Hobby & DIY Storage – The Guide to Creating Storage for Your Hobby's Bits and Pieces

Your hobby is something that brings you great joy and stress relief. Yet, without the right storage, it can quickly take over your home. With projects like robotics that have a lot of small pieces, you can easily run into a problem when you can't find the piece you need or a critical component is damaged after being left outside. You need storage for your wire, connectors, gears, motors, wheels, screws, light bulbs, actuators, power systems, batteries, sensors and more! If you have family members involved in any of these popular hobbies, storage solutioning is a must:
  • Robotics
  • LEGOs or other building hobbies
  • Computers and electronic tinkering
  • Scrapbooking
  • Crafting
  • Sewing
Each of these hobbies has small bits and pieces that must be properly stored. Yet in their enthusiasm, many hobbyists don't think of storage when they start their hobbies; it can get messy to try to clean-up halfway through. That's why we've created this guide to hobby storage.

Whether you've got a stash of LEGOs strewn across the floor or the connections and bits from your robotics project to store, you need a storage solution that works for your space and habits. Without one, you'll suffer lost money, lost time and lost creativity. 

What makes a storage solution for small hobby bits and pieces effective? First, it needs to be intuitive, making it something that's as easy to use as possible. It also needs to protect those items, provide a place to store the items you're still working on and take up as little space as possible in the process.

As you can see, adding storage to your hobby space isn't as simple as just buying a set of drawers and calling it good. That's why we've created this guide to storage that will help you create a storage system for your "bits and pieces" that works.

General Considerations for Hobby Storage

Before looking at specific storage options, let's talk about the basic considerations that will make a storage solution effective. No matter what storage system you create or purchase, you'll need to ensure it hits these important categories.
 
Easy Access
When creativity strikes, you don't need to pull out a giant toolbox and dig through tier after tier of connectors. You need easy access to your supplies to find the one you need when the moment of inspiration comes. Here are some considerations when it comes to ease of access that will make your job a little easier:
  • Choose clear containers - When you can see inside a container, you're going to have an easier time finding what you need, and you will also be more likely to adhere to your organizational plan. If light sensitivity is an issue, consider translucent options before going completely opaque.
  • Consider storage drawers instead of boxes - Boxes are great for some applications, but drawers are easier to access while minimizing footprint.
  • Consider drawers with lids - If you need the security of a lid, you can find plastic drawer towers that have lids on the individual drawers.
  • Add dividers - Whether drawers or boxes, dividers inside will help keep tiny      parts separated for easier access. Adjustable dividers give you flexibility as your components change with time.
  • Keep within arm's reach - To make your storage as accessible as possible, keep it within arms’ reach of your work area.
Clearly Label Your Solution
Nothing is as frustrating as knowing you have an item for your hobby, yet being unable to find it. This leaves you having to purchase something you already own, or without the tool or supply you need to finish the job. Labeling can help with this.
  • Plan your labels - This can also help you map out your containers. What      categories of things do you own? Do you need to sort them based on frequency of use, storage conditions, size, color, shape, step in the process, or some other parameter?
  • Label every container - Whether you're using drawers or boxes or a combination, label everything. The more labels, the better!
  • Make labels logical - Labels should tell you what you need to know about what's inside, and nothing more. Avoid the temptation to go into too much detail. A simple category like "motors" would be sufficient.
  • Make labels readable - Labels that you have to strain to read aren't helpful. Make them legible from your workspace and concise, so you can quickly scan them and grab what you need.
  • Print labels - One way to ensure your labels are legible is to print them using a printer or a label maker. With printed labels, you can easily remove and re-label as your storage needs change.
  • Use appropriately sized labels. Choose fonts and sizes based on relieving eye strain.
Temperature and Humidity Control
In many hobbies, like robotics and computers, high or low temperatures are dangerous to the components you're using. Pulling out a fuse, only to find that freezing temperatures damaged it, is a frustrating situation. Here's how you can avoid this scenario with temperature and climate control in your storage.
  • Consider the arrangement of the room - If the room where you're storing your item is temperature controlled, that may be all you need. Are there certain hot spots? Is there a spot right in front of a vent that’s susceptible to temperature swings, or right by a window that might be vulnerable to temperature or moisture spikes?
  • Avoid direct sun - Direct sun shining on your hobby space and storage area could cause unusual heat spikes, discoloration, warping, etc. Be mindful of whether you need to avoid this to protect your items.
  • Don't forget moisture risk - Not only is temperature a problem, but moisture can quickly damage electronic components and render them useless. A dry, humidity controlled cabinet is an affordable solution for humid areas or areas where water spills are possible.
Structural Integrity 
Your hobby is an investment, and you want to make sure you're doing all you can to protect that investment. This means you must ensure that nothing is going to break when stored in your hobby space. Consider these tips:
  • Choose something sturdy - Go with a sturdy chest of drawers or a wooden cabinet that has plenty of weight so it won't tip.
  • Never balance delicate items - Delicate items need to be stored in such a      way that they don't have any risk of tipping.
  • Consider material interactions – Will two objects placed next to each other “bleed” color? Can the weight of one impact the other?
  • Stack carefully - Don't stack heavy drawers or bins on top of drawers or bins that are lighter or have smaller, delicate items in them.
Works in Progress
Sometimes hobbyists think about all of the storage they need for their supplies, yet forget about storage for works in progress. Where are you going to put that delicate robot or half-built computer while you're trying to finish it, but get interrupted? Here are some considerations for work in progress storage.
  • Create a workspace you can hide - Can your workspace have a cover? If so,      then you can keep your works in progress out, just covered for safety.
  • Have a large area set aside - If you can't cover your workspace, dedicate a shelf or large bin in your storage area to set your works in progress.
  • Look up - Can you place your work in progress on a high shelf so it's out of reach, but necessarily out of sight? That might be a solution when space is crowded.
Tools
As you're creating storage, don't forget about the tools! You want to keep your tools with your hobby supplies, so give them their own space. Here's how:
  • Consider setting aside a drawer or bin - Having one drawer or bin for tools, with      dividers for organization, keeps them all in one place.
  • Store larger tools on pegboard - If you have larger hand tools you need to      reach quickly, put a pegboard wall in your hobby area and hang them on      hooks.
  • What do you use most often? Keep most frequently used objects close at hand. Do you want to use a tool more? Place it in a more visible location as a cue.
  • Consider positioning of attachments – Is there a way that makes sense, given how you ‘load’ an attachment?
  • Don't neglect organization after every ‘work’ session - No matter what solution      you use, keep your tool area organized and insist that things are put back where they belong every single time they're used.
Spare Parts
Finally, have a solution for spare parts. You never know when you'll need those spares for a future project, but they can quickly take over. Here are some tips:
  • Dedicate one drawer or bin - Have one drawer or bin where spare parts get tossed when you're done with a project.
  • Throw out broken pieces - You don't want to waste, but you don't want to waste storage by keeping broken or unusable pieces. Learn what you can and can't throw out, and be willing to throw out what you don't need.
  • Routinely sort your spare parts - The spare parts drawer or bin can quickly get cluttered. Practice routine sorting of this area to ensure you don't become overrun with nuts and bolts you don't have much use for.
  • Consider a tackle box - A tackle box is a great solution for small spare parts that will keep them organized and in place without too much effort.
Are you looking for additional information about what needs to be included in your hobby storage area? Consider these resources:

How to Store Technical Components
When you’re building a robot, computer, or other technical device, you need to be mindful of the conditions under which you store the parts. The structural and chemical integrity of these parts is essential to ensuring their continued optimal performance. Factors like temperature or humidity can cause them to degrade, rust, and so forth. You need to make sure that the way you store them prevents these factors from interfering.
  • Stack & label, with room to grow - Use stackable plastic drawer units or bins. These can quickly buy, be mindful of having your hobby grow in the long-term.
  • Combine protection with anti-static - Use anti-static bags to protect your delicate components from both environmental factors and static.
  • Use breathable fabric like cotton to cover large pieces ­– For assembled products, use breathable fabrics for storage. This allows you to protect the piece from dust. Plastic seems tempting at first glance, but it will seal moisture in and promote mold and mildew in the long term.
  • Store cables wound in bins – Loosely wind them up, then use a wire tie to hold the cord in place. Use a piece of tape to label each wire’s purpose.
  • Wrap wires thriftily - Repurpose a paper towel holder to bear wires. For ones with plugs on the end, use a toilet paper roll with a cut down the middle; store the wire in the core, and let the plug hang out.
  • Get creative with your space to save money - If you have limited resources, combine anti-static bags with a filing cabinet, magazine holder, or some similar piece with compartments for easy labeling. Sometimes, such cabinets can be found or free or cheap in places like Craigslist. Just be sure that saving some money on the furniture doesn’t cost you your hobby parts!
  • Place buffers between pieces - Use foam, cardboard, or bubble wrap to separate out delicate pieces without impacting them.
  • Keep items in place - Line drawers with a matte/textured surface to prevent skidding.
  • Use original packaging to store items – When possible, save the original packaging from items - which was designed to perfectly fit – and resort to using it for long-term storage. 
  • Monitor atmospheric humidity – Use a device in the room where your technical components live to monitor humidity (these usually monitor temperature as well) Make sure the humidity stays between 45-60% for optimal performance and safety.
  • Reduce humidity - Purchase a dehumidifier if you notice consistently high humidity levels.
  • Monitor temperature – high heat can warp electronics, while extreme cold can freeze parts like LCDs and cause cracking.
  • Institute climate control - Install an air conditioner or other climate control if you notice high moisture and/or heat in your technical space, which will both cool and dry out the air.
  • Avoid the ground floor – this might be prone to flooding. If you have no choice but to store on the ground floor or basement, be sure to purchase flood sensors, repair any cracks, and/or buy insurance. Use boards or pallets to elevate items off the floor.
  • Absorb extra moisture - Apply silica gel within storage units to help absorb extra moisture. It can be reused repeatedly if heated. Be wary, however, if you have children or pets who might accidentally ingest it.
  • Back up any data or plans – make sure you store them, preferably in at least two different ways/locations.
  • Remove CDs and DVDs from units - Before storing them, it’s good practice to ensure that drives  are empty.
  • Take pictures of configurations – Before you disassemble anything, take a picture of your connections to retain for future reference.
  • Unplug units when you’re done for the day – in case of power surge or similar emergency, it’s a good idea to unplug everything when you’re done.
  • Use a spreadsheet to track your pieces – Brands, prices, serial numbers, etc can all be documented in one central location. 

Storing "old" components can prove useful in the long term. Here's a short video we found on the types of repurposing you can do. Save your components!

For further information on storing technical pieces, please consult:

Storage Solutions by Age and Stage

So, with these general ideas in mind, how can you create a storage solution for your hobbies based on your age? Here are some stage by stage tips for your hobby storage.
 
Storage Solutions and Tips for Kids 
Do you have a LEGO addict in your home? Is your kid constantly creating arts and crafts for her friends? Hobbies are great for kids, but they can quickly take over without great storage. Kids from grades K through 8 need solutions that work for their unique needs. By giving kids a storage solution they can work with, you will be able to teach them to be organized, which is a great life skill. Some considerations to make include:
  • Ease of use - Kids who can't access their items aren't going to play with them - or put them away. Make sure the storage solution you choose is easily accessible with containers that your kids can open on their own. 
  • Height - Storage solutions for kids, particularly young kids, needs to be low      enough that they can reach the items they need.
  • Play space - Many storage solutions, especially for building toys like LEGOs, have built-in play spaces and tabletops. This is a great solution for keeping those items off the floor and out of danger of bare feet.
  • Highly visible - If you hide toys from your kids, they aren't going to play with      them. Clear containers are a must to ensure your kids can see and access      their toys easily.
  • Labels that work - If your kids aren't adept readers, use labeling systems that      incorporate pictures to ensure they can read what to put where.
 
Here are some creative ideas you can implement:
  • Use over-the-door shoe holders for small items.
  • Use clear drawers to store building materials in an accessible way.
  • Use clear containers with screw-on lids, like salt shakers or mason jars, for storage of tiny pieces
  • Find containers that kids can customize with stickers, paint, etc. 
  • If you have your own storage area, help your mini-me create their own version.
  • Teach kids how to repurpose and recycle old containers as storage devices, and encourage them to expand their organizational area as they ‘discover’ new containers.
  • Gamify storage of items. Find a way to reward kids for creative organizational ideas and/or successfully putting items away.
 
Storage Solutions and Tips for Teens
As kids enter the teenage years, they are more apt to be negligent about storage, even though they're also more able to handle the responsibilities of keeping things tidy. This is a time when hobbies are critical, because they help teens make friends, boost their self-esteem and let them explore things they may like to do as an adult. Some additional considerations you'll need to make when selecting storage for teenagers include:
  • Portability - If your teen is into a hobby, chances are he takes that hobby with him to friends' houses or even after-school clubs. Storage needs to be portable      as a result.
  • Increased privacy - Teenagers may want or crave privacy for their projects, not      necessarily to hide them from parents, but to keep them safe from younger      siblings and their curious hands. Consider cabinets that lock (give yourself and your teen a key, if you’re nervous!) or aren't see-through to help with this.
  • Increased security - Teenagers may be working on secret projects for competitions or may be spending their own money on their projects, so they're going to want more security in their storage solutions.
  • Expense – Look for sales and discounts – late summer and the beginning of the      calendar year are great times for this – to help accommodate the ever-changing interests of fickle youth.
Consider these tips for storage for teen hobbies:
  • Give teens a dedicated space for hobbies with a door that closes and locks.
  • Invest in bins, buckets, or boxes that can be mobile, if needed.
  • As the instruments and materials your teen works with become more complex, help them sort and keep these items visible by providing them with the right tools/devices.
  • Reward teens for sticking to hobbies they like by helping them acquire the items they need for organization.
  • Provide a place for projects-in-the-works, as more complicated projects aren't going to be finished in one day.
  • Allow teens to make some decisions about their storage so that it works for them.
 
Storage Solutions and Tips for Adults
Adults have similar needs as teens, but often have a larger space for their hobby or more items to include in their hobbies. Here are some considerations:
  • Safety - The items many adults use for their hobbies represent choking, cutting, and electrocution hazards for kids, so a storage solution needs to be safe and out of reach.
  • Ease of use - Adults are busy. If you have to take out a bunch of boxes just to start your hobby, you're never going to do it. Instead, focus on a solution that you can close and open up with minimal effort.
  • Expandable - Adult hobbies tend to grow and expand, so look for a solution you can adapt and change as your interests and resources change.
  • Reference materials – Whether it’s books, handouts, or even PDFs, you’re going to need a way to store and access reference materials, particularly for your most advanced projects.
Consider these tips for storage for adult hobbies:
  • Dedicate an area in your home for hobby storage.
  • Consider investing in a large cabinet or hobby desk to serve as home base.
  • Make sure it has room for compartmentalization and expansion.
  • Line drawers as needed to prevent skidding of components.
  • Don't overlook the importance of seeing into your storage containers, even as an adult.
  • Labeling is important, because you're going to forget where you put stuff.
  • Bake in long-term storage solutions for works-in-progress, for protection even during a long time away.

Storage Solutions and Tips for Seniors
Finally, if you're an older adult or are caring for an older adult, you're going to have some unique considerations when creating a storage space. Consider these:
  • Ease of opening - Latches and locks that are challenging will be difficult for arthritic or weak hands to tackle. Choose containers that easily slide out or can be opened without fumbling with a latch.
  • Additional lighting – Every workplace should have good lighting, but this is particularly important for seniors with any measure of vision impairment. The storage area should be well-lit as well to make sure the senior has access to everything they need.
  • Magnification and eyewear - Should there be mounted magnifiers and/or hand-held ones, and how should they be stored so that they are not dropped? Should there be space for the storage of helpful eyewear, or a place to rest a beverage?
  • Large print - Make sure the print on labels is large and clear enough to be read easily.
  • Within reach - Getting up and down repeatedly isn't always easy for seniors, so      make sure the most often used tools and supplies are in easy reach of the      workspace.
  • Ease to keep clean - Take extra care to make sure it’s more difficult for dust and debris to accumulate in the storage space so that it’s easy to keep clean.
  • Space for range of motion – With the limited mobility that seniors often experience, you need to make sure the storage options accommodate any physical impairments, and allow for easy movement. Factor that into the dimensions of the hobby space as well as storage drawers.
Consider these tips for storage for seniors:
  • Use large print for labeling.
  • Choose containers without lids or with easy-to-open lids.
  • Place extra-large handles on drawers, and make sure they slide easily.
  • Create spaces for sharp objects with built-in protection to prevent accidents.
  • Place a pegboard with tools within arm's reach.
  • Designate spots for visual aids.
For more help with organization and storage in your home and hobby areas, visit:

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