I've almost always lived in small houses/cabins, and usually haven't even had a designated room for sewing. Then for the last five years, I was blessed with crazy amounts of space! Now I'm at least temporarily back to MUCH less space, from 1500 sf down to about 330, and that is split between three places! My son's vacated bedroom is now my sewing room, (about 80 sf) a storage room in our previous building is storage and kit packing, (220 sf, we're calling it The Warehouse as we are Warehouse 13 fans🤣), and some shelves in our bedroom has more storage. (about 30-40 sf)
So I have had to refresh my memory on all the things I've learned about maximizing space, which has always been an interest of mine. Here is an interesting quote I heard years ago, not sure where:
"Time, Space, Money-you can have any two, but it will cost you the third."
Focusing mostly on space in this post. But I get excited when I find solutions that cover all three! I read a home organizing book years ago that I still reference now, it had so many great ideas! And not just ideas, but the principles behind them, which I appreciate. The book was called "Confessions of an Organized Housewife" by Deniece Schofield. Here are a few tips I remember in particular:
1. Store things where you first use them
This is kind of obvious, and yet we don't always do it. Most of us DO keep our rulers and rotary cutters by our cutting table, and thread and seam rippers near the sewing machine. I also keep fusible web near the iron, since that is generally where I use it first. I planned my sewing machine area to have the things I use the most close by.
2. Things should be easier to put away than get out.
For example, if you have a big stack of boxes, ranging from larger on the bottom to smaller on the top, getting the bottom one out is not impossible, but putting it back requires an extra step. If the boxes were the same size, you could put it back on top, increasing the likelihood of it actually happening. We have more motivation to get things out, since we need them, but putting them back needs to be easy. My fabric is folded and sorted roughly by color, and I can always put it back on the top of the pile when I'm done even if it came from the bottom.
3. Have 'centers' for different activities
Quilters are generally pretty good at this one too, a cutting area, an ironing area, a sewing area, etc. I'm using a mini iron and ironing board by my machine, and the big iron is in my bedroom, much less convenient... But usually the mini one is enough so far!
4. Prioritize items and store accordingly
The book even recommends giving things a value, like A, B, C, and D. "A" items get stored between hip and eye level, and ideally not behind or under something else. "C" items can go on a high shelf or in another room. (I think "D" is get rid of it!) Make sure something isn't seldom used simply BECAUSE of how it is stored though.
5. Try not to store things more than two high or two deep when possible/minimize motions required to get or put away.
Again, try to make them easy to get out AND put away, but easy to put away is the priority. I get pretty excited about things like my button shelves where I can get and put away any jar without moving another one! Normally I wouldn’t like to use up a whole wall with shelves that are only 5 inches deep, but that’s all I had room for here anyway, so it’s great. Even in my big studio most of the buttons were in boxes, so this is fun! My rulers are in a holder so I can get each one without moving others, and my “Stash n Store” (lime green) by the sewing machine is better than the rummaging in a drawer I used to do for those items. Books are a good example of things that are stored well. (Really, anytime flat things can be stored vertically, they are easier to get at and put away, like extra cutting mats).
6. Store things in containers when possible
You can usually fit a lot more things in a space if things are contained. And you only have to move/grab one box instead of 30 tubes of paint, etc. Just try to make sure there is no wasted space in the containers, find as close to the right size as possible. And while I love my button jars and shelves, in that case I am ultimately choosing saving time over space. My buttons would all fit in a bucket without the containers, but yikes!🤣 I have a box in the windowsill above the cutting mat that has cutting and marking tools in it so those are contained and accessible.
7. Look for wasted space
Often we have a lot more space than we think we do! Places to look for wasted space are: containers that are too big, shelves that are too tall, wall space above furniture, space under furniture, round containers instead of square. We don’t have to be OCD about it, sometimes we need empty spaces to function also. But if you need storage space, there are often ways to find it! I wanted my button shelves to be adjustable for that reason. I’m still working on that wall, but I’m sure there will be some rearranging of jars and shelves before it’s over! I couldn't really use the closet, as it has a ladder going up to a loft bed that I wanted to still have accessible, but I was still able to use the walls for hanging strips. (Yes, this tiny room has a whole twin bed in it, up by the ceiling! It's even storing an extra mattress at the moment!😂 See the corner of the first pic)You usually can’t have everything though, there will be choices to make, like keep books of similar types together, (saves time) or size (saves space).
8. “A place for everything…”
The more often something is used, the more it needs it’s own specific spot to live, so you can always find it. Sometimes it is worth using a little more space to have dividers for commonly used items in a drawer, for example. Also label whenever possible.
A little time and money invested in thought and containers can save you a lot of time and space in the long run! Of course these principles apply to other areas of your house too, like the kitchen. It’s been close to 30 years since I read that book, but I think of the principles often! It’s been great to have a little extra time to work on applying more of them, and my sewing area, even though it’s a fraction of the size, is actually even more functional so far because I was forced to be very careful about everything I put in it! And it’s definitely a work in progress, I haven’t even used the back of the door yet, hmmm...
What are some of your favorite space or time saving tips? Thanks for joining me and Happy Sewing! Beret
PS: In case you think I have a really organized house, I definitely don't! But I've gradually been working on that too. Below is a pic of what used to be a messy shelf, and is now a tea/cocoa area. The mugs fit in some otherwise wasted space, and are more accessible and visible than if they were on a shelf.
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Beret Nelson's On The Trail Creations Blog Page
I am a homeschooling mom of three fun kids, who are now old enough that I have a little time to pursue my passion for sewing! After several years of making quilted cards and art quilts, I'm now designing kits and patterns. Some of them have even been in Keepsake Quilting! I teach classes at local quilt shops, and am starting to do more traveling and teaching. I also have many tutorials, including some on YouTube. I am blessed to live in Alaska where I am surrounded by the inspiration provided by the beauty of God's creation!
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