Monday, April 16, 2012

STASH ORGANIZATION: Part 5 - Managing the Print Media Avalanche

I don't know about you, but for me PAPER CLUTTER IS THE WORST!  More paper stuff comes into my house than anything else...mail, notes from school, stuff for doing the shop newsletter, class coordinator crap, catalogs, magazines, pictures, snip-its, bills, important documents.  YIKES!

What is important, how do I file it, what can I recycle, what do I need to shred?  It's a constant battle. a continual mountain that has to be climbed, an obstacle to get over.

I get so annoyed when stuff starts to pile up, then a pile gets knocked over by me or the cat, or I can't find something in a pile.

My Mom saved EVERYTHING and was also a victim, in her final years, of magazine salesmen.  When I cleaned out her condo before her move to assisted living, there were THOUSANDS of magazines, piles of junk mail, with just enough important stuff sprinkled in to keep me from recycling everything in total. 

I love quilt magazines, patterns, books, block-of-the-months, free downloads from the Internet...there is so much input we quilters have access to now.  Because I am always thinking about quilts, I see inspiration in non-quilty things as well...New Yorker covers, discarded wrapping paper, greeting cards, catalogs, photographs...every shred of paper has potential as inspiration for applique or quilting designs.

All of that has to be contained in such a way that I can find it again when I need it.  Nothing makes me crazier than hunting for something.  This post is dedicated to how I sort, save and store quilt media.

Magazines are my first problem, which brings me to my first fix.  Some of you may find this next section disturbing.  Feel free to scroll through it.


I can't save magazines in pristine form...I don't have room or the patience to dig for the juicy, quilty bits I really like.  With the exception of some issues of Quiltmania or special block collection issues, I go through each one and only save what appeals to me. 

I start at the beginning, peeling away pages and sorting what to keep and what goes into the recycling bin. 

Projects with directions go in sheet pocket protectors with all templates, patterns, etc.  I trim the pages to fit, but I try and save the issue information (magazine name, month, year) that is printed on the bottom of each page.  That way, I know  the source of the pattern.

Sometimes I'm not interested in keeping the whole project with instructions.  Maybe there was something about a quilt picture that inspires me...the color combination, a border, a block, an interesting setting.  I just cut out the picture of the quilt, or even just part of a quilt, and put all those in a little pile.

I don't just look for pictures in the main articles...I also see inspiration in the ads, artwork, font style, tips, isolated quilting motifs or applique templates (like an interesting leaf shape, for example).  I just add all this to the snip-it pile until later.

The "how to" articles are my FAVORITE!

I LOVE the "how to" to do binding, how to make HST's, how to wash your quilt, how to make prairie points, etc.  Sometimes it's an article comparing batting types and brands.  I clip each page, or article, and put it in a sheet pocket protector as well.

This magazine file is like my personal "how to" book.  I used to keep it in a binder, but it works better for me to keep them loose in this upright file.

I also do this for articles about quilt history, or a favorite pattern author or designer (this one is about Lori Smith of From My Heart To Your Hands Designs).

Now comes the filing...

I sort the patterns by topic (like "STARS - HST's and squares" or "LOG CABIN" or "CHRISTMAS - table runners, for example") and file them in hanging file folders in secondhand, 2-drawer filing cabinets.

Commercial patterns that come in zip loc bags get the zip part of the bag trimmed off and they get filed with the magazine patterns (sometimes I put the smaller ones in sheet pocket protectors).  If I have reduced or enlarged the pattern, I can store those sheets neatly with the patterns.

Every now and then (when I'm looking through a folder of patterns for somethings), I will thin out these saved patterns and reuse the sheet pocket protectors.  Maybe I no longer "love" the project, or decide to keep the picture only, for inspiration.  I keep a sheet pocket protector with these snip-it's inside, until I have enough to process (keep scrolling).

Sadly, none of my 2-drawer filing cabinets match, but it's hard to complain when I only paid $10 a piece for them at U of M Property Disposition!

It is a flexible system and can change as needed.  When I choose to make one of these saved patterns, I place it (in it's sheet pocket protector) in the project box (so I will remember what I am cutting all these pieces for...).  If I cut any plastic or freezer paper templates while making it, I can store them in the sheet pocket protector with the pattern, then file the whole nonsense away when I'm done (if I still want to keep it).

I used to keep my books safely on the second floor of my house, but that was inconvenient since my quilt cave was in the basement.  Since I'm paranoid about water down there, I put my bookshelves off the floor.

I put old doors, minus their hardware, over the filing cabinets.  This is very sturdy, but a little tricky as my mismatched  filing cabinets are all different heights (of course!).  They are, mostly, level with the help of wood blocks.

I don't scrimp on bookshelves...not anymore.  I came home once and what I thought was a pretty sturdy bookshelf had collapsed and half of my books were all over the floor!  Mercy!  I went to IKEA and got multiple, SMALL, sturdy shelving units with multiple small openings (adds to the structural strength).  I have a lot of money invested in my books, so it makes sense to store them properly.

I sort my books by subject - history/antique quilts, hand applique, hand quilting, block collections, scrap quilts, Christmas quilts, etc.  I like to sticky note some of my favorite things so that I can find them later!

There's a little bit of space in front of the base of the book shelves (on the doors) to use as a table when I am looking through a book or pattern.  (Wondering what is stored on top of the bookshelves?  I do a little scrapbooking/family archiving...and Christmas ornaments - all pretty lightweight).

Oh...I forgot...what do I do with all those little bits of inspiration that I snipped from magazines, greeting cards, wrapping paper, junk mail, photos, etc.??

I make inspiration books.  I just glue them into bound or spiral books organization here.  I just arrange them to get as many on a page as possible. 

These are great to turn to when I feel stuck for ideas on color grouping, setting, borders, etc.

All the ads and "dead weight" from the magazines goes into the recycling bin.

I also save funny or inspirational "sayings" I come across...they may end up in a redwork piece or border some day.

People always ask me, "how do you get so much done?"  I love being able to find leaves more time to sew.  The system is easy to maintain and can be changed easily. 

As I butcher magazines or purchase patterns, I put them in a "to be filed" tray.  Processed snip-it's are placed in one sheet pocket protector (in the "to be filed tray") until I have enough to glue in my inspiration book.

All the leftovers go in the recycling bin.

This didn't happen may feel overwhelmed by a mountain of magazines or stacks of loose paper.  Baby steps.  Just a little every day.  maybe you just work on cutting out the things you want and putting them into some kind of folder until you see what kind of volume you will need to store. 

Remember the 5 steps outlined by Julie Morgenstern in her book, Organizing From the Inside Out :
  • sort
  • purge
  • assign a home
  • containerize
  • equalize (maintain)
Don't rush out and spend money on your system until you see what you need to store.  You may purge more than you think!  (My tastes have certainly changed and refined since I started saving stuff).

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)


  1. you are an inspiration! I don't have near the books and patterns as you do. I do not buy many quilt magazines at all. I do have a file system such as yours but on a much smaller level! thank god,

  2. I trim magazines (there are so many ads in them now) - don't buy a lot of them and NO subscriptions (that helps). One shelf of quilting and one shelf of cross stitch and I intend to keep it that 'contained'. And noted your re-cycle pile is way smaller than your keep pile.

  3. You really are an inspiration! I spent yesterday purging paper and magazines (read your article on stash manicure through the organization tab). Love gluing pictures into notebooks.
    Between you and the dvd made by Julie Morgenstern that I watched this morning-love my library--I am soooo ready to get it all put together. Thanks again!!

    Can't wait for your next post. :)

  4. Thank you SO much for all your hard work on these posts and the excellent pictures! I bow down before you -- ha ha ha. I recently did a major purge of my two sewing rooms (I live alone), and thanks to you, I am ready to tackle the magazine monster that lives in the closets!

    I think your cave is the best sewing room ever! Who cares about the fancy pretty details -- your fabrics and all your containers make it beautiful to me.

  5. Thanks for all the good ideas!

  6. This post reveals more reasons why you should get a Nobel Peace Prize! Managing the paper is the hardest! My hat is off to you for your accomplishment here. Amazing and inspiring...someday I will follow your tips and dig in :-)

  7. Wow I continue to be amazed with your organisational skills and setup. I can see once you have a system started it would be straightforward to continue it. I'll be reorganising my sewing cave soonish after a minor building addition and look forward to sorting through everything and getting a better system going. Thanks for the effort put into these posts!

  8. great post!
    I do it the same way but I'm way, and I man way behind on the filing part. I've got a 2 foot stack just waiting for a rainy day -

  9. THANK YOU for opening your doors to us all and working so hard on this fantastic series of posts. I'm inspired! I think I need to lay down some strict guidelines for my new sewing area in this move:)

  10. I too save only what interests me from the magazines. And even then, I purge through that stuff every so often. Your methods of sorting and storing these pages and parts is interesting and very organized. Too many magazines stored can be a fire hazard and you might end up on the hoarder's television show if you keep too many and too much other stuff.

  11. thanks so much for all the work you must have put in on these posts! i saw your post on stash manicure and it was inspiring, but the detail and sharing of how you apply julie morgenstern's is so helpful, i've sent off for the book :)because now i get how i might be able to use it! i was sort of a minimalist,except for a vanful of my oil paintings, but my husband had a room full of art stuff, and after he died, i went on a city and guilds machine embroidery course, bought two sewing machines and an awful lot of fabric,and i'm still working through what to keep out of a lot of random
    retail therapy... but i'm moving soon, so this is so well timed for me, thank you so much!
    birds sing artblog

  12. I bow to you, Oh Queen! LOL Seriously, gf, you are THE best at organizing and inspiring me to get after it. Thank you SO much for these wonderful posts. I'm slowly going through the scraps (will be an ongoing effort, I'm afraid) and totally need to get after the papers, too. I have SO many quilting, cross stitch, decorating magazines, etc. I guess I would use them more if I pulled out what I really liked and dumped the rest. Good idea! Gosh, with all this organizing I need to do (and I THOUGHT I was organized!) I'm wondering if I'll ever have time to sew again. Oh well, at least the quilt sty will be purdy!

    Hugs, friend! xo

  13. I have followed all of your posts on organizing and loved each one. I agree with most everything you have said. My only departure was about the cutting up the magazines. Although I do cringe when someone cuts up a magazine, that was not really my problem. My problem is my tastes have changed over the years. Quilts that I used to just pass by without a glance will suddently the what interestes me three years later. Example, super scrappy, Gee's Bend type quilts. I hated them for the first several years. Now I am so glad I never cut up my magazines so I can go back and look at all of the wonderful pictures.
    BUT! I think for anyone who is willing to clip and cull this is a great plan.
    Over the past 4 years I have sorted and put my hands on every piece of everything in my sewing room. I was able to get rid of at least a ton of papers and magazines and books that I no longer wanted or needed. What a giant relief!
    Thank you for all of your work and time you have committed to this series.

  14. When I read the part about saving wrapping paper, I screeched to a halt. I guess I'm not the only one who has rescued a scrap of wrapping paper out of a parking lot because the design on it was cool enough to make me wonder if it might lead to another quilt.

    I have started to catalog my quilts on Flickr. I saw the class you were offering--about quilt scrapbooking, wasn't it? Maybe I can also use Flickr to catalog my "quilty inspirations," thereby sharing them with with other quilters. Hmmm. I better go back and finish your article.

    Thanks, T!

  15. Great set of articles Teresa, oh to have the space you have then I could be as totally organised..! For now, excess has to live out in the shed in big plastic bins....unsorted though :o)

  16. Way to go, AGAIN! Thank you Teresa!

    I could spend hours just looking through your "inspiration/ideas" books - what fun!


  17. What a lot of work you went to for your posts! As you said, everyone needs their own organization. I don't do well with things going vertically. It overwelms me. So, I looked at most of the pictures with great anxiety. I would just go buy new before I would try to find it in there.

    BUT....the media organization is right up my alley. I don't have that much but I really appreciate the idea of "idea books".

    I COULD have a "quilt cave". My husband has offered me the basement numerous times. But I am claustrophobic and I need things to not be seen. so, it just doesn't work for me. I admire your organization tremendously.

  18. So many great ideas! Very inspiring!


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