Knitting is one of the least expensive hobbies to start – all you need are needles and yarn, and someone to show you how. If you don’t already have the materials, you can get started for around 10 bucks. And even if you splurge on the nicest yarn and the nicest needles, your first foray into knitting shouldn’t cost you more than a hundred bucks.
And then, somewhere along the line, you get hooked.
The Yarn Harlot blames it on yarn fumes. She insists we aren’t ourselves around that much wool.
I’m talking about stash – loads and loads of yarn tucked away for future use. Talk to any knitter and you’ll find it’s pretty common to have one. There’s even a whole section on Ravelry devoted to cataloging your stash, and there is endless talk in some forums about de-stashing. I’m no exception. I have at least five “future sweaters” in my stash, a potential pair of slippers, a few sidelined shawls…you get the picture.
Everything in my stash is something I could knit, but haven’t knit yet.
And when I think about it, I want to cast on all the things at once. If I give in to that impulse, there are suddenly dozens of half-started projects around the house. Eventually, I realize none of them are going right (because I didn’t plan it out in the first place) and chuck it all back into the stash again.
At some point, I realized the stash was weighing me down. Something had to give.
My goal wasn’t to have “no” stash. It’s just to have a stash that doesn’t overwhelm me or fill me with guilt.
The truth is, it will take me several years to knit through all the yarn I have stocked up. And every time I buy more yarn, I stuff it into the plastic bin where my yarn lives and there it sits. And then I feel guilty about it.
Just like the yarn that’s already in my stash, every time I buy more yarn, I have a plan for what I’m going to use it for – and I plan to use it NOW. But when I get home from the yarn store, life calls – dishes to wash, dinner to cook, laundry to fold, you know the drill.
So into the stash the yarn goes, and each time I feel a pang of guilt that I’m not the super-knitter I want to be.
The thing about stash is this: none of the usual rules about decluttering apply. You can give it away, or sell it, but it is terribly difficult to throw away even a single skein of stash yarn. Which means that unless you have people lining up to relieve you of your yarn (and some people might), your stash just builds and builds.
Now, I’ve been knitting for more than twelve years, and my yarn tastes have certainly changed over the years. Every now and then, I’ll either donate or give away the bits of stash that no longer fit with who I am. But still, my stash has grown over the years to a bin stuffed with yarn and several baskets of yarn placed strategically around the house.
Most yarn shop owners are no help. It’s their business to sell us more, and we love them for it.
A yarn diet can be a disaster too. It turns the most beautiful thing (yarn) into a four-letter word, and just like a restrictive food diet, it often leads to overindulgence when we can’t resist something really tempting.
So what’s a space- and cash-strapped knitter to do?
For me, it was realizing that I wasn’t buying yarn. Not really. I was buying the experience of buying yarn. There’s nothing wrong with that.
I would buy yarn because I wanted to knit something, but I felt like I didn’t really have the time. Of course, a trip to the yarn store can take an hour out of my day – an hour that I could have been knitting.
This, my friends, is time poverty. You tell yourself, “I don’t have the time now so I’ll just buy something that I’ll work with later.” And it’s a mess.
A sense of time poverty led me to overspend and overshop, not just with yarn but in every area of my life. And shopping doesn’t bring me any additional time in my day. In fact, it does the opposite. And then, to top it all off, I have more stuff to wrangle in my house.
After thinking long and hard about the causes of my yarn buying habit, I started to make some changes.
I spent one Sunday afternoon going through my stash. It all went onto a pile, KonMarie style. I organized it, weighed it, and really did throw away the “junk.”
I made wool dryer balls with the scrap wool I knew I’d never knit with. I made a spreadsheet of stash – complete with whether or not there was a planned project attached to that yarn. And I made a decision that my yarn purchases will now be guided by these questions:
And the last one, which isn’t really a question so much as a guided choice. When I get in the car to go home from work and feel the urge to go to the yarn store (which is dangerously close by), I tell myself this:
“I can go to the yarn store or I can go home and actually knit.”
Usually this gets me headed in the direction of home.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
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