Inside: Why we spend too much time organizing and not enough time crafting … and how to stop. Get your craft stash under control with these expert tips.
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I happily rolled my IKEA Alex drawer unit in front of me as I sank into the couch cushions to watch TV with the fam.
“You organize all the time … but I never see you crafting anymore”, my husband observed.
What's wrong with organizing?
I love my craft supplies. And organizing them is fun because I get to admire all of the pretty things I have collected over the years. If I’m being totally honest here, organizing may be as much fun as crafting … but it doesn’t leave a lot of time for crafting.
You've all seen the meme about how organizing craft supplies and using your craft supplies are two different hobbies.
I was a living example.
My husband was right (shhhh, don't tell him I said that) … I was organizing more than I crafted.
We only have 24 hours in a day and a full life to live.
You have a few minutes a week to make crafts. If you didn’t organize, you’d never be able to craft because you couldn’t find the supplies you want to use. Spending time organizing your supplies seems justified.
But how do you find the time to organize all of your beautiful craft supplies so they are ready when you need them to make crafts? And then still have time to actually craft?
The problem isn't organizing craft supplies …
The truth is, organizing craft supplies and crafting ARE two separate hobbies. And you likely don't have time for both.
We tend to think the reason we don't craft more is because our space is not perfect.
It’s easy to think, “If only I had …”:
- more space
- better storage
- a different space
- new furniture
- and so on …
I've spent years trying to solve the problem of not having enough time to craft because I spent it all on organizing.
After 15 years of sharing my craft space online …
And thousands of comments on over 500 posts on the Best Craft Rooms Instagram account …
And after helping hundreds of crafters organize their space in an online course …
I realized the problem can't be solved by organizing better or more often.
The problem can’t be solved by having a bigger, better, more well-appointed craft room.
And the problem can’t be solved by buying fancier, more expensive storage solutions (did someone say Elfa?).
The problem is we have too many craft supplies to organize
Yikes. I said the thing no one wants to hear.
The craft companies don't want me to tell you this. They depend on you getting excited about new product releases, running out to the store, and buying another stapler (this time in green!) even though you already have 6 other functional staplers in your drawer.
When I got rid of 90% of my supplies, I realized I don’t need all the things.
Not only did I not need or miss most of the supplies I got rid of, the way I craft changed entirely.
What Changed When I Had LESS Craft Supplies?
Think back to the first time you crafted. You got to buy new things you had never tried before, like Puffy Paint and glitter glue. The excitement about what you’d create with the new supplies you bought was exhilarating!
Now think back to the last time you felt that way about crafting … how long ago was that?
For me, it had been years since I felt enthusiastic about crafting. That energy returned when I got rid of the great mass of supplies and focused on what I love: crafting.
I no longer feel guilty about “using my stash”
Crafting is supposed to be fun and we’ve ruined it by feeling guilty about supplies we bought and are no longer interested in.
In fact, stress is a creativity killer. Feeling bad and stressed out about using your stash is hurting your ability to be creative!
If you bought a tray of lasagna and decided you didn’t like it anymore, you wouldn’t keep it in your fridge because you felt guilty about spending money on it. (Okay, maybe some people do, because I have smelled some fridges that could have 2 year old lasagna in them … just saying).
When food is spoiled or you don’t like it, you toss it.
Why don’t we treat craft supplies in the same way? If you don’t like peas, you don’t eat them … and you don’t keep shuffling them around in our fridge forever for the “one day” you may decide you like them.
If you don’t like that old 2004 paper, don’t use it … and don’t keep it.
I got rid of all the ugly paper in my stash and only kept what I love and will use. After shedding an 80” tall stack of paper (that’s 8000 sheets!), I feel lighter and more inspired to create now.
Go shopping more often
When you don’t have all the supplies at home to make a project, you have to go to the craft store to get the rest of the supplies you need.
We’ve forgotten this simple, novel concept.
I get to go shopping every time I want to make a craft project because I don’t have all the things anymore. How fun is that?!
I can buy the newest, trendiest craft supplies, right now
I used to avoid buying trendy craft supplies because I worried I might not like or use them later.
Because I'm shopping for my current craft project right now, I get to buy (and use) the newest supplies on the market.
Yes, please, I’ll take that trendy sign and make it today!
Shopping feels good – it’s science!
According to Elle, dopamine surges when we consider buying something new. If we can get it on sale, even better!
When you don’t have all of the craft supplies at home in a stash, you have the opportunity to shop, releasing dopamine in your brain. Dopamine gives our brains a chemical reward when we explore and discover new things to buy.
That’s why it feels good to go shopping!
The bummer is when you get home and feel massive guilt and overwhelm at all the supplies you already have.
If you have less supplies and only buy what you plan to use now, there’s no guilt. You experience the feel-good dopamine high of shopping … for the things you actually need and will use now.
More satisfaction by creating something now
Following the shopper’s high dopamine gives, I experience the satisfaction of creating something with my hands when I buy what I need and use it to create something now.
No bags of stuff to put away
One summer break during high school I answered a classified ad for a wheelchair bound retiree who wanted help organizing her craft room.
I followed her down her hallway to the craft room door. She shoved it open about 4” with her shoulder to reveal a 3-foot-deep wall-to-wall pile of Michaels Stores bags filled with craft supplies.
She explained the room got this way because at some point, while overwhelmed by the mess, she didn’t want to stop shopping. Her solution was to open the door and throw the bags in. She put out the classified ad because she could not longer fit any bags through the door.
While this story sounds extreme, look in the corners of your craft room … I bet there’s a bag or two of craft supplies you’ve never unpacked.
When you only buy what you need now, “unpacking” the bag is never a chore. Remove the supply from the bag and use it right away.
My corners are bag-free … and it feels empowering!
Fewer leftover craft supplies to store
Buying only what you plan to use has an unexpected benefit: you have less to put away.
If you buy a full collection of paints in a rainbow of colors, you’ll need to put away the ones you don’t use.
Buying only the black and yellow paint needed to make a bumble bee canvas results in only having to put away the two bottles paint … and that’s only if you have paint leftover after the project is complete.
Most of all, I spend almost 0 time organizing my craft supplies
This biggest change of all is I no longer spend time organizing my craft supplies. I spend more time dusting my craft room than organizing!
Time saved on organizing equals more time for crafting. This is the ultimate goal!
The magic starts when you have fewer craft supplies.
How do you have less craft supplies?
Advice in Facebook Groups about organizing make “having less” sound easy. We know it’s not easy because we’ve tried it and failed.
Getting rid of craft supplies is a complex issue that requires thoughtful solutions.
When you try to organize craft supplies, you may experience an emotional reaction.
Logically, you know you won’t ever use that broken sewing machine or half-empty marching band sticker sheet. But you may feel guilt for never finishing your daughter’s high school band scrapbook when you see those stickers. Or trigger fond memories of your deceased grandma who taught you to sew on that now-broken machine.
If organizing craft supplies were straightforward and simple, we’d all have clean and organized spaces. The emotions make organizing a bigger, more draining task.
The process or purging craft supplies is not easy. I shared my process for getting rid of craft supplies in an in-depth 3 article series:
- Why I Almost Threw Away My Craft Supplies
- How I Stopped Being a Craft Hoarder
- A New Mantra: Make Enjoy Buy Repeat
Besides the emotional hurdles, the biggest stopping blocks are commonly believed myths about craft supplies.
Why We Won’t Get Rid of Craft Supplies
I’ve heard all of the reasons to not get rid of craft supplies. Let’s debunk all of the myths we’re telling ourselves about our craft supplies:
As soon as I get rid of it, I’ll need it
I heard my parents say this to justify keeping old things they never use. It was easy to adopt it as part of my philosophy as an adult because that’s how I was raised.
When my grandma passed away, the rest of the family was going to throw her sewing supplies out. I rescued them. Over 5 years later, I'm still going through them, discovering weird tools and supplies I’ll never use and don’t even know how they function! She came from an era when you didn’t throw things away because you may need them “some day”.
Back in the day, it wasn’t that easy to find supplies, especially if they were unique. If you found something that worked, you held onto it for a “rainy day”. The truth was, you may never be able to find that item again if you got rid of it.
Luckily, times have changed.
We have access to millions of items at our fingertips with the advent of the internet. You can find it again, if and when you need it.
If you haven’t used an item in 6-12 months, you don’t need it.
What if I can’t find it again?
The idea that we need “supplies” specifically made for crafting is relatively new. Crafting as an industry is only about 65 years old, according to Barbara Brabec in her book, Creative Cash. People used to create and craft with whatever supplies they had on hand, such as using corn husks to make dolls.
We live in an incredible time where you have access to anything you could ever want in 24 hours or less. Major retail chains like Target and Walmart offer craft supplies. Many cities have multiple craft supply store chains, like Hobby Lobby or Michaels.
I have a Walmart, Target, Hobby Lobby, Jo-Ann Fabrics, and Michaels Store all within 5 miles of my home … and I live in a somewhat rural area! Then there are the mom & pop or locally owned specialty craft supply stores for yarn, beads, quilting, and more.
If you can’t find what you need at the store, you can find it online at:
- Specialty retailers like Simon Says Stamp for rubber stamping
- Direct from product manufacturers on their retail websites
- Overseas from suppliers like Alibaba
- Handmade from suppliers on sites like eBay and etsy
- Or from massive retailers like Amazon
I ordered a set of Japanese-made pens via Amazon and they arrived at my house the next day with free shipping!
There’s no reason to treat your craft space like a warehouse for craft supplies. Everything you could possibly want or need is a short drive or click away.
“But Jennifer, I live in a really rural area with no Target or Michaels. What about me?”
You can still order anything you need online.
Let the box stores and retailers rent the warehouse space and store the supplies for you.
“I spent a lot of money on this so I need to keep it”
You’ve likely heard of “throwing good money after bad”, also known as the sunk-cost fallacy.
Whether you keep the item or get rid of it, you can’t get the money back that you spent on it. You also can’t get back the time you’ve invested in organizing and shuffling this item around all the years you haven’t been using it.
The time and money you’ve invested in it up until today is a sunk cost. It’s gone.
So stop throwing more money at storage solutions and more time at re-organizing something don’t use. The costs are already sunk! Get rid of it.
It’s “Limited Edition” so I have to keep it in my “collection”
The craft companies know that some of us are suckers for anything “limited edition” or in a limited release. Some of you are collecting Tim Holtz ink pads in every color because they are limited edition. Check that inkpad you bought back in 2008 and never used … I guarantee it is dried out.
Craft supplies don’t last forever.
Craft supplies don’t appreciate in value like baseball cards or Lladro figurines (and even the long-term collection value of those are debatable).
Supplies are meant to be used.
When you only buy what you intend to use, you only have to store what you intend to use.
I plan to make something with it very soon … or some day
Let’s be real: if you haven’t used that item in 6-12 months, you’re never gonna use it.
If you can’t let go, try this:
- Choose a deadline, a date in the next 6 months, by which you’ll use this item
- Put a sticky note on the item with the date on it
- Add a reminder to your calendar on that date for you to revisit the item
- If you haven't used it by the deadline, it needs to go
Plan where the item should go if you don’t use it … get ideas from this list of 17 places to sell your craft stash.
But my __________ (insert name) gave it to me
Keeping something because someone else gave it to you is an emotional decision based on guilt or sentimentality.
Sarah Mueller from Declutter My Home recently shared how we try to justify keeping things we don’t need in a recent video:
“Don't go looking for uses for things just so you don't have to get rid of them. This is a coping mechanism that will ultimately create more work and stress for you! Instead, let those things go so someone who DOES want it can use it now!”
Be conscious of passing the burden on to others. I realized I was giving items to my daughter so I could feel good about not getting rid of them. Her small bedroom became cluttered with my sentimental craft cast-offs.
I wasn't getting rid of these items … I was essentially keeping them in another room in my house (my daughter’s), passing the emotional and physical burden on to her.
Instead offer the items to someone who might be interested, like a family member who might want to keep an heirloom, like grandma’s sewing machine. If they don’t want it, gracefully accept their decline of your offer. This article from The Spruce explains how to pass items on in a thoughtful, responsible way.
How to stop being overwhelmed by your craft stash: Get rid of it
Embracing the idea of getting rid of my craft supplies so I could create more changed everything.
My time has shifted to crafting more and organizing less. Better yet, I no longer feel the overwhelm from my stash that compelled me to organize craft supplies during TV time with the family.
The ultimate goal is to set up a space that supports the way you create
Stop spending all of your time:
- Looking for items you can’t find
- Shuffling the clutter around your space
- Organizing and reorganizing supplies that you don’t use
You’ve got to get rid of the supplies that don’t serve you any more. Then, you’ll get your mojo back.
Ready to get started?
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- Step by step list for organizing your craft room in a way that fits YOUR life
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I’ll see you on the inside!
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Christian Jordan says
This is a great article. I was thinking about decluttering some of my stash.
I have a lot and I live in a one bedroom apartment. Thanks so much for sharing
This is awesome info. I was really interested in the emotional connection to stuff and the guilt about giving stuff away. I will have to remember those points when I continue to purge. Thanks Jennifer.
Excellent article. I will be reading it again. I have a lot to purge that I know I will not use.
This is very informative, but I don’t see where or how she got rid of all her craft supplies?
Jennifer Priest says
I linked to the blog post where I talked about it: https://www.smartfundiy.com/2018-craft-room-tour/
You are so right! I am so much more productive at crops because I only have a ‘sampling’ of my supplies with me and I make it work! When I am at home, I am frozen by the multitude of choices. I have more than enough supplies to last a lifetime! The four walls of my craft room are not going to expand, so I need to make it work. I only keep what I think I will use and I purge and donate on a regular basis.
Thank you so much, this was the article I needed. 🙂