I live in a pretty small apartment, I do not live alone, and I like to craft. This leads to some major space constraints! My beading studio is in our second bedroom, with the washer and dryer, our huge printer, a spare bed (futon) and a television. The room is pretty small to begin with so it is a good thing I mostly work with beads which are small too!
The best advice I have on organizing a bead collection is to pick a single type of container or method and standardize everything to this method as much as possible. Many bead artists use different methods but I think all the most successful methods use one way to store everything. My choice was part economy and part simplicity - I chose simple plastic beading trays from a local craft store. They cost about two dollars each, they have 17 compartments and they provide a nice uniform organization method. These are NOT perfect, my green seed bead tray has been dropped once or twice and is pretty muddled at this point, but they do work!
I tend to start with color when I am looking to begin a new piece and with bead weaving this means I am usually starting with seed beads. So my seed beads are in trays by color, sometimes I have mixed colors that make sense together like red and pink. If I ever have enough of these shades to split them to their own tray then I can just add a tray and relabel.
Once I had all of my seed beads labeled by color I started on the rest and chose to separate them by size. The reason for this was simple - although I have lots of 4mm beads I rarely have more then 2-4 different beads for each color family. However I did separate them into finishes, so I have glass pearls 4mm, and glass beads 4mm and crystals 4mm. I continued this method with 6mm beads. I have 8mm beads I use as well but not as many right now so they are separated into pearls and an 8mm and larger tray.
Some special types and beads earned separate trays as well I have one where my cabochons are wrapped in foam sheets, another where lamp-worked beads are kept wrapped as well. Gem chips I inherited from my godmother have a tray of their own - I finally found a bracelet that makes wonderful use of them but that is for a later post!
What about all the rest? Findings have a tray that as I acquire more will be separated into gold finish, silver finish, copper finish and gunmetal finish. Finally I have two larger older gray trays that have removable separators that are abysmal at keeping small beads apart, these I have labeled miscellaneous and they hold all the various items that one acquires working with beads, from odd clasps to beads that are special or that I have very few.
My work space itself is a folding table so that we can use the room for other purposes if we have company. The TV has a computer hooked up to it full time so I am able to access the internet or update information at my studio if I want. Mostly I use it to stream music or have video playing in the background while I work.
So that is how I organize my beads - what do you use to organize yours?