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Create an art cabinet: an easy storage solution for craft supplies

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About Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

You all have asked some amazing questionsTruly.  It’s given me some great writing fodder – I’ve collated and stored every single query, so I’ll sprinkle some of my answers throughout future content this fall here on Simple Mom.

First up – reader Vintage Mommy asks, “I am really struggling to organize my daughter’s toys and art/craft supplies in a way that will make it easier to clean up. She is both a packrat and very untidy and I’m starting to go nuts.  Tips?”

Great question.  I organize our art supplies and our toys differently, so I’ll tackle one at a time.  Today, I’ll do art supplies.

In her book The Creative Family, Amanda Soule suggests designating a separate, unique space in the home for art supplies.  This can be a place that the whole family can use, especially since she recommends quality art supplies for both kids and adults.  In other words, there’s no need to separate kids’ craft supplies from the grown-ups’ – put them all together for everyone to use.

I’ve taken some of her advice and done the same.  Several of us in our family have a right-brained creative bent, so a well-organized space further fuels our drive to create.  It really helps to have easily-accessible arts and crafts tools.

There are no built-in closets in this country (as is the case in most non-Western countries), so most people use freestanding wardrobes to store their clothing.  Our landlord left an extra wardrobe in our apartment when we moved in, so we eventually transformed it into our art station in the playroom.

art supplies.jpg

In all honesty, it’s nothing original – it’s simply a place to neatly store those art supplies that can easily get unruly.  And almost everything is recycled.  Our main storage baskets are orange fruit crates donated from a farmer at our local market (all we had to do was ask).
glass jar storage containers.jpg
Glass jars store scissors, chalk, beads, and the like – I used leftover scrapbook paper for their labels.  Plastic food containers are repurposed to hold crayons, colored pencils, and markers.  Small sour cream and yogurt containers house smaller items like rubber bands, googely eyes, and stickers.

craft supplies.jpg

Supplies like craft sticks, balloons, felt boards, and paper dolls are stored neatly in basic resealable plastic bags.

We bought small, inexpensive shelves from a friend and simply set them in the wardrobe.  Our 3-year-old daughter is allowed access to the bottom shelf at any time; she must ask an adult for permission to use the supplies on the middle shelf; and she can only use the supplies on the top shelf (such as paint) with supervision.

And it worked out beautifully that our shoe holder we weren’t using fit perfectly next to the shelves.  This is where we store crayons, colored pencils, and easel paper.

I used small tea spoons to hang craft aprons on the door – it didn’t take much to bend them into shape so that they hug the top of the door.

closed wardrobe closet.jpgThe thing I like best about our art cabinet is that once the doors are shut, it looks like a clean, streamlined wardrobe – clutter-free art storage in the playroom.

If your family loves arts and crafts, encourage that hobby and make the supplies easy to access.  You won’t use them as much if you have to dig them out of storage, and it’ll be messier because all the supplies will be out and about at once.  When you have instant access, you only need to take out what you need.

Head to thrift shops, garage sales, or craigslist to see if a piece of furniture works for you.  I definitely recommend something with doors, so that your home is clutter-free when the doors are shut.  Your storage system doesn’t need to be relegated to a kiddie area, either – in fact, Amanda’s art closet is in their dining room.

And you don’t have to spend much money on canisters for your supplies.  Think outside the box (literally) for your meta-stuff – repurposing containers is cheaper, greener, and more creative.

Does this spark some ideas for you, Vintage?  How about anyone else – how do you store art supplies? I’d love to hear what works for you.

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Comments

  1. Great ideas! I really have to get our craft area and playroom organized like this. I love the wardrobe idea. I will need to keep it locked though or it will just be opened and everything strewn about the moment I leave the room :) I reuse PB containers and other plastic jars for all of our supplies too! I am going to pick up some of those crates. I love how they look!

    Emily’s last blog post…A Lamp Makeover

  2. I love it (and love Amanda’s cupboard, too — particularly jealous that she found it FREE!!). I really like that the doors have knob openings, perfect for my favourite childproof lock of an elastic secured around both knobs. :)

  3. @Emily – I know, I love those crates. They’re also what I have for storage in our master bathroom, as well as my underwear storage in my clothes wardrobe. :)

    @Christine – Ah, I remember the days when a rubber band would keep my child out of cabinets. She’s figured it out, though.

    Simple Mom’s last blog post…Link Love :: the TGI(a)F edition

  4. Looks like fun. My daughter would be in heaven. We have a craft room but it needs to be organized…which is why we don’t spend time there now. My kids don’t know what they can/can’t use. I like how you’ve designated each shelf and there’s easy access to supplies. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Jen@OurDailyBigTop’s last blog post…divo

  5. I found your blog this weekend and am in awe!!! Wonderful reading, I’m sure I will be a regular visitor as I can see we are pretty similar with the whole “organised mum” thing…

    Anyway, arts n’ crafts – the bain and joy of every mum. I love it & whilst being useless at arts myself, love to encourage my kids do their thing and organise activities hijacked from the many a&c books and blogs I love. We have some big plastic Ikea boxes where we store the various bits and bobs. I would highly recommend saving your shoe boxes. We cover them in paper (from the Ikea long rolls) and then decorate. Kids then just select the ones they want and go create. We also use lots of ziploc bags, sandwich bags etc.

    I had baby#3 only 7 months back and kept all the wicker baskets which I received flowers and gifts in. These are becoming invaluable when I make up a little craft basket to pop on the table and let the kids get on with it. Some are “projects in progress” too (I’m looking at one full of this summer’s photos as we speak – not the “looking” not doing….)

    I think when you break the A&C down into smaller containers its so much easier. You can bring some things out without feeling like it has taken over your house. One of my best A&C buys was a plastic picnic tablecloth from Ikea (again, yes I go there a lot – no Target in Singers) which I picked up for a couple of dollars. We use it for nearly every craft activity. Also recommend their very cheap plastic placemats for mini-projects (or when its bigger kids who are less messy).

    I also recently bought a bargain mini 7 drawer chest. Each drawer is only 6 inches wide but we have all the pens, pencils, crayons, felt pens, pastels etc in each drawer. The chest is easy to move and means we use the contents more than ever. Best $90 (that’s Singapore dollars, don’t freak out!!) I’ve ever spent.

    Great post, am looking forward to many more.

    Victoria’s last blog post…Summer Holidays

  6. What great ideas! I have just started crafting and have yet to find the right organizing method for everything!

    Followed you from twitter to here :)

    Bella

    Bella Casa’s last blog post…Some Exciting Garage Sale Finds!!!

  7. We, like everyone, have limited space and since we are “snowballing” I am using what I already have, but I feel like you have opened my eyes. Using peanut butter jars and thing like that I (sadly) never thought of. I’m excited to use up all our pb so I can find something to do with the jar. :) We have a little sterilite 3 drawer container (about a foot tall and a little less wide) that we use for drawing supplies. Crayons in one drawer, markers in one drawer and colored pencils in the other. The kids really like it b/c they just pull out the drawer they want to use and put it on the floor and gather around to create. We have a lot of open shelving and that gets on my nerves, but nothing is forever. Soon we will have a little extra and I will look for something with doors or curtains to cover what we have. In the meantime, I am looking in my fridge to see what containers I can use when the food runs out. Have a great day!

    Stephanie’s last blog post…Looking Back to Look Ahead

  8. we use our third bedroom as the playroom and the closet is stocked with our craft stuff. i have several plastic shoe boxes with labels (crayons, markers, stickers, scrap paper, tools — scissors, glue, etc.). and i have some larger boxes for playdoh, paints, the spinart machine, etc. all the things that they can use without permission are low and accessible. the paints and such are up high. the shoe boxes stack nicely and it’s pretty easy for them to clean up when it’s time to go to bed.

    make art every day’s last blog post…Ways that Martha Stewart and I are exactly alike.

  9. great thoughts – this is a project I hope to tackle in the coming months – my little guy is just now turning 2, so we haven’t done a lot of art up til now, but would like to incorporate it as more of our daily/weekly routine – definitely great inspiration!

    jodi’s last blog post…A new leaf…

  10. Most of our art supplies are stored in our coat closet, which my husband filled with shelves to convert into being our closet for homeschooling supplies.

    Angie @ Many Little Blessings’s last blog post…20 Little Things to Treasure in Autumn

  11. Great ideas. I love all the repurposing. And I love how “green” and “thrifty” and “organized” and “creative” are all dovetailing.

    rowena’s last blog post…Flying Girl Finds Her Voice, or Storyteller

  12. I like the pictures. . . your art cabinet looks great! We were fortunate to have built-in drawers and a big closet in the dining room, so that’s where we keep all the art supplies. We can pull things out and spread them all over the table, but still put them away for dinner. It’s so nice to have a space that’s kid-accessible but is out of sight!

    Amy @ My Daily Dollars’s last blog post…Homemade Breakfast Bars

  13. Ah, an art wardrobe! You had me at clutter-free.

    We’ve been using a small cabinet that is part of our computer desk but had really outgrown the space now that we have three kids of all different art levels. A wardrobe is a wonderful idea, since it will allow us to see all of the supplies (without digging) and to visually separate big kid vs. little kid supplies. Very nicely done. I actually have a “retired” t.v. cabinet that I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with, now I have my answer.

    I’ll have use some sort of “kid proof” lock/latch/alarm system on the doors as my 3 year old is a bit on the wild side.

    Nikki’s last blog post…Brown & the Land of Make Believe

  14. avatar
    susaninfrance says:

    I’ve created art shelves as our armoires have mirrored doors that are too heavy for my kiddos to open and shut safely. I use metal cookie containers that come several times per year as specials (usually holidays) in Europe. Ikea ususally has them too as well as thrift stores. They are cute and last several years each. Each one is labeled, crayons, pencils, etc. For myself I like to use Bonne Maman jam jars for my own craft supplies as well as vintage tins and big jars. Once it is tidy it takes a few months for the kids to mess it up again and then we learn how to tidy it up together. And as my shelves are open, it does need to look a bit better than if I could close it–though I’m not that particular!

  15. WOW! thanks so much for taking my question first. I’m off to lunch with Vintage Girl; back later to read thoroughly . . . so excited about this!

    Vintage Mommy’s last blog post…Just the Facts: About Vintage Mommy

  16. Great idea! We emptied out the bottom shelf of our pantry to store crayons, play-doh and such. Although the shelf is getting really sloppy. I like the crates, I’m going to give that a try.

    Madison DuPaix’s last blog post…$25 Referral Bonus for 529 Plan

  17. I have lots of fun posts to read here…I have the craft closet, but it keeps taking on a life of its own.

    Jen@Balancing Beauty and Bedlam’s last blog post…Beautiful Moments, and then some…

  18. I love this! The minute I saw the cabinet in SouleMama’s book, I showed it to my husband and said, I want one! A couple of my main discouragements in any kind of crafting, are 1, laziness, ie not wanting to go up to get the items from upstairs, and 2, isolation. I hate crafting in a room alone upstairs. I want to be in our common area, so if my husband is watching baseball, and the Chiquita is playing, I’m right there with them. Thanks for sharing pictures of yours!

    Gidget’s last blog post…Weekly Surf Spots

  19. I think the first thing I need to do is create a designated place for everything. I’ve already done this to some degree, but it’s a bit random in places. I’m going to start by sorting (and purging, of course!) so I can get a feel for how much stuff we really have. Then I can decide on containers. Next – labeling and a “tour” so Vintage Girl (and Vintage Daddy) will know where things go!

    I love the armoire idea, but I don’t have room for that. We do have shelves and a bit of room for a small piece of storage furniture.

    I’m looking forward to carving some serious time out of my schedule to work on this.

    Thanks again, simplemom!

  20. We have our craft supplies in the living room coat closet, and I have an over-the-door shoe organizer in there with 24 single-shoe sized pockets. the pockets are perfect for storing boxes of crayons, glue, feathers, stamps, watercolors and other small items. It holds a lot and hardly takes up any space.

  21. I like the idea that the art supplies for the whole family are in the same place. I think that helps children to see that the adults respect the materials and keep them neat and organized.

  22. Thanks for your post! I made a diagram of our art cabinet and wrote about it on our blog. It’s fun to see how other people have organized their supplies too. :)

  23. Whoops, looks like I made a typo when entering my website…hopefully it worked this time!

  24. @Kristen – Saw your craft cabinet – looks great! Thanks for sharing.

  25. Love it. We organized our art supplies the other day after reading your post. It was a fun project for my 3.5 year old and me, and has inspired me to start organizing other things as well. If you could post on how you organize each area of your house, it would really help me out! Thanks for the inspiration.

  26. The plastic small size oxyclean containers seal really well and are great for this kind of thing. Although, I really like containers to be see-through when possible.

    Teri’s last blog post…Where’s Your Village?

  27. I like your site and the comments were informative too. I am a crafter and am going to be living with my adult children (sort of thing that happens sometimes) anyway, going from a craftroom to a bedroom with little room for my creative energy gave me an idea; the showercurtins that have pockets could be folded over into 3 and hung with the clothes in the closet. Also, those multiple skirt hangers will work for some paper type of projects. Finally, I used the cloth made shelves (Some for shoes, some for clothes) work fine as file cabnit and to hold art supplies.
    Great site, bye now!

  28. Our art supplies area in in the kitchen, the lower cupboard nearest the kitchen table. I love getting ideas for storage!

    bombaygirl´s last blog post…Hello?

  29. Oh wow, great blog. I was just doing a google search for “kids art supply cabinet” and your site popped up.

    I keep organizing and reorganizing my girls art supplies. But my problem is now that my 13 month old twins keep getting into them. I am looking for a cabinet to put the baskets into. That way I can put a baby lock on it so we don’t have another catastrophe. (One of my twins just was eating paint). Thanks for your blog! -Ali :)

    Ali (Whole Life Nutrition)´s last blog post…Chocolate Chip Banana Teff Bread

  30. Nice setup! Excuse me for commenting on this a couple years later, but I just ran across it – I really like that you used recycled materials to set this up. I should probably do something like this too, I’ve got all my supplies tucked away in dresser drawers that I put in a awkward closet, and it’s not very accessible.

  31. great post! I love the shoe holder. I’m about to tackle our art area. ..wish me luck!

  32. Great Work!! Best Collection of Art and Hobby Supplies. Really helpful to get new ideas.

    Thanks
    weecantooart.com

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