How to Purge Your Sewing Room: Steps I & II

Last Sunday, I was able to take a ton of bags of fabric, books, interfacing, batting, and tools to my quilt guild meeting. It was extremely fulfilling to see my possessions – which were dragging me down, cluttering my sewing room, and preventing me from working effectively – make other people so happy. I was especially pleased to be passing along some of these items to newer quilters. When you’re first starting out, I think it’s really helpful to work on projects without worrying about how much money you spent on everything!
Keeping some of the philosophies behind decluttering and minimizing was key in this cleanup. The more stuff I got rid of, the happier and more liberated I felt. I began feeling less attached to my things. It made it feel strange when people were surprised by my decluttering. They almost seemed more attached to my items on my behalf than I felt attached to them! These items are just things – replaceable! – and not the most valuable aspects of my life.
{image source}
Part I: The Basics
 
{reclaim your house}
To begin with, I went through the rest of my house and reclaimed all of my rooms. If you’re like me, your fabric and quilting items have migrated into every room of the house. Literally.
Yup. That’s a sewing machine in my bathroom.
I returned all of these items to my sewing room so that I only had to sort through everything once.
 
{general clean}
This is the time to get rid of as much as possible, as quickly as possible. Take out any obvious trash/recycle items that don’t require any thought to keep the momentum going. Making a big visual impact at the get-go will help give you incentive to keep going!
In my first basic clean sweep, I got rid of 3 huge black bags of trash! *hangs head in shame*
Part II: Your Stash
 
purge 1
This part has generated a lot of comments – people were either impressed at how much I was taking out, or horrified. I don’t think anyone was expecting me to go to such extreme lengths when they read my initial post! But my husband and I really are working on minimizing our possessions, not just keeping the house in relative order.
purge 2
At the end of my life, I won’t wish I had bought more fabric. I won’t regret giving away my scraps. I won’t miss my batting offcuts. I will be measured by the content of my life, not the contents of my house. I’m only interested in keeping what helps me live and create more effectively. Everything else is unnecessary.
Stashing should provide you with the fabric and tools you want to use and do use. If I didn’t even want it, there was no reason to keep it. Not even “just in case”.  Stashing isn’t doomsday prepping for every possible situation down the road. As I purged my stash, I asked myself, is this serving me? If the answer was no, or if it was difficult to put my finger on how it was serving me, out it went!
 
{know your standards}
In order to decide if something stays or goes, it helps to have some sort of predetermined criteria. Yours might be different than mine.
 
Here’s what I decided needed to be donated, no questions asked:
- Non quilt store quality fabrics
At this point in my life, I’m only interested in using good fabric. I’d rather have less fabric that’s higher quality than a huge pile of cheap fabric. If I wasn’t sure about the quality of the fabric, it went in this pile as well.
purge 3
{a big ole’ pile of Jo-Ann’s fabric}
- Fabric I no longer like
Hey, it happens. Tastes change. I’m living in the present, not the past. There’s no need to feel guilty about it (as long as you adapt your shopping habits accordingly). It’s better for someone else – who loves that style of fabric – to own it, love it, and use it, than for me to look at it disdainfully, annoyed that it’s taking up space on my shelf. I’m not worried that in 5 years, I’ll want that style of fabric again. I don’t think it will happen. And if it does, I’ll buy some then.
- Batting scraps of blends/brands I don’t really care for
I’ve recently had the pleasure of trying out Pellon Nature’s Touch, some Quilter’s Dream batting, and a large variety of Hobb’s battings. I love them all! And I have no desire to use Warm & White/Natural ever again. Sorry Warm & White….(or as my friend likes to call it, Warm & Cheap – lol!). I knew there were plenty of other people who would use and appreciate these scraps. I also got rid of 100% Poly battings. I only use these for very specific (and rare) purposes, and definitely didn’t feel the need to keep them.
Here’s what I decided to keep automatically:
 
- Solids – these are a staple item to me (your staples might be different, of course)
purge 4
- Prints: I kept blenders, fabrics I’m super in love with, and fabrics I have plans for
purge 5
purge 6
- Large pieces of batting (of approved brands and blends)
Some things were decided on a case-by-case basis:
- Fabric I haven’t been able to use, despite multiple attempts (usually this happened with multi-colored prints or fabrics with a cream, rather than white, background)
- Fabric I felt so-so about (if it was a large piece, I reserved it as backing for charity quilts)
- Non-quilting cottons (for the most part, I got rid of these, but did keep some flannels for baby things)
purge 7
- Traditional fabrics I liked, but wasn’t sure I would end up using (some of these left, a number of them stayed, and they’ll be re-evaluated in a year or so)
Addressing scraps
I view these as part of my stash, though I did sort through them a little differently.
- I kept my scrap jars. They’re just for decoration :)
purge 8
- I got rid of super small scraps. At this point, I have enough scraps that I’m ok with donating smaller ones, for the sake of space. When I also had yardage of the same fabric, it seemed silly to keep the teeny tiny scraps.
- I kept all solids (unless they were super small).
- I got rid of all scraps that screamed “ugly fabric” to me.
- I got rid of all scraps that I couldn’t picture using (I find things like plaids very specific and hard to place).
- Scraps from projects/fabrics that I am so totally over. I’ve used them, I made the quilt, I just have no desire to use them again. (Maybe I’m not a scrap quilter?)
***
So there you have it – a general clean and a stash purge got me most of the way there. In about a week or so, I’ll talk about purging some tools and furniture. I’m not sure if you still think I’m crazy or not, but this has really made my sewing room a more enjoyable and peaceful place!
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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Amy, I couldn’t agree with you more about this! Love the photo of the sewing machine in the bathroom (LOL) and the idea of keeping scraps in mason jars. Such a good one. I was cleaning out my knitting supplies, but after reading this, I realize I need to go back and purge more. Thanks!

  2. says

    This is awesome. I have to say that I’m pretty jealous of what you ended up with. If I purged all of my cheapo and so-so fabrics, I would have hardly anything left, it seems like. Maybe in a few years I will have enough fabric to really justify purging all of the unwanted stuff (most of which was handed down). For now I just let it fill my shelves and give me the sense that I have lots of fabric. ;)
    You inspire us all!

  3. says

    These are some awesome tips! I do the same with my house in general and people are often shocked at how much I send out. We don’t personally buy a lot but our families send back an extra suitcase of toys/clothes/random stuff every time the girls go home :(

  4. says

    Love that you are doing this! I’ve not gone thru my stash to detach it, but I need to. I was looking at bigger storage but after following you I am determine to keep my small storage unit and destash/clutter it when it fills. Already I do some of what you have done. I don’t keep batting cutoffs unless 12 inches wide so I can use it it for free motion practice. And all my scraps I immediately cut them into 2.5 inch strip or 3 inch squares and throw the rest away. Not sure I’ll ever use them… but I may and they don’t take up much space already cut into those 2 arbitrary sizes. Anyway, again. I love what you are doing! :)

  5. says

    What a great purge you did! I also love you method of storing your scraps I do something similar but instead of storing the scraps in my mason jars I turn them into hexagons and then put those in a mason jar. I love they way they look sitting there in the jars and yours are just stunning!

  6. says

    Thank you for the inspiration! Lately my sewing space has started to feel more claustrophobic than relaxing – this is exactly the push I needed to do my own purge.

  7. says

    OH I love how you think! I have been slowly ridding myself of things I do not need or want anymore too and it feels wonderful to actually see a shelf in my craft closet and is empty and ready to hold current projects!!!! I want to sort out all my buttons and put them in glass jars, think they will look nice on a shelf too rather than coffee cans!!!

  8. says

    I am truly inspired by your actions. I do have one question…how do your preferred brands of batting differ from Warm and White? It is all I have ever used and now I am questioning myself. Thanks for sharing your

  9. says

    I just found your blog through the giveaway and started following. I loved this post as I am on a similar journey as I just started purging my house and have to start my sewing room which so desperately needs it! Some really good tips in here and hopefully I can do them too!

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