Organizing Beads

by Luann Udell.
(Keene, New Hampshire USA)

Organizing beads by color in clear plastic drawer units

Organizing beads by color in clear plastic drawer units


This post is Luann’s helpful answer to Linda’s Beads Gone Wild question about organizing beads in her bedroom.

Thanks so much, Luann! 🙂

It helps to organize beads by how you design. I tend to look for color first, then size and shape. But yeah, that works until you have (let me go count) (Okay, I’m back, but I’m too embarrassed to share that very big number with you.) :^D

Organizing beads by color in semi-transparent compartmented boxes or floss organizers

Organizing beads by color in semi-transparent compartmented boxes or floss organizers

Whatever you use, make sure it’s EASY TO SEE INTO so you spot it quickly, or LABEL CLEARLY.

Even so, I still lose things regularly, and I’m constantly rediscovering them months later. (It’s like Christmas, over and over and over….)

I use:

1) Those organizer drawer units (Photo 1, above), which you can get at Sears, Walmart, almost any hardware store.

They hold a ton of stuff, and you can quickly see what’s in each drawer. (I have a LOT of these.)

2) Those so-called floss organizers (Photo 2, above). The more clear, the better. The cheapest ones I’ve found are by Darice, at Joanne Fabric.

I hate the ones with movable dividers, they’re always falling out and the beads intermix.

Bead strands hanging in sight on old hay rakes

Bead strands hanging in sight on old hay rakes

3) Old hay rakes (Photo 3, above). They’re pretty common here in NH, and they’re usually pretty cheap – $18-$24 for ones in excellent condition.

They hold a lot of bead STRANDS (stand the rakes up in an umbrella stand or attach them to a wall with a cable tie or something) and they are excellent for holding strands of beads you don’t mind having out.

Mine hold my strands of antique glass trade beads, recycled glass beads from Indonesia, and vintage/antique necklaces. They’ll hold a TON of bead strands!

4) I do love my printers’ type tray drawer chests, though I tend to use them more for display of my rare / vintage / collectible beads:


The chests can be really expensive, but the individual drawers you can find at junk shops & antique stores ARE really cool, and you can simply stack them. They run about $15-$25 here in NH:


As you go, you’ll experiment and discover what works for you and what doesn’t.

Maybe you can set up multiple projects in small, shallow trays or boxes, all at once, so you’re ready to go when you get time to design. (I tend to accidentally tilt those beading trays, and then instead of messy bead piles on the table, I have a jillion teeny tiny beads all over the floor.)

Also, some of us have to be organized to work, others work in chaos. (Guess which one I am?)

Organizing beads in compartmented trays

Organizing beads in compartmented trays

I say I like to be organized, but truth is, once things are all neatened up, it stops me from working – I don’t want to mess things up again! I know the mess I work in would drive some people nuts.

You can save a lot of time by being organized, but you can also SPEND a lot of time staying organized.

There really is no right or wrong way to operate, just what works best for YOU.

Hope this helps,

Luann Udell


Organization vs Space
by: Patricia C Vener

I wish I had so many beads – I can’t get enough and I adore the very old vintage/antique true cuts and similar.

Of course even organized I’d still need a lot more space than I have now. My beading storage is presently in my painting studio which is the “bedroom” in the cellar.

That said, I am very much inspired to redo my present organization into something more interesting and possibly a little more sensible (for sensible as it applies to me, anyway).

antique suitcases
by: Heidi

To store the beads themselves I just use those cheap craft boxes that are divided into about 2 inch sections and cost something like $3. For my jump rings I use a daily pill organizor. The sections are just the right size- I can’t imagine a better solution for those. I need to keep everything handy or I’ll never take it out, so I needed something attractive to put it all in. I had a bunch of antique suitcases so I put all my boxes in those and have the suit axes stacked in the corner of my dining room right where I work. It’s amazingly functional and looks great too!

You win!
by: Linda B.

Wow! I thought I had a bead stash, but you win! LOL! It’s all organized very nicely, by the way.

Awesome collection!
by: Pam

I just started beading and my beads are everywhere! Not sorted at all! Your collection is so organized I was wondering do you further sort the beads by shape and size once you’ve got them sorted by color?

Don’t be embarassed about the stash!
by: Ann Nolen

Hi Luann,
I had to laugh when I read that you were too embarrassed to admit how many beads you have. I guess we could be best friends!
A couple of years ago I switched to hand painting coins to make jewelry, and am having a blast. But, I felt bad about the big stash of beads laying unused in my closet. Finally I decided to have a “jewelry garage sale” and get rid of them. Time to move on…
So I bagged them in small zip lock bags to sell at garage sale prices. I loved them and felt better selling them to other bead lovers. I tried to put about $4-$5 worth of beads in each bag (my wholesale price), so they were a real bargain.
Well, I just kept finding more and more of those beads in my closet, and was so shocked at how many I had! The garage sale was a big success, and one woman told me enthusiastically that it was the best garage sale she had ever been to, bar none.
So, I will share my number so you don’t have to be embarassed anymore. I had so many beads, I made $600 off my garage sale with those $1.00 bags. Fortunately, I feel so much better with them going to homes where they will actually be used, and I met a lot of women who love beads as much as I do.
Now, please don’t ask me how many coins I have in my closet…

by: Sassy Wire

Wow Luann–what a fantastic stash of beads you have!! Thanks for the great ideas. I keep my beads in those floss boxes, sorted by type and color with labels on the sides. They’re stored in a cabinet in my studio, which is a converted part of our garage. Love your ideas!

Organizing Beads
by: Mairby

I was organizing my beads by type of bead. Then I read an article about organizing beads by color. I did that couple of weeks ago. I can’t believe how much easier it is to find what I need now. I got that tip from this website and wanted to thank the person that shared this. The other think is I use desk organizer from IKEA for my beads. They are a square unit with 9 wooded drawers. I just label the outside with Red, Blue, Green, Purple. Then I lump my black and white beads together, and my brown beads are lumped together with yellows and orange beads. I also have drawer for clear, and silver. This has made my creating senses so much easier since I have been able to go by color then what I was doing before.

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