each container.

    Sterling silver and gold beads and findings are in a similar plastic container that has the tarnish preventing dividers.

    Seed beads, etc. are in tubes and standing in wooden boards with holes in the base.

    My tools hang upright on the edge of a small plastic storage cube, and stringing materials are stored inside the same cube.

    I’ve only been seriously beading for about two years, so I’m sure as I continue I’ll be learning more tips and adapting my system to better ways. But storing by color, and keeping expensive findings in their own separate container, so far has worked the best for me.

    I like the divided containers because I can see it all when I lift the lid. With little plastic bags I find I have to do a lot more picking up and getting a closer look.

    I love to hear how others organize their stash!

  4. lizbeads
    lizbeads says:

    This will be an intersting discussion – I’m trying to figure this out, too. I started with the small compartmentalized bead holders from the craft store but as my collection has expanded I’m moving towards the color sorting method but still seem to keep pearls separately and the artist beads/lampwork beads separate. Let’s not even go there with findings…I have one of those rolling carts with drawers that I use for my teddy bear making supplies (not mohair – that goes in the big bins with lids!) so am thinking it will work for beads, or at least some of them…

  5. No Photo
    Andrew M says:

    Just a note: There are some more good bead storage ideas being shared on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/limabeads

    If you’re on FB, check it out!

  6. Libby S
    Libby S says:

    Hi all – I store my beads by color – pretty much. I purchased several sets of drawers – some are large drawers and some are small ones. I think I bought them at Lowes. Anyway, I stash most of them by color – some by type – my Swarski are separate.

    I really like to keep them in the little bags they may come in when I purchase them that way. I have my seed beeds in a shoe box next to my beading area.

    I have kept all my receipts – in chase I need to re-visit where I bought them. When I make a piece, I usually inventory it, and take a picture, I like to be able to identify what the piece is made of.

    I am fortunate in that I have moved into our daughter’s room. She has been gone for around 10 years. I keep my beading, my stitching, my books, my stuffed Bernese Mountain Dogs, and other goodies in there.

    The one thing I haven’t come up with is a way to travel with my beads. I am not too crazy about the little boxes with compartments; unless they have individual lids.

    Sorry not to have a picture to attach at this time. Will try to get to that later this week.

    I love this topic – to me, it never gets old.

    Libby

  7. No Photo
    Jeannes Gems - Gem Chick says:

    I fell in love with “photo keepers” that I found at the craft store. There’s a larger plastic box that holds 6 smaller boxes. The boxes are meant to hold 4×6 photos. They’re organized by color or type and labeled. The problem is when I have too many of a particular color or type to fit in the little box. For those – I’ve moved on to “tupperware” (really, the store brand’s cheaper version) I also use individual screw top containers within the photo box for smaller findings and clasps.

    And I keep most of my beads in their plastic bags with a tag that lets me know where I got them and what they cost me. Do all those bags look familiar!? LOL

    All of this sits on or in bookshelves in my “office”. Move over teaching materials!

    Attachment Attachment

  8. No Photo
    Jeannes Gems - Gem Chick says:

    more photos

  9. No Photo
    Jeannes Gems - Gem Chick says:

    photos

    Attachment Attachment

  10. Lynn in Oz
    Lynn in Oz says:

    See, containers like that look great but for me, I would go crazy sifting through all the little baggies to find what I want.

    I have attached a group photo of all my storage items. Everything is see-through, so I know exactly what is in a specific container.

    Attachment

  11. Cuban Queen Crazy Chick
    Cuban Queen Crazy Chick says:

    I also organize my beads by color. No matter what kind of bead – seed beads, pearls, glass, whatever – it goes in it’s designated bead box. I have 1-3 boxes for each color (for now!) and there’s NO mixing allowed! LOL If I run out of room for a particular color, I start a new box and it eventually gets filled with more beads of that one color thanks to my bead shopping addiction. ;)

    Attachment Attachment Attachment

  12. Mommykat Bubbly Chick
    Mommykat Bubbly Chick says:

    I use see through containers, and an old bedroom dresser…

  13. Mommykat Bubbly Chick
    Mommykat Bubbly Chick says:

    See

    Attachment Attachment

  14. No Photo
    Jeannes Gems - Gem Chick says:

    Lynn and Ivy – you’re organiziation is amazing! I wish I could be so organized. Sometimes it is a pain to go through the plastic bags, but they enable me to label and price everything. which saves time in the long run.

  15. Leigh D
    Leigh D says:

    I organize my beads by type and color. I lean predominantly towards gemstones so these are organized by color in the craftmate carrying totes that I love.

    In my stacking organizer I keep my seed beads in the top two drawers in tubes – one drawer is for size 11 and the other drawer is for size 8 & 6. In addition I keep my backup supply of wire, stringing materials, gemstones etc in the other drawers.

    My czech glass and other beads are sorted by color and then in baggies in the larger tuperware container.

    Last but not least is I use a scrapbook tote for my tools and opened spools of beading wire.

    Not a perfect solution but it works for the small amount of space that I have to work with. I look forward to having my own space and a desk where I can bead and stretch out

    Attachment Attachment

  16. Leigh D
    Leigh D says:

    here are a few more photos

    Attachment Attachment

  17. Julie L
    Julie L says:

    Oh, Mommykat, Can I move in with you? :)

  18. No Photo
    C Logie says:

    I also sort by colors and found that my grandmother’s antique writing desk is the perfect storage that also doubles as a work space.

  19. J Fish
    J Fish says:

    I have containers like Leigh D most recent photos. They’re smaller than other scrapbooking-fashioned containers, but what I like about them is that they require a little more coordination than little fingers can perform :) No swallowing hazards of the little beads when they’re in this kind of container. Also, they fit in a bag that zips closed, another preventative measure.

  20. Lynn in Oz
    Lynn in Oz says:

    I might also add that I have an amazing space for my craft…

    This is prior to a major clean up and is only half the space :)

    I think in the end we all find ways to organize ourself, that suit us and our personalities.

    Attachment

  21. Mommykat Bubbly Chick
    Mommykat Bubbly Chick says:

    Lynn, oh my gosh, that is the best space! Good for you, Lynn!

  22. Alice P
    Alice P says:

    I store all my beads in plastic containers that are similar to tackle boxes, only with bigger sections (found in some craft sections). Each compartment can be made larger–good for large beads and my metal findings. I keep all my pearls in one box, crystals are separated by color, and all the other beads are sorted by color. Metals are sorted first by type and then by function.

    Since my dining room doubles as my studio and the place I show my jewelry at home shows, all my beads and tools must be very portable. These boxes allow me to move them easily,and I like that I can see the bead color through the lid and sides.

    My only problem is that I have to keep buying more containers, much to the frustration of my husband. Can’t keep away from all those shiny beads!

  23. No Photo
    Chicky Zee aka Alice says:

    I also organize my beads by color no matter what texture and place in bead boxes designated by color. This works fine for me.

  24. Leslie W Mtn Chick
    Leslie W Mtn Chick says:

    Right now I have to keep my hobby confined due to space limitations. I organize projects and supplies in a large sterlite underbed storage box. For projects in progress and grouping items for possible projects I use the black plastic microwavable containers which come with frozen meals; Stouffers and Boston Market brands. They stack really well and can be used for classes as well. Another underbed container holds my many beading magazines and catalogs. One other shoe box holds stones in baggies.

  25. Atomic Toad
    Atomic Toad says:

    I just put away my bead room to turn it back into the dining room for Thanksgiving/Christmas. I’m thinking of moving to the guest room on a permanent basis. Before I packed, my bead space was an organizer’s nightmare. I don’t like to work that way, it just sorta happened. Now I get to start over with all of these great ideas I see here!

  26. Anita QoG Funny Chick
    Anita QoG Funny Chick says:

    I have all the above containers!!! Also, I have about 15 totes, You see I have to take my “stuff” back & forth (to work & home) Sooooo, what starts out as a nice & neat system, always breaks down…………Some stuff here, some stuff there. Right now there’s absolutely no way I’m going to take a picture of my bead room!!!!!!!! Put it this way, if the doors open, my husband closes it!!!!!! LOL.. (Creative minds are rarely TIDY) How’s that for help, Ali?

  27. Elaine aka Belly Chick
    Elaine aka Belly Chick says:

    I use the plastic see-through craft containers just like Ivy’s and I try to put all similar colors in one box, no matter what the type of material it is. I have separate containers for metal spacers and bead covers and a separate box/boxes for findings as well as charms, etc. Right now the room that I use is kinda dark and dreary, I am thinking of buying some of those drawer totes on wheels so that I can pull the whole thing out into my living room or kitchen, depending on where the light is best. (I never leave the door open to that room right now either because it is also used for storage and numerous other hobbies that I dabble in, so it is always scary!!!) :-D

  28. Cattywumpuss
    Cattywumpuss says:

    My husband built me a special area with shelves and a flat surface to bead on. First all my shelves are filled to the ceiling with plastic containers from craft stores and all are labeled like, Sterling, Gold, VinTaj, Winsy. My seed beads are either hanging on hanks or stored in glass tubes.Stones are boxed according to type; Turquoise, Jade, Agates. I have a special four drawer storage for my pendants, pearls,and semi-precious stones. My tools hang on a carrier much like the kind you carry around the house when you clean.

    it still boggles the mind and turns into a big mess when my wheels start turning to create and I have to go to the dinning room table cause I get overwhelmed by the closeness.

    I this space with, altered art, photo albums, and the computer.

    I’m overwhelmed and I think I need to find some type of storage unit, perferably mobile to use….any ideas?

    Sorry no picture but it’s like a closet with no door.

  29. J Yee smart chick
    J Yee smart chick says:

    Ali, thanks for posting this one, who couldn’t relate to discussing how we can organize our beads???

    I’m so happy to read comments and see photos from several folks here, Lynn, Ivy, Lorrie – thank you, these all give me great ideas. In particular it does make lots of sense to organize by color and bead size – sounds like it’s “easier” for smaller beads like seed beads, less so for the larger ones like cabochons and pendants. Like Anita I am NOT posting any pics of my beads right now, I gotta work on organizing my own stash first!!! :)

  30. Steph
    Steph says:

    I would have thought working for a bead place you would have many ideas. I’m becoming a little lost in my own beads. I’m trying to get rid of clothes that I have also but I have yet to find a good resale shop. They are all nice dress clothes so I can’t just toss them in a bin to good will. I have a fairly large room but need to get more organized, it’s just having more time to do the things I want to do.

  31. No Photo
    sdjohnson says:

    My beads have taken on a life of their own! Seems like everytime I try to organize them, they multiply! I have boxes (organized by color), bags, drawers, you name it. I have recently found the little tins my dog’s food comes in to be quite handy for holding beads that I’m working with at the time.
    Now, if I can just find a little more room, I might be able to do some beading in the office/beading room instead of the living room!
    Seems like everytime I try to organize, I find that bead that I thought I’d lost and I’m off to make something with it – or at least look for others to go with it – pulling out everything once again. That’s always when hubby comes around and makes a comment about how I never seem to get anything done! :)

  32. Happy Chick aka Harriet
    Happy Chick aka Harriet says:

    Oh, Yeah! I totally hear you sdjohnson. That seems to happen a lot around here too. But I do like the idea of sorting by colors. Right now my glass is sorted by colors, generally speaking, and so are my stones. But they are not together, and the small beads (sizes 3-11) live in another area. Too many drawers and too many get misplaced.

  33. Amber
    Amber says:

    I just marvel at how much stuff you all have! I have only just started and have a serving tray with tools, beads, wire, findings etc. etc on it. Beads are organised by colour in the plastic bags they came in and then per colour in a zip-lock freezer bag.All styles beads mixed as long as they have the same colour.

  34. No Photo
    Luv2bead - Little Chick says:

    Here’s mine

    Attachment Attachment

  35. Harriet aka BeadVizChick
    Harriet aka BeadVizChick says:

    Hi Ali: I thought I would add my two cents to the beading storage dilemma. I definitely think it is an ongoing problem. I find that the compartmentalized boxes from either Container Store, or Joanne’s Crafts, MIchaels or AC Moore are great for small items such as buttons, medium size beads (I usually divide by type and color as well). Also, I use the drawers on wheels too, but they can become a problem if the drawers are too heavy as mentioned earlier. One of the greatest items I use for my gemstone beads is the small clear boxes from Container Store (they are about 6 inches tall by 6 inches wide by 5 inches deep approx.). I usually unstring my gemstones, put them in individual baggies and store them in one of those containers marked specifically for each type of gemstone. For example, one box each for amazonite, aventurine, labradorite, lapis, etc. I also store my gemstone pendants in little baggies and they also go into separate containers by gemstone name. It it a little time consuming, but I am able to find what I am looking for much more easily. The boxes are stored in one of my cabinets and are basically lined up alphabetically. I will try to upload a photo of that later. Hope these ideas help.

  36. Harriet aka BeadVizChick
    Harriet aka BeadVizChick says:

    Ali: As discussed previously, I am attaching photos of my gemstone storage system. I am also attaching a photo of the cute little vertical cylinder boxes which I use to keep all of my small findings, such as jump rings, bead caps, small clasps, metal beads, ear wires, etc. etc. Hope this helps. Best Regards, Harriet M.

    Attachment Attachment Attachment

  37. DB
    DB says:

    None of the purchased beading bins ever worked for me, since (as has been said by others!) my needs and favorites change. So, since I (unfortunately) have a large supply of pill bottles, I use them. They are big enough for most selections and the color is generally see through.

  38. Elis Mom
    Elis Mom says:

    I have started using jewelry organizers. Each one has 60 some odd pockets, and I just hang them on the wall with a nail. I put my baggies of stones in the pockets which are see thru. Seed beads also go in pockets. Findings go in tackle boxes with clear lids. Charms and focals get hung on a cork board with a thumb tack. I also have a selection of pill bottles, but I haven’t used them yet….

  39. diamonddustshoe
    diamonddustshoe says:

    I like the jewelry organizer idea. I was using bins by color like above, but I filled some of the bins, and had trouble finding things without dumping it all out. My boyfriend gave me the idea to experiment with binders. It sounded crazy to me at first, but you get holders for things like baseball cards or post cards, and put the little baggies in each slot. This way, you can see everything at a quick glance, and you can even separate colors into subsets, like yellow-green vs kelly green. Fill a binder with pages, just add another binder for that color. You can keep them on a regular bookshelf. It sounds good, so I’m hoping it works!

  40. No Photo
    SandyM says:

    It was my wish to contribute to this discussion so I spent a lot of time explaining my organizational system only to have it all erased because I changed my screen name. Grrrrrrrrr!!!!!

  41. No Photo
    Stuff N Thingz says:

    I have a multi purpose studio that must house all of my business “ventures”. I designed it to be able to have 4 stations to do work. the wall pictured is my jewelry station. For some crazy reason when I metal smith I work standing up. this allowed me to create a large work surface with storage cubes as legs on each side. I am pretty anal and have within the cubes, smaller containers with everything color coded like I’ve seen in pictures posted. When I go to a bead show, I come home and immediately have to put everything away, shifting, regrouping, emptying and refilling containers to ensure everything is still in its color coded spot. My husband thinks I enjoy the organization more than the jewel crafting itself. My other business is creating custom casual apparel, like tshirts, hoodies and caps. I have my heat press, vinyl cutter and work surface on that wall, it is at sitting height. I’ve then used the third wall for my shipping table AND photo studio. Its a very efficient use of space. I do have to store the apparel blanks in the garage, there is absolutely no room for them in the studio. I do have a fabric sweater holder from the closet and bring in blanks for orders to fill so the sales waiting to be worked on are tucked away until its their turn. Ah and I did buy a clip it up system you dont see in the picture, LOVE it. I pull out beads for projects and hang them in baggies so they dont clutter my work surface.

    Attachment

  42. No Photo
    Stuff N Thingz says:

    bah, opened the picture and see that my clip it up IS there on the left. Enjoy!

  43. No Photo
    M Sterling says:

    My stash of beads got so out of hand that I’d ask my hubby to sit & do his thing in my office while I organized. As an ADHDer, I sure picked a great hobby to express my creativity-but no clue HOW to organize. I tried drawers, tackle boxes, wall shelves, etc. then I tried clear zipper bags in many sized & tried to bag ‘em & tag’em one @ a time. I then thought how much simpler to bag by color. Eureka! Glad there’s someone else out there on the same page
    Cheers!
    Mary

  44. Granny Nancy
    Granny Nancy says:

    Hi Mary, I’ve managed mine by having drawers for each color. Sometimes I had to put the colors in separate drawers if the drawers were small – like the crystals in one and the gemstones in the other. Of course, each type of metal has its own drawer as do chains and jumprings and then within drawers there are bags of types. Whew!

    But, then I ended up buying more and the sytem blew up. Eventually, I had no time or energy to create so I commissioned pieces by others and sent beads and findings for the piece(s) to be made and lots of extras so that my stashes would reduce. But I still have a bunch of stuff for which I have no categories set up for either drawers or whatever. AAAAaaaarrrrgggghhhhhh!

  45. No Photo
    Catzladygold says:

    I have such a mess of beads, finding, old jewelry that is taken apart & mostly apart. Trying to find best storage system, have re-organized a few times to different types of containers. I have been trying to organize by type/style (pony/multi-facet/round/other shapes/size and overwhelmed.
    When taking apart old jewelry I’m not sure if I should keep together as colors the same or go by the size so that is mixed up.
    Any comments would be appreciated. I will send a picture when I can as I’m working in the garage.

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