On Organized Pack-Ratting

Over the weekend, I tackled The Laundry.  It needs those capital letters, y’all: it had practically become another family member, and was threatening to drown us all.  I was washing and drying and moving things through that laundry room with such focus that I wasn’t folding as I went (and I know for sure I’m not the only one who does this).  The Pack-and-Play had become our holding ground for unfolded laundry, and was bulging at the sides and a towering heap of clean, heavy, angry unfolded clothes.  It was terrifying.  And a little shameful–no picture for you, blog reader.

Today, I am happy to report that ALL the laundry is folded and (most of it) is put away where it belongs.  The only real motivator I had to get it finished was the need to bring the baby clothes we’ve saved and stored up in the attic down to be washed and dried and folded–with two weeks to go until the big day, it sorta seemed like it was time to get this essential task taken care of once and for all.

As my husband brought down the boxes (all three huge ones) from the attic, I was thinking maybe we’re crazy to have saved all this stuff–who even knew if we were going to have another when I put it all up there?  And who knew whether we’d have a boy or a girl and which clothes ought to be saved and which ones tossed out?  Had I wasted my time?  What on earth was I thinking?  By the time I went through and sorted out the things this baby would need and packed the too-big clothes back into the box, I was so delighted I had been cheap enough to save everything.  Not only did I re-discover some really wonderful things that have been handed down to us over the years, but I dug out some things I sewed for our older children that I hadn’t thought about in ages, and I’m so pleased to be able to pass on again.

Which made me think about pack rats.  I don’t think anyone could accuse me and my husband of being anything of the sort: we’re ruthless when it comes to throwing out the things we don’t need, and having a few things that we really treasure versus many things that we just like OK.  He’s better at it than I am, in terms of severing the emotional connection (and I’m still incapable of ever throwing out a receipt, but that’s come to our rescue more than once), but both of us make a sincere effort to keep the closets tidy and donate or yard sale things that we’re not using, on the assumption that someone else will benefit from those things in ways we aren’t, and that keeping it in a closet when we won’t use it is selfish and wasteful.  One of my favorite resources for ideas on gleaning and saving and finding frugal ways to run our homes is Amy Dacyzyn, author of the Tightwad Gazette and the self-proclaimed Frugal Zealot.  She uses the term “organized packratting” to refer to keeping enough–but just enough–of something on hand to create projects and build a family life.

I’ve been thinking so much about studio space and organizing sewing rooms lately that it seems like a natural transition to think about storage and The Stash.  Like baby clothes, there is SO much amazing fabric out there (and I want ALL of it).  But keeping it all tidy and then USING it is a constant battle.  How do I know where it is, and where I can find what I’m looking for?  How do I avoid buying something new when I already have the exact same thing in some bin someplace but didn’t know because I didn’t see it there?  And how do I use all those bits and pieces in a way that allows me to really look at and enjoy them rather than having them just sit and stew in a big ol’ pile?

So that’s this week’s series: as we work our way through these Sewing Goals, this week we’re looking at organizing sewing space and how to make the fabric stash and integrated part of it rather than the box/pile/bucket/basket we shove in a corner and hope no one notices.  The question for you is: what’s your stash looking like today? If I came over and took a peek, where would I find all the fabric you’re saving, and what condition would it be in?  Is it organized packratting, all neatly boxed up according to size, like baby clothes?  Or is it a big pile of fear, like unfolded laundry?  Am super curious to see how many of us fall into which camp, and work our way out of the hole we’ve dug for ourselves!

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  • Kim
    April 26, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    I’m new to the packratting of fabric, but so far it is piled by washed… or not … and then sort of by color. I love the pix you have been posting of bookshelves or clear bins stacked with folded fabrics either by texture/type or by color and hope to follow in those footsteps when I become a Big Girl and have an organized sewing room of my own.

  • Jennie
    April 26, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    I just finished re-organizing my fabric by color, and it works SO much better than the frightful piles I had going on before! Each color has it’s own bin (or two…) and they are on shelves like drawers for easy access!
    ~ Jennie

  • Dusty Atterberry
    April 26, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Well……my husband refers to my sewing corner as “your mountain” if that tells you anything. I’ve got tubs here and there, a paper box full of stuff that I want to work with soon, a small stack of washed stuff that just needs to be cut out and a tub of random junk and fabric up in my room of “new” stuff. (and apparently two patterns that I put in a “special” place that I now can’t remember, urgh).