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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Organization Tip Two: Don't Buy It

I am slowly clearing my house of clutter - the most entertaining items were found in the totes from my college days...back in the mid-1980s. I can't believe I've packed and unpacked this stuff in all my cross-country moves. I wrote some awesome papers in college, but do I really need them? Really, the pinnacle of my college experience is my bound copy of my master's thesis from Penn State. OK, and the paper I wrote for my Communication Theory class where I used Star Trek as a metaphor. Other than that, they can all be trashed. If haven't referenced them in the ten years I've lived in my house, I doubt I'll reference them in the next ten years.

All this purging got me thinking about what I buy. Which got me thinking about what I want and what I need. Lately, I've seen lots of Pins on sewing room organization. Some are ridiculous, some impractical, but a few have been really creative and useful. One of the most eye-opening was from Jacquie at Tall Grass Prairie Studio. She wrote one of my favorite books and is one of my favorite modern quilters. I was shocked (and inspired) when I read that her studio is 9' x 10'. When I first looked at the pictures, it seemed like the room was full of fabric. But upon closer examination, that didn't seem to be the case. 

I've never understood the adage, "she who dies with the most fabric wins." First of all, I don't believe that sewing and quilting is a competition; secondly, owning a lot of fabric means shopping for a lot of fabric. Shopping for a lot of fabric means time spent shopping. I'd rather sew.

The thing that I've learned about fabric (as with clothing) is that it goes in and out of style. What's in this year will be out in a few years. My mom made me a quilt in the mid 1990s that I cherish - it's all hand pieced and hand-quilted. The fabric screams 1990s - which is another reason I love it. I know exactly where I was when she gave it to me. But I would NEVER use that fabric in another quilt. It's too dated.

During my three years as a studio owner, countless boxes of stinky fabric found their way through the doors. The owners were downsizing, went into a nursing home, or died. And I mean BOXES! I donated most of it to our local Mennonite community who made quilts for the homeless. So yes, I couldn't GIVE IT AWAY. Most of my sewing friends saw boxes of dated, ugly fabric. I saw boxes of money ...wasted.

So here's my tip: Only buy what you need to work on a current or planned project. OK, and if it's an incredible deal. So rather than ask yourself, "Do I really need this?" (because the answer to that will always be "YES!"), ask yourself, "Will I use this in the next two months?" And be realistic. If you aren't sure, put it down. If you utter the words, "probably" or "I might" or "I think" put it down. Buy what you need at that particular time to get started on a quilt or to begin your plan for a project. 

Here's the thing...fabric isn't like bread during the Great Depression. It isn't a limited commodity. It will always be here. And if you wait, I'm sure that something else will pop up. Really. It will and it will be just as "perfect" as the fabric that you didn't buy.


  1. You're killing me here, woman!
    Okay, I'll try it. I might have to make a 3-D plaque with your phrase though because I'm sure my addiction will erase it from my memory.

    1. Too funny! I also teach persuasion, so I'm on to shop owners who have gimmicks to get me to buy stuff (that I want but don't need). It might take some time, so be patient!!


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