In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo advocates a surprisingly simple barometer for deciding what to keep and what to get rid of when decluttering a home: “does it spark joy?” She makes a pretty good case for the potency and effectiveness of this question; and even after putting it to the test myself, I found it does indeed work very, very well…for most things. However, has anyone else noticed that Kondo’s book doesn’t once address how to deal with craft supplies? Ummm…most craft supplies “spark joy,” don’t they? That’s why we’re drawn to them, after all. And even if it’s not the sparkly, glittery, patterned, textured quality of whatever supply we’re lusting over that makes us giddy, it’s definitely the sheer expectation, hope, and inspiration of a completed project that sparks joy deep inside us creative types. So if craft supplies…by their very nature…spark joy, how do you use this infamous method to cut down an excessively large craft stash? Well…I recently put my own craft collection to the KonMari test; and after bending the rules and adapting just a bit, I did find that it was indeed possible to KonMari craft supplies. Let me tell you how I did it!
Despite regular purges of my craft supplies over the last few years, I still had this gut feeling that I had too much. Not only was I busting out of the extensive storage I have in my craft room, but I knew I was actually only using a tiny percentage of what I owned. Just like how many people typically wear the same few things in their closet day in and day out, I was using only a fraction of my supplies regularly (but was keeping so much more for that “special” project that “might” someday come along). And on top of wasting space, time and energy storing a bunch of supplies I never used, whenever a new idea struck, I usually ran off to the store for new supplies instead of putting what I had to use. I finally decided it was time to get real about what I use, what I don’t, and significantly change my identity as a “craft hoarder.”
EMPTY THE SPACE…SERIOUSLY
Admittedly, I had no intention of emptying out my craft room, holding each and every supply in my hand in order to consider its joy factor, and then loading it all back in. In fact, I originally attempted to purge my craft supplies in a “cheater” way by just opening each bin or box, casually looking for items to get rid of and then moving on. As you can imagine, this approach left me with just a few things to purge and a feeling like I didn’t really give my decluttering a real, true effort.
Then a week later, we HAD to empty the office to (finally!) get new carpet installed. And once every last item from the office was dragged out, precariously piled up in the garage, and I could see it ALL at once, I finally “got” why Kondo says to empty it all out: because the sheer amount has a profound and lasting impression. Just by looking at the pile, I knew I had more work to do. Seeing it all at once helped me finally be ready to do it.
If you do nothing else I suggest in this post, empty it…ALL. Yes…it’s gonna make a disaster and it’s going to feel soooooo overwhelming. Trust me…I’ve seen some intense craft rooms so I know how much stuff you might have! But that’s the point. It’s an incredibly necessary step. Don’t skip it.
Okay…now that everything’s dragged out, you’re ready to go through each and every item and decide if it truly “sparks joy,” or at the very least, if it should be kept for future crafting. Since practically everything in a craft room can be potentially be used for anything, here are some other things to consider as you ask yourself “does it spark joy?”
BE REALISTIC ABOUT THE CRAFTS YOU DO
This was a really big one for me. As a creative person and someone who crafts as part of their job, I am ready and willing to give lots of different projects a try. Knitting? Sure, I’ve always wanted to learn! Stamping? That sounds fun! Stenciling? You guys know I love a good pattern! Quilting? I love mixing and matching fabrics! Well…as you can imagine, all these various hobbies came with their own collection of supplies. But even when a certain hobby faded to the background, the stuff never went with it.
Like I said in the beginning, my craft space was 85% filled with supplies I never used. So…I got really honest with myself about the hobbies I just don’t do anymore. I kept all of my paper, all of my vinyl, all of my party supplies and other items I use regularly. But I got rid of 100% of my stamps, yarn, and scrapbook supplies, and almost all of my quilting fabric. Gasp. Did I just say that? Yes…yes I did.
I’ve accepted that I’m just not a hobby sewer. I certainly enjoy sewing and use it to create things for my home or as gifts. But it’s not my main craft. When I go to make a project, whether it’s a baby gift or a new set of throw pillows, I often go to the store for fresh new fabrics anyway. Getting “real” about not being a quilter/sewer really freed me to get rid of the things (like 6 boxes of fabric!) taking space, time and energy from the projects and crafts I really, truly enjoy.
BE REALISTIC ABOUT THE PROJECTS THAT ARE GOING TO GET DONE
Raise your hand if you’ve ever gone to the craft or fabric store with an idea, filled your cart with all the necessary supplies, come home all excited to start, but then life gets in the way. Six months later you find the bag full of untouched supplies, and all the excitement for the project is completely faded?
My hunch is that pretty much every crafter’s hand is up. I know both of mine are.
My craft room, and probably yours too, is filled with projects (and their supplies) that were either never started or never finished. If the joyful spark of that project has truly faded and you realistically don’t see yourself ever completing the project…get rid of it…all. Not only will the clutter be gone, but so will the guilt of the unfinished creation.
DISCARD EXTRAS AND NOT ENOUGHS
When working on any kind of project, it is pretty rare to have the exact right amount of supplies. Whether it’s scrap wood or leftover fabric, a whole box of nails or 6″ left of Velcro, there are ALWAYS leftovers…ALWAYS. As crafters who see potential and usefulness in everything, it can be tempting to keep all those odds and ends. However, those odds and ends rarely get used and are often exactly what’s cluttering up our work spaces.
I suggest you get rid of extras of things that you realistically don’t think you’ll use again. Whether it’s a 1/2 yard really specific novelty fabric or a random tool you had to buy to do something very specific…if it was a one-time, probably never do again-type item, get rid of it. Yes…even those few extra snaps or leftover bias tape…toss it.
In the same way, I suggest you get rid of anything that there isn’t enough to do anything meaningful with. I had kept a lot of drapery materials (tape, hooks, etc); however, I didn’t have enough of any item to make a single pair of drapes. Since I’d have to buy more supplies anyway (if and when I actually make drapes again), I chose to toss it all.
Now…I know you fabric lovers LOVE your scraps; but if you’re being completely honest with yourself, you can only do so much with that many scraps. I refer you to my previous point: be realistic about what you’re actually going to make.
WEIGH THE “COST OF REPLACING” AGAINST THE “COST OF KEEPING”
Everything has potential in a craft room…everything. And when you add in the likelihood of science fair projects and school dioramas, you can honestly make a case for keeping pretty much everything. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I LOVE LOVE LOVE turning an unexpected find into something oh-so-perfect for a project…that thrill certainly sparks joy for me. However, I also know there is a cost to keeping all those random pom-poms and pipe-cleaners and gift boxes and…you name it.
We move a lot. A lot. And it is not lost on me how much time and supplies are required to move my craft stash over and over again. From the man hours to pack and unpack it, to my hours to organize, store, and maintain it, as well as all the boxes, paper, bins, totes and more to do so over and over…it’s a lot. And I’m realizing that the cost of replacing a $0.97 bag of pipe-cleaners is easier and more cost-effective in the long run than keeping them, moving them, and maybe never needing them.
My example of a bag of pipe-cleaners may seem silly, but multiply that bag of pipe-cleaners by yards of fabric and skeins of yarn and piles of paper and bottles of paint and jugs of glue…(all that is never, ever used)…and I think you’ll get my point. Whether you move or not, if you can’t decide whether to part with something, consider how much it is to replace if you ever need it again. When it comes to small, inexpensive craft supplies, my guess is buying it when you need it will be worth the space you gain by getting rid of it…every time.
DOES IT HAVE USEFULLNESS?
In response to my last KonMari post, I had a reader, Erin, write a really concise and on-point response to how something like kitchen knives or plungers can “spark joy.” She wrote:
Also, for the people who wonder how socks and plungers and laundry detergent spark joy: the book specifically covers items that don’t thrill you. Rather than the thing itself sparking joy, the way a flattering favorite sun dress might, the joy comes from the item being exactly what you need for a particular life task. Does the beauty of my plunger spark joy? No. But having a plunger that is ready to do the correct task at a moment’s notice DOES. Same with everyday socks: it’s not their beauty, but their functionality–these socks are comfortable, in good repair, and in the style I prefer; they make me feel good while I wear them and are easy to clean–that’s my sock joy.
I suggest this same thought process be applied to various tools and supplies in the craft room. Do you have a pair of scissors you reach for over and over again because they are reliable, you like the way they work and feel, and they are simply your favorite? Keep them…those scissors spark joy for you. Conversely, is there a pair you pass every time because they are dull and uncomfortable? Toss them…no questions asked. Tools in the craft room might not “spark joy” for you; but if you’re honest with yourself, you know exactly which tools are useful, reliable, quality and purposeful. Keep those and discard the broken, novelty, or never-used tools you’ve gathered along the way.
DOES IT STILL SPARK JOY?
As I said in beginning, most craft supplies tend to spark some kind of joy when we first buy them. But as time wears on, that spark may indeed fade. Although I’ve demonstrated that there are other things to consider besides “joy,” this is still a valuable question to ask especially when it comes to things like scrapbook papers, fabrics, wallpapers, wrapping papers, etc.
I came across several pads of cute scrapbook paper that I bought on a whim, fabric that I just “had to have,” and wrapping paper that I thought would make for cute drawer liners. But as I really examined them in light of all the considerations I have outlined here alongside the question of “does it spark joy,” it became clear that my spark for these items was gone. If a pattern or product or idea or tool really doesn’t light that excited, creative fire in you anymore, then it’s time to let it go…no matter how useful it might be or how much potential it might have.
Just like what happened in my closet, once I applied (this version of) the KonMari method to my craft supplies, I was able to finally let go of so many items I’ve been holding on to for years. No…I didn’t get rid of every last sequin or pom pom or yard of fabric (we do have school dioramas to make, after all!!!), but I really forced myself to get real about the things I do and the things I don’t. In the end, not only did everything fit back into my craft room (with room to spare!), but what remains are truly the craft supplies I use, know I will use, or genuinely love!
(I know you’re probably dying to see what all I kept and how it looks now. I have some labels to make and a few finishing details to pull together, and then the craft room will be ready for its full reveal…probably early next month!)
I hope this post has been helpful to those of you who truly want to reduce your crafting footprint but are having a hard time letting go of all the pretty and potential-filled items in your home! If you’ve KonMari’d your craft supplies too and came across some helpful tips, don’t hesitate to share in the comments below! Happy decluttering, my friends!
Posted In California '16, Craft Organization, Organization