There are a few times during the year when the idea of streamlining your stash becomes attractive, for me, the time has come. So when does stash building go wrong? When does it become hoarding? After an illness last year, I was forced to make room for caretakers. Every bit of the stash was moved to a storage unit 6' x 6' x 10' , and proudly every inch of space was utilized in a way that I could get to it easily, with just a little shifting. Convinced I would only need to keep the space for 3 months, the cost of rental seemed reasonable. Fast forward 5 months, it all has to come back in. A new opportunity to apply new priorities to the existing stash. My beautifully empty home will be invaded once again (that's not to say I didn't miss my stash).
We've all seen the hoarding shows, we tell ourselves, it can't happen to us, what were these people thinking? Yet, we all love a bargain, who can resist it? Making our money last with a bargain and having that rush of getting something for free, or finding a beautiful cut of fabric, or that hard to find notion that will make our lives easier, or and the list goes on. One of the few non fattening indulgences we allow ourselves.
Think about this.... some of the hoarders on these shows have been traumatized, either by physical illness, or emotional upheaval. There are a number of things that can leave us immobilized, loss of a loved one, a divorce, an illness, there are pitfalls everywhere. The mail keeps coming, the bills keep coming, the magazines the inserts (that we don't ask for), there will always be stuff coming into the house for as long as we are alive. So we try to keep ahead of it, by taking out the trash, donating, and swapping or selling things, but sometimes the "creep" wins, and we find ourselves tackling the piles all over again.
Many of the tips to streamline your wardrobe (if you have mostly clothing fabrics), and declutter tips to focus your craft supplies (which for me now include quilting) can be applied here.
First step - Like Items with Like Items - Go through all of those bins and put like things together, everyone will have a different set of categories. I have whittled down the yarn collection to 2 bins and a knitting machine. The silk boxes are a mere 3 bins, the linen 1 bin, the wool 1 bin, the quilting paraphernalia has grown to 3 bins from 0. Depending on how you sew, bead or knit, your categories will be different.
Second Step - Inspection -
Eliminate anything that smells that you aren't committed to cleaning. If it smells musty because it's been in the bin too long chances are you will never get a fresh cleaning garment out of it, and if you keep it with other fabrics that aren't musty, know, that the musty will spread. Also this is something that is really important if you frequent garage sales, thrift stores, or craigslist remember to smell any garments or fabric you are bringing into your home. Sometimes our enthusiasm gets the better of us and by the time we are home it's too late. Also as a friend cautioned me, the threat of bed bugs is another issue, so maybe a quarantine would be in order.
Toss anything that is dirty, damaged or stained I kept some threads that I have tested and they are sun bleached along the ends, and break very easily. These might be useful for thread art, but seriously, not even for that, the chance of them disintegrating further and spoiling your project, it's just not worth it . Some of the pearl cotton which was inherited from my mother's stash, has yellowing, this could be used for displays or photo shoots, but I don't do that sort of thing. Broken supplies, like plastic rulers, those items missing an important component that makes it non functioning need to go away.
Separate things to donate or sell
Will you ever use it? These are the items that are still useful, and can find a home somewhere else. That double knit polyester from the 70's might find a home on ebay or the thrift store for a kitschy 70's costume. Those specialty items you purchased as result of a class, or your dreams of making the largest pom pom in the universe, they need to find a new home. Do you have fabrics that aren't the right color for you or that now you can't stand the feel of? I used to wear poly knits to work all the time, loved them, they wash well, were fluid, had a nice drape, maintained their colors, what's not to like? Well, I find I can no longer tolerate them, they are simply too hot for my climate, so they have to go. Remember that yardage fury when you entered the stash busting contest, and decided you would win with the 4,000 tutu's and circle skirts you were going to sew up in 10 minutes. Don't be ashamed, maybe a children's theater group can make good use of those fabrics.... unless you wear petticoats, and there's nothing wrong with that either. Just be realistic here.
Now that you have those piles organized, get them out of the house as quickly as possible. Do not allow yourself to go through the elimination piles again.
Next.....The slippery slope..... repurposing.