Ask The Desk: Supply Organization

This Ask The Desk question is actually a follow-up from the Pen Addict Podcast Episode 197 and a question that started with June Thomas and was then there was a follow-up question in the Pen Addict Slack channel by clairelin. Both wanted to know how I kept my copious collection of supplies organized so I thought I’d pull back the curtain and reveal how I squirrel away all the supplies.

I live in a teeny tiny house so clutter is a big issue and space is at a premium, not to mention that both my husband and I are are collectors and pack rats, so we are a great risk of being buried under our hobbies. I try pretty hard to keep all the supplies organized and tidy so that I can find what I’m looking for and so that it doesn’t start piling up everywhere.

art supply storage

First, if it wasn’t for Ikea, The Container Store and other such places, I’d be buried under my own clutter. All hail Ikea! The first item that has kept me tidy is the Raskog utility cart. I filled the top tier with an assortment of glass jars that each hold a type of pencil, pen, brush or marker.  Some of the jars are Mason or Bell jars and some are jsut old salsa jars. I scavenge any straight-sided jar that passes through my kitchen now as a potential holder of pens.

The lower tiers store bottles of paints, spray bottles, gesso, towels, heat gun, etc. All handy and the cart rolls easily around my workspace so I can have access to the items when I need them and move them out of the way when I don’t.

ink and field notes storage

Along the top of my bookshelf, I keep surplus ink and Field Notes (and books of similar size). Grey boxes are ink, white boxes are Field Notes. The white boxes are photo storage boxes from a big box craft store and the grey boxes are from Ikea. The inks are bottles I’ve tested but are not favorites so I don’t need regular access to them.

storage wall

Along one wall of my workspace is the storage mecca. From the left, a vintage metal cabinet that I purchase at an antique shop (I keep meaning to repaint it but I want to take it to a powder coater and get it done right so it hasn’t happened yet) holds the notebook stash, camera equipment, excess pencil inventory and miscellaneous art supplies. The center wooden cabinet holds vintage fountain pens in the top shelf, stationery in the large left cabinet (yes, I have that much letter-writing material) and the right side is shop inventory. The steel drawers on the right are older versions of the Ikea Helmer units which are made much better now. I added magnet labels or Dymo labels on the front of the drawers so I would remember what was in each. Its an array of mechanical pencils, fountain pens, ink, electronic cables, tape, scissors and other daily office necessities. The smaller unit on top is a Bisley drawer unit from Container Store that stores an assortment of printer paper, label stock, photo paper, etc.

tackle boxes for storage

One of my favorite ways to stash collections of items is with old tackle boxes. This pile usually sits under my desk, each one with a specific task: one filled with acrylic paints, one filled with extra art supplies, one actually filled with tools, etc. One is empty and is used for events and craft shows to tote out a portable kit of supplies.

ikea storage

Behind my desk is the Ikea Alex Unit. Its a decent small sized flat file. The top two drawers hold rubber stamps and washi tape (yes, one whole drawer for each) followed by drawers with rolls of paper for shooting products, flat papers and some larger drawing pads and palettes. On top of the Alex is an old library card catalog I store more rubber stamps and stamp pads inside, my giant whale tape dispensers, my ticket spike (all those shipped packages!) and behind that, the daily use pen and pencil collections.

jars for pencil and pen storage

Ta da! Here are the pens and pencils that get used in all my reviews and paper tests, each divided by type into another jar or can: highlighters, gel pens, felt tips, pencils, rollerballs,and miscellaneous. The nice thing with the jars is that I can grab a whole jar and move them to my desk as I need them and then put the jar back when I’m done. Or just pick one or two. It keeps my working surface relatively clutter-free unless I grab all the jars at once. Then its chaos and I have to spend an hour putting everything away.

So there you have it. A tour of my storage solutions. Its not easy keeping it all contained and often times my desk is a big pile of mess when I’m in the throes of reviews but I feel like I’ve developed a good system where everything has a place.

I also make a point to cull through the stash regularly to keep it from growing out of control. I try to give things away to friends or charities before I get too overwhelmed.

Do you have any tips for storage and keeping the stationery clutter in check?

Written by

10 comments / Add your comment below

  1. We have one Raskog cart in the kitchen, but getting one for the office is an awesome idea! I also love the idea of color coding the boxes based on what’s inside. Basically, I need to go to IKEA!

  2. Isn’t is bad for things with ink to keep them in a jar (= vertical / point at top)? I always thought it would be better to keep them horizontal.
    But I’ve never found a recommendation (horizontal, or vertical point up, or vertical point down) from Pentel, Staedtler, Sakura, Uni, …

    1. I did a post awhile back about proper storage of pens and while I don’t always follow my own rules, I find that having pens handy and available, they are more likely to be used regularly. I try to store dual tip markers with my favorite tip down, gel pens tip up so they don’t get gooey, pencils tip up (but I don’t have children so I don’t have to worry about anyone impaling themselves on them but myself), paint markers are stored tip down, single tip markers are stored with whatever end is marked with the color of the pen. My system is goofy but it works for me and my pens get used regularly. The only pens I’m fussy about storing flat are pricey dual tip artist’s markers like Copics and the Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers and fountain pens. Otherwise, its convenience over longevity.

  3. Love the all the storage ideas. But my most pressing question is: what’s the story on the adorable scooter next to the gray and white boxes? I WISH we had an Ikea store here! Always fun to see how other people store their stash of goodies.

  4. This is perhaps silly, but there are 2 food products I buy that have wonderful containers for my pens – \the plastic containes of Talenti gelato and the ones from Wildbrine fermented salsas and kimchis!

    1. I love this. I too sometimes buy food based on the usability of its container (I mean I have to like it to buy it more than once, but sometimes that is the deciding factor).

      Ana, so you feel the newer Helmer units are better? Interesting as I have two older units (purchased about 5 years ago) and one newer unit (2-3 years ago) and prefer the drawer construction of the older units – they are a smidge wider on the inside.

  5. i LOVE seeing inside other people’s spaces. thanks for sharing! (and i love seeing your blythes peek out from on top of the cupboard)

  6. Thanks once again for another inspiring post.
    It is so easy to over accumulate stationery.

    “I also make a point to cull through the stash regularly to keep it from growing out of control. ” Unfortunately anything I bring in rarely leaves as I fear the “why did I get rid of that” situation.

    Have fun at Atlanta.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.