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Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Beautiful Stash - On Fabric, Pattern, and Notions Hoarding

One thing I've always found both puzzling and understandable at the same time has to do with stashes. I'm neither the first nor will be the last to observe that there seem to be a lot of people who have a large sewing stash. At least there's a good deal of wonderful testimonials from people who do, like "Fabric Stashing and Pattern Hoarding" from Sarah Liz , "Am I a Fabric Hoarder?" from Justine, "Stash or Fabric Hoarding?" from Kathy Mathews, or "Fabric Collector or Hoarder" from Kathleen Tracy.

Actually, I discovered that I have a budding stash myself. I'm one of these people who stand in the store, think "oh, what a wonderful fabric" and then feel I need to buy it. My stash is comparatively small, though. It merely fills two big drawers (or, for that matter, removal crates). I seriously have to be careful not to go fabric shopping too much, and rather use what I already have in a good way. Still, just having these fabrics and looking at them is nice.

So, when I noticed this, I investigated.. and I found that this phenomenon of "hoarding" things is really a pretty common human trait. People collect, organize and keep all kinds of things - and it's all good as long as it doesn't become too extreme or other issues come into play. There really seem to be different aspects that must be present to become what people commonly call an "obsessive compulsive hoarder":
  1. "persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of the value others may attribute to them" (as stated in the Independent article)
  2. to really grow a true "collection", there needs to be a constant influx of items
I personally can relate somewhat to the former, I really sometimes have trouble letting things go. Throwing away scraps of fabric can be hard sometimes (when I think I could still use them for something). Still, I do manage to throw away most of the things I don't need anymore. I also consider myself lucky in that I'm very careful with buying new things - if I were more lenient there and would keep buying things, I'd definitely be at risk of accumulating a huge "collection".

Still, with the term "hoarding" there seems to be all these negative associations, because apparently, because people say "hoarding" when they really mean "obsessive compulsive hoarding". I can see how hoarding can burden your life when it's done in an extreme fashion, however, collecting things of a particular kind in an orderly fashion is obviously considered a socially acceptable pass-time (e.g. consider coin collectors, stamp collectors, etc.).

Actually, I think the most beautiful stashes are created by people who have at most a mild case of 1) and who do 2): You keep acquiring beautiful new things regularly, but when you notice you have too much, you let the less beautiful things from you stash go (e.g. by giving something away, selling, or swapping generously). Since you manage to confine your stash to a restricted space (e.g. a few cabinets), it can't grow to a point where it starts affecting your life in a bad way.

Whether I find a stash beautiful does not depend on size at all: For me, it's about diversity and the beauty of individual items. When you buy a big bag of zippers wholesale, you get exactly that: a big bag of zippers which are all very much alike. Yet, I think that what makes life interesting is things and people being unique. In order to get a really diverse stash, you either need to be shopping lots of small packages, or you discover the awesome world of swapping: You give away something that is boring to you, and you get something exciting and unique back.

At some point, stashes can grow so big that you need a system to organize them. Even I with my small stash have had to rummage through it to find a particular fabric. Stash organization seems to consist of two main things: 1) Setting up cabinets, shelves and boxes in which fabrics, notions and patterns can be conveniently stored, and 2) strictly maintaining a particular order in which items are placed therein. In addition, some people seem to keep lists of all their inventory.

What do you do to keep your huge stash in reign? Do you even have a huge stash or are you able to resist the beckoning of fabrics to be bought or obtained? Do you keep a spreadsheet? Do you use Evernote? Or does keeping a strict order in the shelves suffice? Do you use one of the Ravelry-inspired sites (threadbias.com or mysewingcircle.com)?

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