Thoughts on Solitude
An Emotion I Don't Know the Word For: on Time and Daughters Growing

The Beautiful Things that Become Burdens: A Question for Purging

One of the hardest things for me in the immediate aftermath of my mom’s death was trying to decide what to do with her fabric collection.

It’s hard to even put into words how much fabric she has accumulated over a lifetime of sewing. Maybe 2000 yards. It filled the entire family room in the basement. And so much of it was just her, her personality in cotton. (For example, in all of those yards and yards, there were only five or six small pieces of grey. She did not like grey!) I know exactly how that feels, when you’re standing in the fabric store and you find a piece that speaks to you, and so you buy it and bring it home and then…add it to the pile of other pieces that also spoke to you. You intended to do something fun with it, but there are only so many quilts one can make in a lifetime.

The supplies of your craft are creative sparks, and we want to have them because they speak to our unique creative vision.

The reason it was painful was that it felt like giving away (or in some cases, tossing) parts of her, not just some fabric. She had plans for all of that yardage, and so there was a part of her connected to it. And so not keeping it all felt like a betrayal or a rejection of her.

I hope not to leave something like that for my own kids to deal with.

I’m actually pretty good with my fabric. I mean, I do buy things just because they “speak” to me, but I try to keep my collection small.

But my scrapbook supplies are another story entirely.

Purging scrapbook supplies april 2021

I’ve been scrapbooking since 1996, when the only companies were The Paper Patch and Creative Memories. I have a clear memory of the first patterned paper I bought that didn’t have a white background (it was by Keeping Memories Alive). I remember American Craft’s first line. I actually still own some of SEI’s first line, which was revolutionary in its use of simple lines and color blocking.

Twenty five years of scrapbooking means I’ve had 25 years to buy things. Things I love, things that speak to me. Things that I might use somewhere. Things that were a great price.

Over those years, I have honed my purchasing habits. I know what I never use (chipboard, metal, anything pokey or stiff or bulky) and what I use with regularity (alphabet stickers, small puffy stickers but only the ones that are squishy, white cardstock). I have also purged my supplies often.

Kendell and I were talking yesterday and I was complaining about the lack of light in my current crafty room. The room he uses for his work-from-home office has two windows and is bright and airy, and I’m not really sure why but we thought it wouldn’t work to set up my office in that room. But we got out the measuring tape and figured it out, so soon we are going to switch rooms.

And I am going to take that opportunity to purge. Brutally, viciously purge. Streamline. Make my space more functional because there are fewer supplies.

So far, I have purged with this rule: I can only keep what I LOVE and ADORE. If I’m kind of iffy about a supply, or if my tastes have changed, out it goes. Since I have kept up with that, I do truly love & adore what I have.

But I also know that I have way too much stuff.

Like my mom’s fabric horde, my scrapbook supplies have become a sort of drain on my creativity. It’s overwhelming to delve into all of the stuff, so I’ve gotten into the habit of using my newest supplies (which is great!) instead of mixing in what I already have.

I think I need a new purging rule. I think I must ask myself this question:

What will I actually use this for?

This makes me think of my drawer of floral papers. I love floral papers. But. I have mostly sons. And many of my daughter’s photos have already been scrapbooked. So while I do love & adore them, I rarely actually use them.

Answering that question might be painful, honestly. Because what comes to mind, often, when I fall in love with a piece of patterned paper or some floral die cuts, is what I could use it for. Photos I’ve already scrapped. Pictures I never took. Imaginary, in-the-future photo shoots.

Saying “I love this floral patterned paper” is one thing. Knowing—knowing for real, not just imagining—where I really will use it is another thing altogether. It’s like, if I get rid of a sheet of stickers that I could use on a layout about, say, a future grandchild, I am eliminating the possibility of that future person.

And it’s also difficult because it is like my mother’s fabric: taken as a whole collection, my scrapbook supplies say something about my personality. My tastes & interests & favorites, even the things I don’t really like much. (You’ll find almost no red in my supplies, for example, as it’s just not a color I use much except for Christmas layouts.)

But I also know it’s time. All of these beautiful supplies really are beautiful, but they are holding me back. The combined weight of it all limits my ability to move dynamically. So I am giving myself both an assignment and a permission slip: let go, because it is OK to do so.

Comments

michele

oof do i feel this! when we moved, i did a big purge. a couple of years into the new house, i wasn't scrapping at all so i did another major purge. when i re-did my office two years ago, i went through what was left with a VERY critical eye. if i still loved it and still wanted to use it, i kept it. i also had very intentional storage after re-doing my space, so i kept only what fit. it was so freeing to know i had only what i really wanted to use. even so, i feel the need to do yet another sweep since i have switched mainly to pocket pages and 4x6 and 3x4 spaces to fill. it IS okay to let things go. i donated all of my stuff to a local girl scout troop and they were THRILLED! that brought me more joy than lugging it all around for years had.

Donna

Oh wow. I'm in those early days of buying what I see, filling my space with lots of stuff and using much less than I have before buying more. I should take heed before it gets out of control.

Lisa

My rescue mom has A LOT of fabric. Some have stories as to why she has it and what it was used to make. Others were bought because of an idea for a project. I may or may not have helped contribute to the stash with some of my own project ideas.
As a form Creative Memories Instructor and scrapbooker, I totally understand and relate to the scrapbook stash. When I ended my five year run as an instructor, I had well over a $1000 worth of inventory. When I left the situation I was in, I had to leave it all behind. And it pains me still.
These days my stash is in art journal and painting stuff. Oh and yarn. I had to leave at least 2 large totes behind and about the same in my own yardage of fabric. I had intended to teach myself to quilt and sew clothes. Then I couldn't take it all either and I wonder sometimes what happened to it all.

Cheryl Turtlemoon

Aww I understand that with your mums fabric. It’s such a personal thing! I have to admit I looked at your picture and screamed stickers! I’m actually trying to purge my craft room....but first I need to clean it lol! Good luck with switching rooms!

Jean

All that purging must be hard, especially your mother’s fabrics. Are you going to donate it all? Someone really might be able to use it.

I am doing a lot of this myself now so I won’t leave a lot of stuff that my son and whoever else has to clean up after me.

Good luck with the switching rooms. I hope it will work out well for you.

Helen Patrice

I feel you. Books. Books whose covers spoke to me, or a title that called, or a back cover that promised so much. Sea shells that summed up a life on the beach, but lose meaning at home, or blend in with one hundred other significant shells. I've done several purges, which does not stop more stuff coming into the house. Sigh.

Cindy deRosier

I have a LOT of scrapbook supplies. I hope that when I die, my son invites my two best scrapbook friends over to take everything they want (and donate or pass the rest on to their friends). While I expect him to keep the scrapbooks, I certainly don't expect him to keep the stuff I was going to use to make scrapbooks and I don't want him to feel bad for one second about letting it go to others who will use it.

Good luck with your room switch - exciting!

Shannon

As a child who has anxiety about someday having the responsibility to do something with my own mother's horde of papercrafting supplies, I applaud you. It is truly overwhelming to consider sorting through it all and making decisions about it.

I have my own stash of papercrafting and art supplies - which I wouldn't mind minimizing actually. However, I love the concept of not having more than can fit into any specific container - be it my art room, my paper cart, my paint cart, etc. Once full, that's the limit. If something else is added, then something must go.

Wishing you the best as you conquer your task and find your freedom. Enjoy your new space!

Susan Reid

After being in the same home for 48 years, I decided it was well past the time to clean out the attics. So much stuff! I blamed my spouse for the chaos and all the stuff. Much to my surprise, I found 3 large bins of fabric. I haven't made anything in probably 35 years. I've scrapbooked for probably 25+ years. When I started it was 8-1/2 x 11 paper, stickers, and not much else. So, with every "new" thing that came out, I had to have it. The buttons, ribbon, flowers, brads, eyelets and everything else multiplied. I have learned I don't need it all and have purged many times. My 2 granddaughters would say I don't have too much; my 2 sons and their wives would probably disagree. But, the parents love that I have scrapbooks (too many probably) for each of the girls.

CarrieW

I went through a big, brutal purge of scrapbook things a couple of years ago. Luckily, I have friends and a local school to give things to, so I don't feel too wasteful. But, I have one shallow-drawer unit with some supplies I probably haven't even looked at in 3 years. I want to be brutal and just let it all go, but then I look at the items and think how cute they are and how maybe I could use them--ha. Just need to think of them as you are doing--What will I actually use them for--and then do so, or let it go.

Kim

This is so good. I really understand. When my mom died, I had to try to figure out what to bring back across country with me and what had to go, and it was so hard. It was all so *her*.

On a side note, I still have a few Creative Memories sticker packs from when I did scrapbooking in the late 90s! It eventually lead me to mixed media and art journaling, and I don't do scrapbooking anymore, but I still love the supplies.

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