Organizing Inventory: What’s the Best Way?

by Rahel.
(Delaware)

jmj-question-mark-maroon-on-blue-sky-green-leaves-200x200-jHi All! πŸ™‚ I am starting to expand my jewelry business into supplies. I would like to get some ideas on how to organize my physical inventory.

Do you use boxes? If I have about 200-300 items, and also about 300 finished pieces how should I store them?

Right now I have an unorganized box for necklaces, one for earrings, and one for misc. and when I get an order I dump and sort. Its terrible! I need ideas on how to tame this chaos! πŸ™‚

Thanks!

Rahel
ChrysallisDesigns at Etsy

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Comments

  1. I an interested in hearing suggestions as well.

  2. My style of organization has changed over the years to fit the size of my stash to the style of jewelry.

    I find having a label maker and lots of plastic container invaluable. I like the small plastic clip boxes that can be found in department stores, i.e. Target, Walmart, Dollar General for about $2.50 each. They measure 6 1/4″ w X 10 1/2″ D (lid) X 2 1/2″ H. On the end I attach a label. Inside are small (snack size) zip plastic bags. T

    The box might be marked 4 mm Round. Inside, each bag has a type of bead. Each bag is labeled with the size (so I know what box to return it to), the material of the bead, i.e. howlite, where I bought them, i.e. FMG, the price (so I know how to price a piece of jewelry or to compare prices).

    In the past I would store everything by color, but now I find it more helpful to find a size.

    I hope this helps.

  3. Jeanine Hughes says:

    It depends on how you think. For my gemstone bead inventory, I sort by color (or stone). I have two 11-drawer units, and some are labeled by color (red, yellow, blue), and some by stone (laboradorite, pyrite, hematite). My glass bead inventory is also sorted by color, but I don’t like the units they came in – small drawers that only hold a few baggies each. I sort my metal components by metal (sterling, ss-filled, gold-filled) and type (SS beads in one plastic divided box, SS findings in another, base metal in another).

    As for finished inventory, you need to think about protecting each piece from its neighbor. Some beads are easily damaged. At the minimum, I would place each piece in a plastic bag. Then, if you were looking for something specific, how would you find it? If you think in terms of stone, then “file” them alphabetically. Someone on this forum (I forget who) uses a binder with page protectors as pockets. If you think in colors, sort them that way. You could also use shoeboxes to keep each color separate.

  4. I am constantly trying different ways to sort and file loose beads and findings and finished items so they are protected but also easily found. There’s definitely no right or wrong way to sort beads — but consistent labelling and pricing is critical.

    If you find you really can’t sort through the chaos, trust me, someone among your friends will be happy to come and sort for you! It happened to me with two friends. I’m so very, very lucky: once my friends understood how I need to work, they figured things out and now I have a functioning system. I personally don’t like using plastic bags except when it’s a matter of keeping sterling away from the air, or protecting more fragile beads like turquoise.

    I keep finished earrings on several carousels and earring racks sorted as to price/sterling/not sterling and they are transported to shows and markets in and live during the week in large Tyvek shopping bags with flat bottoms that can stand up by themselves (versus floppy cloth bags — a tip I got from a friend way back when I first started). Makes it easy and fast to set up and take down my market table each week and it’s a clean, protected way to transport and store them during the week.

    I display and keep good necklaces together by colour (as it seems people look for colour first, then materials, then price), the backs/clasp area tied loosely with a plastic bag which also helps cushion the beads, then each grouping is lain flat and packed with bubble wrap in between in those smallish lidded plastic bins from the dollar store, about 4 inches deep by 9 x 14-ish — the containers they sell for packing sheet cakes or casseroles. This way, they’re ready to be placed on my table flat or on T-bars each colour together. Beads get heavy really fast so that’s why I use several of these smaller bins rather than one huge one. I carry the bins in the Tyvek shopping bags to and from the market and they live in the bags during the week.

    Bracelets live and are displayed on small T-bars and a clear plastic bag goes overtop the loaded T-bar and twists and ties underneath. Then it’s lain flat on top of bins in one of the Tyvek bag.

    The important thing is that all your bins within each grouping are the same size. It makes packing and storing so much easier. And LABEL everything on the outside of the bins and containers on several edges. I’m terrible for labelling. Yes, I have serious commitment problems.

    I found a particular size and configuration of smaller storage bins with little partitions at Michael’s, can’t remember the brand, but the partitions also have rounded bottoms which is great for fishing out beads. After experimenting and living with the resulting mess I’ve found I prefer fixed partitions. I watch the sales at Michael’s for when they have storage systems on half price. I have over a dozen of these for loose beads and findings and I am about to buy more. I am slowly coming to the conclusion that my preference is for sorting most beads by colour, then size within each colour — except for the big hole semi-precious beads which get their own bin.

    I sort metal findings by type (pewter, silver-plate, zinc, coin and sterling silver, ethnic/tribal style) and then shape/size/hole size. I have separate divided bins for fetish beads of all types, Chinese crystals, wings, etc. I also keep my expensive “high-cut” beads in a separate partitioned bin. Every partition has a label with the name of the stone, where I bought it, and the price. I also cut the label off the original string (if there was one) and keep it with those beads so I can instantly see if there’s been a price increase when I go to replenish my supply.

    For tiny loose beads, Swarovskis and findings, I use those clear plastic lidded trays with the little round containers with screw-top lids (Darice brand?). I have dozens of those. Swarovskis are sorted by colour, then shape, then size and all have the original labels and price taped to the lids. Sterling findings are pretty much grouped by function, all the earwires together, all the clasps, all the spacers. I use the stacking round containers for sterling head pins and jump rings, and clear glass spice jars for plated and copper headpins and jump rings.

    Back to those bigger bins, when I get my orders in I do a rough sort of all my beads by colour first — red, orange, green, blue, black, white — and then by type when there are a lot of beads of one colour — so separate bins for turquoise, lapis, pearls, coral, bone, Javanese glass, etc.

    I’m presently setting up 2×6 foot grids that wrap around the corners of my work tables and hang all the bead strings, again grouped by colour, to see if this works better for me. I’m one of those out-of-sight-out-of-mind people. I sell partial strings of beads, so at the moment all those strings are hung up on the grids on their display rods (I wrote about this on JMJ a while back), and I really like the look of it all, so this is the direction I’m going now, to get all of my bead strings out of storage bins and up onto the grids. I live in an apartment and can’t hang stuff directly on the walls, so the grids are a perfect and moveable solution.

    Heavy strings of turquoise beads are lain flat in those 4″ deep bins packed between foam wrap and they live there between shows. When I go to a show, I take the whole bin with me and the strings immediately go flat on the table.

    If you’re selling from home, it’s necessary to keep things visible so you can see at a glance what you’re running out of. It’s worth it to spend time on online store sites for display ideas as often they have pictures of their warehouses or bricks and mortar stores. I just saw a place that has their loose beads out in clear trays on bakers racks on wheels. It looks to me that they have combined shelving from two racks into one. I have the baker’s racks, and really like them for the primary reason that light can get down onto all the shelves. I will be buying wheels.

  5. So much good information here! I, too, have evolved my storage over the years. Early on I stored finished pieces in Ziploc bags, but it took too long to unpack for a show, then pack up again. I now store anything really fragile in its own box with an anti-tarnish strip (if necessary), but now all necklaces and pendants are in larger plastic boxes. I cut pieces of foam to fit, then lay necklaces/pendants side-by-side on the foam, then put another pieces of foam on top and repeat. Most boxes hold 2 layers, and I include anti-tarnish strips in post. I try to organize them by necklace vs pendant, then by color. I agree that customers often shop by color, either because they have favorites and are drawn to them or they are looking for something to go with a particular outfit.

  6. Organization and storage is a continuous battle. It’s critical to find a way that works to manage costs and inventory properly. I’ve gone from drawers, to bins, to bags, to boxes and all sizes of plastic containers. As I read Barbara’s response I felt myself drawing into a fetal position of inadequacy.

  7. For all our findings and jump rings, we use the plastic boxes with small compartments to keep things separate. These boxes come in many different size compartments and they work quite well for our needs. You could also try stacking bins and labeling them. It is a challenge, especially when you have a lot of material. Good luck! πŸ™‚

  8. Cora, I’m sitting here literally LOLOLOLOL… I was in that fetal position of inadequacy until my friends got fed up and took pity on me and started getting me organised this past winter. They only did that because they wanted to come and play with beads and make things and THEY couldn’t find anything, let alone a clear space to work.

    I go on Pinterest all the time and pin organisation systems ’til the cows come home, but all those beautiful drawers and shelves and pin-tidy rooms kill any shred of creativity in me. I’m a total chaotic messpile of contradictions — but it wasn’t working for me. Doing markets, posting items online, doing bead shows — all of these require different and overlapping bins and boxes of stuff and tracking systems… ewch. Nightmare city.

    Storage and filing takes a lot of thought and analysis when all I want to be doing is making stuff, but once the system is up and running, whoo hoo. Oh, and the renovations going on in my new apartment = nothing is where it’s supposed to go = added layers of chaos. Eventually, since the test “free-range” jewellery-making sessions this winter went well with close friends who could overlook the chaos, I want to host open house bead parties and classes, so that’s even more of an incentive to keep things open, cleaned-up, accessible and logical.

  9. Yep, I fit in with this crowd… hard to justify spending time organizing when it is more fun to create!

    Most of us are visual, including me, so I finally used that to organize. I use my smart phone or tablet and snap a photo of the item. I keep all this on Evernote, which is a (mostly) free app and can also be accessed online. I set up notebooks for each category (mine are coins, so a little different from beads), and note the location it is stored and any other important info I want to remember. Then I can happily scroll through my Evernote and look for things to create from next.

    Helps keep me from pulling it all out and spreading it on the table to look at them! …which would be the end of my organization (again). It has to be quick and simple, or I abandon my system.

  10. I have been inventoring my bead stash using those plastic drawers that come from the hardware stores for small parts. I’ve found them on Amazon and also at Lowes and Home Depot – they run about $20+ for a 36 drawer unit. 30 drawers are smaller and 6 are larger capacity. What I have been doing is combine beads that I think would go well together for a future project and place them in a drawer. I also list these items and their location on an Excel spreadsheet along with the source. I also include the per bead price so I have a reasonable idea of my costs to make the jewelry item. I have another spreadsheet where I include a pix of the finished item and the sell price so I have that for reference as well. Is this time-consuming – OMG YES!!! but it does help me – a distinctly left-brained person with organization. As an aside – do I practice what I preach?…..well, I must admit I have fallen WAY behind on this so you may all beat me with a wet noodle for not keeping up with my stash inventory πŸ™

  11. Latashia C says:

    I have struggled with this and I have at least found a better way of protecting my beads by using water bottles to sort beads by color and shape. I have a set of wall shelves that is in my sons old bedroom. I store the bottles by color and shape. The great thing about storing my beads this way is if I drop the bottle the beads don’t spill out!
    I also purchased photo boxes to store my jewelry in by price and I the price on the outside of the box in the slots. I got the boxes on sale at Michael’s 5 for $10.00. This system has also protected my completed projects and I can just pull the jewelry by price.

  12. Awww….organization! I love having things in place and sorted, must be my bookkeeper in me. Now having said that I have a computer genius husband, a 20 yr old legally blind son, a high school senior girl, and 3 dogs; I am the cook, maid, taxi driver, pet minder, and all around girl friday….in other words my world is chaos…lol. I get one room cleaned and organized and head to the next come back in 5 minutes and chaos as struck…I give up most days. But my beads are sorted by color, size, and type in $Store lidded storage bins of varying sizes and kept in a shipping box. All receipts are kept together in a folder in a binder along with various free and bought patterns.
    A few of the replies here have been about curling into fetal positions, but I get giddy wanting to come over and start sorting and organizing. I can do a great job at my friends homes, but I just can’t get it finished in my own. But I really need to get it done now that I finally have a great outlet for my creativity again.
    I sold 4 earrings, 2 bracelets, and a necklace today to my favorite salon with an opportunity to sell more. I have got to get all my duckies in a row and do things right. Need to set up a spreadsheet like others have suggested.

  13. Chrissy says:

    I just started out making jewelry about two years ago as a hobby. At the time all I knew was that this seemed like a fun hobby. Over the last two years I have been to several bead shows and purchased beads online. It has become somewhat of an addiction. Being a beginner, I did not think to label all of my purchases with the name of the stone (and also b/c it was something fun to do in my spare time). Within the last six months I have started writing down the cost of what I purchased along with the purchase. I can only guess/estimate the type of beads I purchased previously. Some of the beads purchased I believed were Swarovski, but now believe I that they were misrepresented (I know they are not Czech glass beads). When I sorted the beads I did sort by color and put finished products in plastic bags. I have finally decided that I would like to try setting up a table at a craft show. I do not want to misrepresent my completed pieces in any way. I have no way to answer specific questions about most of my finished pieces. Does anyone have any suggestions or know of any websites where I can research the beads I have? I really wish I found this website two years ago. After reading how organized and knowledgeable everyone is I am second guessing myself about being ready to try a craft show.

  14. Great tips here – thanks so much for sharing!

    Chrissy, on this post you’ll find a helpful discussion in the comments:
    How Do I Find Out What Types of Beads I Have?

  15. Karen Sorey says:

    LOLLLLLLLLLLL! Thank God that He gave us humans a sense of humor…I’ve been laughing my head off!!!

  16. Doris Williamson says:

    The best way to store inventory of Bracelets and Necklaces I have found is to take an old door of any kind – regular house door – entertainment center doors etc and just hammer in 2-3 inch nails at whatever length and distance you need then just prop them up against a wall. Makes a great and easy way to not only store them but to see what you have at a glance. For earrings I took several large frames and staples drawer liner to them to hang the fish hook earrings and stapled lace strips across the other to store the post and round ones. Hope this helps.

  17. I organize my beads by color and category. All my gemstones are together by color, my seed beads the same and so on. I have everything inventoried on Craftybase. It is an Internet based system and costs me $8/month. I can add photos of the items which I take straight off the websites I order from. I also keep my completed item inventory there and the two interface. It also downloads my sales on Etsy. It takes time but I always can look up what I have. I have been in a craft store and brought up the info on my phone so I don’t buy something I already have when I see a sale.

    I use drawers of various types from plastic to IKEA furniture but it is all labeled. Hope that helps.

  18. I recently opened an etsy shop and I also do local art shows, so I had to come up with a system that would allow me to find what I needed quickly if there was an online order or to easily make the shift to an art show. What I dis first was create an excel sheet for my jewelry, which at this point is just necklaces and earrings so I have 2 sheets, one for each.. The sheet has 5 columns- item number, picture, price, description, and sold column. For the sold column, I fill it with a color code, Etsy gets one color, art shows another, galleries I sell in another, etc. I then use this system to tag my jewelry. I use JE for earrings (jewelry earrings) and JN for necklaces. For my earrings, I have made earring tags, and put the earrings on them, on the back is a small sticker which has the number and price. I arrange them numerically in a small container. For Etsy, in my product description, I put the item number at the bottom. So when something sells, I just look at the product description for the number then go to the box and get the earrings I need. If I’m going to a show, I just have to pick up the box, since it is all ready. For my necklaces I use the larger size coin envelopes, one necklace per envelope. On the front of the envelope is the item number and price, making it easy to find what I need when a piece sells. The envelopes are stored in a box standing up straight. When one box is filled, I start another. A tag is placed on each necklace, so If I’m going to a show, it is already marked. Before doing this, I just put everything in a box and had to sort through it to find what I needed, now it is a piece of cake to find a particular item.

  19. Phyllis C says:

    OMG – what great Tips!!! I started out sorting beads by type, then concludedI needed to redo by color, as mentioned here, that “seems” to be the Priority order” for customers, and me, too; as my mind sees the color, then the little creative girl in me say……hmmmmmm what I can do with this?? & the………. Off to the races, and I find the rest of the necessities to make the piece. I also always look at my stock by color, since my styles are so varied, depending on what my little creative “self” has decided to do!! LOL
    I agree, tough to keep up with, BUT, so very necessary, especially if you take custom orders, and want to do something for special event. My biggest challenge isn’t my beads ( a gazillion boxes in colors, LOL) but my charms; trying to sort, count, display etc………. the fun never stops πŸ™‚
    Phyllis
    And when someone is looking to purchase, it is natural to ask “What color?” as a starting point.

  20. Ive been lucky enough to have a hubby who built me a Summer House in the garden, i have shelves for labled tubs of beads and he recently put up a long piece of wood across the back of my workdesk with loads of hooks, and i hang my gemstones there so i can see what i want to work with. I also have two large rectangle pieces of wood free standing also with hooks and i have all my crystals displayed so again i can see at a glance what it need. I find it better to have my gemstones, beads etc on show, gives me more inspiration.

  21. Beads, findings, finished jewelry and organization are an……. oxymoron πŸ™‚ It has taken me a long time to get organized ( & there are still days when I don’t feel like I can find anything πŸ™‚ )
    I use Craftmaker Pro ( Gary Capps) to inventory everything beads, stones,findings, etc, and when I finish a piece, I can enter it and the parts it took, and it will automatically deduct from my inventory; I also take my pictures ( both of the parts and finished pieces) and enter there; it has been a lifesaver for my peace of mind, as I know know what I have, what I have ordered ( received and not received), and what it takes to make a finished product; also calculates the EXACT cost of the finished item, how many I have of them, with various options for pricing ( both automatic and manual are possible). Yes, it definitely takes some discipline, especially at the beginning, but now…… piece of cake, and I can MAKE a lot more when I know what I have, how many, and what I am looking to do; as for the physical bead/findings inventory, I still do by type – finding – sterling silver, stainless steel, silver plate etc. Beads by type, Swarovski, Czech Glass, “other”, and then by color. It is the ONLY sanity available to me. I use the 17 compartment CLEAR boxes from Michaels, or Hobby Lobby, try to buy when on sale, although they are only $2.99 each, but when you have 48+, that is a lot! For Extra beads that won’t fit in these boxes with compartments, I separate by type and color and put in CLEAR small square boxes, also from Michaels ( and sometimes they are REALLY on sale, and great!) everything has lids, and I use clear so I can distinguish the color easier & faster. I also use a Sharpie to write the color on the boxes so I have the written as well as visual to refer. (Note: if I need to change the color on the box, the Sharpie will erase with one of those sponges from Mr. Clean). Hope this helps πŸ™‚

  22. Elizabeth says:

    I had tried various times to get my bead collection organized. I think now after about 10 years beading I have it licked. It works just great for me. I have 2 bookcases that have 5 shelves each, I got them at Walmart. I have plastic bead boxes that measure about 8 by 11 – I have over 120 of the boxes. On the outside of the boxes I
    marked the color of the beads, red, blue, green, etc. the bead boxes have compartments so I can have the beads in there loose. Then with each type of bead I have a piece of paper in the compartment stating what the bead is, the total cost of the beads and then also the cost per bead. Makes it easier for me to do that so when I created a necklace set or whatever it makes figuring the cost a snap. I also within the color have those boxes divided into Gemstone,Glass, Etc. I have the info all written on a label that is stuck to the outside edge.

  23. Elizabeth, great system for making beads to find – and for knowing the source and cost. My method is similar to yours – but you have me beat with your number of bead boxes! πŸ™‚

  24. Kathleen Miller says:

    I am not sure if this has been mentioned. But after a year of experimenting. I found the perfect system for storing both my unproduced charms and produced charm necklaces. This system works best for small dainty charms/necklaces. I use about a one inch binder and the plastic sleeve inserts that are made for baseball card collecting. I got these at office depot. The sleeves are perfect for the 3×4(i think) little ziplock baggies that comfortably hold one finished necklace or a few charms. I then group my charms and put them in a binder together! The binder can then stand upright like normal on a shelf or desk. With the spine labelled with whats in it. I imagine this system would work great with other small peices too as long as they are not round. But this has worked great for our charms ever since I figured it out!

  25. I have my beads stored in the clear stackable canisters from FMG. I have a two shelf bookcase at the back of my bench. The top shelf holds my jars of Swarovski Crystal, sorted by size. I arrange the colors according to the rainbow.
    The bottom shelf is for findings. Earring findings in one stack, clasps in another, head pins, silver beads, spacers, rings etc. The label from the packaging is taped to each container. Beside my bench is a book case with a shelf of canisters of Freshwater Pearls, stacked by shape (round, coin, top drill, black, pink/lavender, teardrop), the next shelf is gem stones sorted by color, the next is larger glass beads and Czech Glass sorted by size and source, the bottom two shelves extra inventory of pearls ( I have a bad pearl addiction), Swarovski, and other gemstones. I like the stackable containers. If I want to select a few beads to make some jewelry or stitch markers in the living room instead of at my bench, I can gather the jars I want and screw them together with a spare lid.
    I recently bought a large inventory of beads directly from China, those are in two bins on the floor because there is no room on the shelves. I am in the process of destashing some excess books, fabrics from my bridal business that I will be retiring from to make room for the bead storage for my other Etsy shop. I would rather play with making knitting accessories than making bridal tiaras now.

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