A reader recently emailed me and asked if I would share how I organize our art supplies and which art supplies are our favorites. I am constantly trying to find new ways that really work to organize our supplies, so I was so happy to write this post. Plus, it totally motivated me to clean everything up for pics : ) Thank you Alexa! Your questions really helped me shape things up around here. Click here to read about my favorite art supplies and here are my top 5 favorite tips to creating art spaces for kids.
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*NOTE* Since I wrote this post I’ve changed things around quite a bit. Now my space looks like the pics directly above and below. You can see more pics here)My tips are still the same, but you’ll notice some pics look different. I think an art space is meant to be always evolving and changing as our children and we ourselves evolve.
For starters, I totally love mason jars. We have tons of them and put everything from beads to golf tees to googley eyes in them. If it’s a collection, it goes in a jar. Mason jars are great because they are really sturdy and with two toddlers around I don’t worry too much that they will break. They are also clear, which is my number one important factor for storing art supplies. If I can’t see it, I won’t use it, so I stick with clear on everything I can. We buy our mason jars in bulk at Michaels with the 40% off coupon or on Amazon. I have these and these and these big ones.
I also love these low plastic trays from Ikea for 3 dollars! They come with lids, but I keep them open for paints and glues, which I seem to accumulate a million of and practically none of them work, but that’s another story. I love that they fit perfectly in the Expedit, which you can see below. They are really shallow, which is perfect for bottles of different sizes. I used to have my paints in a closed box but it was such a mess and I couldn’t tell what the heck was going on in there. These plastic trays works great for us!
We have a bunch of colorful baskets that are filled with different random supplies, like cardboard cutouts, tiles, blocks, etc. Since we live in Southern California, we are able to keep our supplies outside in the backyard under an overhang. I host art play groups and art classes in our backyard so I like everything to look colorful and inviting. I think I picked these yellow baskets up at World Market and some of the others I got at Home Goods over the years.
The dollar store has become my total bff. They always have little clear tubs and containers for…well…a dollar. It seems no matter how many I buy we still need more. I put anything that doesn’t fit in a jar in clear containers. Clear, clear, clear. I can’t say it enough. It’s taken me years to figure this out. I like to know where everything is and be able to stare at all my supplies for inspiration. You never know what project may be lurking in each container.
I store our ribbons and duct tape in open baskets so everything is easy to grab, since I’m usually frantically wrapping something five minutes before I’m supposed to be at a birthday party. All of our supplies are stored in an Expedit from Ikea. I LOVE Expedits. They come in all different sizes and variations so if you don’t have room or don’t have need for such a big one, you can go with a four cubby one or even a tall strip of five cubbies. They come in different colors too. My biggest challenge has been with oversized papers. I recently started putting them in a large plastic shallow tub which is working out pretty well but it’s still kind of a pain because I have no place to put it. If you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments below. I’m thinking maybe a standing poster holder from a teacher supply store may be a better fit so I can lean it up against the wall.
Unfortunately, I haven’t quite figured out the top of the Expedit situation where I keep wrapping paper, paint holders and a few random things. It kind of always looks a mess, but I use that stuff all the time and have no other space for it. As you can see, I still have a few closed baskets. They aren’t ideal but they’re good for things like smocks, tarps and table clothes. At some point I will replace them with clear tubs. If you are a label person than you can easily label any of these things. I’m not that organized and I’m always changing things around, so labels don’t work for us.
I try to keep the things that my girls can play with towards the bottom. I love that they can navigate through the supplies to find what they are looking for. This is really important to me. The other day my oldest found some white tiles and markers and totally set herself up with a coloring station, something I never would have thought of! She drew and drew and then wiped the tiles clean over and over while I cleaned. That’s exactly the kind of thinking and decision making I want to foster with all this art stuff. She even helped clean up!
I hope you’ve found this helpful. Our organization is definitely a work in progress. Please feel free to message me with any questions or suggestions you might have and happy organizing!
Your post is very impressive and informative. I like your way to organize art supplies. I will also arrange all art supplies like your way. Thank you so much sharing with us
The supplies look so neat and pretty! Thanks for the tips.
Wow, everything is so contained. Love it. I totally agree about using clear or open containers. For kids especially, they will explore materials so much more if they are constantly reminded of their presence. I’m also struggling with storing large paper. I used to store it upright like you are considering, but the paper would buckle and become warped. I might try some large clear bins- great idea.
Oh, good point. I don’t want buckled paper. I guess clear bins it is for now. Thanks for the advice!
I made extra large portfolios for my large paper by tapping the bottom of two large foam core sheets together so it opens and closes like a book. I just put the paper in and clip it shut (using bulldog clips) and slide it behind something like the couch in my studio.
Oh that’s a great idea! Thank you!!!
I love this post, Meri…thank you for writing it! I’m always wondering how other people organize their supplies. I’ve wanted to write something like this forever but that would mean cleaning! Your shelves look so inviting and I love how you included links for the jars and containers. I didn’t know mason jars don’t break? I recently bought the ALEX drawers from Ikea for bigger paper but it’s only about 19″ deep so it doesn’t fit the really big. But definitely some of the big. I love it as a paper drawer because the kids can easily get to it and I can organize colors/textures. Thank you for sharing this beautiful space with us…you are amazing! And love the California outdoor style 🙂 xo
I am going to keep stalking craigslist for those Alex drawers. I love the look of them! Thanks for all the love Bar. Would love to see your space too!
🙂 lovely organization… I’m feeling inspired. I always have such a tough time organizing everything!
Thanks Leslie! Would love to see your space. It feels so good to get organized, even if it is short lived.
Thank you Susan!!
I store all my different papers in a filing cabinet, using hanging file folders, legal size. They fit all the sizes, don’t get bent or lost. Easy to find what you want and you can store them in a clear file folder storage box if you don’t have a filing cabinet.
Great idea! Thanks so much!
Thanks!!!! I finally went back to find this! Some how I missed it when you initially posted it, but I will be bookmarking it and referring to it probably many times in the future!
Oh great! I was wondering if you ever saw it. Hope it is helpful!
Hi Meri Cherry, I would love to know where the cubbies come from. I am a homeschooling Mama, returning to my art after many years and suddenly overwhelmed with all kinds of new art supplies I find myself with no room for!
Ikea! Ikea has tons of cubby units like this and they are fantastic! Good luck. I know that can be totally overwhelming. Also, Craigslist sometimes has used Ikea furniture. Not sure where you live but sometimes that’s a great place to check.
Thank you SO much for your reply! 😀 I thought it might be ikea, but before I searched / trekked over there (it is far) I wanted to know. Thank you! I ♥ this!!!!
Thank you for sharing your awesome art space! Clear containers make so much sense. I have been hoarding the little snap lid containers from iKEA that come in several colors like yellow, blue and white and I label them. But then I can’t see when the containers are empty (or random things get inside). Mason jars are a great idea too. Now I just need to find a dedicated space for all of it!
Great Whitney! So glad you found some helpful tips. I can’t stand labeling things so it has to be clear for me. And jars are the best! Hope you find a space. It’s so worth it. Have fun. Meri
Thanks for your helpful ideas. Wanted to share a trick I use for various glues to keep them in great working condition. I use pink “pins”, the old school type that are meant to hold hair curlers in place on your head. They have a flat tear drop shape to push and pull the pin into the tip of your glue bottle. The glues are permanently kept in the open position and I simply pull it out to use. A small package comes with many pins. Sometimes you have to force it at first as the hole may be a bit smaller. Having working glue ready to go and never plugged is a life changer! Good luck with your glue!
Awesome suggestions Brittany! Thanks for sharing. I’ll give it a try. Glue drives me crazy!
I’ve had success storing paper flat with this great idea using IKEA table top and kitchen cabinet legs. Depending on your available space you can make a lot of shelves!
Thanks Amy! I didn’t realize those table tops were only ten dollars. Could be a great solution. Thank you!
Wow! I love this! I had to laugh because I always see so many perfect, tidy spaces on blogs and I think … “I have WAY more crap than that…” but not this time! 😉 So, for paper I used these containers http://www.containerstore.com/s/storage/bins-baskets/multi-purpose-bins/12d?productId=10022942 and stuck them to the sides of my bookshelf with 4 of these guys per bin…http://www.command.com/3M/en_US/command/products/~/Command-Large-Picture-Hanging-Strips?N=5924736+3294529207+3294737318&rt=rud So far they have held in place with a good bit of scrapbook paper in each (6 months).