Do You Organize by Color, Size or Shape?

by Kristal Wick, Author, Designer and Instructor, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Is this the age-old question of every beader or what? I'm a sucker for carrying cases, storage containers and all those cute little tiny vials for organizing my beads. I even have to confess my many purchases of Talenti® gelato just for the containers (haha! For those of you who have not tried it, DON'T! Very addictively delish).

Tammy Honaman has a great article on how to Organize Your Seed Beads which tend to be the most challenging type of bead to organize, as well as gives us an inside look into how she reorganized her studio and beads in the "Big Cleanup." But there are so many other types of beads and mixed media items to be organized and stored in my studio since I’m a "mixed-media" artist (that label justifies keeping everything) I seem to need to go even further!

I'm a huge fan of everything by Plano® Creative Options™. I don't know if it's their cute factor or total functionality that first got me, but I'm hooked. I love to use the bead tower for traveling, trade shows, teaching and demos.


I have my pearls organized by size. Strands and loose kept together in separate sections by each common size. Pearls have been the most challenging for me as they come in so many shapes and sizes from stick pearls to rice pearls. Their shapes are so vastly different it's good to use this type of organizer box for the bulkier items.


I have friends who organize their entire bead collection by color, like Tammy did. The size of their stash is usually quite manageable and they design in colorways as opposed to material types or shapes. They use the top zip bags for each bead type and then put them all in drawers separated by color. I think they must have really good memories for this method!

Color AND Size

I've watched so many organizing shows (and all time fave Hoarders), and one lesson I've learned (I said LEARNED which doesn’t mean I've done it yet) is to have "zones" for each type of storage. So one section of my studio is all seed beads, another huge rolling cart is filled with containers full of crystal components sorted by colors and sizes. This works great when you first start organizing but can get trickier when you keep adding to your stash, and let's be honest here, who doesn't do that? So I try to plan for expansion and order a couple extras, this saves money on shipping and you know you'll need it down the road anyway!

It seems as though no matter how many little containers I own, I find myself still searching for that Holy Grail of perfect organizational solutions. As I continue to find solutions for my stash, I’ll share. What have you tried? What do you prefer?

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Customer Comments

We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article "Do You Organize by Color, Size or Shape?," 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.

"I enjoyed the article on storing your beads. Here's another source for storage I find helpful, and inexpensive, from your local hardware store (True Value® for me). They often have on sale plastic boxes with dividers normally used for small items, such as nails, screws, etc. The boxes have lock hinges which is a good safety feature. Then I store them in plastic tubs, by same/similar color shades. I use mixed media, sizes and shapes a lot so this works for me. They even have small item towers with drawers. and sometimes good sales on these too. Craft stores tend to be high priced, but I wait for the 50% off sales to buy storage products from them. You may already have found these items, but if not, start looking!"
- Shirley

"This is a suggestion, not a question, on Kristal Wicks article concerning storage. She asked what we did about the subject. I have bought many commercial containers, but I also use empty med. bottles--prescription and OTC. I use my large fish oil bottles down to the 24 tablet aspirin bottles. I keep these bottles in a cardboard box--with the lid flaps taken off for easier access. I use labels on these bottles because they are not clear for easy viewing."
- Sydney

"My favorite way to Organize My Beads is buying the organizing draws for nuts and bolts at Home Depot® they are great for the bigger beads I also love fishing boxes because of all the boxes for keeping everything separated I also like the other beads boxes that have lots of spaces in them. Thanks for the organization tips."
- Nicole

"Great article on organizing from Kristal. I always enjoy her articles, and would love to see more of them!"
- Donna

"Good article since I am using most of what is suggested already. However, there is one thing that the organization does not speak of is wire. I do a lot of jewelry with wire and as of now they are in 3 plastic shoe containers. I have another box that holds all my stringing material, etc. In addition, I have picked up polymer clay for canes and bead confection and am presently trying to organize my unbaked canes, my unopened and my open clays and tools. So far, the clays are in a glass container with airlock seal cover since I have no idea in what kind of plastic container to put them in or what type of paper to wrap my open clays. Any suggestion?"
- Sylvie

"I just read your article on organization. I'm relieved to know I'm not the only one constantly re-organizing. One thing I found helpful was to install pegboard on one wall in my design area. I hang as much as I can on the pegs be it strings of beads. stringing material. I find it helpful to see what I have when I'm figuring out my "creations." I figured if it works in the store, why not in my studio?"
- Sandy

"Loved this article!!!! Did not know Plano had these great storage containers and that Fire Mountain Gems had them for sale. I had to make a travel system for myself to carry on a flight to go in my purse and I used a small Plano one compartment waterproof container (3440) for my supplies. I found it in the fishing department at Walmart. I cut a bead mat to fit and velcroed a piece of Rubbermaid® shelf liner to the back of it to the dimension of the recessed lid. Several tubes of beads, my needles, thread conditioner and a bead scooper fit inside the main compartment very well. I used a dental floss container to hold my FireLine® and to cut it. This kit went through security and I was able to bead during my flights and layovers. I also had a portable OttLight® that was no bigger than a ladies compact that I packed separately. Always learn something from your articles!!"
- Linnie

"Hi! I was so satisfied after reading the article! I, too, have a variety of beads and was pleased that I'm like the author of the article. Not because of my beading success, but because of the ability to organize my beads in a way akin to hers! I thought there was something wrong with how I organized my stash of beads, but I feel MUCH better now! I'm a rookie in the craft, so I was interested in reading the article. I enjoyed reading it; thought it was well written and appealing. Thanks for addressing the issue and giving me some more info. (and examples) that I hadn't thought of till now. Keep up the good work! Nothing is too simple when a person such as myself is just starting out. Sincerely,"
- Rebecca

"I have used many different methods of storage, my very favorite is the Lock and Lock. Mostly sold for kitchen storage. I also have several metal or plastic cases that have up to 60 drawers per case. They can be wall hung if table top space is limited. I have them designated for different types of supplies, i.e. one holds shell/coral/mother of pearl, etc. Another holds assorted findings separated by material type, copper/brass,etc. My beads are stored in the Plano boxes and then in an office paper sorter/storage case. It has 24 openings that the boxes fit perfectly! I separate the beads by type and label the ends as to which, so I can see them at a glance. I will have to purchase another one of the sorter/storage cases, soon as a place to store all the new beads that I want to purchase. One way I use the Lock and Lock is for different projects ... Just gather all the components from all the various storage containers and label it and they sit on my beading desk top shelf, until I get to work on them, knowing that all that is needed is in the box and I know I can work without having to look for a particular finding, etc. I have two old computer desks in my studio as well as a jewelers bench. The beading bench is a double wide size and has a shelf above as well as two shelves below and to the right. It was purchased many years ago when computers were much larger. I am so happy with my studio, though not large it does contain most of my mixed media treasures. Thanks for sharing your ideas,"
- Valerie

"I just read the article by Kristal Wick about organizing your beads. A friend suggested that I use an under-the-bed shoe organizer. It's fabulous. I put my beads into small Ziploc bags and then put the bags into compartments by color. Thank you for your amazing products and resources."
- Anonymous