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! πŸ™‚

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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  • Victoria Corrozi says:

    I organize by color also and use the clear divided boxes from Joanne Fabric or Ac Moore. When I don’t have the on the floor they are inside the antique trunks that I have collected. I am equally obsessed with these and it is a great place to hide my beading equipment so my husband doesn’t see everything at once. πŸ™‚

  • Maggie says:

    I was wondering if you could tell me where you found/purchased the trays in the last photo, they have a black interior and they appear to hold quite a bit.
    Thank you for your time,

  • Kathi says:

    I love the drawers and cabinets you have found…I also sort and organize by color along with type of bead (glass, crystal, stone, etc) and I have found that the organizer boxes from the hardware store work great. I have been blessed with a handy husband who created a great leaning shelf that holds 14 boxes and it rests right at the back of my work table so a lot of my personal beads are right at my fingertips and in sight; really gets the creative juices flowing when I can see so many colors, shapes and textures all at once. I also sell beads and jewelry making supplies (sadly I have more “for sale inventory” than in my personal bead stash) and those are organized above my work station on a shelf (also built by hubby) in stack-on bins with drawers (also purchased at the local hardware store but you can get them on Amazon too). This makes it very easy for me to see my inventory and simplifies packing orders for my customers. My craft room/office is coming together very nicely, complete with photo area, work station, crafting table, shipping center & enough storage for my jewelry show totes too! I would be more than happy to share photos of the entire craft room/office and my bead storage ideas, etc. with anyone who is interested.

  • Claudia Kellenberger says:

    It is hard for me to sort by color. I frequently buy new beads at shows and then they may not fit in a one color box, so I might put them in another one. I really like different colors in the box because the color AND SHAPE of a bead really then stands out, so I can find it easier. I like to buy the soft, clear plastic boxes with the permanent dividers. It helps to collect coupons from my local craft stores, and then I go in and buy just one bead box on a 40% off coupon. I pass by Joanne’s store on my way home from work, so that is pretty handy.

  • Tracy says:

    I have so many beads, just not enough storage, my workshop is just organised chaos (as my Mum puts it), every time I go out, I buy storage for my beads. I like the idea of stringing them and hanging them up so I can see what I have, great idea! Thank you for sharing your inspirations πŸ™‚

  • marion says:

    Love all these organizers! I try to keep my stash under control with many of those plastic bins, but I also use lots of recycled things. Altoids tins are great for jump rings. Seed bead tubes are handy for headpins. Plastic margarine tubs are good for just about anything. Even the plastic containers from the deli. My beading work station is an old computer desk. My greatest discovery is a magnetized knife rack i found at IKEA. I installed it above my work area and it holds the tools and needles I am using.

  • Joybelle says:

    LOL! Luann, you see you are not alone. I am a bead hoarder, I love the feel and sound of my beads and cannot seem to stop buying beads. However, I am an el cheapo, I buy the clear shoe boxes from Dollar Tree and that’s that! I still have zero organization but at least 90% of my beads and findings are in some type of container. I need an organizer. If I could just get some organization done for me, I would not have a problem maintaining. I don’t have time to organize, I have to make jewelry…hehehehehe! Lawd help me! Good luck Luann, enjoy the craft!

  • Nancy Glanz says:

    Hahaha. Hilarious Joybelle. I, too, have time for beading, but not organizing!! I keep begging my nieces to come and help…I’m willing to lay out a few dollars, but they don’t even want to!! When I do stop everything and attempt only to “clean” up, it never fails, I come across a must-make jewelry piece, with beads I haven’t seen in a long time. Well, there goes the re-organizing, again!

    I feel obligated to offer some kind of helpful idea to all my beading buds, so I have picked out black photo boxes that regularly go on sale at Micheals crafts for two dollars. I labels with large labels at one end the contents, such as tools, wires, threads and cords, etc. they fit nicely on shelves of an old “hutch” I purchased at Salvation Army for $26! There I store, in clear plastic bead boxes label them “gemstones, by color, seas beads, crystals, etc. I even use small jars I collect in the kitchen. Sounds great, yah! Why is my studio work table still cluttered! Do you all work with my piece at a time? Worse thing is many, most times I start out with one color, then end up with different beads!!

  • I agree, Nancy, somehow organizing and cleaning it all up is just not as fun as creating with it. And you’re right about coming across forgotten components. They shouldn’t be put away now that they’ve been found – they should be made into jewelry! LOL

  • Thelma says:

    Great suggestions from everyone. I thought I would share some of my ideas that I did not see mentioned. I use a variety of clear boxes and they are stored on a floor to ceiling shelf that covers an entire wall. I use large clear flat storage boxes (you can stack four on top of each other) that you can get at Harbor Freight (a discount tool and gadget store in my area). I organize my findings in those by type and color. I also put leftovers in these boxes by color and type. I can see the size and color quickly. For my beads I put a 4×8 pegboard on the wall behind my work space. There I hang my beads by type and color. I also use the bottom 3 rows right above my work table to store my wire. I sort my wire by gauge and color. Often times I am distracted by all of the beads. I have to stop and look and think about a potential project. The organization of my wire has been a blessing for me. I cannot tell you how much time I spent looking for the right gauge and color of wire previously. I chuckled when I saw Luann’s workspace…..mine looks very similar…I call it organized chaos.

  • Suzanne Urbano says:

    I’m one of those organizers. I still get messy but I like to put it back together. I do more than beading since I sew and lately have made sachets, coupon holders and cat beds. The fabric is on shelves, the sachet steps on shelves and everything else around. I have my old kitchen table to work on. I recently redid everything to expand. I use a lot of the same plastics and such. I organize by color. I use small plastic bags from Walmart’s craft section to bag my small amounts. I cut the tag off the beads and put in bag so I remember what the beads are made of. I use Goodwill where I bought a set of clear canisters for different things and labeled each jar.(Right now they hold the stages of making catnip toys) I also have different plastic containers and nice baskets from there. I also use the small individual containers that come from the dollar tree in a pack. I use these to take beads with me when I go or when I reset other jewelry and I use them to separate the beads. I like my flat plastic containers with compartments that are sorted by color. I can take and design in other places. I do love hearing everyone’s suggestions. Even if I don’t use it exactly the same way, I might build off the idea. That goes with the jewelry. Happy Beading!

  • Suzanne, I organize by color too. Since I design based on colors, that works best for me! And like you, I also like to make jewelry in various rooms, or outdoors, etc. πŸ™‚

  • Claire says:

    My husband was out of town for a week, perfect time to organize my beads! I had previously purchased clear stackable desktop drawer units, many of the drawers contained stashes of beads from gem shows or visits to the LA Jewelry District. Although somewhat of a painstaking process, I sorted through drawers that were not yet organized. I discovered how much I really, really like amazonite! I organize by size and type of bead and use assorted sizes of small plastic bags to contain the beads, and print out small labels for the drawer fronts. I can move the drawer units around, depending on what type of projects I am working on and want to have close at hand. And when I end up overflowing, I can easily shift the drawers from one unit to another. I have worked with beads for many years, and have been through many types of organization/storage, this is my hands down favorite!

  • Judith Klawitter says:

    WOW,Lots of great ideas ! Ive tried many of these, but like so many bead hoarders out there..I needed faster, easier ways too access what I needed, but get them, put back away too!! Divided bead storage containers were a Nightmare !! Tuff to get them out of their slots without over flowing surrounding bins. Lots of different issues that made them labor /storage intensive! Finally after yrs of trial & error, It started bagging!! Wholesale bead seller find it’s the fastest most Visual friendly way to find , rebag, & store again. Micheal’s CRAFT’S..often has a sales on their clear 14×14 ,plastic ,craft storage bins. I can easily color code & designate types of beads I hoard the most, & access them,by using 3×5 cards . Position them at the front center of the bin, where it can easily be read,& list boxes contents. These bins all stack easily in a 14×14 space, and pulled out from the stack as needed.!! Bead storage bags cant be found in a variety of sizes in most craft stores or for “bead Hoarders”, on ebay /esty..ect.. in larger amounts . I get up to a size 4×6 bag to keep smaller groups of color &s style beads together in my bins; example: shades of blue crystals or all my tiniest black beads, or all carved bone beads..ect. I use ZIPLOCK sandwich & gallon bags to keep larger beads ,amounts & styles ect.. together in their bin’s . Useing a large TV tray with sides, to do my ( LAPTOP), beading on;… I covered w/a white hand towel to keep beads in place & colors visible. The bead selections I’ve gathered as options for specific projects are spread out around the outside edges of the tray , lined up by styles, size ,colors, metals(spacers),ect..I only unbag as much as I initially need so I don’t have beads all over & that will need lots of resorting & bagging after Iam done . I line these “unbagged” choices, on the ” strand rows “of my “necklace stringing tray” ..placed in the center of my TV TRAY ,.(.laptop beading station). It’s easy to see what I have ,access it & string it. When I’m all finished ,beads are easily rebagged & put back in their bins. When storing your beads , always keep in mind what & how you usually string them (Your design style) This will help a lot, to gather what beads & colors you most like to use & “bin or bag ..(ziplock.. accordingly) ***MY BEST FIND*** get inexpensive plastic ; 5 row..”COIN” TRAYS !! Best thing to ever hit your organized beading obsessions! Any sorting ,bagging, pouring out & Keeping in use selections, divided ect.. Everythng! You won’t know how you ever beaded without them!! They stack & store w/ beads in them too!! HAPPY BEADING!! JUDITH

  • Judith, thanks for sharing how you store and organize your stash! I will look into those coin trays – they sound like a great way to organize. πŸ™‚

  • Angie says:

    I am new to jewelry making and would love to know where everyone gets their beads. I love Joann’s and find some on Etsy’s.

  • Hi Angie, I get most of beads from various Etsy sellers.

  • It is so encouraging to here I am not alone with my organization dilemmas! I have been making jewelry for about 9 years and have waxed and waned with my organization attempts. However, recently we moved and packing and unpacking all my beads and supplies made me realize it was time to start over. I too organize by color but have not had success with divided boxes. I prefer large plastic boxes in which I placed beads in zip loc bags sorted by color. I then stack them with a label facing out on an open book shelf. My findings are kept in smaller divided boxes which I label. I put findings made of sterling silver and gold filled in boxes made of a different color plastic so I can easily distinguish them from the other metals. My work area is an old pottery barn corner desk with 2 extensions and I purchased 3 shelf shoe racks made of pressed wood to place on top of the extensions and use those to store my findings and wire. Tools are in a rotating desk caddy on the desk top. This all works well for me, however my non beading friends still look wide eyed and overwhelmed when they visit my “sanctuary”!!!!

  • Patricia, your system sounds lovely, with everything organized. I too store beads in mini jewelry zip loc bags, sorted by color in plastic boxes. Your work area sounds very usable, with everything stored conveniently.

  • Fiona says:

    I have always organised by colour and have remained in chaos for decades. This weekend I organised everything by shape and size before colour and wow! Life is very clear. A friend wanted an 8mm necklace but wasn’t sure of the colour – voila – just went to 8mm section and there were all the colours I have in stock. I feel the burden of all these beads I own has finally lifted. A section for pendants only…

  • Barbara says:

    Oh it is so easy to collect beads and it becomes an adΒ·dicΒ·tion! . I’m again trying to get organized, glad I’m not alone in this challenge. Thank you for the suggestions on organizing and other’s for sharing their storage methods. So helpful. Now the challenge is to stay organized, Happy Beading everyone!

  • Barbara, I so agree! Beads must be one of the most addictive objects on our planet! πŸ™‚

  • Alice Roberts says:

    When I started buying gemstones and beads I tried to organize with compartment boxes then had to change to using plastic bags using small bags and labels that I print with the item stock #, invoice #, qty and price that I put on the items when I receive them, plus I keep the verified invoices in binders by vendors, I predominately have used Fire Mountain, Lima Beads, and and occasionally shop if I am in Orlando bead and Gemstones stores and then detail my purchases in my computer the items and description and attach a copy of the store receipt since the store receipt can fade so I copy the receipt with the info details that I note, (otherwise the details, cost etc can be lost before I make and sell an item) and check and verify the invoice, then add the new purchases to bags and put them into plastic containers by color and depending on the quanity, I may keep gemstones like Turquoise, separately but still in the blue or green section since are several shades and kinds, the same with Amethyst. Other beads I arrange by color and I store the gemstone boxes with the same color family boxes. I store crystals the same way. So I have a separate gemstone section within the co!or families like garnets, quartz colors, peridot, etc. But still keep the basic color relationship. I need to keep the kinds of products separated to avoid using a higher price product in error.
    I also store my wire in a labeled by each kind in separate plastic freezer bags then, in pocket file folders in my desk drawer by types. Metal beads are also stored in baggies labeled by color and metal type. I had difficulties with the adjustable plastic trays and boxes tipping the box and beads moving around, so my best solution is labeled bags in a secure plastic storage box with lid. . I bought a selection of multiple small to medium sizes bags with a seal and I also use food storage or freezer bags in snack sizes or larger for whole strands or multip!e strands of beads and what is stored in the bag is labeled and color and materials like metal, glass, stone is visible.

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