The Big Studio Cleanout

The Big Studio Cleanout

I've been on a cleaning and organizing kick recently and this month I'm focusing on my studio. This means purging the past decade's worth of sewing and crafting materials and supplies. Two important things have resulted from this overhaul. First, I am just a bit happier with each load of stuff that leaves the studio! Second, I really need to have a sale! More on this topic soon. Let's talk about why we should overhaul regularly, and some of the tips out there for getting it done! 

For me, I knew it was overdue because I no longer looked forward to just being in my favorite indoor space anymore. It was crowded with unkempt stuff leaving it visually unappealing and physically inefficient. My goal is to organize everything in there, and to rid myself of anything I no longer want to do. I have been avoiding it because it felt like a huge and messy task.

One school of thought for organizing and purging is to remove everything and bring back in only what you really want while tossing and donating everything else. Great idea in concept, but what a mess that would create in the meantime. Then I ran across the Fly Lady who includes a piece of advice that goes something like, only tackle what you can complete in 15 minutes or less and work on it each day. I landed somewhere in between these two schools of thought. Here are some tips that emerged for tackling your studio, sewing room, or space. 

  • Have a goal! Mine was to reclaim my happy place with a major facelift! It was feeling so cluttered and messy I no longer enjoyed it, and found myself wading through so much to find what I knew I had somewhere. I can't wait to sew in my 'new' studio!
  • Have a deadline. My first one was our sewing chapter's yard sale. The other is my regularly scheduled donation pick up.
  • Have a plan. I decided to purge and organize by categories - fabric, patterns, supplies, tools, decor. I also scheduled my donation pick up, set appointments for myself to do this, and gathered my receptacles for donations and trash. 
  • Only tackle what you can complete in a short time. I decided each day how much time I would dedicate to this project so there was a clear stop time. Sometimes I went over, but I never drug out more than I was willing to tackle in one session before the end of the day.
  • Clean up at the end of each session. Always allow time to put things back in order. If you only tackle this in small chunks, this step is easier. When I was done sorting fabrics, I organized the ones I kept and stored them in my containers. Same with the patterns and notions. My workspaces were cleaned off at the end of the night and my spaces were each a bit lighter and brighter! This makes it so much nicer to tackle the next thing and not disrupt your whole life while cleaning and organizing. 
  • CELEBRATE! Whether it's an activity or new purchase for your refreshed spaces - do it! For me it's a sewing staycation coming soon!! I can hardly wait! 

Here's how it went in my studio so far:

Our local chapter of the American Sewing Guild has an annual yard sale and I used that as my first deadline. I would purge my fabric and patterns in time for the yard sale! And I did it. I went through every piece and bolt of fabric and determined whether it was something I would wear or use for business or personal purposes. If not, it went to the yard sale as a saleable item or donation. This meant measuring and tagging a lot of fabric. I'm pleased to say I culled the stash by half. 

Next I tackled my personal patterns. Over the years I've jumped on every sale by the big four and added to my collection. I carefully extracted and filed the pattern pieces and instructions in labeled manilla folders and placed the envelopes into binders using page protectors so I had catalogues of my vast collection of sewing patterns. What I really was doing was collecting patterns...I would never in my lifetime be able to sew that many projects for my personal use! Here's what happened with the patterns:

I pulled each pattern I want to make with fabric I actually have in my currently curated stash and set them aside. Next I went through and matched every envelope to its enclosures and stacked them as used/cut or new/uncut. The used patterns went into 4 trash bags for donation and the new patterns were tagged for the yard sale. I ended up donating 3 of the bags after the yard sale because I couldn't finish in time, but they did leave my studio and that was the goal! I culled my pattern stash down by 80% with mostly patterns by indie designers and some for making grand kids' clothes. These will also get another hard look before I call it done. As for storage, I am putting the full patterns into the binders using page protectors because I do like to flip through them for my next inspo. This will help keep me from adding to the collection because there is less room than in files. I also donated more manilla envelopes than I care to admit. They were neatly stacked inside those handy plastic zipper bags comforters come in.  

Next came books. This was harder than I expected. My mom is a book collector and often gives me stacks of books she is done with so they mean a lot to me. But I recently offered a set of how to books to our son for a home maintenance project and he looked at me all weird and said, you know there is something called google and youtube, right? Why would I collect a bunch of books that collect dust when I already have it at my fingertips? I only share this because it's a common mindset...even my mom does this first. So, back to my books. I decided to donate all the books (sets) that were common how to books and keep the ones with patterns, projects, and designers I really liked. It took at least three passes to get this done but I am getting closer. I also kept the reference books I use all the time when at my machine. I do appreciate a computure/screen free day in my studio! If you have someone who would benefit by and appreciate your books I recommend gifting them specifically. I have only one-third of the books left on my shelves! I'm happy with that! 

Scraps. Oh the mountains of scraps I accumulate! I recall when my dad would sit and sort my scraps into small, medium, and large based on how they could be used. Well, my partner in crime is no longer with us so my scraps were chaotic. I pulled the cottons out for quilts and then decided since I don't like to quilt someone else should have them. All the scraps went to the yard sale for free pickins'. I felt better! This freed up all the space underneath my 48"x48" counter height work table in the center of my room. I can't tell you how happy this made me to see the floor! 

Decor. This is an interesting area for me to tackle. Much of what is on the walls are part display and part storage. The issue for me is it's all visually cluttered because it's there. I haven't done this part yet because I am still undecided about what my goal is for the things I've always had on the walls. For example, my husband made me a ribbon holder I love, but it can feel visually cluttery. Just like the thread racks. I have some ideas about the walls, but since I still have shelves and cabinets to tackle, I continue mulling this over. What are your thoughts on sewing room decor? 

I intend to take another hard look at the fabric, patterns, books, supplies, and notions I have left to determine if I really have a plan for each piece to see if I can get down to a realistic stash. I'm also interested to hear about your best ideas for tackling both the purging and then organizing in your studios and sewing rooms! 

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