Hooters Hall

Stash beyond life expectancy

Do you have a stash of craft supplies? All those materials that were too beautiful/ perfect/rare/good value not to purchase and which you’re definitely going to use one day just as soon as you have time.

Where do you keep your treasure hoard? Is it on display taking over a room or squirreled away in hidden corners around your home. Do you know how big your stash is ? Have you ever calculated how long it will take you to use all your supplies once those mythical days when you have plenty of time for making arrive?

A friend of mine who knits did that calculation and worked out she had a yarn stash beyond life expectancy. Based on average life expectancy, the amount of time she spent knitting, the speed of her knitting and the fact that she was in her early forties with a normal life expectancy she was unlikely to use up her yarn stash before her death, and yet as we laughed about this and browsed the yarn store she couldn’t resist just another skein, such a beautiful one off colourway, it would make a beautiful shawl one day, when she had the time.

My exploration of mindful making has led me to reflect on my own hoarding of craft supplies. I make a conscious choice to use the word hoarding because I think it sounds less cute and forgiving than stash. Our capitalist culture likes to ease our concerns about hoarding and unnecessary consumption by painting it in a positive light, a fun amusing behaviour, a deserved reward , the action of an erudite collector, a necessity and of course you can always do a bit of stash busting and maybe make some space / cash to buy more perfect/ beautiful/ good value/ rare supplies. But it’s not cute, not conducive to a satisfying, creative making life and it’s not necessary.

This year I had to pack up my craft room while we renovated our home. I carefully packed away boxes of yarn and fabric that I was going to use one day. As I did my packing I came across skeins of yarn and pieces of vintage fabric that I absolutely had to have at the time I bought them, I remembered having so many plans for what I would make but there they were sitting in storage still waiting to be made into something and that initial neurochemical buzz that I got when I bought them was long gone, it was just more stuff that needed packing and then unpacking. The same can happen with the tools we use for making. I have two manual spinning wheels and an electric one but most of the time I use just one of the manual wheels and don’t get me started on how many looms I have collected over the years.

Aside from the financial and environmental impact of a supply or tool hoarding habit I don’t think it’s compatible with mindful making. A hoard of supplies doesn’t keep you in the moment and as the hoard expands it becomes a nagging distraction from your creativity. In a very practical way it can also impact on the space you have for your making. It is often the case that once that short lived neurochemical buzz of acquisition fades the stuff becomes less of a desirable treasure and more of a storage problem.

If you’re reading this and experiencing an urge to shout “yes but …” at me stop for a moment and consider why.

Do you recognise some of your own behaviour and feel the need to justify it because being shown it makes you feel negatively about what you do ?

Could you step back from that urge to “yes but” and reflect.

Are you a maker or a hoarder of stuff ? Does having a hoard of supplies or tools make you a better maker, if so why ? What would your making life be like if you only had the supplies for the project you are working on now ? What would you do with the space that your hoard occupies ? How would it feel taking a mindful, minimalist approach to your use of supplies and tools? Do you think it would affect your creativity ? If you stop buying supplies and tools how much money would you save ?

It can be uncomfortable asking yourself those questions, I know because that’s what I asked myself. My answer was that I’m a maker not a collector / hoarder and as I questioned myself I started to feel more uncomfortable about my hoard. I spent time reading about minimalism and mindfulness and recognised the benefits of not attaching myself and my making to the acquisition of stuff.

It’s not easy to change habits but I’ve started taking a more minimalist and therefore mindful approach to my supplies and tools. I didn’t unpack all of my hoard, I donated some to charity, I have a set, small amount of space for supply storage and I’ve resolved to use up the supplies that I have kept. Sock yarn was my particular hoarding obsession. I’m never going to knit all my sock yarn into actual socks or shawls so I’m knitting a mitred square blanket ( see picture above) and once I’ve finished this blanket I’ll probably knit a few more blankets until I use up my remaining sock yarn hoard.

In the future I’ve resolved to only buy supplies for specific projects that I am ready to start. I am already feeling the benefits. There was a sense of dropping a heavy weight that had been dragging down my creativity and pleasure in making, I felt a renewed enthusiasm for making and with less need for storage I had more room for making.

I have managed to stick to not buying more supplies and tools. No more impulse buying. If I see something I’d like online I bookmark it and think about it. I’ve found that once that initial thrill fades and I take time to question my need, thinking about whether I’m going to make or use something right now, the impulse to buy and any negative feeling attached to missing out on acquiring my momentary heart’s desire passes, leaving me content with what I have in the moment and able to focus on creating and making rather than acquiring and managing my hoard.

So, if any of this rings a bell for you, no matter how uncomfortable it feels ask yourself the questions I asked myself. You might find it starts you on a journey to reinvigorated creativity, a contented focus on your making, more space and more cash in your pocket.                                             

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