From Chaos to Creativity: A Guide to Organizing Stamps and Dies
Hey there fellow crafters! Are you tired of wasting time searching through piles of stamps and dies, only to come up empty-handed when you need that perfect design for your project? We know exactly how you feel. But don’t worry, we’re here to help! We’re tackling the creative chaos to help you develop an organization system that you can easily follow and maintain. By implementing some simple organization strategies, you’ll not only save time and peace of mind, but also unlock a world of creativity and inspiration right at your fingertips. So let’s get started and transform your stamp and die chaos into organized bliss!
First Things First
Keep in mind that organizing is an ongoing journey. Don’t put the pressure on yourself to get it perfect the first time. Trying to develop the perfect system from scratch only creates frustration, wastes time and drains motivation. Instead, use these handy tips to build a strong base for your organization system. Use your system and make adjustments until you are happy and, most importantly, it works for you.
Think of organizing as a trusty funnel. When you pour liquid in, it moves slowly around the funnel, gradually building speed until it flows perfectly in the container. Organizing is the same way. Start with a system. As you use it, you’ll see ways to improve it and, because you already have a system in place, the changes will be faster to implement. Repeat until you have the perfect system and you stop wasting time looking for your stamps and dies because you can easily find them when you want them.
Don’t feel pressured to do this all at once. This post breaks down the organization process into small pieces so you can take it one step at a time. You can even break it down into manageable 15 to 30 minute chunks of time. Set a timer and do as much as you can in that time frame. The next night, work on it some more, but again, set a timer. By making progress, even a little progress, you’ll be motivated to keep going.
Finally, if at any point during any of the steps, you look at a stamp or die set and think – why did I buy this, this is really ugly, I honestly can’t see myself using this, then set it in a pile to sell or donate. But don’t worry, this post isn’t about cleaning out your stash and purging, but if you don’t like it or won’t use it, there is no reason to keep it and organize it.
I’ve also created this handy How to organize stamps and dies workbook for you. Complete the short form below and it will arrive in your inbox shortly. You can also find it in the Resource Library – #4C – Stamp and Die Organization Workbook.
Ready, let’s start organizing!
Start with the A, B, C Method
The basis of my organization system is as easy as A, B, C – Accumulate, Break into Categories and Contain. This is what I recommend when you start organizing a category of supplies, such as dies and stamps. It’s also how I recommend maintaining organization – accumulate what is out of place, break or sort them into categories and put them in their containers.
Let’s take one letter at a time, one step at a time and you’ll be on your way to organized bliss!
To learn more about the A, B, C method, read the Decluttering Your Craft Room Chaos: How to Organize a Craft Room post.
A - Accumulate
Step one is to grab a box or bin and start gathering all of your stamps and dies in it. That’s it, but it’s important. You can’t create an organization system until you know precisely what you need to organize and how much of it you have. At this point, we are not concerned about categories or containers. The only thing we want to know is how many dies and stamps do I have. We don’t have to count, a visual inspection is fine.
If you have dies and stamps that are grouped with supplies for a project, you have a couple options. You can write the stamp or die set on a piece of paper and put the paper with the supplies and move the stamp/die set to the bin with all of the others. You can also make note of the project in a notebook and include the stamp/die set needed to complete the project. I’ve even created a notebook available on Amazon specifically for making notes on half done projects and the supplies they need. Another option is to write the stamp/die name on a piece of paper and put the piece of paper with all of the dies and stamps you’ve accumulated.
At this point, one thing I should mention is that I store my hot foil and letterpress plates with my stamps and dies. This is completely optional. I choose to do this because, to me, they serve the same function so I keep them together. Because of that, I would also gather all of my hot foil plates and letterpress plates with my stamps and dies.
I also store my stamps and dies together. If you prefer to keep them separate, the continue with each step, but you’ll be doing it twice – once for stamps and once for dies.
B - Break into Categories
Now that you know what you have to work with, it’s time to break them into categories, also known as sorting. Grab a stack of post-it notes or scrap paper and a marker. Move your box/bin of stamps and dies to a surface that’s free of clutter such as a desk, table or spot on the floor. As you start creating piles, write the category on the post-it note so you can easily keep track of the categories without fully committing to them.
Quick question – are you going to sort your stamps and dies by category regardless of brand or by brand and then category? If you sort by category regardless of brand, then skip to the next paragraph and keep going. However, if you sort by brand and then category, start by sorting all stamps and dies by brand and then take each pile and sort again by category. However, if you only have a few by a particular brand, you can skip the sort by category.
Now it’s time to create piles by category. Use the scrap paper and marker to label each pile – believe me, you think you’ll remember, but, if you’re like me, you won’t. At this point, don’t over think the categories. These may not be your final categories, so just go with your gut instinct when you look at each stamp or die set as to what category it belongs in. If you can’t decide, put it at the bottom of the pile and, most likely, you will have a better idea of the category it belongs in the second time you look at it. If you still can’t decide, answer this question – if I was looking for that set, what category would I look in first?
A few reminders – if you plan on keeping your dies and stamps in separate containers, this is the time to separate the stamps from the dies. Also, if you want to sort by brand and then by category, start by sorting into piles for each brand before sub-dividing by category.
Here are some suggestions for categories. These are just suggestions and it is definitely not a comprehensive list, so don’t feel like you need to use them all.
- 3 Dimensional
- Animals & Pets
- Christmas & Winter
- Easter & Spring
- Love & Valentines
- Thank You
- Travel & Vacation
Remember the funnel analogy? This isn’t a one and done step. So now that you have them broken into categories, review the categories and the dies that are in each. Does it still make sense that they are in the same category? Or is there a better category for any of them? Are there any categories that are like the leaning tower of Pisa? If so, review that category and see if you can break it into smaller, more manageable categories. For instance, if you have a nature category, can it be broken into floral, landscapes, sky, rainbows and/or trees?
Do you have categories that only have one or two sets? It’s OK if you do. But you can also consider combining them with another category. But a word of caution is to make sure the categories go together. For instance – Christmas and Winter or Fall and Halloween. But don’t take 2 unrelated categories just because there are only a few in each category. For instance, avoid putting borders and tags together. You’ll never remember where you stuck the tags!
As you combine or further divide categories, make sure you are updating the scraps of paper with the updated category names.
There is no right or wrong answer as to how many should be in each category and how many categories you should have. Just make sure you are comfortable with the categories. Do you want a few basic categories? or, do you want to be uber-organized and have several categories? This is personal preference and based on the way you craft. This is also one of those things that can easily be changed once you start working with it. You can always decide to combine or divide categories at a later time.
C - Contain
To me, this is the funnest part. But I’m also an organizing geek.
There are three parts to the Contain step. 1) How do you store your dies and stamps? 2) Where are you storing them? and 3) What type of container or organizer are you going to store them in?
Let’s take this step by step.
1) How do you store your dies and stamps? Here are a few options and a few things to consider about each.
- In their packaging – you can cut off the top flap so the package is open on top. This is easy, convenient and cheap. However, the packaging can tear. Also, you might or might not be able to put both the corrdinating die and stamp sets in the same package. This does work well for stamp sets and large dies with few pieces.
- In clear vinyl pouches or envelopes – this is my preferred method. I keep the stamp and coordinating die set in the same pouch. It’s open on top for easy access. If the stamp set has several pieces and/or small pieces, I put the dies on a magnetic sheet. This does work well for me for the majority of my stamp and die sets, but the pouches cost money and you need to have enough on hand for when you buy more stamps and dies. The envelopes come in a variety of sizes and have a flap to keep everything contained. You can also cut magnetic sheets to fit inside the envelopes. However, I would avoid storing dies only on magnetic sheets and not in a pouch as the dies might get knocked off the magnetic sheet and become lost or separated from the set. These are the ones I use: Vinyl Envelope Stamp and Die Holder and Magnetic Sheet 5″x7″. A few other options can be found here.
- On metal sheets/bulletin boards on the wall so you can see them all – this works for smaller collections or for certain dies such as nesting dies and basic shapes. You also have to have enough wall space for the metal sheets. However, you would need a secondary method of storage for stamp sets.
- In an organizer designed for dies and stamps. Again, this works best for smaller collections or certain dies such as basic shapes and nesting dies. If the organizer contains magnetic sheets, you don’t have an easy or convenient way to keep the packaging/cardboard piece from the package if that is important to you. Also, consider if the organizer has a finite amount of space or is it expandable?
2) Where are you storing them? Now that you know how many dies and stamps you have, the categories, and how you want to store them, it’s time to figure out where they are going to live in your craft area. How much space do you have? Do you have enough space for the amount of stamps and dies you have? Or, do you need to “steal” space from something else? Ideally, and life is rarely ideal, your stamps and dies will take up 80% of the space you give them. This gives them some breathing room and allows for expansion of your collection. However, if you are giving them just enough space to hold them all, then you need to consider what will happen when your collection outgrows the space? Will you purge some sets you no longer want? Will you expand the area allocated to them?
3) What type of container or organizer are you going to store them in? Finally, we can contain them! Now that you know where they are going to be stored, you can decide what type of container will be best for the area? Do you want it to be an open, clear acrylic container? a basket? or something that is enclosed? Keep in mind, the only “right” answers are the ones that work for you.
One thing to keep in mind is the size of the stamps and dies you have. For instance, the majority of mine are 6″ wide or smaller. But I do have some that are larger. I keep those in a separate “oversized” bin. I also have a piece of paper at the beginning of each category and list the sets that are in the oversized container.
A few things to keep in mind is that you want something functional and expandable. It should fit the are, but not be forced in it. I recommend getting a container that is as deep as the area, so look at the dimensions carefully. Also, if you are ordering the container and you container is wider at the top than at the base, the dimensions are typically for the widest part of the container.
Here are some clear plastic options available on Amazon and the Container Store. These are clear acrylic bins. A couple reasons I gravitate towards these is that they are versatile. If I reach a point where they no longer fit my organization needs for my stamps and dies, I can easily use them for something else.
Crafter’s Companion Folder for Small Die & Stamp Storage features a zip locked storage compartment to keep everything contained.
Now that everything is organized and contained, there are a few last steps that will make it easier to keep your stamps and dies organized without much effort.
First – label, label, label!
Add labels to your containers so you know which dies and stamps are in there. If you have a Cricut or Silhouette, you can cut vinyl labels to adhere to the outside of the container. If you have clear containers, you can print the label on paper and have them on the inside of the container facing out. For fabric containers, you add a hang tag. There are also clip on labels you can use. The nice thing about these is they are relatively cheap, easily removable, and don’t become permanently attached to the container. They are also available with a black chalkboard look or for use with a marker.
Second – create dividers for your categories.
It will make it much easier to find your stamps and dies and put them back when you know where one category ends and another starts. Spellbinders has durable plastic dividers in both small and large. You can also create dividers by cutting heavy weight cardstock to the size you need and labeling them. You can also laminate cardstock and add a label. This creates a durable, reusable divider.
When determining the size of the divider, make sure the width fits within your container and the height half an inch to an inch taller than the majority of your stamps and dies.
Lastly – label each die and stamp with the category it is filed under.
Going back to the example of the mouse and strawberries stamp set, once you pull it out, will you remember if you stored it under animals or food or possibly even summer? Adding a simple label to the front of the stamp die set will tell you immediately where to file it.
For labels, something small and simple is fine. Avery has a return address label that have 80 labels per sheet. You can print a sheet or half a sheet per category and be set for awhile.
What I’m loving for labeling is the Phomemo Label Maker Machine. It’s cute, comes in fun colors and is portable. It has a bluetooth connection so you can create and print labels from your phone.
Logging Your Dies and Stamps
Let’s face it – crafting supplies, especially dies and stamps – is an investment. Having an inventory list of them helps to protect your investment. Now that your stamps and dies are organized, it’s a great time to take an inventory of them. Something that is online so you can easily access it helps prevent the purchase of duplicate supplies.
One way to log your supplies would be using a Google Sheet to enter each item you have. You can create columns for the name, type of supply and theme. You can add aditional colums to capture more information.
Another option is the Supply Tracker for Paper Crafters Notion template. This is a robust template that is completely customizable. There is a key category to know which category you filed it under, a search function so you can search by set or by theme and you add each sentiment that is on a set to easily find the perfect sentiment. You can also add images and ideas for each set and set it to gallery mode so you’re scrolling though the images. Notion is a free app, however, if you add images, you may hit the free upload limit and would have to upgrade to a paid tier. Even for the paid version, Notion is affordable and can be used for a lot more than logging your craft supplies. I realize not everyone is familiar with Notion and that is why this template comes with a tutorial and videos to show you how to use the template and add your supplies. Also, the Supply Tracker is for logging all of your supplies, not just the dies and stamps.
Adjust and Maintain!
Once you’ve organized your stamps and dies, it’s important to maintain the system. Make adjustments as necessary, such as ensuring containers are easily accessible and categories make sense. Now that everything is organized, it’s easier to make adjustments and tweak your system until it’s perfect.
Also, even though it’s organized, you still need to maintain it which is as easy as ABC. The ABCs of maintenace are to Accumulate misplaced items, Break them down into categories, and put them in their proper Container. Remember, I said this wasn’t a once and done thing. Maintenance is an ongoing process. But each time you tweak and maintain, the process gets easier and faster.
Having a well-organized stamp and die collection can make all the difference in your crafting experience and save you valuable crafting time and frustration. By implementing the ABC system, tweaking and maintaining it, you will not only save time but you will also fully enjoy the creative process of crafting.
Remember, if you haven’t downloaded to accompanying workbook, you can do it by completeing the short form below.
Happy Crafting and Organizing!