One woman’s trash is another woman’s stash

My life has been overwhelmed for several weeks this spring with helping my aunt move. My aunt is a “professional accumulator”, especially for items like dishes, clothes, craft/art supplies, and decorative items. But also for everyday things like cleaning products, pencils, umbrellas, and scissors. Helping her sort, pack, and purge an entire 2 bedroom condo has been exhausting, both physically and emotionally.

I didn’t realize the extent of the project when I started it. I thought that I would take a load or two to a thrift store, and maybe get to choose couple things to keep for my self that I could use. This project was 10 times that scale. If I had saved up all of the stuff she was getting rid of and had a garage sale, I would have been able to net somewhere between $500-$1000. Instead, I gave away at least 50% to friends, kept about 10% for myself, and the rest went to the thrift shop.

As piles of my aunt’s stuff got loaded in my car, I picked out a few things here and there I found “useful” like an extra trowel or a whole bolt of muslin fabric. But then there were also things like a container of over 100 skeins of yarn, so I just picked out a few favorites. But after a while, just taking my favorites added up.

After my aunt left and the dust settled, this is what I was left with:

sewing room mess 2

sewing room mess

A total disaster area.

My aunt’s cast-offs have become my own clutter problem now.

I justify it to myself by saying things like: “I only took a small handful of my favorite things that I wanted. I really held back. I could have taken a lot more. I did good.” or “I’m totally going to use this stuff, as soon as my son is in school all day.” or “This is really going to save me a ton of money in the long run, even though things feel a little cramped right now.” But the fact remains that I can’t move in that room enough to use any of it.

The whole experience has given me a lot to reflect upon. The accumulation of stuff is a constant struggle for me. (It might even be genetic in my case!) I wrote about his problem over two years ago here. I was struggling back then to tame the piles, and I have twice as much stuff now as I did then.

The stuff in there is my Achilles heel. Since dealing with my aunt’s clutter, I have purged extra office supplies, clothes, toys, and gardening supplies. I can recognize that I have too many binders, or pots, or ill fitting pants. Its easy for me to part with those extras. And it feels great to do it.

But I dig my heels in when it comes to my precious craft clutter. I think I really cling to an ideal that someday I will be able to use all this stuff, to make beautiful things for myself or for gifts, or to sell. So I continue to reorganize, shift, and squeeze in more and more stuff, while my output is almost zero.

I don’t know what the resolution to this problem will be, but it does help me to write about it. I have managed to clear some floor space in the room this week, so its not dangerous for people to walk in there (thank goodness she also got rid of some shelves and storage containers for me to use!). I took out some recycling, put a few things up for sale, and put together a small box of donations. But the room is still brimming full. All I’ve mostly done is shift, sort and cram.

sewing mess 3

Do you struggle with ideals/fantasies of what you will one want to do or to have or to use? What items are your Achilles heel, the ones that you can’t help but collect more of than you could ever use or need?

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3 Responses to One woman’s trash is another woman’s stash

  1. dcb says:

    your craft room is my garage. i think the genetic “problem” we both inherited is that we can see the potential in just about anything. you save scraps of fabric because you know they could be used some day. i save boxes of tools, broken appliances, old electronics, etc. because i know they could be used for something someday too.

    oh yeah, and i have too many shoes.

  2. janaremy says:

    I seem to have lost that genetic proclivity. My craft supplies currently consist of a small drawer of thread for sewing, a mason jar with buttons from my clothes, and two skeins of yarn (one for crocheting a dishcloth and one for a wool hat that I wear for paddling this winter).

  3. Pingback: A few frugal things » Dig | Sew | Grow

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