Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Organization: How I roll.....

Back in the day when I used to get up every morning and go to work I used lots of different software on my computer to do my job.  My favorite software was Microsoft Access.  I can organize anything in it.  I keep my stamp inventory in one database, the cards I make for challenges in another database and the really nifty things I find on the Internet but know I won't remember past tomorrow in another database.  I call this database my "Techniques" database but it really contains a ton of information I just don't want to forget.  This database contains records with just 3 fields (think of the database as a file cabinet and the record as a file folder.  The fields would be the pages in the folder).  Field one is the technique or information I don't want to forget, field two is the URL where the information is located and field three is any comments I feel would be relevant.  In this example the technique (field 1) is "background tutorial - distress ink, gel medium, pearl ex powder".  The URL (field 2)  is:  here and there were no comments (field 3).  My comments field might have information like "would be good for Fred's wedding".  Now, the fabulous thing about this database is it is searchable in any field by any word and you always know who to give credit to when you "borrow" someones technique or style.  If you double click on the picture, you will be able to see it much larger.

If I place my cursor in field 1 and hit the search icon, this window pops up with a few options.  I type what I'm looking for, in this case "background", I tell it which field I'm looking in, in this case "technique", I tell it to find this word in any part of the field, and to search "all" of the database.  I might have thirty records that deal with backgrounds and this search will find them all.  So, if in six months my pea-sized brain remembers that I saw this really cool background with pearl ex powders but for the life of me can't remember where - here it is.  I've been doing this so long it's automatic - see a great idea - document it.  At times when I'm out of inspiration, I can page through the records and find something that calls to me.  And the truly great thing is the records are filled out in my words, so I don't have to try to figure out what somebody else called something.

Access is reasonable easy to learn.  And as you learn, you discover it is much more powerful than it appears.  I keep all my stamps listed in a database, I run a query (question) and ask the database, which stamps are Maggies?  Assuming I have a field in the database that identifies Magnolia as the company which produced the stamp, the query will return a list of every Maggie stamp I own.  I can turn that query into a "report" that puts the information on paper in a pleasing way.

This is my stamps database which contains lots of information on each stamp or stamp set.  I have actually combined two databases linked by the "ID", one contains stamp information, the other contains occasion information (how might I use that stamp?).  I can run a quick query (under 2 minutes) and find every PaperTrey stamp I own.  Or Inkadinkado.  I can tell at a glance what the "medium" is (I've enlarged this database to include dies, embossing folders, and punches) - the medium might be rubber, clear, die, punch, embossing folder, etc), is it an image or words (this matters when searching - do I want an image of a fish or do I want the word "fish"), what size is it, where is it stored and what manufacturer produced it?  The second database is a list of what can I use it for, holidays, sympathy, men, etc.  I did it this way because it's very easy to list all of my Halloween stamps or Christmas stamps.  Some people organize by putting each type of stamp together (all of the Maggies in one drawer, all of the Flourish stamps in another).  I'm up to 31 drawers of stamps as well as a floor to ceiling case that contains shelves of wooden backed stamps on the wall side and the door side.  (It was supposed to be all the room I'd ever need for stamps seven years ago.)  When one drawer gets full, I just move to the next.  I have them all mixed up, it doesn't matter where they are - I just query the database and it tells me the heart stamp with the writing on it is in drawer 15.  The drawers aren't so big that searching them takes long.  As I enter each record, the database assigns the next number (ID number), and I put that number somewhere on the stamp or the packaging.  I can locate a stamp by it's number or if I have a stamp, I can tell where it belongs by the number.  I usually leave a drawer open until the stamp is returned but sometimes I get in a hurry and don't return it right away.  It ends up in a basket on my desk until I find time to put it back.  The database tells me where it goes.

The database for my challenge cards (actually every card I make) contains the recipe, the URL to where the picture is stored on my computer, what challenges the card was entered in or what blogs I put it on, what galleries I put it in, and the ultimate disposition of the card - "2011 - Julie Jones Birthday".  I can list every card I submitted to a SplitCoast Stamping Gallery and the date it was submitted.  Once a card has been photographed, downloaded to my computer, entered into my database, I package it with an envelope and add it to my card bin where it stays until I sell it or send it to someone.  If anyone has any questions about Access, I can help you sort them out.  I could even send you the structure for my databases if you'd like them (you have to have Access to use the structures).  I suggest Access for Dummies as a guide, you really don't need to be a whiz on the computer to use this software.


  1. I love to organize and never really knew what Access was really. I checked it out, but it asked for a template. Where are the templates, or do you make your own? I am really going to look into this more. Thanks for posting this

  2. Wow, 31 drawers of stamps, its a shame you're not here in Australia! I have a box of stamps since starting two years ago but as I had to stop work at 38 as an Accountant with a serious neck and back injury I'm financially restricted. I love the La la land Marci and Luka stamps and have bought her as a Ballerina and him as a Pirate but wish for many more. I've just bought a small laser printer for digi stamping but I've never heard of a spotting problem? I have found Make it Crafty com au its an Australian digi stamp.company who sell amazing background stamps and people too. They've got a dual release with Whimsy Stamps on now. I love your idea of using M. Access and will try it when my pc is fixed - currently only internet is via my Android phone. I've been alone for quite a few years so I'm thrilled to hear love in middle age happens. (sorry for the dump) Hi from Australia.