Thursday July 24th 2014

An organized space is a happy space

OK, so a studio remodel is not in the cards for either you or me anytime soon. But we can still take some advice from professional organizer Carolyn Woods (her article is in the October TQL, and there are more tips on our website) and make the spaces we have easier to work in. I asked Carolyn for a little personal advice.

JM: Even though I keep my workspace neat, I just have too much stuff. When I think about starting to go through everything, I just don’t know where to begin.
CW: The first step is just looking at your stuff. Decide what really still matters to you and what you don’t care about anymore. Make notes about what to keep and what to get rid of.
JM: That’s reasonable. But when it comes to actually getting started, it’s so easy to procrastinate.
CW: Make an appointment with yourself. Block out a whole morning or afternoon to get organized. Start small–one drawer or shelf at a time. Set aside the stuff that doesn’t belong there and deal with it the next time.

Thanks, Carolyn. I’ve already recycled two boxes of old magazines and have reorganized my thread drawer. And if I win the lottery and get that new studio, you’re the first person I’m going to call…Jan Magee, The Quilt Life

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22 Comments for “An organized space is a happy space”

  • Eileen Keane says:

    I have every copy of every quilt magazine I ever subscribed to in my attic, my studio and my bedroom. Just the thought of getting rid of any of them gives me an upset stomach.
    Since I have a longarm, I have leftover batting; and I’ve got boxes and boxes of it.
    I have no room for cabinets in my studio, so I don’t know what to do about all my clutter.
    Those are my primary issues; I’d love some help.

    • Lisa Brothman says:

      When I got rid of my magazines, it was easy. I just asked myself–when was the last time you looked at them? And out they went!! Leftover batting can go to a charitable organization–they wouldn’t mind piecing the bits together if it meant free batting. Or, it can be used for stuffing pillows, depending on the fiber content. Move the clutter OUT of the room, and then start on getting cabinets (Home Depot & Target are my faves!)
      Good luck!

      • Anne Marsaw says:

        I had 10 yrs of magazines…1 1/2 yrs ago I started going thru them on road trips as my husband drove. I ripped out the instruction tips and patterns I truely wanted, placed them in clear report covers and a big 3 ring binder and tossed the rest. I don’t miss the magazines! Now I sort the magazines sooner instead of gathering another huge pile. Have a friend come over and help you sort really useable fabric, cut into 2 1/2″ strips or usable squares etc.
        It can help get the ball rolling…

    • Darala says:

      A friend of mine was moving this summer, so we decided to go thru our years of quilting magazines. Our criteria was which quilts would we really get to making in this lifetime. That helped weed out excess magazine. Of course we traded the magazines when we were done with them…just to make sure

    • Teresa says:

      I love the new batting tape, you get the wider roll, 1 1/2” and iron pieces of batting together to make large enough sections for a quilt! I’ve used up all the odds/ends of my batting pile and made up bunches of baby quilts for Birth Right organizations.
      As for the magazines, after I read one I take out one or two quilt pics with instructions and put them in plastic sleeves in a binder. That way I go to the binder when I am ready to start a new quilt. The rest go in a pretty basket by the front door where all my friends and children know to look for free stuff!

    • LindaKay Pardee says:

      I don’t have room for cabinets either. When I was setting up my studio when we moved I bought several sizes of the sterilite dressers frrom ones that fit on shelves to large 3 drawer ones. I label what’s in them and it’s easy to find, it also keeps fabric etc. clean and free from dust. It has worked out quite well.

    • Jennifer Zimmerman says:

      I had the same problem with my batting. I started by sorting it by length/width of pieces. I began thinking about piecing together pieces for baby size quilts, sample blocks, and techniques that add a completed block or a border to a completed quilt. I discovered I had wall hanging size pieces and table runner size pieces. I documented my ideas and findings , labeled my boxes and got inspired with new projects and kit ideas. It only took one morning to do it.

    • Vicki says:

      One of the things I found helps with old magazines is to go through them one more time and scan the cover with any projects/article I may one day *need*. Then you can either recycle into paper crafts or toss. Either way the way gets less cluttered. :)

    • Deb Contreras says:

      Take all those old quilt magazines to a thrift store and let someone who maybe just starting to quilt have a chance to get some ideas for cheap. I have bought many that way and then I take out the patterns or articles I like and have them in a notebook. Just an idea.

    • Patricia Wilson says:

      I understand about the hesitancy in getting rid of your quilting magazines. Have you thought about scanning the patterns and articles you want to keep to a disk or flash drive? Much less space is taken up, you can then give up those magazines much easier!

  • Lily Pang says:

    yes, my workspace is overwhelming…not sure where to start. beginning with a list is helpful as well as starting with one small area at a time

  • Joyce Muffly says:

    This is good advice for organizing any space – but I usually only set up one-hour blocks,so I work faster!

  • anne says:

    Last time I cleared out my sewing studio, I knew I couldn’t do alone. I called a quilter friend to help out. We ended up donating a big garbage bag of fabric to the local middle school, for their sewing projects. Beth would point to a stack of fabric, I would whimper. Then she asked me when I bought it. If it was more than 5 years old (alright, 10 years in a few cases) it went to the donate pile. I never could have cleared the room out w/o her help. She knew what could NOT go, what I might use, and what I had to move.

  • Sherry Sharpnack says:

    I know how you all feel about being overwhelmed by your work space. My stash of fabric and quilt kits were all over my floor, and any other spare surface in our “spare”room. I am currently “enjoying” a 2-week vacation from work, so hubby and I went to Sam’s and bought a bunch of shelving and a shoe rack. We spent the rest of the day moving as some of the extra furniture out of the room, and setting up the shelving. Then I felt overwhelmed again about where to put all this stuff on the shelving. I divided the corner shelving to books and/or smaller amounts of crafting supplies, ie needlework projects on a shelf, scrapbooking, etc etc.
    Anyway, all my stuff is now up on the shelves. It doesn’t look neat on the shelving — but it’s not on the floor and sliding all around. I bought several magazine holders, but have since decided to go through my magazines and only keep the projects that interested me. I’ll still have plenty of projects for the rest of my life! :) I am tired of that project after several hours over two days, but still have piles of mags to go through.
    I also reorganized my half of our walk-in closet. The shoe rack helped enormously here, as it was hard to walk into the closet b/c of the shoes. I now know what is on all the shelves, and have them mostly arranged in groups, ie Christmas gifts purchased ahead, etc.
    The biggest bugaboo is our storage area under the stairs. Hubby emptied that out yesterday, and we dropped off a bunch of clothes and children’s toys at a local charity this morning. However, so many boxes are left to go through! It is STILL overwhelming. Now you can see why I put quotation marks around “enjoying” my vacation!
    Anyway, the important thing is just START on something. Go through mags, or group like objects, or whatever helps you feel more in control of the situation. Good luck,

  • Beth Via says:

    My problem is fabric. I am an appliquer so I have fat quarters with holes cut out in the center where the color was just right or odd pieces that don’t fold well or small pieces that will be just enough for that one leaf. Right now it is all sorted in bins according to color but when starting a new project, it involves either emptying the whole thing or being lazy and just using what is on top. Is there a better way?

    • Jennifer Zimmerman says:

      I have similar pieces. I made quilted Christmas ornaments last year that required no sewing and a lot of dressmaker pins. Those odd pieces were perfect for cutting as many of the needed 2″ squares I needed for an ornament. The pieces are great for crazy patch and mini paper piecing projects, samples for student projects. My rule of thumb became, if I don’t use it this year, it goes next year and posted an expiration date on my large zip lock bags sorted by color family.

    • Dahlia says:

      cut the fat quarters into strips then sew them into strip sets
      make 18×22 fabric “tops” then back them with baby flannel sewing right sides together and turning them right side out and topstitch the edges.
      these can be donated to hospital premie wards for the moms visit times.

  • Sanoma Goodwill says:

    My quilt “space” is shared with my husband’s office space. We are in the process of doing one or two small–10-15 minutes–sorting/putting away tasks each night after work. I sorted all my quilting magazines and then laid them flat on shelves because I needed to get them off the floor. I was going to keep all the magazines in binders, but the idea of keeping only those projects I know I’ll make is a welcome one. I can begin doing that now while I wait for my corner [which seems to keep shrinking!] to be clear of office stuff so I can set up my machine and a cutting area. Thanks for everyone’s good ideas. I did have my son put a closet organizer in the closet so that I have drawers and shelves for material, projects, etc. That has helped to get my stuff organized.

  • Linny says:

    I actually have a notebook with every project and where it is located. My stash is organized by color in see through tubs. That’s a huge help, I still lose my rulers because I forget where I set them down!!!

  • Carla says:

    i’m the queen of getting my room organized and then messing it back up again. so i set aside a sewing room cleaning day as part of my regular house cleaning just to tidy it up again. as far as magazines go it only took one reason for me to get rid of mine – termites. we were renting a town home while waiting for a home. we had the closet shelves full of magazines. when it was time to move into our home they were half eaten by termites! another reason? fire. all those magazines are perfect fire starters in the event of a lightening strike or electrical problem. if you dread throwing them away .. don’t! but do donate them to a quilt show or a garage sale. new quilters or others will always find pattern they love in what is left over. as far as small pieces go , i sew them together like a crazy quilt in all directions and make a large piece. then i square it up. then i re-cut it into different size blocks or strips that i can join to make a scrappy quilt.

  • Mary says:

    Just reorganized my little space—”cutting table”–48″ x 30″ from an old piece of plywood and sanded to a “fair-thee-well.” Placed that on two bookcases….height for cutting mat is just right, shelves hold all manner of quilting things…in clear boxes (without topses) from a garage sale for 10 Cents.) little rolling tables holds ironing top; small cabinet, 14″ wide, 7 drawers, was my Mom’s….holds threads and Miscellany Good Stuff. Nice window, good lights…a TV, a Radio…..my little piece of heaven, and my heart smiles with I walk in there….and laughs out loud when I sit to sew.


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