Craft Storage in a Small Space

Today I have a video to share with you. Taking you "behind the scenes" to show you how we store craft supplies in our small chalet. I'll jump right into that and then share some notes and photos after.

As you saw in the video, we have three craft storage areas, using plastic bins and pieces of furniture.

Plastic Bins

Plastic bins are not as aesthetically pleasing as I like but they are very practical for our purposes.

  • In clear plastic bins the kids can see the contents.
  • They transport well. This is especially useful since, with our move next month, we will have moved three times in twelve months. Living in 4 different homes. The bins handle all of this beautifully. Me? I'm learning to handle this with grace also (smile).
  • Bins are easy to stack. Even if you don't have a shelf most bin systems are made to self stack. This is a handy feature.
  • Plastic bins are affordable and relatively accessible, even if you don't live near an IKEA. Just a word on that - I have not lived near an IKEA for over twelve years. I haven't visited one in nearly as long. You don't need an IKEA to be organized.

Having said all this my dream would be to have a dedicated wooden shelf with rattan or willow baskets that were designed to fit inside. Something exactly like this (that link even includes the plans for how to make one, cool).

One of these lovely pieces is not in my immediate future so bins it will have to be.

Cabinets and Dresser Drawers

Who needs storage for clothes anyway? Clothes are so overrated (smile).

This is my preferred method for stashing stuff. We've used a dresser drawer for years for craft supplies. When we outgrew that, we started the bins also.

A dresser is great because you can close the drawers and everything could be hairy scary inside but you'd never know on the outside. Not so with clear plastic bins.

There are seasons when our craft drawers are a total mess but since we've moved around so much this past year we've kept them pretty tidy. This is one of the advantages to moving - you are regularly sorting, decluttering and purging.

I've included this photo of what the bead drawer (it's tidy in the video) used to look like before we started using little jars for storage. As you can see, plastic baggies galore. Ick.

The Mess

What you don't see in the video is what a (small space) crafty house looks like, in action. This is why I've included the pictures. The only time the craft stuff is nicely stacked in bins and put away is first thing in the morning and then again at the end of the day.

Craft supplies are for crafting and a house is for living. You can't create (with children) without a mess.

The photos you see in this post are what my house looks like on any given day. Of course I'd go crazy if it was always like this so we have a regular clean up time at the end of every day. The kids are old enough to do this by themselves. They're the ones making the mess after all! This includes daily vacuuming or sweeping the floors.

For the evening the house is mostly clean (inevitably some craft or art project comes out during the evening hours but these are small and contained) and it stays this way till the next morning. This is one reason I do love getting up early - it's my time to appreciate a clean dining room table - just to look at.

I forgot to show you where our sewing machine is kept - right next to our bed. Our bedroom has been a bit squishy for the past five months. The chalet came with a king sized bed (bed overkill) and then we've got Damien's treadmill desk in there also. It's not ideal but it works in the short term. 

The video gives an overview of what supplies we stock. Next month I plan to write about those supplies in detail, sharing what I think are the most important ones to stock, if you are just starting out or aren't very crafty yourself but want to give your children some supplies to work with. The follow up to this paper craft supply post from last year.

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  • Granola Girl

    Granola Girl on April 12, 2012, 5:47 p.m.

    Wow. Your house is so much more understanding than ours. My husband would have a complete heart attack if the house ever looked like that, even in the middle of a project. He thinks I'm crazy that such things don't bother me. We have "power cleaning" time before Dad gets home from work just to pick up the normal school stuff (books, papers, pencils)! I'm glad I'm not the crazy one and other people can handle a bit of clutter.


    • renee

      renee on April 12, 2012, 6:06 p.m.

      It's opposite around here. Damien is very low key about these things and I'm the one that has had to let go of my control-neat freak tendencies and surrender to the mess of childhood. Just one of life's mothering lessons. The way I cope with this is to have set clean up times. Which the kids are really good at doing now and they can respect that I need tidy a couple times a day (smile).


  • sara

    sara on April 12, 2012, 6:16 p.m.

    Thanks for doing this post Renee. I also loved having a video to accompany it.
    I picked up some tips and found that I do store some things similarly to you as well.
    Off topic, you have way less clothes than me! And I always felt I kept it on the reasonable side. That was inspiring! Where do you keep all the crafty creations? Do you have a portfolio for each child? Do you let go of the creations easily? We often just get rid of the creations after some time, but I feel a little guilty for it. We have a small space too. I am not sure if I have shared that (1100 sq. ft for a family of five).


    • renee

      renee on April 12, 2012, 6:29 p.m.

      Good question and I have a few more clothes than that. The other side of the armoire is where I hang my one nice shirt, one nice pants, one really fancy dress, my wedding dress, 2 winter t-shirts, 2 winter long sleeved shirts (these are all wool or wool hybrids). I also have a wire basket for undies, socks and pj's (one summer set, one winter set). I'm "due" for a few new pieces to my wardrobe, waiting till I can get to Frenchy's (like goodwill) in Nova Scotia this summer. About the creations - when we had more living space in Maine I let the kids keep more for longer periods of time. Now they cycle through our living space fairly fast. The kids are also learning to "miniaturize" their creative projects as they get older and their skills grow. When they were little the projects were large cardboard structures. I'm sure you know what I mean. We had more space then so these would be all over the house, especially on coffee tables and such. Now the kids tend to channel their energies into smaller things. Celine makes dolls and these don't take up much space. Laurent does a lot of drawing, which is super compact. And Brienne does a lot with paper which stores flat also. I would say we let go of creations fairly easily. And teaching the kids this is important. We expect they will be creating their whole lives and we need to learn to let go of things and realize the joy is usually in the actual creative process. At least that is what we've found. We've been teaching our kids, and ourselves, it's ok to spend lots of time on something, enjoy making it and then let it go. Sometimes letting go is gifting, sometimes recycling, other times garbaging, unfortunately. I love using as much natural materials as possible for our creations because I don't feel so bad about the waste then. We burn lots of wood, cardboard and paper stuff. And wool and natural fibers can be composted. But lots just goes in the garbage eventually. Sad but true. Yes, we keep a portfolio for each child, it's included with their portfolio for each school year. PS. Forget to mention. A lot of their creations become they toys and they are allowed to keep a set amount of toys. Basically whatever fits in their under-the-bed bins.


      • sara

        sara on April 13, 2012, 7:57 p.m.

        Thanks for your response. I think I still have way more clothing than you- even with the carification! :)

        I definitely agree that the process of creating is the key element that I would like my children to pick up on. If joy and peace (and perhaps emotional clearing) are found in the creating, then that is quite the gift.

        As far as portfolios are concerned, what do you use? I have had trouble coming up with something that fits in a small space. Do you buy an actual artist's portfolio?


  • Heather

    Heather on April 12, 2012, 8:17 p.m.

    I love the pictures of your living. It is what my house/craft room looks like. My kids are getting better at picking up after themselves, but a lot of the craft stuff is not exactly accessible to them, so I am the one cleaning it up (they are almost 4 and 20 months). I am looking forward to the days when they can clean their paint brushes without first painting the walls :-)


  • Jennifer Ott

    Jennifer Ott on April 13, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

    Again, I love this! I am the same, type-A, neat freak with crafty children (I love making things, but my supplies are neat!). You've given much inspiration and much encouragement to let them continue to create. I might even let my son play with my watercolor pencils tomorrow... And my husband was just commenting the other day about "when we live in a yurt" ;)!


  • Nichol

    Nichol on April 13, 2012, 2:03 p.m.

    We found our Lego table in someone's roadside trash pile too! It also has raised edges that help keep the pieces from instantly sliding off. I discovered your blog a few weeks ago and really enjoy reading with coffee in the morning!


  • Shannon

    Shannon on April 13, 2012, 2:24 p.m.

    I suddenly want to make something! We keep a basket full of whatnot that I call the "idea basket" so named after the stack of my Gram's 1950's "Idea books" For children. I often get frustrated about clutter, so I am grateful to you for the reminder that creating with kids is messy!


  • Jill

    Jill on April 13, 2012, 3:02 p.m.

    Renee -- Thanks so much for sharing the details of how you are crafty in a small space! We are into sewing here too and I wanted to share with you a way that I discovered to keep my fabric organized which I implemented the last time we moved (we move a lot too!).

    When I have new fabric, I zig zag over the raw edges and wash it (in case I care about shrinkage later on), then I iron it and fold it up on comic book boards so I end up with "mini-bolts". I keep these in the drawers of a (n IKEA) dresser. It's nice to be able see what we have very clearly and know that the fabric is ready to pull out and use.

    Here's a link with some LOVELY pictures (my collection isn't nearly sooo lovely). Maggie gives a nice how to and also provides a link for buying the boards.


  • Erika

    Erika on April 22, 2012, 10:22 p.m.

    I went to a homeschooling workshop last year and the very experienced mothers said that in the first few years people tend to talk a lot about what curriculum or method of homeschooling to use. And the subsequent years are all spent discussing the state of their homes.

    Our homes are well lived in and well used.

    Great organization definitely helps with the mess though.


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