Is Buying Hobby Clutter Your Hobby?

Cindy’s Weekly Words of Wisdom

Like last week, a comment by Ideealistin’s is the inspiration for this week’s blog. In reponse to Eliminate Clutter Without Even Trying, she spurred me to think of another category of clutter that should be eliminated – excess project purchases. I know this is a pitfall of a lot of 365 Less things readers.

Hobby and craft shops like Michael’s and Hobby Lobby would probably see their receipts decrease by half if it weren’t for Aspirational Clutter. That’s largely what hobby shops sell!  The dream of how beautifully this yarn, that fabric, these beads, or those scrapbook papers will look when used by our talented and creative selves is the drive behind nearly all craft purchases. The trouble comes when we buy far more than we can possibly use – today or even this year. It’s easy to buy in an hour what will take a year to use. If you go to one of these stores even four times a year, you’re probably way overstocked.

The problem is further compounded when you have a big stash, because you don’t really know what’s in there. And the stores offer so many lovely things, that each trip you just have to buy more for fear it won’t be available next trip. In the meantime, the craft supplies you had to have last trip are sitting in the cabinet, still awaiting use.

Besides an excess of craft supplies, a busy crafter can end up with an excess of finished goods too. One of our readers confessed to having 40 photo albums (good for you for putting them together and not just letting the photos and supplies sit around!); another likes to work with wool but lives in a moderate climate. A busy knitter or quilter can easily produce far more scarves and baby blankets than she could possibly use. It breaks my heart when I go to the thrift store and I see a beautifully made, hand crafted item, but even the most lovingly made gift can end up with a $5.00 tag on it.

I recently made the decision to let Audra use a gift baby blanket, a handsome quilt. Frankly, she didn’t use it as a baby: too big and too stiff to wrap around her. It’s just the right size now. The first time I saw it on the ground about to be stepped on, I cringed, but decided that if it wasn’t used, it really wasn’t of any use to anyone. Truthfully, though, if I had been the one to lovingly craft that quilt, I don’t think I’d be quite so quick to let it be used in a day-to-day life and probably many crafters feel this way about their goods.

What’s a declutterer to do? Well, I try very hard to only buy for the project I am going to work on next and will start within the next few weeks. If I don’t get started on the project in what seems like a reasonable amount of time, I return the materials. Also, I try to use what I have. My friend Allison, a scrapbooker, lived for two years in Macedonia. Macedonia doesn’t have craft stores, and she had to make due with what she had. She told me that if she were still here in the US, she would have made numerous trips to the store, but since she didn’t have that option, she cleverly used up what she did have. If Allison can do it, so can we. Be a creator, not a collector.

Today’s Declutter Item

The baseball clutter just keeps coming. It may seem like it will never end but it is a good thing that slowly but surely we are letting go of more and more of this stuff and I am satisfied with that. Freecycle has been wonderful at finding new homes for these items.

Yes, more baseball stuff and this won't be the end of it either!

My Gratitude List

  • Something that made me laugh ~ In light of my craft supply sale I had to laugh when I say what Cindy was writing about today. Talk about hitting below the belt. Ow!
  • Something Awesome ~ The beautiful weather we have been having this week. It has gotten suddenly colder but the sun is shining and warming up the house.
  • Something to be grateful for ~ Finding time amidst my busy week to have a coffee with friends.
  • Something that made me happy ~ All the great responses to yesterdays post ~ lots of food for thought.
  • Something I found fascinating ~ The strange stuff that appears on television.

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

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  1. This is great. What a hoot. I”m glad you did this Cindy. It just helps me keep motivated to clean out some more of my scrapbook stuff.

    • Great Deb. I’m glad it inspired you. Once I saw some scrapbook supplies for sale on Ebay, and it said “Are you a scrapbooker or a collector of scrapbook supplies…” I rememher thinking how crazy that was, but when you buy the stuff, and it just sits around, “collector” is what you are.

  2. In the past I made two small quilts for friends. One was laid on the end of my friends bed and used every day because she loved me and loved my gift. The other friend made the comment “I don’t know what I am supposed to do with this” and pushed it in to a cupboard. She never used it once. If I had know she would do that I wouldn’t have bothered. When I make a quilt it takes enough of my time that I intend it to be used as a quilt, not tucked away. My children all had patchwork quilts that were dragged around and piled up in places. They are washable you know. I say let your daughter use her quilt as much as possible.

    • Hi Andrea,
      I agree, gifts like this ought to be used not stored away like a precious artifact. I feel though that a person must no invest too much expectation when making these kinds of gifts for people because inevitably there will be at least one person along the way who isn’t going to appreciate them. That leaves one of two situations ~ 1. The giver is going to be insulted 2. The receiver (whose taste may be quite different from the giver) is going to feel obliged to keep the gift an it will become obligation clutter to them. The crafter of these precious object needs to understand that the pleasure they enjoy from this creative outlet is not always going to be appreciated to the same extend by those they chose to endow them upon.

    • I’m glad you approve of her using it. It’s on her bed with a cat on it right now.

  3. I read The Minimalist Knitter’s Handbook (Robyn Devine/Minimalist Knitter). It is not only about paring down but about not buying more than you have plans and time for over the next six months. Knitters call it Stash and I admit that I have tons of yarn and have not pared down my stash. It did cause me to think about how to use up more of what I have and not buy new projects. She also lists places to donate which is good if you prefer knitting to having the finished product. (Love to knit; don’t need twenty hats or scarves.)
    The biggest impact this all had was that I also sew. And play music. And draw. And acquire books I want to read. And….
    If I looked at every activity I do or like to do and pared down to just what I can accomplish in the next six months or even twelve, there would be a lot of stuff to let go of. BUT, when I consider that I have several hobbies, how much time do I really have to concentrate on projects and how much more really needs to go out the door? It’s very unrealistic when I put it all together. I have a lot of stuff. I’ve tackled the yarn for round one and hope to tackle the fabric and photos this summer. 365 is a great place to be because it doesn’t happen all at once.

    • Hi Delores,
      that sounds like a lot of good advice you gleaned from The Minimalist Knitter’s Handbook. Perhaps I should write The MInimalist Scrapbookers Handbook, I know a thing or two about that. ;-?

      • Are you sure we could trust you to write the Minimalist Scrapbooker Handbook, Colleen???

        Delores, You’re right that if you have 5 or 6 hobbies and only a fee spare hours a day, you’re not going to get around to them all, not on a very reliable schedule. Better that you release some of these things, one day at a time.

      • Oh my! Maybe we should co-write this book Colleen. And while we write it we can use our own advice to do what it says. Grin. I think I am going to create a new motto. “No more in until the majority has gone out.” It helps to have some basics but I don’t need a room full. Once I get the majority out then I need to use the motto of “one in, one out.”

        • Hi Deb J,
          I haven’t brought anything except adhesive required to use up some the other supplies I have. Even when making invitations and for an engagement, a wedding and a fiftieth birthday party I didn’t need to buy anything extra. Use what I have is my rule and pare down the existing massive accumulation. Wish me luck today as I am going out to do just that.

  4. Cindy, it’s amazing how so many of us think alike when it comes to crafting of any kind! You really nailed the thought process that leads us to over-acquire. I stopped doing this a few years ago, mostly just by not going near the supplies. I think quite often what I found irresistible was the creativity of OTHER people – the ones who created the patterns, the textures, the cute miniature everythings – not my own creativity in using them.

    And even though I stopped buying, I kept my supplies. Last fall I decided I had to make a decision on all of it. Either use it or get rid of it. After heartfelt thought, I decided to give it one last go – and I joined a craft group. The test for me is that I have to love what I make (not just love the process) and it has to be either beautiful or useful (or both). If I can’t reach these goals by the end of this year, or at least make significant progress, I will let go of this aspiration.

    • Hi Jo,
      you have clearly pit a lot of thought into this a come up with a very feasible plan to assess your desire and skills. You have taken your time to analyse the situation put your plan into action and not made any rash decisions. Good for you Jo, I am sure you will come up with the right conclusion in the end.

      • Jo, Personally, I’d be OK with it even if you used the things you own simply for the enjoyment of the process. I think there’s nothing wrong with enjoying doing something, even if the outcome isn’t spectacular, but since you’ve set your parameters and have come up with a system for using your supplies, I say GOOD FOR YOU.

        • JO, good for you. I agree with Cindy in that I don’t think there is anything wrong with making things simply for the enjoyment of the process. the thing I am finding is that once I have enjoyed the process then I have to figure out what to do with the completed project. Like you I’m really thinking about each thing I do because I want to know that there is a reason behind it. I want it to either be a gift, a card I can give for an occasion or a layout that has meaning for me and will go into one of my ongoing scrapbook albums.

  5. This is a great post, and something I’m dealing with right now.

    I do collage, altered art, and mixed media, so you can just imagine the mountains of supplies it’s easy to gather. I don’t even have to buy stuff either, because there are tons of free supplies available in recycling bins everywhere. 😉

    I no longer have a large area to create in, as my brother now shares our house with us, so I’m doing some serious thinning out.

    “Aspiration” is right. I have so many ideas and projects I *want* to do, but realistically, won’t get to all of them, so some of this stuff has to go.

    Last night I broke down and finally got rid of some of my candlewicking supplies from the 90s. (Candlewicking as in the needlecraft, not making candles, lol.)

    • Hi Becky,
      you certainly have yourself heading in the right direction here. There are only so many hours in the day and only so much room in the house so one needs to be realistic.

  6. This is a big area you and Colleen have really helped me with since joining the blog. I really think more than twice about buying craft supplies now, in fact I haven’t bought any this year yet although I have several aspirational ideas on the back burner. I will not allow myself to buy any supplies until I have committed to what I want to make specifically and when exactly I shall start.
    I think naming, shaming and explaining why we do what we do has helped me understand the processes so that I am better able to break my habit.
    I definitely get addicted to the cuteness of the supplies and lush colours more than the actual making anything with them.

    • Hi Katharine,
      Naming, shaming and explaining ~ although that sounds like tough love it really is necessary in order for us to see the error of our ways at times. I hope we do more of the naming and explaining and less of the shaming. I notice for myself the the naming and explaining is enough to provoke my own shame at times because once you become aware of where you are going wrong it is inevitable to feel a little guilty for your mistakes. I don’t waste too much time on that though and just get on with the task of setting things right.

      • I used to be a children’s mental health therapist, and here’s my feeling on self-shame (and also on guilt): If it lasts 5 minutes and causes you change your behavior – good. If it goes on and on – bad and a waste of precious energy that could be better spent elsewhere.

        • Such a sensible distinction to make.

          • Yes a very good distinction Cindy.
            I actually don’t feel any shame about my clutter so perhaps I was a little light in using that term, as thinking about it, maybe some do feel this?
            It was my pleasure with the run of the three words together and was meant much more lightly:
            I just love the experiences of understanding what is behind some of my clutter habits as then I know how to change them. It’s all very empowering & positive I find.

  7. I am definitely going to attack my fabric stash soon and eliminate fabrics that I just don’t like anymore and won’t ever use in a quilt.

  8. when it comes to gifts and crafts I think crafters and receivers alike would be better off if the the aspect of surprising someone could be put aside. At least if it comes to the time and material consuming things like larger knits, quilts etc. It could be a win-win situation if the crafter asked the receiver what he or she wanted. A custom piece that makes the receiver feel very special and a happy crafter because his/her work ist really admired, used and loved.
    Why do we overvalue the surprise so much? I guess because a good surprise shows how much the gift giver knows about the other person. But if we don’t really know so much about the other person (and actually that proofs right for all but a handful of VERY close friends and family and already stops at relatives and friends we see only now and then though we might FEEL close to them) we only have a slight chance to get the gift right. Managing a good surprise is a reward for the giver. Giving a good gift that will be loved and used instead of stored, guiltily displayed or decluttered is a reward for the giver too. We probably should concentrate more on making good gifts than on making surprises, especially as crafters.

    • You are so right Ideealistin. Even when we think we know someone very well we can still go wrong with the gift giving. I have eliminated this problem by coming to an agreement with my family and friends that there will be no gift giving or receiving from me. They seem to be happy with the idea and if they aren’t being honest with me about that at least they are respecting my wishes.
      Having an outlet for your craft making is a wonderful thing whether that is grateful family and friends or through selling the items.

    • You’re right: We do really value a surprise, and I think it is a validation (at least in our minds) of how well we know the recipient. Silly isnt’ it? And obviously can be a waste of time and money.

    • There is certainly something to be said for this approach, although I seem to remember a poster from a few months back who was having trouble deciding what to do with a painting. It was painted for her, at her request, based on the painter’s usual style, but unfortunately didn’t come out looking like she expected, and she didn’t like it much. I suppose this may be more predictable with some things than others (eg, if you follow an afghan pattern with the colours requested, it’s probably going to be just what the recipient wants … whereas a painting in “the usual style” has a lot more potential for problems).

  9. Crystal Tillman

    As a visual artist (draw, paint, crochet, knit, sew), the biggest compliment someone can give one of my handmade items is to use it… Or to tell me that they’ve been using it in the case of someone I don’t see often.

    I think my knee jerk reaction to someone telling me that would be to tell them I was going to take it home, since they don’t seem to want it. After all handmade things are a lot of work, and I don’t want them to just sit and rot due to disuse.

    • Hi Crystal,
      I agree and if the person you are giving it to is open enough to tell you they have to use for it then you should feel free to take it back. If only the world actually worked this way where we could be politely honest regardless of the situation and politely accepting of that honesty. We would eliminate the silly guessing games we feel forced to play.

      • Crystal Tillman

        There are a lot of lies said under the disguise of ‘being polite’. Being polite is fine, as long as you’re honest about what you’re saying. Telling someone you like something, when you actually don’t means you’re not being a true friend.

        After all, true friends don’t lie to each other.

  10. This is my area of extreme clutter…all my crafting supplies…I’ve pared it down to about 1/10th of it’s original size over the past few years…gone are the fabrics that were being saved for the back of a quilt, the wool for stuffing pillows and pincushions…now when I look at my fabric shelves I see only what inspires me…

    Very rarely have I aquired anything new…so far this year one pattern on linen for hooking and a few new small pieces of quilt fabric…I’m buying what I will use and not store…my hobby did used to be shopping for supplies…would drive an hour or two to a favorite store and spend hundreds of dollars…now I stay home and stitch unless a friends wants to go too…mostly we just enjoy the trip chatting, having lunch and buy very little…

    As far as gifts go…I stopped that surprise thing the day I gave a friend a prim hooked rug for a wedding gift…she looked at it and said how nice, then spent half an hour fussing over a decoration on a gift bag someone gave her!!!

    • Good for you (first paragraph)
      Good for you (second paragraph)
      Ouch! (last paragraph) What a painful lesson. Glad you learned from it, though.

    • Hi Kelley,
      what great restraint you showed to get to the stage you are now at. Well done! As for that wedding gift although you may have felt somewhat insulted you learned an important lesson from that experience and that takes back bone. It is very easy to be insulted and think the person is just ungrateful and miss the lesson.

  11. Very good post! I am totally a scrapbook supply collector! Ilove all the papers and labels and I love the organizing bins and boxes that look so nice set up. Unfortunately I don’t really have the time to actually scrapbook. I must make some sort of decision about this but I am not quite ready to let go.

    • Hi Jessiejack,
      pretty things can be so alluring. Live and learn I say and I have learned my lesson on this. Good luck with your decision making and try very hard to be logical about it. 😉

  12. In reading over all of the responses one thing that has really struck me is that “hobbies” can take over our lives, or our homes, and we lose track of why we are doing them. Let’s see if I can explain what I mean. I love quilts and for a while I had a small stash of quilting fabric. One day I realized that I hadn’t quilted in a number of years because I had no one to make quilts for. I used to cross stitch but one day realized that I had made one or two things for everyone in my life and there was no one else to give them to because the recipients had no where to put them just like I didn’t. I’m finding the same thing with scrapbooking and card making. I’m a single woman with no children and no nieces or nephews to pass my scrapbooks to. While I enjoyed making the 40+ scrapbooks I have, few of them are looked at by anyone else and what will happen to them when I die? I have thought it would be fun to learn to knit or crochet but again what would I do with the fruits of my labor? Yes, I could sell my results. But I have to admit that as soon as I start thinking along the line of my results being a product the fun goes out of it. After all, the big reason I am doing my hobby is because I enjoy the process and I enjoy the response of the recipient when I give something as a gift. It was this kind of thinking that led me to cutting back on the amount of hobbies I had. It also led me to the point where I really started looking at why I scrapbook, who benefits from it, how much time and money do I WANT to spend on it and how much time and money do I ACTUALLY spend on it. I found that I spent more money than time. That made me realize that I was overly “addicted” to the supplies. Are you getting the drift of what I mean? I think it is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of the hobby that we don’t think it through. I’m finding myself asking lots of questions any more about the things I buy and the things I do. I still find enjoyment in what I do but I find it in the doing not in the spending and accumulating.

    • Deb J, I totally get what you are saying here. Good explanation of the thought process, which is similar to mine. The only difference is that I’m happy to sell anything I make – but only because it’s not a job and we are not depending on the income. Then it really would be drudgery I think.)

      Have you considered making things to give away? – baby hats for preemies at the hospital, scarves and hats for those at homeless shelters, afghans for nursing homes or women’s shelters. If you can afford the raw materials, this would give you the pleasure of making and giving where it is really needed.

    • Hi Deb J,
      you stated your point here very well I think and you echo my thinking on the subject.

  13. I think I have way too many supplies because there is an unconscious belief that if I have the same gear as the successful artists I take classes from, I will magically create art as good as theirs. When I am not in a class, and I love taking classes because of the social factor (creating is usually a solitary endeavor) and the discipline, I always find something else to do because creating seems so daunting. In reality, one can just sketch. I don’t. I don’t know whether it is laziness or the perfect (and the belief that everything has to be perfect).

    My financial life is in transition to a state where I can’t buy art supplies, but would benefit from the income selling art could provide. Also from the ego boost that being recognized as a professional artist in a community of artists would bring. I hope that will be enough incentive to overcome the inertia.

    But for me, too, buying gear is aspirational. I aspire to create, more than I am driven to do it when it comes down to how I use my time. My goal is to turn that around and just start doing something artistic daily (yes, I have the time, I lack the will).

    • Hi Pansy17,
      interesting comment. I can relate in some ways to what you are saying here especially the part about converting your talent into cash. I keep telling myself I am going to do this but something always holds me back. Perhaps it is the fear of rejection.