Get Organized – Top 5 Tips to Building a Catalog

We all have something we collect, whether for a hobby or work. Sometimes though, your collection may seem more like a disaster than an asset if things get unruly & disorganized. Odds are if you have lots of something, it’s important to you. You wouldn’t go through all that effort to collect it if it weren’t! For us at nluv Studio, stencils fall into this category. With all the customization we do in our projects, the stencil pile has reached critical mass and continues to grow. What can we do?

There’s only one answer to our problem… it’s time we build a catalog to keep our collection in order. Regardless if you collect wine, art supplies, bottle caps, magazines or stencils like us, building a catalog to never lose sight of what your collection comprises is surprisingly easy & priceless!

Top 5 Tips to Building a Catalog

#1: Gather everything up!

building a catalog
Gather up your collection. This is the start of our stencil pile.

You can’t start to organize anything until you find it all. This may sound silly but if you have a large collection that happens to be spread out or tucked away everywhere, this step could take some time & effort.

You can’t create an effective or complete catalog unless you know everything that goes into it! Do your best and find everything you can. The more you have to start with in building the catalog for categories & sub-headings, the better the end result will be.

#2: Take photos & measurements of each piece.

With a big pile in front of you, it’s time to start sorting. Building a catalog requires a clear representation of each item, including a photo and description. Take a clear photo of each piece and write down any pertinent facts & measurements.

building a catalog stencils
Collect important details on each catalog item.

For the nluv Studio stencils, the critical cataloging factors are as follows: photo, measurements, purchased vs. custom-made, font-type (if applicable) and short description.

#3: Create categories.

Like any good book or college paper, the table of contents with categories & sub-headings is the key to finding what you want when you want it. If the end result of building a catalog is a document just as chaotic as the collection started off itself, you wasted a lot of time.

Create thoughtful & easy to understand categories to divide up your collection. The point is to locate an item as fast as possible & not buy duplicates (unless you intended to). For our stencil catalog, we decided to divide them up under the following master categories: Alphabets, Animals, Patterns, Nature/Outdoors, Objects, and Sayings.

#4: Build the document.

With the categories set, photos taken and details in hand, it’s time to build our catalog. We chose to use Word with a dynamic Table of Contents. This format will make it easy to use/update electronically as well as print out as a hard copy in the studio for fast reference.

building a catalog Word document format table of contents
Create categories for an easy to read Table of Contents.

The Cover page keeps track of the latest update date, so you’ll know the last time you worked on it. The Table of Contents will only list the Categories and the Stencil name. If you put in more than that, your Table will get too large and cumbersome. The point is fast, easy reference so keep it simple. Each individual page will contain the remaining details including the photos. For us with stencils, the right amount of detail is stencil name, photo, and description with measurements & origin (purchased or custom-made).

#5: Keep it updated!

Congrats! Your first edition of building a catalog is complete. BUT… your work isn’t over. A catalog is worthless unless it’s kept relevant & up-to-date. As your collection shrinks and grows, ensure you update the catalog. Never get out of whack! If you do, you will have to review the whole collection again and compare back to your catalog. That’s a huge waste of time after all your original effort.

Over time, maintaining your catalog will become second-nature. Anytime you buy or get rid of something, get into the habit of a quick catalog update. Your collection will stay perfectly maintained, organized and available at a moments notice!

Collections & Catalogs are great friends!

building a catalog
A complete stencil catalog will make the design cycle much easier!

All your hard work of building a catalog will be worth it as long as you collection is alive. For us, our main focus is work related in building a catalog of stencils for nluv Studio. But, don’t just look at this as a work tool. Don’t overlook a simplified form for your household item closet or even the pantry. Make shopping super fast & efficient. Do you need soap, paper products, toothpaste or hand lotion? And, what is really stuffed away in that pantry? Take this formal catalog idea and craft it into a simple checklist to keep track of what items you have stuffed all over the house. Don’t just keep buying stuff because you can’t find what you already have! That philosophy applies to both work and home. Happy cataloging!

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