The Big Cleanup

by Tammy Honaman, Author, Jewelry-Making Expert and Educator,
Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Cleaning up and cleaning out is the motto around our home. Life is busy though so even my most coveted space in the house suffers from neglect.

In an effort to reclaim my personal jewelry-making workspace and avoid the embarrassment of having people see my studio in such chaos--it was time to dig in and put in some hard work to get things under control. This was a good time to also develop a plan to make it easy to keep it that way.

If this story sounds familiar, here's a guide based on my recent ''big clean up'' to help you reclaim your workspace.

Step One: Assess the Space

Evaluate your space and assess what works and what doesn't; figure out what can be changed in the structure of the space and then take measurements to know what size area you are working with.

Here's what I determined by doing this:

I needed less table and counter space and more storage cabinets (I had been storing boxes under the tabletops, which made the space seem unkempt, even when things were in order).
  • The old medicine cabinet I used to store rubber stamps was taking up prime wall real estate
  • The bookshelves had poor lighting
  • Cleaning up after each completed project is a necessary goal
Next I was off to the [home goods] store to see what might be available to help solve my storage problems (and before my husband pushed the laundry-room cabinets my way).

I carried a storage bin around the store with me (one that matched those I was already using), so I could test it out in the space. I placed the bin in each cabinet and storage unit to be sure the shelving wouldn't be too shallow. I found the perfect cabinet and couldn't wait to get it home! I also picked up additional storage bins (as I knew I was going to need a lot more) so all the containers inside the cabinet would match (part of the plan to help bring order to the space).

Step Two: Start from Scratch

It's helpful to remove everything from the space in order to redesign and rearrange your work area--these were some of my other positive efforts:
  • Moved the bookshelves to the other side of the room so that the books, seed beads, and other items which I use regularly would have better lighting
  • Moved the medicine cabinet to a much less prime location
  • Removed the rug, which opened up the space visually
  • Assembled and installed the new cabinet

Step Three: Move Back Into Your New Space

Now comes the fun part--it's time to move back into your organized space. Sort all of your components and fill the storage containers with beads, findings, tools and supplies.

Here are a few helpful sorting tips:

I found sorting by color to be the best way for me to store my glass and gemstone beads. I sorted findings by type, Bali-style and Hill Tribes fine silver beads by style and Swarovski crystal by color, with each color then placed into zip-top bags, labeled and organized in a larger storage container.

Every designer sorts things differently. If you're not sure which way will work best for you, pay attention to how you approach a design and then determine what you reach for when you begin to put the design together. This will help you assess the best way to sort your jewelry-making supplies.

Step Four: Make the Space Work for You

It's important that your workspace be comfortable, usable and well-lit.

I've always preferred a large worktable because it gives me lots of room to spread out and work on multiple projects at the same time. However, this also became an issue because I never truly cleaned the table up. I decided to downsize my main worktable to help avoid this.

I added two task lights to the worktable I chose and put a light with magnification on a counter-height table at the back of the room where I tend to do more close-up work. The new lights, combined with the overhead light, have really helped to make my work area more usable and comfortable.

The Final Step: Get to Work!

Now you can enjoy your new jewelry-making workspace and be proud to show it off to anyone who may be curious what you do in ''there.'' This is the first segment in a multi-part series on storage ideas and specific solutions for beading and jewelry-making needs.


Customer Comments

We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article "The Big Cleanup" as featured in an email newsletter. Please keep in mind that the comments expressed below are those of our customers and do not reflect the views of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.

''Loved the article about reorganizing your workspace. Especially because it showed before and after. Great ideas for maximizing space that I NEED to implement into my STUFFED craft room.''
- Siouxsie

''I thought this was an excellent article, also timely for me as I am preparing to reorganize my jewelry workspace which has become a morass of various projects, shows, redesigns - and the bad habit of not putting things away as each project is finished. I got lots of good ideas from the article, and look forward to next in this series.''
- Cyndee

''I enjoyed reading the article on organizing work space...It is a major job and any suggestions have been helpful. I find that I am always reorganizing and I need some different types of storage bins and tool holder. Good work.''
- Barbara

''Your article on studio organization addresses a problem every designer faces. We all seem to start small and before we know it, we're overwhelmed by the accumulation of beads and supplies. You give lots of good ideas and how to break down our space and re-assess workspace priorities. Thanks for helping us take a new look on mastering our beading space.''
- Linda

''I loved this article. I often run into the same problem. Working on more than 1 project and ending up with an absolute mess on the table. The suggestion of cleaning up after each project was great. The storage ideas were a lot of help.''
- Joyce

''I just received the article by Tammy Honaman on "The Big Cleanup." Wow, it could not have come at a better time. I laughed so hard as I read the first three paragraphs. I too have been avoiding the process of cleaning up the chaos in what I call my studio. I have to turn on a light every time I go into the room. If I didn't, I would be taking my life in my own hands, or feet. I stub my toes more often than not. Now the chaos has moved out the door and to the top of the stairs. It's slowly infiltrating into the front guest room, a corner of our bedroom and of course there are the spots in the family room. Our storage room, which is off my studio, well . . . . . . . my husband won't even go out there. (He only peeks around the corner of the door to my studio to see if I'm lost in there.) Since we don't have basements where we live, storage really becomes a challenge. We all know why we have basements, to store treasures. I was not going to take any pictures of my chaotic studio. Why would I want to have photographs of it that someday, someone else might actually see? However, since reading "The Big Cleanup," I will take those dreaded before pictures. I guess it'll be good for me to see just how disorganized I was and how organized I will become. Thank you so much. Here's to tossing, cleaning, regrouping, exhaustion and satisfaction.''
- Jan

''Good start on organization, please keep the old articles available as you bring new ones in.''
- Felicia

''I truly appreciated your article: The Big Cleanup because I once had a wonderfully organized, well-lit work room in my basement--until the remodelers who needed to get to the piping in the basement ceiling threw everything into a big "pile" onto the one side and removed many ceiling tiles without replacing them. I am working at a temporary table upstairs in the living room and tackling the basement and putting it back in order seemed like an insurmountable task for me as I cope daily with the after effects of an auto accident, two cancers and fight COPD from the chemo. But, this article has given me the courage and drive I needed to go back down there and reclaim my very solitary space where I could truly create. It was a welcome inspiration in my email this morning. I especially appreciated the tip on the shelving which gave me an idea to move my vintage collection pieces from their storage space under a liquor bar used by the previous owners, to their own shelving, possibly upstairs, and use that space to store my bins and plastic boxes under the bar space which was by the work tables.

Having managed the front office for a national jewelry wholesaler for two decades, I came to realize the importance of keeping all work areas neat, organized and clean. In the creative jewelry I now do, that is even far more important to avoid distraction and to be able to "step back" from a layout to observe the symmetry of the design.

The only thing I don't like is that now I have to spend some money on shelving that I could be spending on the beautiful components sold at FMG!

Please pass along my thanks to Tammy Honaman for her inspirational article.Sincerely,''
- Irene

''Regarding Tammy Honaman's organizing email, I have a tip I would like to pass along. When shopping for organizing containers, buy more than you think you will need and buy many different sizes and styles. Go wild, but keep the receipts! That way in the "heat of battle" you can try out lots of different configurations for your storage needs. Just return the containers you do not use to the store when you are through.''
- Cydne

''I really liked the article on The Big Cleanup! I have been having some of the same problems mentioned by the author. I now plan on implementing some of her suggestions to improve my workspace, and, hopefully, get more work done with less stress! Thank you! I look forward to more articles on this subject.''
- Anne

''I just read the article on organizing your workspace. The part I found most helpful was how to organize beads, findings etc. I'm just starting out and organizing my materials has been the hardest part. Thanks a million!!''
- Suzanne

''I think your space looks great and will be easier to keep up with now. I also appreciate the steps that you showed, it made it easier to follow.''
- Kathy

''Boy oh boy, did I need this! My solution has been to just move what I'm working on into another room, which means that now I have my bead detritus in every room of the house (except the bathroom, I think). I've reduced myself to beading in the living room. Yikes! Tammy Honaman has inspired me to clean off my work table and my first choice of a nice space to work in, and to become better disciplined. I can't take this chaos anymore. Thank you, Tammy. I look forward to each and every article.''
- Ann

''This was a wonderful story and inspiring. I appreciate Fire Mountain Gems providing this type information. I can so relate to Tammy's situation as I look around my basement that houses not only my home office, which is now being overrun by beads, but my other creative passions--artistic papers, paints, and books and more books. Thanks Tammy. I believe the challenge is on. No more boxes and bags! Sincerely,''
- Joyce