5 Simple Steps for Taming Your Craft Stash

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!

5 simple steps for taming your craft stash at orgjunkie.com

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 headshot

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.

Linking up: Thirty Handmade Days, Design Dining and Diapers, Six Sisters Stuff

Filed under: Crafts, Emily, Guest Bloggers


34 Responses to 5 Simple Steps for Taming Your Craft Stash

  1. 1
    ThisAmericanWife says

    This is a great column. It got me thinking about my “stash” and how I could be more effective getting crafting time in and finishing projects. Thank you!!

    • 1.1
      Emily Chapelle says

      You’re very welcome! I’m glad it could help.

  2. 2
    Anne says

    Great article. I wanted to read more about Emily but the links to her blog and ebook aren’t working?!?

    • 2.1
      Laura says

      Sorry about that Anne, all fixed now. I appreciate you letting me know!

      • Emily Chapelle says

        Thanks for the heads up, Anne, and for fixing it so quickly, Laura! <3

  3. 3
    Katie says

    Great article – to the point! I think I’ll need to print this one out and go through my stash so I don’t “cheat” and keep things I don’t need!!!

    • 3.1
      Emily Chapelle says

      Sounds good! Just be sure to focus while you’re working on it and don’t put the printed-out article into a pile for “someday.” Hehe.

      (And when you’re done, recycle the article or give it to a crafty friend who needs the tips too. Don’t let it float around your house forever.)

  4. 4
    Christina Nelson says

    I just wish I knew someone besides other craft supply hoarders to pass fabric on to,

    • 4.1
      Emily Chapelle says

      High school theater department, art teacher, or home ec class? Those are the first ones that come to mind!

      Or let your sewing friends look at what you’ve got and pick their favorites, so you’re not just dumping 500 pounds of fabric on them that they then feel compelled to keep forever.

  5. 5
    Cindilee says

    Thank you for the great tips! I am going to put this to use this weekend.

    • 5.1
      Emily Chapelle says

      How did it go, Cindilee? I hope you made lots of progress!

      • Cindilee says

        Fabulously! I feel so much better. Nothing lying around that screams “You will never get this done.” What a freeing feeling. Thank you!!

        • Emily Chapelle says

          YAY! I’m so glad to hear it. Big time. I know that “free” feeling too… It’s pretty incredible.

  6. 6
    Alison Palmer says

    You have obviously been sneaking into my spare bedroom and looking around! I have so much yarn, it is threatening to take over the house!! Then there are all the Christmas crafts and buttons because I have a “thing” for buttons. Your advice may actually help me.

    • 6.1
      Emily Chapelle says

      Don’t get buried in yarn! Quick! Knit/crochet faster!!!

      Seriously though. I’m glad you found something useful in my post. 🙂

  7. 7
    Gabi says

    This post really gets u thinking! U r so right! Thank u for letting us know its OK to let unfinished projects go. Sometimes we need to hear that from others.

    Good job & happy crafting! 😉

    • 7.1
      Emily Chapelle says

      I know it’s hard to let go of that stuff… but really, sometimes it’s the only way to move on and do the more important stuff.

      Happy crafting to you too. 🙂

  8. 8
    Kelley says

    Great advice that I need to follow. I have a million stamps, but have spent the last 10 years hiding them from little kiddos. I don’t even know if I like stamping any more… On the other hand…OMG I didn’t even know I could buy craft items on craigslist…I am resisting the urge to look…

    • 8.1
      Emily Chapelle says

      Do NOT LOOK on Craigslist. And for the love of stamps, give them to your little kiddos and let them play with them, if you’re finished with them. 🙂 Think of the hours of bliss they’ll enjoy!

  9. 9
    Kalyn Brooke | Creative Savings says

    Hmmmm….did you write this just for ME? Lol. This is so true!! I have way to many in-progress projects, but I would almost rather shop at the craft store rather than spend time finishing them. We just moved and I am looking at all my craft boxes saying, “How do I have THAT much stuff?”. Will definitely be decluttering in the coming weeks. 🙂

    • 9.1
      Emily Chapelle says

      I did, Kalyn. JUST for you. 😉
      Focus focus focus… and meanwhile, I’m halfway through my time in this home, and have only completed a couple of my “deadline projects.” We’ll see what else I prioritize before we move again and the rest gets decluttered! Oh my goodness.

      Moving is helpful for this stuff, isn’t it?

  10. 10
    Shelley @ Two Healthy Kitchens says

    Oh, Emily! I really love this! Not only do I have some of my own stuff to organize, but I have oodles of my little daughter’s crafty stuff (OODLES!). Yes, we have stray bits of fabric and little bits of ribbon that she’s just sure she’ll need one day! And yes, we have partly finished projects that she now feels “meh” about! You’re kinda speaking right to the very heart of our problem, here! Thank you for the fabulous advice!!! (And congrats on becoming a monthly contributor! Can’t wait to read more …) 😀

    • 10.1
      Emily Chapelle says

      Oh boy, I’m familiar with those stray bits and little scraps… I had those as a kid too.

      I hope this helps you both move forward with things, let go of the past projects, and do what excites you!

  11. 11
    Michelle says

    Thanks for these tips! I started off with a little craft box full of supplies, and now it’s to the point I could pretty much use a whole room for my craft stuff. Hopefully this’ll help lighten the load a bit 🙂

    • 11.1
      Emily Chapelle says

      It’s crazy how that stuff multiplies by itself, isn’t it? Every time you close the door/box/basket/drawer/whatever… it just keeps making craft-supply babies.

      Good luck with decluttering your materials! You can do it.

  12. 12
    Tiffany says

    Very inspiring! You’ve broken down the thought process far more than other blogs I’ve read on culling through my craft stash. I’m going to take a good inventory, realign my priorities and get stuff done or cleaned out! Thanks!

    • 12.1
      Emily Chapelle says

      So glad to be able to help, Tiffany. Knowing what your priorities are really helps narrow down the important things and lets you let the rest go, guilt-free.

  13. 13
    Holly says

    This is exactly what I’m trying to do right now.
    This list makes more sense to me than any others I’ve read, thank you.

  14. 14
    Sheridan says

    Love this post! I have started restricting myself from buying now. I have only really bought any craft supplies for decorating my planner, because that is what I am enjoying doing most right now. I love scrapbooking but I’m terrible at printing photos, so until I finish my Christmas 2013 scrapbook, I’m not allowed to buy any new stuff!!!

    • 14.1
      Emily Chapelle says

      I love your goal of finishing that scrapbook. Hope it’s going well for you!
      And awesome job with the buying freeze. 🙂

  15. 15
    Fuzzy says

    Finally someone has made ‘sense’ to me how to downsize the enormous stash I have
    since becoming disabled I simply cant do all I want to do
    keeping away totally from craft shops has helped if I need one item I get a friend to go in and get it for me I just don’t trust myself in there

  16. 16
    Brandee Switzer says

    Oh My Goodness..I reard your article about 1 am and it turned the lights on in my brain and rang bells! I was up at 5 am this morning in my quilting room ‘purging’.

    My quilt quild has a boutique every year with our quilt show and I now have 3 FULL tubs of stuff to donate to the boutique! At number 1 I was ready to roll. If I didn’t get excited about it…it went to the donate tub.

    Thank you so much for your help!


  17. 17
    Angela says

    I’m pretty good at decluttering my wardrobe, kitchen etc but craft stuff has always floored me. I don’t have loads of stuff and most of it is beautifully filed/stored away but if I only ever use what I have now I’ll never give myself a chance to make something using the new skills I learn at my regular Embroiderers Guild workshop. I am going to follow your advice and get rid of stuff that I think of as one-day-I’ll-need-that. I have a craft shop just a mile away now so I no longer have to store so much. I think I could probably just have neutral fabrics as I love dyeing and printing fabric. You have given me a new focus, thank you


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