Sunday, December 18, 2011

Working toward better stamp organization

Warning – this is going to be a very photo-heavy post.
Like all crafters, I’m constantly rearranging and changing how I store things. My stamps are a prime example. I have a fairly huge amount of stamp sets from a variety of companies, some clear photopolymer, and some rubber mounted on EZ Mount. I currently store them in CD cases. Well, everything is in CD cases unless it won’t fit in CD cases. Here’s my CD rack, which will hold a bit over 500 CD cases. It’s actually completely full – some of the cases are missing in this photo because they’re on my table being “processed” like I’m going to show you below. When I finish this process, this CD rack will go away, back to the garage with all of the other stuff we don’t really need but keep anyway.
Here’s the blog post from Jennifer that started me down this path. Thanks so much, Jennifer, for posting such a thorough explanation of your process. The difference in my process and Jennifer’s is that I’m actually splitting up my stamp sets. In the past, I’ve had a very-poorly-maintained index book showing stamps by category, and I found that I always turned to that book first when making anything. So I pondered Jennifer’s post and realized that I could use it to combine the category index with the actual stamp storage, saving me the step of going from finding the perfect stamp in the category index and then having to cross-reference and go find the CD case containing that stamp. And this will take much less space than storing all of those CD cases. What a deal!
Here are the Tim Holtz unmounted stamp refill pockets that I’m using. They come five to a package and cost about $2.50 per package. I found the best price at the time I purchased at Scrapbooking Alley, which is part of Ritz Camera, but has lower minimums for free shipping.

The first part of my system is an index book that has one page per stamp set. Once I separate out all of the stamps, this will be the only reference back to what came with each set, so it’s vital that every set be in the book. Fortunately, I had this book well underway. At the bottom of the page, you can see that I have handwritten the company, set name, and my personal code for that set. My codes are a letter or two for the company, plus a number. I’ll use these numbers when I separate the sets to reference back to this book. The pages of this index are just 5x8 inch index cards, which I’ve hole punched to fit in this little binder that I found at Office Depot.
Here are some examples of the completed unmounted stamp folders in use. I’ll go over how I created them in a moment.
Here’s a folder with the stamps and index sheet inside. When I take them out of the folder, you can see that I have a sheet of cardstock with the images all stamped on it, with their stamp set codes written under each stamp, and a sheet of acetate holding the actual stamps. To put them into the folder, I lay the cardstock right on top of the stamps and then slide them together into the folder.
Front view of a folder:
Back view:
Here are the two sheets removed from the folder:
Some folders contain all clear stamps, some all rubber, and some have a mix of the two.
Some folders contain all sentiments (birthday, Christmas, etc.) and some contain all images (stars, birds, trees, etc.)
All of those great “back of the card” stamps that I previously had to go hunting for – conveniently together at last.
Now for some process pictures. I found a “thank you” sentiment that needs to go into a “thank you sentiments” folder. I take the sheets out of a folder that has room for the stamp. I lay the stamp image down on the cardstock to find it a spot. Then I grab the stamp with an acrylic block and ink it up and stamp it in its spot. Then I clean the stamp, put it right back down on the cardstock in its spot, and use the partially-loaded acetate sheet to pick it up to join the others. Simple!
I do all of my indexing in blue, because it stains the stamps (and me!) less than black. Here I’m using Stampin’ Up’s Not Quite Navy, but I sometimes use other dark blue shades.
Once I’ve stamped the image on the cardstock, I handwrite the stamp set code underneath it. This is easy to do because my current CD cases have the code on the spine. Having the stamp set code written here will make it easy for me to find the set name for a blog post, or to reassemble the complete set, if I decided to sell the set, for instance.
The end result is a folder that’s super thin and easy to store. I’ve found that each folder holds anywhere from 30 to 50 stamps, depending on size. The cardstock and acetate are both cut to 6 by 8.5 inches.
To store the folders, I bought some nice DVD boxes from the Container Store. This box currently has 22 folders in it, and you can see that it’s only about half full. I believe that I can fit my entire stamp collection in four of these boxes. We’ll see if I’m right! My plan is to eventually have the four boxes sitting right on my stamping table where I’ll have every stamp I own in arm’s reach.
It’s going to take some time to get everything I own into this system, so I’m working on some of the biggest and most rewarding categories first. For me, that incudes birthday, thank you and Christmas sentiments, as well as images of stars, hearts, trees, birds, and butterflies. I find that it’s easiest to focus on just a small handful of categories at a time, or I get too confused and messy with dozens of folders and index sheets in progress at once.
I hope this has been helpful in showing a way to index a ton of stamps in a very small space. I can’t wait until I can say that I have the entire process completed!


cards by cara said...

Wow - that's a lot of work but looks like they will be so well organized and easy to create with!

Sue in Grapevine said...

Wow, you're brave! I think you will very much enjoy the fruit of your labors.

Gayatri said...

You are very brave and surenhave lots of patience. After finishing yours, can you come to my place and help me? lol! I am so lazy and cannot even bear to think of the effort and time this involves. All the best and tell us how long it too you to get it all done.Bravo Chris :)

Chris Simon said...

I'd go to Australia to play with stamps, Gayatri! Might be a year-long project, though...

Gina said...

Oooh, I love that you're not repurchasing index labels! That was what got me....thanks for showing how you're doing it!!! (I'm in the process of converting, too)

Linda Monroe said...

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for this post. I have been reading on the PTI forum about these 'tim holtz' folders but everytime I googled them got nothing. I had no idea what they were or what they looked like. You have a photo with the exact product name and voila - now I know what it is and where to get them. I think I"m going to switch to these with PTI's new packaging. Thanks for helping me figure this all out.

Anonymous said...

I have just found your blog through SCS's "mission organization." Your storage method seems like it will work for me and I'm grateful for your photos and carefully written directions.
Do you find that you need a sheet of cardstock as a support under the acetate sheets once the stamps are on them?
Are you using the same/similar acetate that Jennifer found?
Are the category labels made with a label maker or are they computer generated? If a label maker, which brand do you use?
You have 2 sheets of "'Made by' Sentments." Will you put both into the same pocket/folder or use two separate pockets?
Forgive my questions of details, please. I'm old, I have tons of stamps and not a single type of record of any of them. I get one shot at this organizing job! Thanks for your help!!!!

Carolyn W

Chris Simon said...

Let's see if I can answer some of your questions, Carolyn:

The acetate doesn't really need support, but I need the record of what belongs on that sheet and what stamp sets the various stamps came from. I place the paper over the top of the stamps, and I find that it does help prevent the stamps from sticking to the inside of the pocket.

I bought my acetate from Amazon. It's called Grafix Clear-Lay .005 thickness. It comes in 9x12 sheets, which is just about perfect for this. I trim it down to 8.5x12, then cut it in half so that I have 8.5x6 sheets to put in the folders.

I used a Brother P-Touch label maker to make my labels.

I only put one sheet of stamps in each folder. Many of my categories have far more than two folders! Christmas sentiments, for example, has about 10 folders. Flower images is 22 folders!

I purchased the Tim Holtz folders about 100 at a time (105 actually, because buying 21 packages was the right amount to get free shipping from I'm on the third set now, and it will be enough to finish the job, with enough folders leftover for quite a bit of future growth. I now have eight of the DVD boxes full of stamp folders. One box is all Christmas stamps, both images and sentiments. Three are sentiments, and four are images.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much, Chris, for taking the time to answer my questions. I admire and appreciate your organizing skills.

Your box for storing 6x6 paper is terrific! Thanks for including the measurements for it in that blog post.

Again, thank you so much for your help.

Carolyn W

Scrappin4kim(Jennifer) said...

Hi Chris, I am ready to change over my stamps and categorize them by subject. Any new tips or things you'd do differently now that you have used this system for awhile ?

Thanks in advance!