Fourth Thursdays with Deb J ~ Sew Many

Deb J

Deb J


60 Spools of thread & 100 skeins of embroidery cotton

We have talked about this before but I wanted to bring it up again.  This is another area I would like to declutter but there is resistance.  It’s all that thread and other sewing supplies.  I don’t know how well you can see this in the pictures but Mom has about 60 spools of thread and about 100 various colors of embroidery floss.  I can see having all of these when she used to sew and I cross stitched.  Now she barely gets something hemmed and I haven’t cross stitched in 10 years or more.

Why do we need all this?  Mom says, “We might need a particular color some day and they are hard to find.  Plus we have already paid for them.”  I can’t seem to get across the idea that over time colors change and I doubt we will get any clothes in the colors of most of those thread colors and little in the way of cross stitch or anything else in the colors of the floss.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they have faded over time too.

Do you have anything like this that you are dealing with?  

Today’s Mini Mission

 Choose three books from your book collection. Declutter the one least likely to be reread.

Eco Tip for the Day

This tip was something that Wendy F brought to my attention. Use the fabric from old mens’ shirts to make handkerchiefs. You will be repurposing the fabric in the shirt and saving paper used to make tissues.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  • Getting the stuff out of your home It has come to my attention, both through comments on my blog and through real life experience, that one of the issues people have with their clutter, once they finally decide to be rid of […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Firstly, I think I still have more threads than you, though I did get rid of all of the embroidery floss, as I don’t use it. I’m not a very good sewer, but I do sew rather often and/or big pieces, re-using and recycling a lot of fabrics around the house. Also, of course, I shorten my trousers… 😉 Threads are a use-it-up item in my home and I’m confident that I will have used them up some day.

    Secondly, areas like that would be boyfriend’s books, CDs and comic books. I would have decluttered much more of them, if I was in his shoes, as I haven’t seen him use the most part of them in all the time we live together. However, they are his responsibility and he did declutter quite a few over the last years, too.

    • Sanna, the picture didn’t show all that we have and I realized later didnt’ really show all the emroidery floss. I have not cross stitched in over 10 years and yet none of the floss has been touched in that time either. I’m glad you are using yours up.

      You boyfriend seems to have an issue with some of his things. It can be frustrating but we have to be patient. If we do it for them they will never let us forget it. I hope it won’t be too long before he gets onto the program.

      • I’m usually not bothering that much, but sometimes I am. Luckily, he will almost always get rid of at least two or three books when I’m getting upset about them. 😉 So, he is decluttering after all. 😉

        • Sanna, any movement in the direction of decluttering no matter how slow and how few things is a more in the right direction. He will get there just not at your speed. Frustrating for those who can declutter faster and with less angst.

  2. I think I have a few of this categories. First, books. I have quite a library for one person, and a large amount of books isn’t read yet. I really should read more, but there are other things I “should” do as well. Another category is craft items, but luckily for me, it has become a bit of a use-it-up category. Slowly and steadily I’m using it up. I also don’t like the amount of school notes that I still have in my room, but I’ve managed to (almost) eliminate a full binder of those. Now to do only the rest of it…

    In the past I’ve managed to eliminate a few other examples of this category, like my old barbie collection and I have given away most of my stuffed animals. I also eliminated a load of cosmetics – I either used it up, thrown it away or gave it to other people.

    So, overall, I have some issues I’m working on, but luckily, I’ve managed to get rid of a large amount of stuff that would fall into this category.

    • Dumphy, we all have those areas where we need to do a lot more. I think that is one thing I like about Colleen’s one thing a day idea. Oh sure there are times when we can make a concentrated effort and get a lot done but usually we have neither the time nor the energy for that very often. Just decluttering one thing at a time really will get it all done eventually. You have the success of other things you have decluttered to look back on and remind yourself that this too shall pass.

  3. It is hard when you are met with resistance, but if it’s not your stuff then it isn’t your call (sorry!). Just do your best to tell your mom why you should de-clutter these things and if she still disagrees then so-be-it. I don’t want to sound harsh, but at some point these things will most likely be yours anyhow (after our mother’s pass and we have to go through their things) so you can de-clutter them yourself at that point.

    • Shoeaholoicnomore, you are right in that I will inherit all the stuff mother is hanging onto. I also know I can’t do much about it. That doesn’t make it less frustrating. I think I am trying to head off having to do it when she is gone or we move.

      • I understand about trying to stop the problem from getting worse, I am doing that myself with my grandma, she’s in her 80s now and can’t take care of everything herself anymore and I just know that I’m going to have to go through her near-Horderish house when she passes away. It makes me sad thinking about it and it’s going to be a HUGE task to go through. The worst part, my mom is worse and hers will be even worse if she doesn’t do something about it…

        • Shoeaholicnomore, I inderstand how facing the knowledge that at a loved ones passing you will have a huge job of decluttering. When my father passed on my parents had a huge amount of STUFF. That was 21 years ago in July and we still are decluttering. That’s why I am trying to gently work with Mom to declutter now.

  4. Hi Deb J! I want to put my two cents worth, if I may: The problem with your Mom letting go of those supplies is that by doing that she will admit that part of her life is over and that person she was no longer exists. She will have to face she is no longer that active person that cooked for loads of people(as you pointed in another post her unwillingness to part with pots and pans even though that is just the two of you) and made her own clothes and sewed like there was no tomorrow. I suggest you take one thing at a time. Declutter one spool of thread here, one embroidery floss there, and keep doing it. Take your time. And keep firm. I am cheering for you here!

    • Andreia, you are right. One thing at a time. Yes, she is having a hard time getting rid of things because she still thinks she needs to keep things and use them. But she can’t because she no longer feels like doing them. We have applied for an apartment in a senior housing place and one meal a day goes along with it. So we will see what she still wants to keep when she only has to take care of breakfast and another small meal.

      • It is indeed a hard transition to make when you are leaving a part of your life, as you’ve known it, behind. It can feel very scary. I wish you lots of patience and compassion as you and your Mom make that change. Does your Mom respond to things like ” the children’s sewing club at the school have asked for any spare spools of thread or craft supplies, do we have any that I could give them?”. I find I respond to some one else having a need for something more easily than ” I should declutter this” .
        By the way I love that people call thread, by the word, floss. Floss in the UK is associated with cleaning your teath. It made me chuckle how we use language across the world.

        • Salley, Mom is resistent to change no matter how it is brought up. I just have to remember that and not push but just suggest.

          It is rather interesting how many things are named differently from country to country. We have thread which is for sewing and floss which is for embroidery or cross stitch. I think there are even some different names for other types of material for needle work.

          • Deb, I understand your position. As you no doubt realize, sometimes when parents have gone through difficult times or the depression years, it’s much more difficult to give or toss items. Also, as touched on above, often getting rid of something that was formerly a big part in ones’ life signals the end of being able to accomplish sewing, painting, or whatever the hobby. It’s something one can no longer do.

            Try to be gentle with your mom. As mentioned, maybe showing her articles about others in need or children or adults who want to create but don’t have the money to buy supplies may help. Sometimes knowing that your items will be used and needed by others will ease the pain of departing with her supplies. Baby steps…maybe it’s two spools of thread a month. Not a lot but it’s something. Sometimes telling someone they must do whatever, is the very thing that makes one dig in their heels and not budge. Or since she mentioned she’s already paid for it, ask if she’s willing to sell. Put similar colors together and sell at your local online vendor. At least she’ll get a few bucks.

            Speaking for myself, there’s always something for me to declutter and in my case books are an issue. Though I’ve donated quite a few books, I have more that should receive new homes. One person’s issue may be sewing supplies; another’s books. It’s all relative and we have to work at our own pace regardless of how slow that may seem to others.

            Best wishes on helping your mother declutter.

          • Monique, thanks for your input. You have some good points. When it comes to others it is always best to go gently and slowly. As for books, I certainly understand. That is one area it was very hard at first for me to declutter. Now that I have a Kindle it is much easier and I don’t have to go to the Library but can borrow the ebooks from them from the comfort of home.

  5. Oh, sewing supplies …. my mum has an entire room filled to the brim. Since she retired, she has been sewing from her stash but there is a lifetime supply of fabric/UFOs. I live in another country or I would be helping her get through the supplies quicker. During my next visit in 2015, maybe we can have some ‘girl’ time and spend a few days sewing.

    • Michelle L, so you understand what I mean. But, your mom is at least sewing and making things. My mom is not. Other than some heming she no longer does any sewing. Two years ago she was given a new sewing machine by some friends and I still cannot get her to go to a class to see how to use all it’s bells & whistles.

  6. I am a quilter, but have slowed down considerably now. I have given away quite a lot of fabric and am not buying more. My stash is fairly small. I have used up threads in all colours and now only have black, white and biscuit colour: this simplifies life considerably! I do have some floss and actually not done any embroidery for quite a while, hmmm better think about getting rid of those too.

    I am doing more knitting and crochet now, but recently gave away a great stack of needles (straight and circular) in sizes I don’t enjoy using. I hardly ever buy knitting yarn (may $20 worth in two years) but it flows in free anyway as I make masses of stuff for charity. When some is donated to me I immediately go through it, and maybe keep a few balls and pass the rest on to friends in my knitting group or to the opshop. I have three medium/small baskets to store it in and have decided to keep my supplies to that limit.

    Happily I have no UFO’s which I imagine would generate a lot of guilty feelings!

    Having said all this, there is ALWAYS something to declutter and each time another bag or box goes I feel better and better!

    Well done Deb J on getting on the waiting list for the retirement place, and also on your great writing!

    • Janetta, thanks for the compliment. I wish i could get my mom to start doing some things with her sewing machine. She says she doesn’t have time. Well, no. Not when you think you have to go behind the housecleaner and clean some more and when you think we need to eat a whole lot more than I want. On this last one though I have been able to get her to cut down and she is doing less cooking. I think it is great that you have decluttered so much of your thread and fabric. At least Mom did declutter a huge bunch of fabric before we moved here and then again after we moved here. She doesn’t have any more around.

  7. If it makes you feel any better I have loads more thread including overlocker threads of every colour which will have to stay in house until my younger daughter finishes ballet. Every time I see them I think to myself “December 2016 you’ll be out of here!”

    Right-o – did another hobby take over from the embroidery? I agree with Andreia that to your mum they represent the active person she was. Im not sure if the embroidery stuff is yours or your mums? If it is yours Im sure you could find a craft group to donate it to otherwise Im not sure whether you’d get much on ebay. If it is your mums, as always its a bit more tricky.
    Ive heard of someone in a similar situation who needs her mum to declutter and she is going it more or less as a reward system as her mum likes to go out for lunch – yes it does sound like a variation on a kids star chart – but she said its working really well.

    • Moni, I imagine you are trying hard not to count the days until you can get rid of that thread. You don’t want to wish you life away. The embroidery thread was actually mine but Mom throws a fit when I talk about getting rid of it. I have a friend who cross stitches and she would love to have it but nope, Mom won’t see it. Ah well!

      • Deb J – if the embroidery thread is yours, it is yours to do with as you wish. Obviously you don’t want a confrontation, but just as you don’t give away your mum’s stuff without her approval, she should consider your perspective. Personally, I would ‘lend’ them to your friend and if you ever had an overwhelming urge to embroider you can get them back.

        • Moni, I’m going to wait until things have calmed down a bit and talk to Mom about this again. She just really has a hard time getting rid of things we paid money for unless we can sell it and get our money back. She also has an inflated idea of what something is worth.

  8. Hi Deb J, I am torn between Shoeaholicnomore’s response and Andréia’s. I assume these threads are common property and I am of the opinion that every now and again you are entitled to have the last say. I know that I always say that if the items belongs to someone else or it is shared then that person or partner that person or both need make the decision. But in your case it is always you making the concession. Use this one small item to make a stand on making the rational decision for a change and see where that leads you. I am sure you dear mom isn’t going to be too upset about it. Perhaps it will help her to see that your ideas are sensible and once the item/s are out of there then she won’t give it much of a thought. Just keep the most basic threads for repairs and be done with the rest.

    • Colleen, the embroidery thread is mine. As you will see in my answer to Moni, Mom would have a fit if I got rid of it. I think she has used about a foot of one once in the time I have been trying to get rid of it (9 years).

      • That is such a pity Deb. It must astound you why she gets so attached to stuff that isn’t being used and is unlikely to be.

        • Colleen, it does astound me that Mom is so attached to things and mostly just because we paid for it and she can’t stand to GIVE it away when we MIGHT use it someday. If we haven’t used it in over 10 years why would we suddenly have a reason to use it.

  9. The circle of life is really amazing. Our parents raise and take care of us, then the circle completes itself with us taking care of them.
    Could you suggest to your Mom that you keep only the thread in colors that match the colors you wear in your wardrobes?
    If you are both going to be relocating to a senior housing development, emphasize to your Mom that it would be easier to shed that which you don’t use now rather than wait till crunch time is here.
    I can’t help but think that you are really going to enjoy having a place of your very own, studio or otherwise.

    • Kimberley, Mom is still fighting the idea of going to a senior housing place so using that as a way to talk to her right now won’t go well. Even though she knows we really need to move she will struggle with it for a while. She’s struggling with a lot right now.

      • Deb, your comment about your mom fighting the idea of going to senior housing seems as if she has not reconciled in her mind that she is unable to do some of the things she once could. Be patient. If we are blessed, we’re probably going to struggle with this when we are in our 80s.

        • Moni, you are so right about Mom struggling with getting older and losing the ability to do many things she used to do. I’m only 62 and I am fighting it because of my disabilities. We both hate to move from where we are because we really like our place but yet we can’t keep taking care of it. It is hard to get older and lose things.

          • Deb J – I read a quote that I quite like: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; Its aboout learning to dance in the rain.”

          • Moni, that’s a great quote. I will remember that.

  10. Oh, yes, the UFO’s and guilt. Last fall I dumped my UFOs and the guilt onto the thrift shop–some of it was Christmassy, and since it had been started I figured someone might finish it.. Now I have some WIPs that may actually get finished. A teen granddaughter received some projects that hadn’t been touched–not yet UFOs or WIPs. I sold a floss storage box with a lot of floss at the consignment shop–pure aspiration since I never got around to doing cross stitch. Debbie, as to thread, it does dry out and eventually get brittle. I had some on wooden spools and realized it was probably from my mother or MIL so donated all of that since some people do collect old sewing stuff or use the spools for toys, etc. Culled out colors I had for mending or altering grandchildren’s clothes since I seldom do that any more and they weren’t colors my husband or I wear. I can understand your mother’s thinking because if you mend something you never need much thread, and if you bought a new spool, well that would just add another spool to the pile. And she probably wouldn’t want to have to shop for it either. At least that may be her thinking. And everyone hates to know they cannot do things they once could. I have some arthritis in my hands which almost never hurt but keep me from hand sewing since I can no longer manage a needle like I once could. I always hemmed blouse sleeves by hand and often did slacks hems by hand, too. Sewing a button on is a real accomplishment now. You might do the “container” idea–let’s keep just what will fit into this box, cookie jar, or whatever. I did that in the kitchen with the plastic bags from bread, etc. I just keep a plastic jar full and that is all–use them for scraps to add to dog food. Anyway if you mom doesn’t have a stash of material she is one in a million. My stash is a lot smaller than once, but I’m sure it is still a stash.

    • Nana, I did make some inroads in the thread stash because I was able to show Mom that the thread was no longer usable. Unfortunately, all this that is left can still be used. One of the things that I have found is that every year they change the colors of clothes, etc. So a green that you used last year may not work for the next several years or never again. That’s the very reason we ended up with so many colors. I think that other than the basics like white, black, and beige we should just hang on to colors only as long as we have the clothing piece it matches. The only thing Mom does anymore that uses thread is to hem things we have to take up. If you are careful many times you can just reuse the thread from the old hem. It isn’t just thread that we have that she never used. We have several tools for sewing that she has not used in years either. She has a pair of scissors that she got with the sewing machine cabinet I bought her back in 2000. They are really nice scissors but she has never used them.

      As for limiting the amount by having a container to put it in: we both don’t like things sitting around on the furniture. We have tried it before and she wasn’t able to limit herself. It would work for a time and then she would fall away from the idea.

  11. No help from me, I’m sure I’m in the same boat. I can say that I’ve got three textbooks in the giveaway pile. Patting myself on the back for this one.

    • I love your Book Dragon name. Well done for letting some books go. I still find books hard to release. I tell myself I’m sharing the stories with like minded people.

    • Gina, we all have places where we struggle. I’m proud of you for sending those testbooks on their way. Every little giveaway is a step along the path to being decluttered.

  12. Sewing is my primary hobby and while having matching thread is nice you don’t really need anything but black, white, and a mid-grey. Most thread is hidden inside your sewing and all you need to make sure you don’t have a big contrast. Thread also rots so maybe you can get your mother to agree that anything that doesn’t pass a snap test can be trashed. You wouldn’t want to sew something just to have it fall apart because the thread fails.

    • Mel, I agree with not needing but the basic colors unless you are very active in quilting or clothes making where the thread color matters. I have been able to talk Mom into dumping the thread that is rotting.

  13. If Deb J doesn’t mind me changing topic, I was wandering if you all wouldn’t mind telling me your laundry folding system. I actually like doing laundry, getting the loads washed and dried and I am one of those people that that insists on clean laundry being folded ‘the right way’ but it’s not unusual to have a couple of loads sitting there waiting to be folded. I signed up to Fly Lady to get into better routines but folding still lags behind. I’d like to add that each day the majority of what needs to be done gets done each day. When I do dig in and get the folding done, usually it’s on the floor watching TV in the evening.

    • Here, everyone folds their own laundry in their own preferred way. That way, it’s actually not that much, because it’s just my stuff I have to care about. It usually gets done rather soon. But then, we have limited drying possibilities here, so I wash one load, dry it, fold it while I wash the next etc. There aren’t multiple loads at once to put away.

    • Moni, no I don’t mind. Most people would probably think we are perfectionists or something. We fold the laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer. It means less wrinkles and it gets it out of the way. My mom would have a fit if it was left sitting in the dryer so it “rubbed off on me.”

      • Deb J – you have given me a few clues. My laundry is located on the opposite side of the wall as my sons room and he is back living at home again, which he doesn’t really want to hear washing machines and driers going while he is trying to sleep. I would do the washing earlier in the evening but my two daughters are ballet students and don’t get home until around 8.30 and 9 and I hold off putting the load thru until they have showered and put out their gear. So if all the stars align ie both girls have their showers promptly (apparently how quickly they cool down after class has a bearing on this) and all their gear gets to the laundry I can hopefully get a load thru before my son wants to turn in for the night. This means it is going in the drier before I go to work next morning and the next load goes thru the washing machine. When I get home, I move the wet washing to the drier, dump the dry stuff in the big lounge and return to making dinner. I am thinking if I took the folding to an area closer to the kitchen I would constantly see it and probably get more of it done while dinner cooks. And if I could arrange a coffee table for this area (a small lounge off the kitchen) I could set myself up to do the folding there. I know someone who has a separate laundry room with counter tops running the length of the room to do hers on. She says it is still hit and miss whether it gets done promptly.

        • Hey Moni, perhaps you should put that load of washing on around midnight. You surely don’t want your son to get too comfortable back at home or he will never move out again. Or is that just the devil on my shoulder talking again. 😉

          If my two kids moved back in they would have to sleep in a bed together. I’m sure that arrangement wouldn’t work out too well for them.

          • Colleen – he is still in the honeymoon phase of being back at home, he’s in love with the dishwasher, in love with having a drier (he ran out of clothes a few times at his flat due to several days rain) and he is certainly a more considerate and helpful resident in our household… far. I reckon by time he leaves home and comes back a few more times, he’ll be properly house-broken.

          • Fingers crossed for you Moni.

        • Moni, I’m with Colleen. Wash and dry when you need to and let him suffer through it. A good incentive to move out again. Grin. On the other hand, how about getting some help with the folding? There is no reason your kids can’t help with it. If each one takes care of their own, there would be little left for you to do.

  14. Moni – It seems like if you are doing the laundry then you do it when it is convenient for you. The dryer, at least, shouldn’t be too jarring as far as noise goes – maybe even soothing!

    You are onto something by getting the clothes out where you are working. When I am working in the kitchen, I have enough counter space to put the just-dried clothes there. Then I immediately take all the shirts and tees and spread them out flat and stack them on one another. That way the residual heat and weight helps to “iron” them smooth. Usually, what’s left is not so critical for getting wrinkles and I get to it in between my other tasks. But I don’t want clothes on the counter for dinner so I get it done before we eat 🙂

    My system of laundry is set up to make it easy for me – so each person has 2 baskets – one for lights and one for darks. That way it comes to me already sorted and it is only one person’s clothes so I don’t have to think about whose socks are whose.

    Once they are dried and I have stacked the shirts as earlier described, I place the underwear and socks in the upper center of the shirts, place the left sleeves over the stack, then the right sleeves on top of the left ones. Then take the bottom of the shirts and fold them over the whole stack. Everyone gets their own laundry “bundle” to put away when they can. Amazingly, nothing gets wrinkled in the meantime should they not be able to put their clean clothes away immediately :-/

    This may not work for you on a daily basis as it sounds like you are doing clothes that are immediately used and needed the next day. But I like to hear other people’s systems to add things I never thought of!

  15. I have been a reader for quite some time, but this is my first time commenting. I have learned so much from all of you, and I thank you for that. I have also learned quite a lot from my mom. Through the years, she has gone through many of the same stages we all do: saver, near hoarder, generous grandmother, etc. She has also shared with me the importance of many things in her home. I am so grateful that I was listening. She recently moved in with us due to Alzheimer’s, and none of those “things” have value to her any longer. She has no idea what they are. This revelation has caused me to take a second look at all that I own. If it has value, I want to display it, use it, and also label it if necessary for anyone who might look at it and think “why would anyone keep this?” My children will someday decide if each item has meaning for them. I have given them full permission to keep or pitch as they see fit. Of course I secretly hope they will agree with all that I have considered valuable, and my mother before me, but in the end, the best thing I can do is leave them a carefully edited collection. I have a long way to go!

    • Hi Sue and a belated welcome to you from everyone here at 365 Less Things. Firstly I am sorry to hear that your mother is suffering with Alzheimer’s. In fact I guess it is something the whole family suffers from and you have my sympathy for that.
      Good for you for taking this situation and turning it into an opportunity to get your own affairs in order. You are doing your children a great service by doing this. I applaud you for that.