. . . at least be purgative!
You may recall my sew-from-stash resolution at the beginning of this year. You may also recall that I did a bit of stash busting since then, but not early as much as I wanted. And all year I've held off on buying new fabrics (with one exception) because I still had stash to bust! Then, midway through October, my pile of fabric (as well as mental clutter, disorganization, and personal stuff) reached paralyzing point: I could neither move forward nor back until I cleared something out. I felt overwhelmed by my to-do list, the guilt-trips attached to my things, a feeling of paralysis and creative inertia, et cetera.
Talking with a counselor helped bring me to this point. Until I started looking at and naming my emotions instead of avoiding them, I didn't realize how much I was motivated by guilt, and usually needless guilt. (This isn't fabric-related... the fabric was just a symptom.) Even my perfectionism breeds guilt: when my imagined standard is perfection, then I can hardly start working, and un-finished projects lie around the place, reminding me of "failure". Thankfully, I have wonderful friends who mustered to support me with prayer, phone calls, and ideas.
Case in point: a few days after I announced my hiatus from this blog, my housemate declared that she needed to clear out unloved items from her yarn stash, and we should de-stash together. Good idea! It having been awhile since I'd looked at my stash (except to notice its messy bulk with guilt), I didn't even remember what-all was in it. I just knew that it had become a millstone around my neck, something that got in the way of my creativity instead of enabling it, so I resolved to pull every fabric into a different room and ask myself: Do I love it? Will I sew with it? Is there any guilt or shame attached to it? My housemate weighted in on the iffy items ("no, that color is too pink for you" or "stick it on the table for a few days and see if it speaks to you").
WHAT I GAVE AWAY
I got rid of a large bag of fabric, mostly blue-greens and lining fabrics that I didn't really like. Also several yellows that were too fluorescent for my coloring and reds that were too orange to please me. Why was I storing them? I don't know... because I'd gotten them for free? Because they had sufficient yardage for clothing? Because somewhere inside me lives a little old lady who remembers the Depression and can't let go of "perfectly good" fabric?!
I got rid of a half-sewn dress that I didn't like the color of and was only making because I had the fabric. Why was I wasting my precious time on something that didn't bring me joy nor benefit anyone else? I don't know. (I guess I wasn't wasting my time on it, since it was buried at the bottom of my stash... I was just wasting emotional energy on it, letting it hang around like a loose tooth I was too chicken to pull.)
I got rid of small silk scraps because they were too small to make anything with except maybe bra cups, and I won't be making bras anytime soon. ("But I might make bras, or camisoles! I should keep them because they're nice silks!" my brain told me. Per my counselor's advice, I replied "Interesting suggestion, Brain, but I won't be taking it.")
I took the bag of discards to work and left them on the giveaway table there for a week to give my co-workers time to take things they might like. Then off to the Goodwill with the leftovers! All the tailors' cabbage (too small to sew with) went to a co-worker who uses such scraps to stuff doggie beds for the Humane Society.
I went from four big drawers, two small drawers, and a pile behind the bedroom door to only four big drawers of fabric.
WHAT I KEPT
Warmer yellow-greens; shirting fabrics; my African wax print fabric; some really lovely woolens that I have plans for; plain and pin-striped denims; and colors that did suit me. Things I either really love, or have a definite plan for. Natural fibers rather than synthetic ones. Plain cottons to use for flat-lining, sew-in interfacing, pockets, et cetera.
WHAT I LEARNED
CULLING MY CLOTHES
Next, I turned my attention to my closet. This was harder, because each item had some emotion attached to it... clothes that made me look good, or expressed my personality, or that I'd put a lot of work into. Which things did I truly love, and which things was I keeping for weaker reasons? I used to love it; I might use it someday; It's nice (even though it's not my favorite); I spent so long working on it; It's part of a set; It was a gift; It's only a little damaged and it'll be perfect once I fix it; I got a compliment last time I wore it... The funny thing is, I don't have a lot of stuff compared to most people. But I have a small room, and it's not staying clean! In the past, I have moved house frequently enough to limit my stuff, but I've been in Portland for five+ years. Then my friend Rosanne brought home The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. I read it carefully, and was ready to begin. My friend Eryn (you remember Eryn!) came over to help me be un-sentimental in my sorting.
Marie Kondo says to start by visualizing, with concrete details, what I want my room to look like, how I want to live in it, et cetera. So I did: I open my door and see my bed, made neatly, with white linens and bedspread. Or white with small flowers. White bedding looks so clean and inviting, and in a small room like mine, makes it look bigger. The floor is clear, nothing to obstruct my walking or vacuuming, no piles. My bureau-top is tidy and nothing is dusty. It should smell nice. When I sit on my bed, I want to see my closet doors closed. My room door will be a display for an African dress I bought years ago, which is a happy yellow color. My books and papers will be minimal and neat. When I open my closet, I see an array of clean, beautiful, quality clothes, hanging in color-order, with room to spare. My wall is hung with pictures of family.
WHAT I GAVE AWAY
Almost everything. There were several categories:
WHAT I KEPT
Not much. Right now I have four skirts. Four pairs of pants (two of each, jeans and slacks). Enough shirts to get me through the week to the next laundry day. But everything in the closet and bureau is something that makes me happy to see, happy to touch, and happy to wear.
WHAT I FELT
That night, my emotions were all over the place. I looked around my room with relief at how spacious it felt, how clean and uncluttered. Then I got into bed and wanted to cry. I tried to channel that emotion into a mental story where someone else was crying... someone who had a "real reason". Then I remembered what my counselor had said about allowing myself to experience negative emotions, because they wouldn't kill me. "Sit in the discomfort." Then I started wondering if I had given too much away. Should I have kept the housecoat? It was pretty, and the holes were not too bad, and it only had a little pilling... Would I have enough clothes to make a decent outfit in the morning? Could I live with only four skirts?! The Lord brought to my mind His sermon on the mount: doesn't He love me more than the lilies of the field? And He dresses them!
WHAT I LEARNED
WORK IN PROGRESS
There is more sorting and discarding yet to do, and more mental house-cleaning, but this blog is about clothes, sewing, and fabric, so I'll end the post here. Hopefully my experience will help someone else who's looking at their mountain of stuff feeling stuck!
Quilting, dressmaking, and history plied with the needle...
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