It can be hard to figure out how to fit all the bits and bobs into a small apartment when the house is full of makers. We do lots of drawing, and crafting, painting, sewing, woodwork, game creation and science experiments in our homeschool. And before we know it, it can quickly descend into chaos. It’s beads everywhere, with the pencils and the card games scattered and the floor can regularly disappear. . . but I have learned a few tips and tricks to keep things roughly in order.
There were a number of steps I went through to help tame the chaos, and one of the most important was to sit down and think through the steps needed to, er, make it happen.
These steps included:
- Creating a list of everyone’s DIY activities (limiting it to only to top few).
- Thinking about how each activity is usually done. (Is it in one particular room? Does it need adults supervise? Is it kid-focused? What equipment is needed? How is it used?)
- For each activity, thinking about how easy it is to pull out and put away.
- Creating a space where all the equipment is in one easy to reach place for the family members who will use it most.
With these steps, it became a lot easier to figure out what we needed, what we didn’t, and how to put it all together.
Creating a List of DIY Activities
One of the things we did was to sit down (or, er, jump around while being roughly in the same area) and create a list of all our DIY activities.
- My daughter, J likes cutting and pasting, painting and drawing,
- My son, C likes making games and science experiments,
- I like to sew,
- and my DH likes to do a bit of this and that, which includes woodworking and game making.
Then we set up ‘zones’ for each activity – everything that is needed to do that activity all lives in the same place (and if that means that, say, the scissors are in a few separate spots, that’s a good thing).
The idea is to cut down on the amount of time needed to start an activity – and to cut down on the amount of time needed to pack it away (which really is essential. None of us are naturally tidy.)
The DIY Zones
Each zone we created functions slightly differently (and will probably change over time as well). This is more a reflection of the way we each like to DIY rather than some essential list of ‘this is the best way’. We each like to do our making in unique ways, and hopefully zones will work to help minimize some of the problems we each have in regards to organisation, task planning and cleaning up!
Cutting and Pasting
The shelf for cutting and pasting now has an open container for each ‘type’ of crafting equipment. This means the kids and I can easily throw ‘lost’ items back in their containers without having to unscrew tops or lift lids. (Thankfully, J is beyond the stage of tipping things out just to tip them out. Now there is usually a completely adorable, rambling explanation attached to the creation of masses of floor chaos!)
I also streamlined certain supplies. Knowing the way my girl likes to use them, I sorted and minimized the old wrapping paper into rough colours and put each colour into a zip-lock bag. Ditto the other small craft supplies like pipe cleaners.
It makes it easier for her to find items, and easier for me to tidy away.
I find it is also now nice and quick to set up a ‘crafting corner’ for her homeschool/preschool. We can get out a few different crafting supplies without a avalanche of crafting equipment escaping from the shelf. (Yes, this was a real problem. We originally had a no-go crafting zone with its own viable eco-system.)
There is a shelf (yes, a shelf), for the drawing supplies. Pencils, lead pencils, pens, textas and crayons each have their own pencil case. (They used to be all jumbled, which lead to lots of ‘looking’ for ‘lost’ items.
This worked reasonably well, but my daughter kept tipping out the coloured pencils (and we have a lot of pencils. We could easily supply a small primary school with our collection).
The solution? Rainbow bundles – all the pencils were sorted into complete sets of rainbows (and the seriously large amounts of pink and yellow spare pencils were recycled or donated. I have no idea where they come from, do they spawn in there?). When the kids want to draw, they can now pull out one bundle – with all the colours needed, and it’s also easy to clean up – no extra sorting, just bundle them back up for next time. It has saved me hours of cleaning. Seriously.
All the other small supplies (erasers, rulers etc) now reside in another open container. In this case, putting them all together rather than splitting them up by type actually saves time. They’re small, fiddly, hard to sort and thankfully only present in small amounts!
One of the main problems we had with painting was just finding all the bits to start – the painting smock in the bathroom/ laundry, the paints on a high shelf, the paintbrushes near the kitchen sink. It was a real shemozzle! Now, it’s all on a low shelf (even the large paint bottles) with everything in easy reach. Paintbrushes (in yes, an open container), stamps, old ice-cube trays to hold the paints, bottles and smock, so my daughter can get most of the equipment out herself (except the paint bottles).
If you’re wondering – the paper for all these crafting activities lives in a box, in the cupboard, next to the little table used for crafting (and everything else). As it is in constant use, putting it near where most of the crafting happens means that there is less time spent running back-and-forth to get new paper for the next creation.
One of the main problems we have always had with doing experiments is figuring out what to do, finding the equipment and then finding explanations for what’s been observed. Putting all these ‘bits’ in one place seemed logical.
We sorted it by subject: Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Geology. Each section now has
- a small collection of books,
- a box or spot with a collection of equipment
- and a brief set of questions / suggestions for the experiment / ideas being explored.
There is also a small section for possible future experiments.
This gave a nice focused area, with most of the decisions and organisation already completed, which is essential for my kids. who struggle with organising.
It is still a work in progress, but I’ve already seen a higher use of our science books now they are in one spot and sorted by subject (and yes, science books from the library end up here too).
Both my DH and my son like to make their own games. And, more often than not, they like to make them in different places around the house. So instead of having a shelf of game-making equipment, I opted for a box.
Game making can range from creating card games, board games, dice games through to complete Dungeons & Dragons adventures, so having a wide variety of essential supplies was important.
I opted for:
- A large container for all the dice (So.Many.Dice)
- A set of coloured pencils, and a set of lead pencils + a range of pens
- Essentials like scissors, a ruler, eraser, sharpener, elastic bands etc.
- Two containers full of little D&D paper figurines. (They are growing, I’m sure they are growing in there.)
- A collection of coloured cardboard and blank and ruled paper
- Three sizes of blank card sets
- Three sizes of zip-lock bags for storing the creations
- A small bag for random explosion markers etc.
They also have large oversized thick paper lurking nearby which doesn’t fit in the box. A letter-stamp collection in the crafting cupboard which might eventually migrate to the box, and my DH has a special, super-duper corner cutter for making nice rounded edges on cards secreted somewhere which will also take up residence once I can find it . . .
This one isn’t pretty or pinterest-worthy, but it’s functional. And well, it’s mine.
- a sewing box,
- a bag for all the patterns (many self-drafted these days),
- a small book collection + essential cutting boards
- Two boxes for fabric that is mean’t to be sorted, but isn’t.
- Bags for all the fiddly ribbons, zips, velcro etc.
- And my mostly functional sewing machine.
Tools and Other Hardware
This was one of the trickiest, and frankly, I didn’t do more than sort it into rough categories. It is really my DH’s domain. As well, it’s where all the dangerous tools are located. As we’re in a small apartment with no garage, our tool storage takes up a few (high) shelves in our kitchen. But at least, with a bit of basic organisation, (small tools together, hammers together etc.) we can find the tools we need fairly easily.
After having this system set up for a while, one of the things that I have really noticed is that by focusing on setting up a few areas that contain all the things needed for us to do stuff we love, (and get rid of the stuff we don’t love doing) is that
- It takes less time to set up,
- It so much easier to clean up,
- And we do more DIY activities.
DIY in an Apartment – It Works So far!
It’s a win-win situation. And surprisingly, given our limited space, we have been able to fit all these centres into the same or smaller areas as the previously more chaotically-organised spaces. It honestly feels like we have more room, which is quite lovely.
So what works in your home? How do you organise your DIY / crafting supplies?