Is it a struggle to set up a sewing space that fits your needs? Start by determining what matters most to you!

Due to the sheer volume of fabric and tools that quilters use, clutter and disorganization can easily take over a sewing room or, in some instances, the entire house. Does this sound familiar?

While clutter is personal, it is not unique, according to Deborah J. Cabral, a professional organizer who is known as The DeClutter Coach. Deborah has developed four organizing personalities-Make-It-All Martha, Display Donna, Organized Olivia, and Family-Oriented Fran-to help people define their styles and create individualized solutions.

"When we first visit new clients' homes, we're paying attention to their personalities and preferences as much as their clutter," Deborah says. Then she and her team draw on their knowledge of clutter-busting strategies to provide advice.

"Success looks different for each organizing type, as does the way you get there," she says. "But the overall goal we would set for each quilter is always to have a place where you can be creative and find what you need with minimal effort."

Begin the process of self-analysis by reading about the four personalities on the following pages. Don't worry if you find yourself identifying with more than one type. Most people are a combination of two types or have a primary and secondary type.

"You're a mix of characteristics and will be most successful with a mix of solutions," Deborah says. Whether you have a dedicated space to sew, share a space (maybe half of a bedroom or playroom), or sew in any space you can find, it is possible to have an organized area to be creative.


Deborah J. Cabral, Certified Professional Organizer, is dedicated to helping people get organized, change habits, and create systems that will allow them to be more productive at home, in the workplace, and in life. Her syndicated television show, Organization Motivation!, is seen on select TV stations across the country. For more information, visit


Make-It-All Martha

Make-It-All Martha views clutter and disorganization as the enemy. But she's moving so fast she doesn't have time to deal with it! For Martha to become motivated to get and stay organized, she needs a fellow quilter to act as her accountability buddy. She also needs to make the organizing project fun or she won't want to do it. Enlisting the help of a friend and playing music during the process would make it enjoyable and help Martha focus on the task at hand.


  • She gets overwhelmed by stuff and commitments and blows off housework or other responsibilities to sew.
  •  She has multiple projects going; none get finished. She tends to lose track of time and procrastinate.
  • She always buys the latest tools, gadgets, and books. She not only buys the book, but everything that goes with it.


  • Identify the most stress-inducing space and start there first. Are your tools in several places? Create order by putting like things together. With newly designated storage spaces, they will be easy to find when you need them and even easier to put away.
  • Pick something you're interested in the most. Love your fabric scraps? Dig in and get those organized.
  • Schedule specific times in your calendar to organize your sewing items or room and keep this appointment with yourself. Small changes over time yield big results. Start small, but start now!


Shopping Tip: Always opt for the simplest and easiest version of any tool you are interested in.

  • Lazy Susans, pullout drawers, and hooks are perfect for organizing and are easy to use.
  • Let a timer keep track of your efforts. Organize for 15 minutes at a time to begin, and do it daily, or as often as possible, until the organizing project is completed.

Display Donna

Display Donna is generally detached from the abundance of items around her. She doesn't view them as clutter-they're just a fact of life. Because seeing is believing for Donna, for her to get motivated to become organized she should look at before-and-after photos of others' organization projects. Creating a paper or digital vision board with photos, images, and notes will keep her inspired. Sharing photos of her success online will motivate other visual people to do the same. She could try to store and share photos.


  • She keeps everything out and in clear sight because she believes out of sight is out of mind.
  • She has multiple projects going on simultaneously and will complete some, but not all, of them.
  • She needs to work in surroundings that are beautiful, stimulating, and comfortable.
  • She has too many books that she doesn't use and sometimes accidentally purchases items she already owns.


  • Pick a project, like organizing your books, that can be completed in one session. Sort and save only those books that you will use or reference. Organize them neatly on a bookshelf. Donate books you won't use.
  • Clear flat surfaces to create more work space because flat surfaces are prime real estate for working-not piling. Hang a No Clutter Zone sign as a reminder. Identify the first cluttered area that is visible when entering the sewing room. Declutter and organize this area and use it as a daily reminder of success.


Shopping Tip: Before making any purchases to help create organization, use your creative side to think about utilizing items already on hand. Baskets and Mason jars are great for organizing and likely are already in your home.

  • Bulletin boards and pegboards are perfect for out-in-the-open storage. Decorate them with personal flair.
  • Open shelves and clear bins are great for organizing fabric and notions. You will be more likely to maintain the system if items are contained but easy to see.

Organized Olivia

Organized Olivia is the least cluttered of the four personality types.Hers is situational clutter that occurs as a result of a specific unexpected event, such as an illness or a last-minute craft show where she wants to vend. For an organized person like Olivia to succeed, she needs to know exactly what she wants to do with a room-how she will organize every inch of her space, down to each shelf and bin.


  • Her easy-to-work-in sewing room is efficient and functional. She dislikes leaving her well-organized room in chaos if she has to leave a project before it's done, making it hard for her to start a long-term project that will necessitate a mess.
  • She may run her sewing as a business and sell her completed projects.
  • She likes everything stored in pretty color-coded bins and baskets. She is likely to shop for organizing items at The Container Store, IKEA, or from the Better Homes and Gardens® line at Walmart.
  • She spends more time searching Pinterest for ways to decorate her room than she will making projects in the room when it is finally decorated.


  • Label all bins and baskets, if you haven't already done so.
  • Set up specific zones in your sewing room. Establish separate areas for sewing machine(s), ironing, tools/notions, and fabrics.
  • ​Declutter your sewing room, going zone by zone to determine if you have items that you won't use again. Donate anything you don't need.


Shopping Tip: Organized people tend to go overboard when shopping for organizing products. Before shopping, determine what supplies are already on hand and what you actually need. Remember-organize first, shop second.

  • Decorative bins, baskets, and unique organizing products are good choices. Consider using an organizing product for a purpose other than what was intended, such as storing fabric scraps in a clear over-the-door shoe holder.
  • Put a dry-erase memo board in a strategic spot to keep track of projects.

Family-Oriented Fran

Family-Oriented Fran doesn't see the abundance of items around her as clutter but as her best friends. The many personal items in her sewing room have special meaning, which makes her feel safe and comfortable. Because she is sentimental and emotionally attached to her belongings and projects, to keep from becoming overly cluttered she needs to remind herself often that memories are not physical objects but rather in her mind and heart. For Fran to be motivated to organize, she must start small and save the messiest space for last.


  • She's attached to her heirloom quilts and may buy vintage quilt tops. Her grandmother's quilts are on display in her sewing room.
  • She is first in line to get donations when fellow quilters are downsizing their stashes. Even if she hasn't used an item before, she truly believes she may need it someday.
  • She doesn't decorate or organize her sewing room with items purchased at big-box stores. Instead she uses old furniture, bowls, hatboxes, or other family items to organize her space.


  • Pick three to five items in your sewing room that you no longer use and give them away. To make choosing what to keep easier, classify items as friends, acquaintances, or strangers. Give prime storage to friends, and let strangers go.
  • If you're running out of space to store or display completed quilts or other projects, consider taking a photo of the completed work, then giving the project to someone who could use it.
  • Create a space to sew that feels like a retreat. Make it comfortable and fill it with meaningful things that will inspire creativity. For example, make a pincushion out of Grandma's teacup and saucer.


Shopping Tip: Show respect to the items you have chosen to keep by purchasing appropriate-size organizers and containers that are made of durable materials.

  • Repurpose vintage items or heirlooms as organizational solutions. Store fabric in an old dresser or notions in an old hatbox.
  • Decoupage family photos on a box you can use for storage.