We hate to be the ones to say it, but you’re going to have to put your swimsuits and sandals away for the season. Plus the sand toys, beach umbrellas, and all the other summer stuff that’s in a big heap by the door. The whole process of returning to the real world in September can be a crazy-making puzzle, especially when you don’t have loads of closet space or a basement to toss everything into. So this week, we’re sharing home-organization essentials to make the transition a little easier. It’s Straighten Out Your Space Week on the Strategist.
For the uninitiated, labels, and the label-makers that print them, may be an afterthought, but for organization pros who understand their usefulness, they’re essential. “Labels help you maintain the space,” says Kim Longoria-Bruce, a professional organizer and founder of Organizing Spaces by Kim. “They’re not just for show. They’re not just pretty.” The beauty of label-makers, say experts, is that there’s no limit to what you can label: From work spaces to home cabinets, pantries, storage bins, and bathroom closets, labels bring a welcome sense of order to homeowners, roommates, and overnight houseguests. Younger kids who haven’t yet learned to read also benefit, since label-makers print out symbols along with text, making putting away toys in the playroom a more manageable undertaking. Says professional organizer Caroline Solomon, “There’s something about a printed label instead of a hand-written one that encourages you to put each item back in its original spot.”
However, before purchasing one, potential buyers need to do some soul-searching. “You need to know why you want the label-maker,” says Jessica Litman, founder of The Organized Mama, “You have to ask yourself what your purpose is with the label-maker before investing your money into one. That will also help you figure out what label-maker is right for you.” Whether it’s for bringing order to your home, crafting cupcake toppers and personalized cards, adding color and navigational aids to your journal or planner, or small-business product packaging, answer that question first before hitting the BUY button.
In addition to knowing what you want the label-maker for, experts advised being aware of specific features when deciding which label-maker to purchase, including portability, type of keyboard, method of printing (thermal or ink), ease of use, Bluetooth capabilities, the number of templates and fonts available, if it’s rechargeable or battery operated (or both), and, of course, the price. Here are 11 label-makers recommended by experts, and several tested by me, to help you with your decision.
Best overall (non-Bluetooth)
Of all the label-makers recommended, the Brother P-Touch PTD210 was the most favored non-connected option among professional organizers. This battery-operated thermal-printing label-maker sports a QWERTY keyboard and includes 27 pre-designed label templates with the ability to store 30 labels for speedy reprinting. Organizers love the portability, print-preview window, and plug-in option of this model. Eryn Donaldson, founder and CEO of home organizing service The Model Home, finds the PTD210 easy to use, affordable, and reliable — an ideal product for both expert organizers and someone just starting on their label-making journey.
Jeffrey Phillip calls the PTD210 a “staple” in his organizing kit, adding that he uses the same label-maker at home as on his professional projects and especially appreciates the variety of fonts and font styles. The ability to quickly erase formatting or text is a huge time saver, Phillip adds.
Professional organizer Caroline Solomon and Lauren Saltman, owner of organizing service Living. Simplified., have both used the P-Touch PTD210 for years and recommend it for home file organization. Saltman once spent 40 hours organizing a client’s papers, armed with the PTD210. “I started from scratch organizing her paperwork by category and subcategories using the file cabinets she already owned,” she says. “Each item was given its own label and the major categories were also labeled so she would easily be able to find anything.”
Best overall (with Bluetooth)
For the more tech-savvy professional organizer, the Brother P-touch Cube Plus PTP710BT is at the top of the list. The keyboardless P-Touch Cube Plus connects via Bluetooth to an app on your smartphone, tablet or computer. It can store up to 100 labels for reprinting, and uses most Google and Apple font libraries, giving the user access to a plethora of text styles. Its thermal printer is compatible with the Brother P-touch TZe laminated label tapes which are easy to peel and described as “virtually indestructible.”
Professional organizer Sarit Weiss of Neat & Orderly loves the lightweight portability of the device, as does Tidied by K’s Kenika Williams, who also appreciates that the software allows her to make wider and thicker fonts, which are better for storage bins and organization in the garage. Williams has one note of caution: With the Cube Plus sometimes syncing the Bluetooth can get buggy, and you may have to change phones or reboot the label-maker. “It’s just something that you deal with when having label-makers” with Bluetooth tech, she says.
Best (less expensive) overall
When seeking out a label-maker, Katherine Picott, founder and CEO of organizing company Tidy Milso, opted for the Brother P-Touch PTM95. This thermal-printing battery-operated label-maker has nine type styles and over 200 symbols, a QWERTY keyboard, and can store up to three labels for quick reprinting. Picott loves the simplicity and ease of the PTM95, which is also the most affordable electronic option recommended by the experts I interviewed.
“I’ve used other label-makers in the past, and they have way too many features on them,” she says, explaining that a too-complicated device, in the end, only slows her down. “I’m a one-person team. So for me, it just makes it easier to not utilize those extra capabilities.” The compatible Brother M series tape is non-laminated, making it better suited for indoor projects and dry spaces, such as the pantries and filing systems Picott uses it on (“paper clutter is one of my jams,” she says). Picott, ever an organizer, also uses it to keep her own life sorted. The bag she keeps her supplies in “literally says label-maker on it, with a label,” she says with a laugh.
Best for inventorying and archiving
Jamie Hord of Horderly uses the Brother P-Touch PT-D610BT Business Professional Connected Label Maker in her office warehouse, where she uses it to label inventory for the company’s closet product line, including wooden shoe shelves and expandable rod dividers. This thermal printing label-maker is built for high resolution printing of barcodes, logos, and more detailed graphics. The PT-D610BT’s Bluetooth capability allows users to send label designs directly from a computer or phone by using Brother’s free P-touch Editor software and the built-in QWERTY keyboard enables quick label design on the device itself. It has 175 preset label templates, offers 17 fonts, and allows for up to 90 frequently used labels to be saved and reprinted as needed.
“You have a plethora of fonts to choose from if you’d like to get a little more creative to fit your style. This is a great way to bring a handwritten-looking script to your labels without having to write them,” explains Hord. She also loves how “multiple people can connect to it at the same time,” and how the label-maker accommodates larger label tape so she has the option for half inch and 1 inch labels. The TZe label tape that is compatible with the PT-D610BT is also water, fade, and chemical resistant, making it well-suited for the larger bins in garages and basements, or large warehouse shelves.
Assh Albinson, librarian and archivist at the Brooklyn Public Library, also recommends it. “If you are working in an archival or museum setting I would spring for the Brother P-touch PT-D610BT model that allows for connection to a computer and is made for larger jobs.” It makes archiving massive files and complex labeling projects “so easy,” she says.
Nancy Heller, founder of Goodbye Clutter, wants a label-maker she knows will always work and says, as a professional organizer, her priority is dependability. That’s why she recommends the Brother PT-65. “I’ve had them all, and I got rid of them. This is now my go to,” Heller says, explaining that despite more advanced models on the market, she is hooked on its reliability and ease of use. This battery-operated thermal-printing label-maker has a QWERTY keyboard, nine type styles and five different type settings — paltry compared to some of today’s more complex label-maker offerings — but the PT-65’s simplicity and sturdiness means more to Heller, who has been in the industry for more than 20 years. Not only could “a three-year-old use it,” it doesn’t jam, she says, and more importantly, she doesn’t have to don’t worry about dropping it.
Heller said her PT-65 was put to the test when working with a client who was an NFL football player — he tossed her label-maker to her from across his palatial living room. “Of course I didn’t catch the pass,” Heller says laughing, “It shattered.” The cutter came out and even the batteries went flying. “But when I put it all back together it just hummed away. It’s indestructible.” (The PT-65 is available on Amazon, though Heller prefers to buy them for much cheaper on eBay. Brother has discontinued this model but offers the similar P-Touch PTM95, which is $25 on Amazon.com, and is also expert recommended.)
Tanisha Lyons-Porter, a professional organizer with Natural Born Organizers, has used her Brother P-Touch PTH110 for two years, enjoying this thermal printing model’s QWERTY keyboard and handheld portability: Like many Brother models, it can be battery operated or powered by an AC adaptor. Lyons-Porter finds the tape options easy to peel, which according to her, is a huge time saver when organizing. Another bonus, the Brother P-touch TZe tape that goes with this model works especially well for labeling cables.
“Labels are clutch when organizing electronic cords that all look the same,” says Lyons-Porter, “and the clear tape is perfect for hidden clues, like adding a label on the inside of drawers or cabinets, for a home staff to assist in maintaining an organizing system.” The BPL’s Assh Albinson loves the affordability of the P-Touch PTH110. Like Lyons-Porter, Albinson also finds the laminated TZe tape effective: it’s easy to source and once the label is printed, it’s “very hardy — I put them on my water bottles and work objects and even after years of commuting and handling they stay put.” Although she originally bought it for work, Albinson prefers to use the PTH110 at home for organizing shelves, closets, and food storage containers. “I completely organized my kitchen using the label-maker,” she says. “Now when people look for things, they can find it themselves.”
Best for embossing
With all the new technology available, label-maker aficionados know that to achieve a classic feel, less is more and slower is better. That’s why Beth Salvini, co-owner of Greenwich Letterpress, a custom letterpress printing and stationery store, loves her Penco tape writer. The Penco creates embossed text, letter by letter, printing onto PVC tape. “This is a very old-school way of making labels,” says Salvini. “You turn the dial, like an old rotary phone, to a letter.”
It’s time-consuming and leaves no room for error, but the effect just can’t be captured as well by more modern label-makers. Created by the Japanese company Penco, the tape writer is handheld, portable, and not only creates vintage-looking labels, it looks vintage itself. Salvini says she breaks the Penco out when she wants a retro feel for her labels either at home or at the store. “It’s really an aesthetic choice, very polar opposite of most other label-makers.” As a self-professed “nostalgia junkie” Salvini finds newer label-makers are sometimes just too modern for what she’s looking for. “If you are obsessed with cassette tapes, you’ll probably love this.”
Best for crafters
If you’re ready for a more advanced label-making experience, experts recommend the Cricut Joy, a compact cutting and writing machine. Dennis Setteducati and Andrew Boza, creators of Crafty Lumberjacks, have owned their Cricut Joy for three years and use it for “decals, cupcake toppers, cards, gift tags, t-shirts and decor,” says Setteducati, who finds the machine especially useful during the holidays. “We love to create labels for gifts with fancy fonts, it really takes the gift to the next level.” This craft cutting machine, which is about the size of a small toaster, comes with a variety of permanent markers for designs, and its finely-pointed blade can slice through over 50 types of material, including vinyl, paper for stickers, and iron-on decals for clothing.
The higher quality, often more-aesthetically pleasing labels mean using the Cricut Joy takes more time than simpler models, explains The Organized Mama’s Jessica Litman. “You have to be thoughtful about how and what you’re going to label,” she says, and recommends using it on projects with labels you won’t change out as frequently, such as closets and pantries.
Novices take note: according to Organizing Spaces by Kim’s Kim Longoria-Bruce, spending time learning how to use the Cricut Joy, including watching YouTube tutorials, is needed. “This is not the most user-friendly model. If you’re not well-trained in using it, it could cause some frustration and you may give up on organizing and I don’t want that to happen.” Worst case scenario, she says, is users will buy this model, become overwhelmed, and leave it in the box. “And then you have even more clutter in your home.”
Best for large labels
Lauren Saltman of Living. Simplified. reaches for her Cricut Maker 3 for larger projects, such as banners or posters. A big, more expensive cutting machine, the Cricut works with over 300 types of materials, including leather and engraving metal. Like the Cricut Joy, the Cricut works with the Design Space app and uses Bluetooth wireless technology and does not, as of now, require a subscription. For Saltman, having a choice of nearly limitless fonts — “You can use any font you are able to download” — and not being restricted by label size is helpful in meeting her client’s needs, including labeling acrylic containers frequently used by clients in kitchen, bathrooms, and pantries. One drawback, the Cricut’s complexity means “the labels are more time consuming and cannot be created on-the-spot.”
Best for journals, calendars, and planners
The TEPRA Lite LR30GS is also a favorite of Greenwich Letterpress’s Beth Salvini. Made by King Jim, a Japanese stationary and office supply company, this palm-sized thermal label-maker is battery operated, Bluetooth compatible, and connects to your phone via its app. Salvini loves that she can print physical labels after designing them on her phone. “It really marries the two universes of smartphone capability and tangible labels, which, as a stationery store owner and a paper lover, is blending the best of both worlds,” she says.
And while the TEPRA Lite is adept at basic labeling for organizing — Salvini uses it to organize her home craft studio — its extra features offer flourishes to more creative projects. She explains that the kawaii emojis offered by the TEPRA Lite app are also great for assigning images to help remember and organize her calendar events, a cake for a friend’s birthday, a plant to remind her to water her leafy friends. “They don’t look like Apple iPhone emojis,” she says. “It’s an expansive universe that allows users to add their own style rather than spitting out a single generic look.”
Users can upload their own photos and print mini versions of them on labels, and, beyond traditional label maker tape, the TEPRA Lite is compatible with an assortment of decorative washi tape collections, making it ideal not only for planners and calendars, but for personalizing notebooks, journals, and gift wrap labels. Salvini also uses the TEPRA Lite for work. “We sell this one at our store, and keep one on hand to label products and prices of things and write little notes by the register with it.” she says. “All the employees use it.”
Best for small businesses
Labels are a business necessity at Brooklyn Tea, a local shop and destination for tea enthusiasts with two Brooklyn locations and one in Atlanta. To label the store’s retail tea pouches, tins, and display glass jars, co-founder Alfonso Wright uses the HP ColorJet Pro M452 series printer. “This isn’t what people traditionally think of as a label-maker,” explains Wright, who bought the device, which is the size of a traditional home printer, right before opening Brooklyn Tea’s original Bed Stuy store with his wife, but it’s what he recommends for a small business owner looking to swiftly make polished labels.
• Kim Longoria-Bruce, founder of Organizing Spaces by Kim
• Caroline Solomon, home organizing and cleaning expert
• Jessica Litman, founder of The Organized Mama
• Eryn Donaldson, founder and CEO of The Model Home
• Jeffrey Phillip, designer and professional organizer
• Lauren Saltman, professional organizer and owner of Living. Simplified.
• Sarit Weiss, founder of Neat & Orderly
• Kenika Williams, founder of Tidied By K
• Katherine Picott, founder and CEO of Tidy Milso
• Jamie Hord, founder of Horderly
• Assh Albinson, librarian and archivist, Brooklyn Public Library
• Tanisha Lyons-Porter, professional organizer and founder of Natural Born Organizers
• Nancy Heller certified professional organizer and founder of Goodbye Clutter
• Beth Salvini, co-owner of Greenwich Letterpress
• Dennis Setteducati and Andrew Boza, creators of Crafty Lumberjacks
• Alfonso Wright, co-founder of Brooklyn Tea
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