- Ruthmarie Tenorio
Minimalist Maker?! Part 2 - Downsizing My Stash
Updated: Jul 1, 2022
Almost any sewist knows how precious their fabric stash is. We even have a hard time letting go of scraps knowing full well that nothing can be made with them. But there is always that "what if". So you hang onto an embarrassingly large pile of fabric scraps because you have the space for it. Well, one day I didn't even have space for that. Now what.
In my previous post, I explained why we had to downsize. Now I share with you my journey on how I did it. Get ready, it's a lengthy post.
"One simply doesn't become a minimalist, one must mentally prepare thy self prior to the purge." - Me
When you don't know where to start, you Google it, or in my case, I YouTubed it: How to be a minimalist. The first videos I found centered on the simple concept that you just get rid of everything. Rip the band-aid off. Go cold turkey. Throw it all away and never look back. I'm over here like "Naw, it can't be that easy" ESPECIALLY if you are a maker *cue my fellow sewists laughing*. Upon more digging, I found that I was right. I won't go in-depth with the concepts, yes there are several, instead, I will share the videos that helped me (scroll to the end of the post). I will, however, share the bit that clicked for me. In order to live a minimalist life, you must stop the flow of things coming into your home. It makes so much sense, getting rid of things is relatively easy, stopping myself from buying craft supplies, Oof. I need therapy for that one. It required meditation, reflection, identifying my buying triggers, looking at each item individually and thinking back to the purchase, forgiving myself for letting it get out of hand, and forgiving myself for removing it from my space. I think that was the hardest. The self-imposed guilt of not knowing if the thing will end up in a landfill. I had to remind myself that my space wasn't a landfill, I needed room to grow, room to live, room to breathe.
"In order to live a minimalist life, you must stop the flow of things coming into your home."
You also can't get rid of everything all at once. No, my friend, you will soon find you tossed things you really really liked, or worse, things you needed. Like tossing one too many bottle openers because you swore you set one aside and now you have to go buy a new one. *Oops*
If you find yourself on the hoarding-new-craft-supplies struggle bus, here are a few things that helped me:
#1 the obvious to most: shop your stash, look at what you have and see how you can use what you already have. Want to sew a black dress but only have navy blue fabric? How terrible would it be if you used the navy fabric?
#2 Remind yourself of the many times you bought something without a project in mind and it is still sitting in your stash. Will this purchase meet the same fate?
#3 Plan your projects based on things you know you will use. For me, I would love to recreate Marylin Monroe's Niagara hot pink dress. But will I wear it often? That's a quick no. I REACH FOR NEUTRAL COLORS EVERY TIME. I wrote that one in caps for myself.
#4 Do you have a place for this or will you have to shove this in a corner of your home? *currently eyeing a fabric laying on the floor as I write this because I don't know where to put it* SMH
#5 Is this something you can buy in the future or easily find something comparable? For example: cotton twill. You can always find cotton twill. The second point, there will always be a fabric that you will want to buy. Don't let FMO get the best of you! Insert *You can do this* GIF
#6 If it's cheap, wouldn't you rather save and wait to get something of better quality? It usually takes three moments of almost-buying-that-cheap-fabric to get to the good one.
#7 My favorite tip, put it on hold for a day or wait a week. Will you want it then? 90% of the time I find that I don't buy it the next day, or I forget about it altogether. The best part is when you remember months later and it's on mega sale. Thank you short term memory loss!
Now for the actual Purge
I did not purge my items all at once. I did three separate rounds. Round one is the easiest. Marie Kondo the event. Bring EVERYTHING out and tackle it all at once. Create 3 piles. Keep. Donate. Toss/Recycle. My husband would argue that there is a fourth pile. Sell. HOWEVER, the resale market is supersaturated and unless you can sell it right away, it's going to take precious closet space and ask yourself, how much is your space worth? Just write it off on your taxes, your wallet might not miss those few extra dollars. You will, however, feel the weight of the stuff you carry.
"How much is your space worth?"
Once you are finished with your first purge, wait a few days. Allow your mind to forget about the things you let go of, then do it all over again. It should feel less scary the second time. And after those few days, you should also feel the benefits of the space you have gained and want more of it.
On the third a final purge, you have to do a few things first:
You must establish where you will be storing the things you are going to keep. How much space do you have? A shelf, a bookcase? A closet? How are you going to organize it? Boxes? Tote boxes? Small containers? Once you've figured out where it's all going to go, prepare the containers and start to fill them. If it doesn't fit, you have to remove items until it all fits comfortably. Ideally, you should leave 10% of free space. You might have calmed your shopping monster, but you are not perfect. Give yourself "room to make mistakes".
I had a large array of containers for buttons, trims, ribbons, elastic, and notions. My mission was to pare it all down to four of those containers. As daunting as it seemed, I actually managed it quite easily. I wouldn't have been able to do it in the first round of purging. It would have been too overwhelming. Guaranteed.
I have a confession: I was not able to create that 10% and I have bought a few things since then. However! What I did buy I intend to use immediately and I have made the closet space for my soon-to-be new garments. I went as far as blocking a whole weekend to sew these pieces. July 22 baby! I've got a playlist picked out and everything.
Now back to the Purge. My biggest tackle was all my sewing tools. Over the years I have collected tape measures, pins, needles, specialty tools, and lots of thread. I kept duplicates in the event I lost one. Ask me how many times I've lost my tape measure: 0. And after an Instagram poll of "What are your essential sewing tools" I decided I was going to get a sewing box and if it didn't fit, it had to go. Now I am not a total misogynist, I searched for a decent size sewing box and I landed on a wooded accordion sewing box, sometimes referred to as a Norwegian or German sewing box. I found one made in Poland on Etsy so I guess you can call it a Polish sewing box. It is STUNNING! The moment I opened the box you can smell the wood and varnish. Albeit a bit pricey, it was the equivalent of buying a vintage one without the wear and tear. My mother wanted to get me a birthday gift that was sewing-related so she offered to get it for me. My brother matched her gift with this wonderful wooden sewing set from Thread Theory.
It all fits perfectly with room to spare. It brings a smile to my face knowing that my sewing supplies are stored in such a beautiful container. There is something about having the things your treasure in a special place that elevates your experience. I feel good that I donated my duplicates. I know that they will be used rather than sitting in a closet waiting for the day that I reach for them.
As for the fabrics, I created a mental quiz:
Is it a natural fiber? If not, will I wear it? If no toss
Is it cheap? Does it feel cheap? If yes toss
Is it a color or pattern that I reach for? If no or "probably not" toss
Will I want to make it within the next year? If no toss
When I say "toss", I mean "donate". And where did I donate all my things?! I'm glad you asked. Most of my craft supplies and duplicates were quickly sold in a garage sale to other fellow crafters and ALL my fabrics were donated to the Orlando Shakes Theatre. Two large trash bags full. I gave each trash bag a major hug before I left them to some of the most talented sewers of Central Florida. Even if they become mock-ups, they would become fabulous mock-ups and that makes me very happy.
So how did my new space turn out? I leave you with this video to see the whole thing. I am happy in my tiny space. I don't feel overwhelmed, I don't miss much of what I let go of, and I don't always feel the urge to buy something new. The fabric hoarding monster still visits from time to time, but I go through the six questions to help calm the monster. Does it always work? No, but I've bought five new fabrics in the span of five months and two have been used along with three from my surviving stash so I would call that progress. Having a minimalist mindset is a journey and one I will continue to practice, even after I've moved into my dream victorian home. #manifest
With Love - Ruthmarie