Stash Less is a series where we talk about having a thoughtful stash. You can find all the past posts in this series here. Enjoy!
It’s the third birthday of Stash Less – not the official date of the first post, as that was sometime in October when I returned from our first big overseas adventure as a family - but the date from when I really started thinking about my purchasing, stashing, and hoarding habit. That first post came about six months after I started thinking about what I needed and what I had.
See on that trip we travelled super light – we had a 4wd Toyota Prado which was a big car but not huge, and we had three kids who we wanted to split up in terms of their seating, so one was in the back. This meant that our boot space was only a half the width of the car. I’m hoping this makes sense. We also had two top boxes on the roof but that car with a small boot and two top boxes was the sum total for five of us for five months.
Our worldly goods for 5 months consisted of....
· 5 x small bags of clothes
· 5 x sleeping bags
· 5 x sleeping mats
· 1 x tent
· 5 x camp stools
· 1 x camp table
· 1 x camp stove
· 1 x box of kitchen utensils
· 1 x box of food
· 1 x box of books/pencils for the kids
· 1 x box of wool
That was all we could fit in the car, and all we had. Not much and nothing fancy but enough.
That said the box of wool was important. It was small (the fella would say it was ridiculously large compared to what else we had with us but he is a fool, bless him) but it was enough. It contained within it both possibility, and restriction – the ingredients for creativity without brain freeze.
But the important thing was what it taught me – and that was, that I had enough. I was creatively satisfied and whole. I didn’t feel deprived and I didn’t feel loss. You see the thing about being away for six months with no space is that you cannot shop.
The story of what happened when I got home is here – in the original Stash Less post because it really did change me.
Over the next two years I went through a process of understanding myself and my behaviour around craft, materials, desire, and creative thrill. You can find that journey by clicking on the Stash Less tag and following it back through the wormhole.
Where I'm at with Stash Less?
I haven’t written about Stash Less in a while, not because I don’t have more to say. I do. But because I wanted to see what it was like to live with it over time. What has changed in my behaviour? What has stayed the same? What are my triggers like these days? How do I buy, why do I buy and how does it make me feel? What does my stash look like? And how does it feel to live in a new way.
1. I can tell you the following – I am changed and I believe that that change is permanent.
My relationship to materials is different as is my shopping habits. That said, many of my triggers remain the same, but their pull has been muffled by awareness, intention and practice of a new way of shopping.
2. I can also tell you that doing this in the long term is HARD.
Not hard in a physical sense but hard in an ongoing-vigilance type way. I have to watch myself and make sure I'm on the straight and narrow. My head is very tricksy, and very capable of lying to me in order to make the shiny thing I'm about to purchase look oh-so-very ethical.
I'm OK with the hard though. I expected it. The same brain shenanigans happen whenever my higher-self tries to assert it's authority, and ethics, over my lizard brain, who is a big fan of having everything it wants in the here and now.
So I thought I would share a bit more about what changes I have seen and maintained.
My stash has shrunk.
It is about 1/3 of the size it was all those years ago.
Before I left home in April, I took a few photos of my stash so you could see what it looks like these days but I can't find the photo tonight. Onwards and upwards.
What I have:
There is still plenty of material to make girls frocks and shorts and shirts. I still have enough to make tops and frocks for me (often but not always).
What I don't have:
I no longer have materials for making bigger things like the Sydney coat I made for The Craft Sessions workshop prep I did this year. I also don’t have fabric for things like boys’ shorts or a Genoa Tote.
The fundamental difference is that when I want to make a something bigger I do need to purchase materials. This is wonderful. This is the outcome I was looking for out of Stash Less, because it gives me that ability to choose exactly what I want to make something with rather than rummaging around in my stash to find something that is about 85% right.
I am truly thrilled about the level the stash is at.
I have to improvise
I often no longer have what I need but if I can find a way to make do then I make do.
For the Genoa Tote I improvised and used a stretchy jacket fabric for mine - so still thick but with stretch - which is fine in theory but a little crappy in use as it hasn't got shape like many other's I've seen. That said it is a functional bag so it's all good.
I’ve also had an idea for how I could make thicker fabric for a Genoa Tote that was more functional by using wadding scraps to make a quilted fabric that I use instead of the canvas type fabric it calls for. I will give this a go when I get time later this year.
I still buy special but I also use special.
This has been a massive change since I began the project. You can see the breakthrough moment in this post but since then I have got better and better at it. The nature of my relationship with my materials has altered. I am not holding on to the precious. Instead I am using it to make way for the new.
I still allow myself to purchase the odd piece of Nani Iro or Liberty or special Handyed yarn about once or twice a year. As I mentioned earlier I now purchase these in quantities that are useful for a big project, but I also make a real effort to use them rather than hoard them.
So I'm using them regularly and I'm using them for projects that I would have once got a little jumpy about - impractical projects like this dress I made for the middle kid's birthday. She really wanted floor length and she really wanted Liberty. This has already been torn a couple of times but she adores it.
I'm using scraps aplenty.
There is plenty of scraps in my stash these days - which I have been actively trying to use through creatively coming up with ideas to use them in a meaningful way. I'm still making many a stash cardy for the girls, and have been trying to make a Piece of Silver from Laine Magazine with my scraps.
I've also been a bit freer with my good scraps, allowing my girl babies to make random patchwork things that will probably never be finished. Once upon a time I would have been saving these for something special. Crazy but true.
When I purchase, I purchase with intent (mostly).
I still don't shop - as in I don't shop as a pasttime. I don't windowshop and I don't wander.
Except that I have some rules around being away from home. Occasionally when I'm on holiday pop in to see something I don't get to see when I'm home - like I recently did with Skein Sisters in Sydney - but I actively try to go with a purpose.
In the case of my recent trip to Skein Sisters I knew that they would probably have things I hadn't seen before and so I decided if I found something I really loved then I was allowed to purchase. I decided this a day before I went and I had such fun with the purchase. I am strict though. I couldn't buy to fill the "wanting all the pretty" or to fulfill the human desire for the new and shiny. But I could purchase if I found something I loved. Which I did. I purchased four skeins of the Nunnabar handdyed White Gum Wool in 8ply in the Nougat colourway and it is truly divine. FOUR!! because of the Stash Less outcome that I now purchase in quantities big enough to be truly useful rather than my old behaviour of just buying a little so as to make the purchasing more palatable to me in the face of a bulging stash. This is very exciting to me.
My other purchase since leaving Melbourne was in Cooma - I purchased two skeins of beautiful handspun at a local cooperative. This however wasn't premeditated and probably fell into the not-good-decision-making category as it was purchased for the "wanting all the pretty" reason rather than it being something I will use easily and with intent. Ba Bawm. Lizard brain was the winner on this occasioin.
I purchase things on a project specific basis.
Much of my purchasing these days is for things that are project specific. I purchase with intent, when I need them, and I use them quickly. I don't purchase and put in the cupboard. I leave the materials out until I can get to them or I just start. They don't head into stash.
Examples of this would include a sweaters worth of yarn for my SILs Shore cardy (which is now complete a mere few months after I received it), plus another sweaters worth of silver yarn that has since gone to a friend, and also the fabric I purchased - the absolutely stunning watercolour linen bundle from Purl Soho - for my middle kid's quilt.
Her quilt is an interesting one, that I will talk about in another pos,t but suffice to say it is something that I could have easily made out of scraps. However I decided that, for this special project, I was going to stick with her vision of it and purchase. I am so glad I did. It is looking spectacular. I can't wait to show you.
I'm using my Making List
I'm still using a making list - mine is an ongoing list that I update regularly. This helps to keep me on the straight and narrow as it helps me to see with real clarity that I have all that I need for what I want/need to make.
"I have all that I need" has been a point of discussion over caravan dinners in the last few weeks as we have been chatting to the kids about gratitude. For me, my making list helps me to sit in a place of gratitude, as it shows me that even if I am compromising here and there with materials that aren't quite right for the project I have in mind, I really have all that I need.
Unintentional Super Side Effects
Another outcome from Stash Less is that I don't shop - as a pastime - for clothes either anymore. As in, I don't sashay into my favourite stores to see if they might have something I might like, when I'm feeling a little bored or flat. I go when, and if, I need to buy something. This has been a massive game changer for me. I did what I suggested in the Stop Shopping post and have disengaged from mailing lists for nearly every brand, shop and designer, which means I don't have temptation rolling into my inbox of a morning. I still manage to keep up with what is happening through instagram and a few beloved blogs but I am incredibly pleased with this outcome.
How is your #stash_less going. I know many of you have joined in to some degree and have set your own personal challenges. I'd love to hear how you got on, and whether any of your changes are permanent, even if they are just mental.