Emily from So Damn Domestic has previously stopped by here as a guest blogger and today I’m happy to announce that she is joining my team as a regular monthly contributor. Welcome Emily!
I get it. I’m a crafter too.
I know what it’s like to see the potential in that tiny scrap of fabric, that beautiful woven ribbon that came unexpectedly wrapped around the last thing you ordered from Etsy, the stacks of printed and textured paper that are 50% off in the craft store.
Chances are your “stash” will keep you busy for a long, long time. Unfortunately, if your stash has developed a life of its own, oozing out of designated baskets and boxes, spilling off of shelves, and piling higher and higher, it’s going to keep you busy managing your materials rather than creating masterpieces.
So how can you cut through the clutter, get to the good stuff, and really start creating again? It’s pretty simple. Here’s how I’ve been doing just that, since we moved into our house in December.
1. Get rid of the obvious stuff.
I made some crocheted purses. Mostly. All I needed to do was line them with fabric, add a magnetic snap, and add the handles. Simple, right? Absolutely! But once I realized I didn’t care about using them, the motivation to continue slipped away. But I had birthed those bags from my fingers! I OWED it to them to finish! So I moved those unfinished bags to four homes, including two cross-country moves (and had two babies) before finally letting them go.
What you can do: Look for projects you don’t get excited about anymore; out-of-style patterns, fabrics, projects; items you feel “meh” about. You don’t owe these objects anything. You’re not required to finish them or use them up. In fact, you can give them a better life by passing them on to someone who’s going to get excited about them the way you once did, long ago.
2. Realize the constraints of your time, and calculate approximately what is possible in your real life.
During our three month cross-country move, I took a bin of embroidery projects I knew would keep me busy. I planned to complete one project each week or two. Want to know how many projects I actually finished? ONE. And not because it took me far longer than I had imagined it would. Nope. I finished it in a week. But there was always something else to do, other than crafting. I wasn’t making it my priority.
What you can do: Look at how many projects you’ve actually completed over the last 6 months, and what types of projects those were. This will reveal what your crafting priorities have been. Now, figure out how many projects you’re likely to complete within the next year (or even two years). So if you completed 5 projects in the last 6 months, it’s likely that you’ll complete 10 within a year.
3. Identify and complete your Priority Works-In-Progress.
After giving away the random craft materials and incomplete projects, what was left was clear. A huge pile of carefully-cut squares from my son’s baby clothes, which I’ve “been meaning to” make into a quilt. Some small mirrors I’ve “been meaning to” personalize for the kids. A couple of ornate-framed ugly floral art things I’ve “been meaning to” paint over and make into quirky wall art. Embroidery hoops I’ve “been meaning to” fill with hand-stitched designs representing our family. A few pieces of clothing I’ve “been meaning to” upcycle into clothes for my kids. You get the point.
What you can do: I’m sure you have materials for MANY projects you’ve “been meaning to” do too. Crafters see potential and make big plans. We start multiple projects and when life interrupts, we’re lucky if we complete one. Now’s the time to focus. Choose one project at a time, and work on it until it’s finished. Then start the next one, and keep at it until it’s completed too. It can be helpful to start with the smaller projects you know won’t take too much time, to get a few “wins” under your belt, and start seeing your stash shrink. (Take a deep breath. This is what we WANT.) If you become less enamored with a project, it’s okay to abandon it, pass it on, and get rid of the “ingredients.” We have a finite amount of time, so isn’t it better to work on something we’re actually excited about?
4. Set an expiration date.
Either for each project, or for the whole batch of them. I’m moving again in January, so for me, that’s the natural expiration date. Any of these works-in-progress I haven’t actually prioritized and completed by then, I’ll release into the world – or at least into a thrift shop – totally guilt-free. Since I kept a pretty reasonable amount of materials through the initial declutter/purge, if I wanted to, I actually could complete everything within the year we live here. I’ve discovered that with an expiration date set and the different projects vying for “current project” status, some of them are losing their appeal, and I’ll probably let go of them even before they expire. Would I rather finish my son’s baby clothes quilt, or make some more t-shirt transfers? And which would of those I rather release, unfinished? The expiration date has lent clarity to my crafting time, and I’m doing projects I’m excited about finishing.
What you can do: Decide on an expiration date for your projects. If it helps, write the date on the container holding the materials for each project. On the stroke of midnight, the carriage will turn into a pumpkin. Keep yourself honest and actually declutter the project and materials if you haven’t made that work-in-progress a priority before it expires. Let go of any guilt you might feel about not completing the project, and focus on everything you’ve created in the meantime.
5. Stop buying new stuff.
Really. It can be hard to break habits like walking through the craft store for inspiration, flipping through the sale ads, thrilling with excitement when we see Perfectly Good Craft Materials on Craigslist for a tenth of what they cost new. But what’s the point in buying new potential when we already have so much? We’re just throwing away money on more projects that will never be completed (and spending our time shopping instead of crafting).
What you can do: Make a commitment to stay away from craft and fabric stores, sale ads, and secondhand stashes. Whenever you think about buying something new, think of a project you already have the materials for. If you need something small to complete a work-in-progress, fine. Go to the store. Get ONLY that item. And then come right back home to work on that specific project until it’s finished.
It can be scary to think about your crafting stash dwindling down to nearly nothing. What if we get sudden inspiration and don’t have the materials on hand? Well, once we’ve pared down and gotten out of the habit of buying things for the sake of “someday,” we will have the space available to store materials for a new project, and the time and focus to complete it. We won’t need to worry about buying everything at a deep discount, because we aren’t buying EVERYTHING anymore.
It’s worth it. I promise.
Emily Chapelle is an expert homemaker, having set up six different houses in seven years of military moves. She’s also the mother of two adorable curly-haired kids, wife to a Navy fighter pilot, and a former teacher, childcare provider, and nanny. Now she works from home to spread encouragement and inspiration to other homemakers with a no-nonsense attitude and lots of tough love. She blogs at So Damn Domestic. Get her free eBook, Finding the Awesome: 3 Steps to Doing More & Stressing Less for more inspiration and guided, broken-down exercises to find your Awesome.