Discussion: How do you organize your workshop?

In the January Q&A, Camirra asked: I’m not sure if you have posted about this already, but how do you organize your workshop? I am struggling to organize my ingredients in my workshop in a meaningful way. Right now they are just thrown in boxes and I hunt for what I want when I formulate=bad system. What is yours? And I would appreciate if anyone else would share ideas as well.

Oh, Camirra, thank you so much for thinking I might be organized! I am so disorganized, I actually worry about it at night when I’m trying to fall asleep. (I’m hoping to hire someone in the next few weeks to help me inventory everything I have now and figure out how to store it all!)

In that same post, Elizabeth suggested: I have my ingredients sorted on shelves by category. So, all of the oils in one section, extracts together, emulsifiers together etc. That helps me find things that I am looking for. When I need a humectant, I find it in my section for that. I hope that helps.

I do this, too. I try to have a box for categories of ingredients. My oils tend to be in the freezer, but right now I have boxes for some oils and butters, esters, silicones, botanical extracts, conditioners, emulsifiers, powders & salts (which is a super heavy box), preservatives, humectants, and surfactants. (As a note, keep the humectants and powders away from each other or you’ll have a soppy mess in a few days!) But I have a ton of things that aren’t categorized yet, which is where I’m feeling stressed and frustrated.

I also have boxes for mineral make-up ingredients and another for micas & glitters.

This picture of my notebook was originally a list of new ingredients I’ve added to the workshop this year. You can see in the upper left hand corner I have cold lotions, then conditioners, surfactants, and humectants. I’m working on a master list with notes on which box I might find something. What you see here, my friends consider very tidy for me. Five months later, this list is a crazy disaster!

Another question I have for you, my lovely readers, is how to you store your bottles? I’ve normally stored mine in large Ziploc bags by category – 2 ounce tottles, 4 ounce tottles, 50 ml foamer bottles, and so on – but this is getting out of hand!


We had a great discussion about how we organize our formulas on Patreon on December 14th, which ties in with this idea.

How do you organize your workshop? How do you store your bottles? Share your thoughts! (If you have pictures, we can add them now to the comments below, and we’d love to see what you’re doing!)

  • Elizabeth Sauls

    Hi Susan,
    How do we store bottles? I am assuming you are referring to empty bottles to put product in. I store mine in plastic bags (usually the sam bag that it was in when shipped from my supplier) then placed into large plastic totes. I then label the tote with a clear plastic shipping sleeve that I keep a list with contents in. I have 5 of these totes and have those sorted by type as well. So one tote has sprayers (in various sizes), one has pump tops, one has snap tops, etc. I keep my jars in the shipping boxes they came in placed on shelves. Really though, I need a wearhouse, not a workshop. It’s only a little out of hand…

  • Kelley Foreman

    I’m so glad you are hiring a helper, Susan! You don’t have to be good at everything. I really need a helper, too. At the very least, I should hire one of the teenage girls I know to come once a week to help me clean up!

  • Sally Jorgensen

    I commandeered a small section of the basement for product storage. then i constructed a U shaped series of shelves ie instead of one deep 24 inch shelf, I had a 4 1/2 inch shelf on each side and across the back. Just deep enough to hold mason jars and the larger bottles – no bottles in front of other bottles. I put up a 3 inch rim on each shelf so that things would not get knocked off but low enough that I could read the labels. I recently nailed a 5 inch piece of plywood on the underside of one of the back shelves, extending it an inch in front, and nailed a half inch lip. In that 1 inch space in front of the shelf with the larger bottles I store the wee bottles The whole thing is about 5 feet wide, 2 feet deep and 5 feet high. My carpentry skills are really rough, do it does not look pretty, but it works reasonably well. My containers i sort by size – kind of – , put them in large plastic storage freezer bags and hang them from the rafters. !@#$ cat had peed in the cardboard box on the floor that I originally had them in. Actually works better this way as I can see what I have. Downside is that I use the kitchen to make stuff in, as it is quite uninspiring to work in the basement. i have a wicker basket which I fill with the recipe ingredients…but it still takes a few trips up and down the steps. don’t need a gym membership though. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/706af269f39151307c83b1731b1d2d4a43763c27943860922c89df40d047907c.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3295f741396f9c6b8f64b7159156fdbc97ca4fa5ea76e95d28470f80bb726e48.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/46d8293fbf9b59cc0aba8d9baee065bd306c4bfcfb1d388a62c37197e0a87d0b.jpg

  • Vanessa Hall

    Hubby is buying me my own mini fridge. There I will keep the oils, butters, fragrance oils, and essential oils and anything else that i want the shelf life extended. My dry products go in the kitchen cabinet. Once shelf is the products that go in my soaps. the next shelf is by bath bomb and bath whip products. in plastic shoes boxes are all my botanicals, one for oxides, one for micas, and then one for glitters.

    the hardest part was to go through my recipes and be realistic with my self. do i really need every oil, butter and fancy stuff out there? no. So I went through, reformulated all my product line so that they all use the same butters and oils, so that I can also open space in my cabinites, fridge and leave some money in my wallet.

    • Peggy

      I agree with you Vanessa, the hardest part for me to organizing is being realistic with myself as to how much I need. Too often my answer to organizing is “buy another tub/container/shelf”, but I’m soon moving to a smaller house and I need to focus on organizing and using what I have before I buy more.

  • Betsy

    This could not have come at a better time for me – we are having ice in North Georgia and I can’t find anything – I too use totes, but I have been thinking about having separate totes for oils and butters and listing them alphabetically – that way I won’t have 3 bottles of witch hazel and find I’m out of argon oil – choosing most used raw products is a GREAT idea –

  • Kathleen Ecott

    If I don’t organize my hoard I would never remember what I have in the workshop! I use wire shelves and clear plastic tubs. I have sections for oils, butters, surfactants, emulsifying, additives, etc. Each section is roughly alphabetic but not exactly. Empty containers are on the top shelves because they are easiest to lift over my head. My work counter has cabinets below to hold bowls, mixers, beakers, and molds. I know what is in each cabinet but it isn’t labeled. Ingredients are logged into my inventory database and given an ID number. ID numbers are labeled on the packing slip and the package. The ID numbers are noted on my formula work paper which is given a batch number. Batches numbers are logged in an index. Formula and ingredient notes are a mess! So many notebooks, binders of notebooks, and then spreadsheets with notes & photos. Notes are sometimes a challenge to find!

    • Can I hire you? Lol! That’s an awesome system I am so unorganized I could use some help! 🙂 thanks for sharing I like te ingredients database idea!

  • Wendy Dittmer @ The Rustic Bee

    My favorite organizational tool? My floor to ceiling Ikea cube cabinets! Perfect for fragrances, colorants, small packaging, labels etc. Can’t remember what we spent on these units but want to say it was in the $5-600 range, when I include the drawers and doors. Have seen a lot of the empty cube cabinets on the buy and sell sites for a reasonable price too – a trip to ikea for the door and drawers and it could probably be even cheaper!

    • Becky Spann

      You can even by the cubes at walmart for cheap! I bought a 3×3 set that I use for storing a lot of my other crafting things, like yarn.

  • Thais Defalco

    I have every ingredient separated in plastic bins that go like this: water phase ingredients or water soluble (allantoin, preservative, panthenol, polyquat, powdered proteins, sea kelp bioferment, etc), oil phase ingredients or oil soluble ingredients (e-wax, cetyl alcohol, stearic acid, btms, penstia powder, dimethicone, etc) then I have a bin for all my small little bottles of extracts and liquid proteins and any bottles and jars that are very small (could be water or oil soluble ingredients.) Then I have a tall plastic bin with all my butters and oils and waxes (candelilla, beeswax, cera bellina and carnauba.) Of couse my micas have their own bin and so do my fragrance and essential oils.) I keep all my bins in a book shelf that I slowly took over!! This keeps me very organized and it makes it super easy to find my ingredients when I’m making any product.

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