operation clean studio | shopping tips

above: something I grabbed on clearance in Target’s kitchen section

So you’re looking for storage containers, things that will help you store your craft things – but more importantly – things that will prove useful for the long term and be a good investment. My top suggestions for where to look are:

  • Your own house! (garage, kids rooms, kitchen, containers you’re not using, things that could be containers such as jars….)
  • Small hardware store
  • container store
  • home improvement store
  • target/walmart/etc.
  • kitchen store
  • bed & bath store
  • home decor store
  • antique, second hand, thrift stores

You’ll notice nowhere on my list are places like craft stores, or even places like Ikea. The reason is that while those places might be good for a very specific thing – a desk, a large book shelf, or cabinets (Ikea) or paper storage (craft store) – they’re not the best for most smaller scale inexpensive items.

Before you go anywhere, know your exact (and I do mean EXACT) measurements of the areas that you have. I went in with a scale drawing of my room including existing pieces, and height, width, and depth availability of all possible spaces. I’m talking right down to how much space/maximum size of something I could put on existing shelves.


It minimizes the risk of impulse buys, it helps you resist bad choices, and it confirms for you what you can (and can not) accomodate. I will note that during the shopping period I kept a tape measure in my bag at all times with that sheet of paper with all kinds of notes & measurements only I could understand.

The results were WELL worth it. When at Ikea, I found that they had absolutely nothing that fit my exact needs (except a kitchen cart which I can’t seem to get and their service for purchasing an item not in the store is non existent… don’t even get me started) – so I walked out of there without one thing.

On the other hand, I had great success at Lowes with some clearance kitchen cabinetry that they had as well as a cheap (sturdy) big shelf unit for my closet. I eventually want to do that big closet up nicely – but $20 for a fix today that will last at least a few years? That is more in my budget at the moment.

Planning ahead. Not forcing myself into all long-term solutions at once. Letting things play out and be flexible. All good things.

A place I found all kinds of cool options, but was pricey was Bed Bath & Beyond. Some of the kitchen storage had me going nuts! Loved it! But $25 for a container meant for a fridge wasn’t happening.

Another tip I have is that I am not afraid of cardboard boxes and plastic totes. You shouldn’t be either. Better to store things in something you have in your house while you wait for the right solution than to jump into something prematurely.

I’d love to re-do this place in vintage finery, make it a shabby chic haven of fabulous… but then I’d mist and splatter on stuff and break everything.

So what do I do? I look for something that is a VALUE.

I didn’t say cheap. I’m looking for the combo of price is right + will last me long enough and remain useful that I won’t regret the purchase. Some things are worth more cash than others to me.

The one value item of storage I’d beg you to stay away from are the large scale plastic drawers. I have little ones – they’re great. But for BIG drawers you’re better off paying for some wood or particle board shelving vs the plastic drawer sets. Why? They do NOT do well with weights that are heavy over time. Trust me – I had 3 different sets that had to be sent to the dump. They don’t pull out well, they get warped easily… I can’t recommend them. They don’t last long enough AND they aren’t useful enough (so big you need to put heavy stuff in them, then heavy stuff warps them!) to make it worth the price break. Go thrift store, go cheap hardware store solution, something else.

What do I think about when out shopping?

  • What would I be putting in this?
  • Why am I so attracted to it? (useful, or just pretty?)
  • What else could I do with this aside from initial idea?
  • Which spaces does it fit in my creative space? Is it specific, or does it fit a number of places?
  • What is it made of? Will it stand up to my heavy handed crafting style?
  • Could it be put to use elsewhere in my house?

That last one is a GREAT thing to think about. Heck, one of my work spaces in here right now is the very table I changed both of my kids diapers on. The diaper table I picked out when pregnant for Elizabeth. The one I pointed at and asked for (thanks in-laws!) because I could see that it was a design that would allow it to become a useful dresser for my crafting when it was done being a changing station. (it is, too)

Likewise, my kids have taken on drawers that used to be in here, and I still have my very first (corner) bookshelf from when I was 19 and moved out here in my studio, holding my favorite paperbacks.

The bottom line I’ve found is patience, being true to you, and not getting hasty about wanting the project done.

  • Know how you craft
  • Imagine how you’ll use stuff
  • Picture where it will go, AND how it will work with other stuff
  • Stay true to yourself, not what someone else likes.

4 thoughts on “operation clean studio | shopping tips”

  1. Don’t know if you have a Big Lots where you live, but if you do it’s worth checking out for kitchen carts. They have a very nice selection for a reasonable price. I bought one with 4 drawers up the center, a door on each side of the drawers with a shelf, a stainless steel top, a paper towel holder on one end and a little shelf on the other end. It has turned out to be a great station for stand up scrapping.

  2. I’ve loved your ideas for storage over these last two posts, but I wondered if you had any thoughts on a crafting-specific piece… Basically, I’m convinced I need a Clip-it-up. Mostly because I hate the way my embellishments are in drawers right now and I would love it if they were out where I could see them. Have you ever owned one of these or do you have any thoughts on it? Also I love that tiered shelf you have pictured! That would be great for my alarmingly large mists collection. =) Thanks for sharing your studio journey with us!

  3. I have no experience with that – so I really couldn’t say.

    This isn’t a two-part series, it’s MUCH bigger than that. All past (and future) posts are under the category ‘desk view’ as I document this process. As it should be, it started very much big picture, and I’m working down to specifics. Though some have been covered already: http://mayflaum.com/category/desk-view/

  4. May,

    Thank you for this series on organizing – especially this one with the reminder not to rush to make purchases and really think “non-craft storage”. That advice stuck in my mind as I’ve been slowly working on my supplies…

    Most of them share a closet with my clothes and up until now were under the hanging clothes in bins and boxes – it was such a chore to get to things or put them away, most of the time it wasn’t worth the effort.

    But I kept looking at the shoe organizer that I used for my shoes…. it was great that it was vertical and relatively small cubbies to be organized, but things would get lost in the back. But then I found rubber/plastice utensil trays that fit just right from side to side and only stick out about an inch (which actually is good so I can see what that section has. And they are great for carrying the inks, tools, stamps, etc to where I am working. Now I have 3 organizers ( 1 1/3 for shoes, 1 2/3 for supplies!). If I purge some more old clothes, I may be able to fit another :).

    Always enjoy your posts,

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