Organization Station: Managing Sewing Stashes

If you are a hobbyist or DIYer, you well understand the need to have a collection of materials waiting to be put to good use–and the need to get a handle on storage of said materials before your garage/attic/basement/guest bedroom/linen closet becomes the Monica closet, or perhaps a cemetery for best laid plans and good intentions. Here lies industrial shelving attempt #1,  behind all the tile samples underneath all the wood for the Ana White farmhouse table covered in two inches of dust and sand from the beach toys used three vacations ago..or was it four?   You get the picture.

People of the cloth, and I’m not talking clergy here, have a compulsive need for All of the Things! a fabric stash. These stashes vary in size based on a number of factors, but most crafters agree that you can never have too much fabric. Of course, when trying to store said fabric, those of us lesser mortals with limited storage must be more circumspect with our fabric purchases. I learned this lesson after being overly ambitious when I started quilting and couldn’t choose between fabrics, which resulted in buying All of the Things! enough fabric  for two and a half quilts when I had set out only to buy fabric for one. This resulted in a modest stash that I hauled with me from the city to the beach. It has been languishing in one of the guest bedrooms while I have been working on school things, and by languishing I mean that it has been piled on the bed and various shelves and shoved in random baskets. My quilt is not quite finished.  And by that I mean I have 1/4 of the quilt top sewn. It’s a king size quilt, so cut me some slack. 😉

Since last May, I have been struggling to find a place where all of my art and craft supplies could be kept and to find a prime place for working on my school stuff. The desk I use for schoolwork right now is also the desk I normally use for my sewing machine and supplies, but both cannot occupy the same space at the same time. #physics Enter the mail center.

IMG_4505    This mail center was a housewarming present to us from Chris’s paternal grandmother eight years ago when we bought our first house. It came from Pier 1, and it served us well in our first house and later in the townhome in the city. For some reason, it has not been functional here at the beach, most likely because it is not conveniently located to the entryway of our home. Rather than serving as a mail/paper processing station as usual, it is a clutter catcher, with piles of mail and other random things. In fact, the mail center had become the junk (drawer) center of late, which was unacceptable.

Inspiration hit when I realized that the cubbies in the mail center would be perfect for storing yards of fabric–and for controlling the quantities that could be stored, resulting in a more manageable stash. Better use of mail center? Check.  Better storage for fabric? Check.  Less compulsive spending and buyer’s remorse? Check. Check.IMG_4499

This solution would probably not work for people who sew regularly and need to store vast swaths of fabric, but for an on-again, off-again project crafter like me, this was an ideal match.

My sewing machine fits snugly in the bottom cabinet as if it were made for it. Very snugly. I think I can fit my pinky finger in the space between the sewing machine and the shelf bottom.IMG_4501All my fabric has a tidy, colorful home…note the quilt squares cut and ready to be sewn together…

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and there is even room for the jewelry box one of my great-grandmothers gave me, which I am currently using to store binding I have already cut for the quilts I have yet to make. #gettingthere

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My sewing supplies and scraps fit in the drawer or on the top shelf of the bottom cabinet in glass storage containers we got as a wedding gift almost nine years ago that used to be in our kitchen.  We don’t have room for them on our counters now, but this is turning out to be a great way to repurpose them.

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The mail center is not intended for a heavy machine to perch precariously on the end of the pull-down desktop, so I do not plan to sew here.  However, on the other side of this rather useless pass through area in the center of our house is a hand-me-down sofa table that I had been temporarily using for sewing anyway when I had the time. Nearby is our dining table, so I can just pull a chair up to the sofa table, set up the machine, and sew to my heart’s content while watching, er, listening to reruns of Fixer Upper. Watching might result in bleeding fingers. Not recommended.

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Best part? When I’m not sewing, it all closes up, and no one will ever know that this is a mail center fabric hoard sewing station.

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Except for all of you. Oops. 😉

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The Curse of the Many-Legged Giants

Chris and I are currently losing a battle with many-legged giants in our house.  No, I don’t mean mutant wolf spiders or centipedes.  We’re talking furniture, folks.  I am constantly frustrated by the lack of flexibility we have with our furniture arrangement in our current living situation (rental condo), and we are both dreading the forthcoming day when we become a two-person moving crew and have to haul all of our giant pieces of furniture down narrow halls and stairs, around insanely tight corners with low overheads, and into a moving truck.  But wait, how did the giants get here in the first place?

A long time ago, back when we were engaged, Chris and I selected this bed to be our future bed:   PB farmhouse

Picture courtesy of Pottery Barn:

http://www.potterybarn.com/products/farmhouse-bed/?pkey=cfarmhouse-bedroom-collection&

Two and a half years after we were married (and extremely tired of using my old twin beds pushed together and covered with a king-sized foam mattress thing), we finally bit the bullet and bought the king-size version on sale.  Enter Giant #1.  Our bed is a gentle giant, though.  We absolutely love our bed and wouldn’t trade, sell, or give it away to anyone EVER.  Of course, our love affair is made more complete by the mattress set we bought for it.  Seriously, every time we lie down it is like going to a luxury spa retreat.  It is, by far, the best investment we have made furniture-wise, so we are perfectly content with our gentle giant.

Not so with the large (pun intended) majority of the rest of our furniture, which includes the following:

Gifts/Freebies from Amy’s parents:

  • 5′ baby grand piano
  • chair-and-a-half known as “the comfy chair”
  • oversized loveseat
  • dining table with two leaves
  • china cabinet
  • antique buffet
  • chest of drawers
  • two nightstands
  • double bed with full sized dresser, mirror, chest, and nightstand
  • computer desk
  • glass table
  • microwave cart
  • (2) different cube bookshelves (2 x 4)
  • 3-panel room divider
  • cat condo

Purchases:

  • Kenmore Washer and Dryer (on sale from Sears)
  • TV stand from Bombay (on clearance)
  • Extra long Pottery Barn Seabury suede sofa (floor sample purchased for 70% off)
  • Pottery Barn project table (on sale)
  • Pottery Barn Farmhouse Tallboy dresser (on sale)
  • elliptical workout machine (on sale)
  • Pottery Barn teen media stand (on sale)
  • Pier 1 wicker chaise (on sale)
  • (2) Pier 1 bar stools (on sale)
  • (3) Pier 1 counter stools (Craigslist)
  • Pier 1 mail center (on sale)
  • (2) different cube bookshelves (1 x 3; 3 x 3) (Target or Linens ‘N’ Things)
  • 2 bookshelves (Target on sale)
  • 1 media armoire (Target on sale)
  • 2 side tables (Target on clearance)
  • metal pantry storage rack (don’t remember, but it was cheap)
  • 4 Gorilla racks for garage (Sam’s Club)
  • storage bench (Target on sale)
  • craft storage organizer (craft store on sale)
  • cat condo (Pet Smart on sale)
  • grill (Wal-Mart on sale)
  • bistro sized patio set (Target on sale)

Notice some trends?  We do.

Trend #1: Our home = Goodwill Donation Center.

I’m an only child, so when my parents downsized after I flew the coop, they gave us a lot of their (bigger) furniture.  This list doesn’t even include the Pier 1 wicker loveseat and chair and a jungle green leather sofa they gave us that we’ve already passed to others!  Chris and I love a clean, spacious home, but our sentimental hearts beat wildly at times, resulting in conversations like the following:

Mom: I’m giving the comfy chair away to Goodwill.

Me: What?!

Mom: It just doesn’t go with my new style, and I don’t really have room for it anyway.

Me: But it is such a great chair with so many memories!

Mom: I know, but I’m giving it away unless you want it.

(Chris in the background): Tell her we’ll take it.

Me: We’ll take it.

This is also how we amass random home decor from Chris’s grandmother and my parents.  In fact, every time we visit Chris’s grandmother, we bring home a carload full, and I frequently receive boxes of my mom’s old teaching stuff, family photos, home decorating accessories, knickknacks, linens, etc. that I tend to sort through before sending to Goodwill or selling.  I also inherited 14 place settings of china from a relative, in addition to 2 we received as a gift from Chris’s grandmother and the 10 we received as part of our wedding registry.  I’m the only child of a mother whose only sibling has already passed, so I will also inherit her china…and her mother’s china…(you can see where this is going, can’t you?).  With that much china, I should be able to open a restaurant soon, which is good since I’ll need the restaurant space to store it all!

Lorie Marrero, creator of the Clutter Diet (check it out here: http://www.clutterdiet.com/) recommends stopping clutter before it enters your home.  Great advice!  When you are trying to be frugal and not spend money on things, though, it is hard to pass on “perfectly good” items, especially items you don’t have as a young-ish couple..and if some of these items tend to be made better than they are now.  For example, we have gone through two butter dishes since being married 7 years ago, including a Le Creuset one!  Our Corningware dishes have hairline fissures…not so with my grandmother and mother’s dishes (the ones with the blue emblem on them) that will probably outlast us all.  Maybe they will make cool homes for the cockroaches at the end of the world.

Trend #2: Modern farmhouse style = no room in the inn, or at least, in the condo.

Chris and I have very eclectic taste but trend towards a cross between European farmhouse and mid-century modern.  When we were homeowners, this was not a problem.  Our first home had a spacious, open concept that was perfect for our tendency to prefer big furniture designed for large spaces.  Unfortunately, I decided to go back to school in an urban area where housing is $$$.  In fact, our city is one of the few places where the housing market has continued to swell despite the general economic/housing market situation.  Our rent even went up this year (le sigh).   Suffice it to say, we live in a “spacious” 3 BR/2BA condo that feels like the size of a mouse hole with our furniture in it.  We even had to buy in the “suburbs” and spend more on our rent than our original home mortgage to have room enough for all our stuff.  Problem? Definitely.  But what could we have parted with?

Trend #3: Furniture sales = furniture clutter.

After making some disappointing investments in some cheaper engineered wood products, we decided to go solid wood with the rest of our purchases in hopes of lasting quality.  In trying to buy quality for lower prices, we tend to shop sales.  The only problem here is that shopping leads to purchases, which leads to space problems…which leads to the need to reclaim some of it by parting with some pieces (and probably replacing some with smaller pieces, eventually).  The creeping giant of Guilt seems pleased to hang out in our space…guilt over things purchased that are functioning yet take up too much space…guilt over things purchased that were not good investments (all in the name of saving money)…guilt over giving away free, “perfectly good” furniture  and having to replace these items with smaller ones (read: purchase things to replace free things).  The handmadehome has a great article on guilt, by the way.  It’s an older blog post, but copy/paste the link and it should work: http://www.thehandmadehome.net/2013/01/lazy-gals-survival-guide-guilt-vs-conviction/

Trend #4: Parting is such sweet sorrow.

We have been clearing out clutter for about a year and a half, and we have done some serious purging…of everything except the furniture.  My clothes used to take up two closets, a dresser, and a chest (that’s what happens when you don’t grow and can still wear your clothes from high school).  Now I use a chest and share the master closet with my husband.  Craft supplies have been used or donated to teachers.  I’ve even parted with some books, which is incredibly difficult since I’m a bibliophile.  The final frontier is the furniture, but the giants have to go.  Trouble is, we are struggling with what to give away, sell, and repurpose, especially since almost all of these pieces see frequent use or will, once we have kids and need additional bedroom furniture, seating, and such (read: near future).

Anyone else have some giants that need to find a new cave home?  Any ideas on how to conquer our giants?