Stash Less is an ongoing series where I talk about creating a inspiring, not overwhelming, reasonable, useful stash. Have a look at my Stash Less project here....
So over Xmas I was in London as the fella is British, and as is tradition when I am there, I hit a few of my favourite craft shops and do a little purchasing. What is available in London is not necessarily available to us in sunny Melbourne, and so I take the opportunity to stock up. And really what is stocking up if it is not stashing. Knowing this was on the horizon I did some thinking about how to approach it and came up with a plan.
The single biggest thing I have learnt through Stash Less is that knowledge is power. Knowledge is the only way I can change my behaviour, and the most important part of the equation for me is looking at my patterns of thinking.
But knowing oneself is hard, as our thinking is coloured by our past experiences and frames of reference. We are masters of self-delusion and confabulation when it comes to the truth about who we are, and why we do what we do.
I've found that it takes careful conscious examination of the feelings I am experiencing as I'm directly engaged in certain behaviours to understand what they do for us - what the reward is. If I try to think about it after the fact, I'm already in self-justifying mode. There is always a reason for me to think I need more and to excuse anything. My brain can be deviously unhelpful when it comes to the truth.
So what knowledge did I use to help me navigate my purchasing - purchasing that I have given myself permission to engage in - while still sticking to my Stash Less principles of conscious consumption?
A Quick Note: I wrote this next bit while I was in London so excuse the time warp.....
1. Everyone loves a "treat" - but "treat purchasing" rarely = joy
Being in London is a thrill. Yes, it's a little damp and cold at this time of year, but it is xmassy and busy, and the lights are twinkling. It is a city that has stuff going on, stuff that beckons one to be part of it. And it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking "treat". Being in London is a treat and so I should behave like I am treating myself. This carries over into all sorts of wacky places. For example my kids have had soft drink three times in the last week - this is unheard of in my nearly 12 year parenting career. In the last year they would have had it thrice and one of those was our wedding. I'm eating foods I wouldn't normally eat too and not feeling good because of it - because y'know, it's a treat? And then there is purchasing. It is easy to arrive somewhere and purchase based on the "well being here is special and I would love something to remember it by".
So knowing this is how I feel, and the desire is real and distracting, I give myself permission to do this in some small way, with a proviso or two. Firstly it must be something really special that we don't get at home. Secondly I must really truly love it.
This was easy this time around as I spotted some beautiful ethical naturally-dyed sock yarn - even though I am not a sock knitter - and so purchase I did. I get one of these a trip normally. We are away for six weeks this time so I'll report back how this goes...
UPDATE: I was successful. This was my only treat purchasing as far as my supplies went.
2. I lack clarity in the face of pretty.
Pretty is distracting, and confusing. We humans get tangled up by it.
As a tactic when my kids were little and needed distracting, my brother would point and say "LOOK!!! There is a monkey with a shiny thing" and that is exactly what happens to me in the face of a shop of beauty. I am like a little kid looking at the monkey. I don't think clearly and can only look fascinated and excited. This can lead to purchasing chaos. I buy things that I love the look of but don't love to use - they are often things that are pretty but don't feel like my deep style.
In order to get around this this week I did the following;
- I went back to pinterest as my Visual Diary and carefully examined what I love. I also looked up a few instagrammers who styles I loved and noted the materials they used on my favourites of their garments.
- I looked at, and rewrote, my making list to see what I could make in the near future.
- Before I left Melbourne I did a quick inventory of what my sewing cupboard lacked. This wasn't necessary for the wool cupboard as I know that I have enough to go on with for some time.
3. Get really conscious And really clear.
I'm about to described the simple process through which I figured out what to buy in Point 4, but bigger picture I needed to get really conscious this week about reminding myself why rampant unstructured purchasing doesn't make me happy.
To do so, I went right back to the start in my head and thought about;
- How stash overwhelm makes me feel - and how satisfied and joyful I feel when my stash is smallish but has things in it that I truly love.
- How getting conscious about my purchasing fits with my values - I value the earth and my impact upon it. I don't want to live as a true minimalist - but I do want to be considered and conscious.
- How purchasing this way is not deprivation but freedom, as true freedom requires restrictions. "Through discipline comes freedom" Aristotle.
4. i was intentionally considered
I did a reconnaissance mission where I went into my favourite London fabric store with the intention that I would not purchase. I went right through the store looking at what they had - and then walked away.
For three days I thought about what I would be able to use and what would be good as basics to stock up the cupboard with. I thought a lot about the Sweater Quantity/Dress Quantitiy rule for purchasing to make sure I didn't just buy a little to little to make what I really wanted to make.
Then I wrote a shopping list which included fabric and purchase amounts.
The process of reconnaissance and then walking away to ponder was incredibly helpful, as I got really really clear on what I wanted. This would not have been possible if I had just walked in and tried to purchase - I would have gone all deer-in-the-headlights-confused in the face of all that possibility.
When I went back three days later I was able to put my rolls up on the bench, and was in and out of there in 15 minutes.
I did the same at Liberty London - recon, wait three days and then purchase clearly.
5. What I purchased
So it wasn't all roses and clarity. There was a small bit of chaos listed below as "The Total Fail". But for the sake of future learning I'm going to include an inventory in this post. It will give me something to look back on to see what I actually use and how long it takes me.
- Treat Purchase - sock yarn as shown above - already on the needles.
- The Stock - 12 balls of Felted Tweed that was on sale. Felted Tweed is one of my alltime favourite yarns for kids based on how beautifully it wears and how light it is. The girls need cardies as they are currently growing like weeds.
- The Total Fail - I made an error. Upon arrival we figured out one kid forgot his scarf so rather than buy one I purchased two skeins of yarn to quickly knit one.... only to find he didn't really like the colour. I then purchased two more skeins of yarn in a colour he liked, only to run out of time to make it with all the xmas frivolity. He had a cold neck. I have yarn I don't want or need.
- Fabric (mainly in the top photo)
- Top Blue Check - 2m for a shirt for the fella. This will take a while till I get up the courage.
- Next three - cushions for the new sitting spot/lunch table/knitting nook/reading corner.
- White Check - Dress quantity for me. I don't know what dress yet but I know this will be perfect. It's light and airy and delicious.
- Bottom Dark Blue Check - Winter frocks/smocks for the girls.... I may steal this.
- Not shown - (but it should be) 2.5m of Liberty Sweatshirt Fleece in the most sensational print. It is for the girls - winter frocks for over leggings and maybe some trakkies.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you approach this. And whether it has changed over the years with your self knowledge and changing stash priorities.