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Episode 28: A Meandering Walk Through my Stash

Mentioned in this episode:

Quilting Lessons: Notes from the Scrap Bag of a Writer and Quilter by Janet Catherine Berlo

Brenda Dayne:  Cast On

Sock Clubs:
Rocking Sock Club by Blue Moon Fiber Arts
Cookie A Sock Club

Join my craft circle:
Ravelry: girliejones
Twitter: @champagnesocks or @krasnostein
Facebook: Quilt Block N Swap
Instagram: girliejonesadventures



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Champagne and Socks: Episode 23: Glimpsing Old UFOs


Current WIPs in focus

A photo posted by Alisa (@girliejonesadventures) on

Join my craft circle:
Ravelry: girliejones and Champagne and Socks Craft Circle Group
Twitter: @champagnesocks or @krasnostein

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October 14   What I did today

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Boring list of what I did today, to remind myself I’m moving forwards:

  • popped out to the shops to buy celebratory cake!
  • 4 loads of laundry
  • cleared dining table for weekly review
  • grocery shop (ahem, unpacked the groceries when the Coles man delivered them)
  • started sorting my books in the study bookcases
  • unpacked one more random box of crap
  • sorted through the week’s accumulation of receipts and papers and flotsam
  • finished final copy edits on 2 short stories and sent to the proofers
  • baked banana bread
  • cleaned the kitchen
  • sorted through the box of 1 year of receipts – part of the Getting Things Done backlog
  • made a quiche
  • worked on website and newsletter
  • worked on copyedits for A Trifle Dead

I’m glad I wrote that list because I am getting to the point in the night where I start to get upset that I didn’t get anything done. I bet C does not miss that!

I lost about 2 or 3 weeks to setting up the Getting Things Done stuff – going through stuff at home and deciding what it was and what had to happen to it, setting up a new filing and storage system, assigning things to places in the house, writing proper to do lists. Stuff that I used to be really good at – like 6 or 8 house moves ago. But it’s been worth the getting behind in TPP work to do that because I had forgotten something really key – it’s not only much easier to keep up with the current things when you have systems and places for things, and it not only saves you time in no longer having to look for things when you want them again, but being able to deal with things as they come in, even though you still have backlog, stops the increase in backlog of clutter. And then, every time you find time to work on going through and sorting backlog, you can see that you actually are starting to win. It becomes so much easier to work on backlog too – all the clear spaces that you created last week *have remained clear* because new crap that comes in gets dealt with on the spot or through the weekly review. And it’s much easier to deal with small piles of current crap than 3 year old stuff.

I’m not yet up to date and I’ve not yet mastered the weekly review. But that can take 3 months or so. I am though enjoying all the benefits that are already showing up. I’m getting better at planning things and being ready for things when they happen. And together with learning how to spot red flags in the 12 week body transformation, I’m starting to learn how to handle myself. So for example, the banana bread and the quiche I made today was portioned up and frozen in meal size serves. Now, as I run out the door in the mornings this week, I have breakfast covered and some lunches. No excuse to spend money frivolously or to eat more than my allocated calories. And I don’t have to think about it in the middle of the rush that is my week.


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One of the things I really enjoyed about reading Sweater Quest was the various discussions around knitting and knitting philosophy. I think you can find universal truths everywhere and I am always looking for them. Something that the Knit Harlot said in it was that she loved how nothing really terrible can happen when you knit. She says the worst thing is you set out with a ball of yarn to knit a sweater, and you end up with a ball of yarn (no sweater). You still have your ball of yarn. I like that. And it’s helped me move beyond perfectionism about the first jumper I’m currently knitting. It’s not perfect. It looks handmade. That’s because it is. And it’s not the last thing I will ever knit, I will get better and more than that, the jumper will eventually get worn and then worn out and I’ll part with it. It’s the circle of (knitted) life.

But I liked the idea that … you know … if you never do anything because you’re so scared of it not being perfectly executed, then you will never do anything. And how is that better? And this turns out to be a really good way to break through paralysis or roadblocks. Or in other words, sometimes a decision is better than the right decision, especially when you no longer fear failure. What’s the worst thing that can happen when you execute an idea (especially when it’s not a life or death one) and it doesn’t work out?

I’m starting to feel like I’m making headway on things that have been hard to conquer in the past. And it turns out, that with progress on any of these, the most effective thing has been consistency. So I’ve been very slowly, every day, working on culling and decluttering. And some days it might only be one or two things but will power is a muscle – it gets stronger the more you use it. It gets easier to cull and part with things the more often and regularly you do it. And I used to know this, I just got out of practice. I have now almost completely cleared out the “to donate or sell” corner of stuff I had piled when unpacking. I have slowly been taking it in small shopping bags, now and again, to charity bins (there aren’t many near our place so I have to do it when I go up to Perth). Today, I made the decision that selling my culled books on eBay was not worth it and, after the discussion with the secondhand bookstore owner yesterday, I decided to donate them. Today, I took all those not currently up on eBay, and also some craft kits that I was planning on selling, and donated them. And it felt AWESOME!  I parted with stash and I parted with book collection and the world didn’t end and I feel more free! I am loving the cleared space – the space that I know used to be filled with things that made me feel bad and guilty.

And I went a step further. Whilst I was procrastinating on making a decision about something else (I did, in the end, just make one and moved on), I decided to sort my To Be Read bookcase in my bedroom. I decided to shelve the books by genre since I feel like I am more of a reader who feels like genre (so I might feel in the mood for YA, a short story or nonfiction). I took them all out to sort and as I did so, I did the kind of “airing of the stash” thing that knitters do. I looked at each book. And I decided that some of them I didn’t actually want to read, that if I was in the middle of one and hadn’t gone back to it in over a year, then it was ok to not force myself to finish it just to say I had but rather to just … NOT! OMG I feel AWESOME having given myself the permission to not finish books I’m not enjoying. I kind of want to (and am) start looking at reading like Simon from The Readers Podcast – he’s reading like it’s the Apocalypse. And seriously, if you think, hey I might only have this year left to read, do I want this book to be one of those?, it’s amazing how much easier deciding not to finish or read something becomes. Guilt free!

And I decided to cull my TBR bookcase to only contain books I honestly see myself reading in the next year or two. And the rest  I took out. That makes this bookcase much less guilt making with the books I feel I *should* be reading and more with the enticing here’s the books I *want* to read, which shall I read next? excitement. Aka how reading should be. And I’m going to be totally ok now with shelving unread books back into my general collection – that is, books that I want to read *at some point*. If I genuinely want to read something, and I feel in the mood for it, then I am perfectly capable of going and finding that book to read. So now I feel happier about sorting and culling the general collection and then having everything shelved by genre etc. Read and unread mingled. Because what is definitely worse than read and unread books co-mingling, is not being able to find any of the books you own exactly at the minute you want to find them. It especially applies to books like short story collections or nonfiction, which I really see as “own with intent” – books I want to own and intend one day to read, or to refer to.

And all of this has had me thinking about craft stash. And other perishable things (like gift soaps etc). I think I have gotten to a place where I don’t know what happens if you use the stash. I was rummaging in the stash on Saturday night (where, OMG I think I found evidence of moths OMG) and happened upon a very delicious hank of yarn I had forgotten I’d bought – Socks that Rock in Stormy Weather (it’s a gorgeous spectrum of greys). And I thought, hey that might be great for a new scarf – I need some lacy, lovely scarves now that I work back in the city, total scarf wearing for decoration type attire requirements. And my next thought was, but I bought that for socks and I also really want a pair of socks in that colourway. And I think that’s where an obstacle comes up for me. I could knit the skein and buy a new one. Or I could knit the skein and knit myself a pair of socks in a different colourway. Or whatever. But I literally couldn’t think past the idea of actually using up my stash. That I like the stash and don’t know what I would do if I actually worked through it – this concept is not one I am comfortable with. When in reality, working through the stash would make me happy by a) knitting, which I love b) turning lovely skeins into lovely wearable possessions for me or for gifts and c) free me from guilt about buying new yarn. Yet this is still not something I feel comfortable with.

And I wonder if this is a similar thing at play with my TBR. Working through it would mean I would have to go out there and find new books to read (note, I have no problem impulse buying books). There is something comfortable at being familiar with what you have yet still to do. That and, I always feel like I need brain energy to switch into reading a new book – new writing, new concepts, new worlds to get used to. I suspect though, that this is just a reading muscle that needs to get flexed to build strength again. Hence the encouragement of reading what I feel like reading and maybe reviewing them here to a) mark the read books b) validate book choices beyond the peer pressure and c) getting back comfortable at review

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A big shoutout to Sim who knows me and how I think. It was her comments on a previous post about this stuff that really helped me move past my paralysis and guilt relating to my crafting/not crafting/stash/huge number of WIPs. She suggested I put away the charm quilt that was squelching my crafting mojo, be cool with the project lying on hold for a while, and then audit my entire WIPs.

So this took me a while, both due to limited time and also having to actually face both the mess and the unfinished objects. But as one of my tasks I have tackled in my 5 day break, I actually spent a good couple of hours on this. I both created order and more serenity with my craft WIPs and space and I also found the spare bedroom bed. (I then was encouraged to sort out all the clean washing in that room the following day and found the bedroom floor for bonus points. A couple more smaller tasks to go in that room and I can sign it off as Completed. It’s funny how once you break through the paralysis, you just keep eating away at the elephant. And it’s all so much less insurmountable).

I took photos of everything. All my knitting works in progress have been uploaded to my Ravelry page. And yeah, I can see how in that form it’s all a lot less scary and horrible and a lot more encouraging to work through. My name over at Ravelry is girliejones if you’re then and want to be friends.

There doesn’t seem to be an equally useful quilting equivalent so I opened a spreadsheet and loaded all my quilt projects before folding them neatly up and putting them away in my craft cupboard. I also put all related bits and pieces for each project in its own labelled box. This killed two birds – 1. everything is neat and grouped and easy to pick up and put down and 2. it put use to all the little boxes I can’t part with.

Here’s an overview of the quilt projects. You’ll be able to see the gradual reduction in mess on the bed underneath as the task progressed.

The only thing I have left is to sort my fabric scraps. I’ve been picking up a few scrap quilt books and it turns out, saving every last morsel of fabric is ok and perfectly normal and you can make really stunning quilts from them. And you don’t have to only have one scrap quilt for all your scraps. Thus my dreaded scrap quilt which was getting me down can be finished off with the blocks made, I can feel good about drawing a line under it and feel excited about looking into other possible quilts. But first I have to sort them. So – more boxes to be put to work as I sort these according to colour. Another ongoing project but easy to go into the room and do a few and then move on.

Now I just have to decide if I feel up to cataloguing the rest of my yarn stash into Ravelry …

But I feel *so* much better now! And everything is far less daunting and confronting and doable again. And I have a few finished pieces to show! I am interested to see if my catalogues will be used by me – it can be really easy to file that stuff away and then it’s out of sight so you don’t feel bad and then you never go looking for it so you can continue to not feel bad. But the interesting thing in all this decluttering has been to let go of the guilt of having to finish something – a book, a project, whatever – just because I bought it or started it. It’s very freeing to say, “actually, I don’t like this” or “I’m not enjoying this” or “it doesn’t work for me” or “it’s not what I thought it would be” and to then act by giving yourself permission to … gift or donate the book or unravel a started project. So much future time freed up for new and other things!

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April 17   A book confession

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The other day something I had been avoiding for a while now smacked me in the face. Well actually, it knocked one of my Ditmars off a shelf and broke it (it’s one that was probably glued together in the first place so can be easily fixed, I hope). I’ve been in denial about it but the truth is – I have never actually unpacked my books and put them away in this house. Terri came to borrow a couple of books that I *know* I own but when I went looking for them, I couldn’t find them. Normally I am really pedantic about my books. They are the first possessions that I pack and move when I move house and I always always have a very specific way to shelve them.

Alas, I moved in with C in June last year and all I did was *unpack* my books. And locate them kind of in the study. I had lost bookcases in all my various house moves and all the bookcases here were full. So there was nowhere to unpack them into it. I did go and buy myself four bookcases from Ikea. Two are in the study and are filled hapazardly with my books. One got pilfered for C’s games in his man cave. And the fourth is in our bedroom and is filled with my To Be Read books. But there is no order or reason to any of my bookcases at the moment and worse, they nowhere near fit all of my book collection, some of which are stacked in front on the shelves (leading to Ditmar fatalities) or piled under my desk and just around.

I was really upset that I couldn’t lend Terri the books she was looking for. I did lend her some books she didn’t *know* she was looking for and I think that worked out ok. But I am really really unhappy that I don’t know which books are where and have just abandoned this part of settling in. I think maybe, I can’t really be properly settled in if my books aren’t.

On the weekend, I finally started to confront this issue. I started to sort my books into some grouping order – everything was just everywhere. As I started to sort them, I started to realise I could actually cull some books. This could help with the storage issue. And something else too. As I’ve continued to declutter, both in my physical and my electronic world, I’ve found a great sense of freedom and removal of weight from letting go or letting myself off the hook or out of the guilt of wanting to want to read or do or like certain things. I think this might also be part of settling into your late (eek!) thirties. I’m caring less about doing things to fit in. And I know we as a community pride ourselves on not doing things to fit in but even in this community, there is still pressure to read (and like) certain books or blogs or whatever. And I’ve started to notice that I force myself to try to like some things and then I ignore or don’t allow myself to just not. And lately, I’m kinda starting to let that go. Who cares if I don’t like something? Life is pretty short, too damn short, to spend it reading books you don’t like or doing something you don’t care for just because everyone else is. And as I start to let go, I’m actually finding I’m discovering ore of me in the process. But that’s something for another blog post.

So I realised that I didn’t need to keep books, to let them take up shelf space, just so I can impress someone else. If I don’t own a book any more, does that mean I didn’t read it? How would you know? And if I do own a book, does that mean I *have* read it? How would you know? So I started being ok with removing books from the collection. And some of that is about letting go of possessions I have dragged with me for the last 15 years and somehow contribute to defining me for that reason alone. I’m not done. I’m not nearly done. But I’m ok with having started.

I am still going to need more bookcases. But I have to first figure out where they would go.

But I’m actually posting about this to ask a question. I have more than one To Be Read area. My bookcase in my bedroom is my recent (last 2 to 3 years) accumulation of books to be read. I have another little bookcase (15 cm wide and only three shelves) in the study which is an overflow To Be Read bookcase, probably of books with a similar book stashing timeframe, possibly a bit longer. Kind of books I’m somewhat less wanting to read. This case can probably be properly sorted and perhaps weeded. But in my main book collection, I noticed I have a lot of books that I haven’t read but still want to own and at some point, not in the immediate future, intend to read. Some are classics and I never really feel bad about buying those and then popping them in the main collection. But not all are. And for some reason, I’m ok with them being there and not in the To Be Read and feel confident that when I feel like reading those specific titles, I will go looking for them. BUT … why don’t I feel that way about the main To Be Read books? And further, those books take up an entire bookcase. At some point, I intend to read them and then shelve them in the main collection. So … that means that I need another whole bookcase just for the To Be Read alone, assuming I continue to accumulate at a constant rate.

Do you keep your To Be Read books separately? How do you tell the difference between books you really intend to read and books you feel you should just own?

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February 28   Unf*cking it

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On the weekend, I discovered Cat Valente’s new tumblr project Girl Unlocked and the Unfuck your habitat tumblr and suddenly got inspired. Here was a successful woman talking about exactly the same shit I’m feeling and living and not doing.

Tansy has a great post today about it too – Mothering, Writing, Pilating, Guilt. I guess as I sit here, I can hardly feel hard done by by the feminist movement – I have a good professional day job with great prospects and entitlements. I’m respected by my manager and most of the people I work with, even if I am often still the lonely girl in the sea of men at the boardroom table. On top of that, I have my own small business that I started up and is mine. And I have a very loving, understanding and giving fiance. (The puppy is um … the puppy.) But you know, as much as that is possibly living some version of the feminist dream, I still can’t shake the expectations of the domestic goddess. I am a neat person and I appreciate order and neatness. I like my pantry to have everything stored by category and be in the neat tupperware containers. I like my clothes to be clean and folded and ironed and away and waiting for me to choose an outfit to wear. I want my house to be spick and span and ready for Vogue inspection without warning.

But that is in no way the reality. Working two jobs fulltime, plus a big commute these days, and trying to make time to care for myself by exercising properly and keep up with reading, and family and friends, and have downtime to recharge. Yeah, I don’t live the domestic goddess dream. I don’t have the time and it doesn’t happen. We go to bed with dishes in the sink, clothes unhung up. Puppy toys strewn across the house. Papers not filed and away. Mess. I wouldn’t give up any of my priorities to be the ideal housewife. But its really really hard to give up the guilt and feeling of coming short when judged on my (lack of) ability to keep house. I fear people dropping by and seeing how I live sometimes (and judging me). I stress myself out because this in no way gels with my OCD which is far more under control than several years ago but still present. I can’t let go of the guilt. And the mess weighs down on my psyche, adding to the white noise of background stress.

But what to do? Can’t create more time and if I could, Twelfth Planet Press already has dibs on it. And 2012 is already more frentic than 2011 was and I know 2013 will be likewise more than 2012. It’s just the way it is.

So this whole unfucking your habitat thing kind of appeals to me. I guess in the same way that the 12 week body transformation is working for me. Basically, fucking off excuses – excuses for why you didn’t or can’t do shit are bullshit. There is only do or do not, you know? And there is mostly the suck it up princess and get on with it. I like Cat’s attitude on her tumblr. I also like seeing before and after shots of tidying. So I’m kinda jumping on the bandwagon and will try and get small things unfucked when I can and keep them unfucked from there on out. And I’ll post some photos as I do.

So these three photos to the left and above are of my dressing table. Which has basically looked like the top shot for most of the time I’ve lived here (since moving in last June). The chest is a bit high for me to actually use for dressing but I really love the wood and the deal with myself on buying it when I did (plantation wood) is I have it for life. But um yes, it was totally untidy, unfriendly workspace and facing my bed. So I both cannot find any of the lovely makeup and jewellery I own (and therefore have not been using or wearing) and stare at the clutter pretty much all the time. I realised I could actually take one of the drawers for my makeup and also use one of my lovely boxes that I love to collect but have no purpose for to lay it all out in an easy, enticing and accessible way. I actually like to wear a little makeup and some jewellery, it makes me feel good about myself. But I don’t when I don’t feel good about myself or when I have to hunt around to find it. (Of note, haven’t worn a lot of either in recent years).

And now my bedside table. A great source of annoyance to anyone else who shares a room with me. I like to take glasses and mugs to bed to drink whilst reading but I don’t like to return items back to the kitchen. I let things pile up til either something spills or I have nowhere to put my glasses when I finally go to sleep. Seriously, I don’t know how that’s a bad habit of mine when I actually am naturally neat person. Honest!

I spose it comes from now having an actual office that I work at. Though, ahem, we do have a study here and I do have my own desk. Yes said desk is absolutely covered in clutter, things to file, sort and whatnot. I spose those before and after shots will be coming soon!

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