Kick clutter to the curb in minutes a day! This no-fail plan shows you how to confront quilting room mess and, once it’s organized, to keep it clean.

December 12, 2016
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Practical Tips for a Successful Declutter

Follow these tips to making your declutter a life-changing success:

Schedule your declutter. Put it on your calendar (we suggest blocking off at least 30 minutes, so you can make real progress). You make better decisions when you work uninterrupted, so set boundaries with your family so you can concentrate on the task at hand.

Get in the right headspace. Many people find the decluttering experience a stressful and emotional one. Play some music or listen to an audiobook. Light a candle. Make a fun snack. Or invite a friend over for support if you need it. Approaching the decluttering time with a positive mindset will keep you from feeling drained during the process, as well as keep you open to where it will lead.

Gather your supplies. Keep it simple when decluttering. If you have too many boxes, bags, labels, etc., it’ll only make the process harder and more complicated. Keeping your supplies simple allows you to concentrate on what you’re really doing — sorting your fabric and tools. Here are some common items you may need while decluttering:

  • Permanent markers and paper to make labels
  • Boxes and bags to hold sorted items
  • Scissors or utility knife

Work in an ordered fashion. Yes, we know — how annoying! Even the way you declutter has to be organized?! If you jump around from area to area, you’ll lose track of what has been done.Consider working clockwise and from top to bottom in your room. Work shelf by shelf, and drawer by drawer. Find what logically makes sense in your room — and if you have to break for the day, come right back where you left off the next time you declutter.

Touch once, decide once. Decluttering involves deciding to keep or let go, so the main activity throughout the process is picking up or touching an item and asking, "Should I keep this?" If you instantly know something needs to stay or go (and you have space to store it), go with your gut. No need to analyze. However, if you're not quite sure, see the "Tough Questions to Ask Yourself," below, to help you reach your decision. When you don't quickly know whether to keep or get rid of an item, place it in a pile and keep moving through the room. Save the last 5 to 10 minutes of the session to deal with your pile of questionable items.

Make it pretty. Now that you’ve decided what you’re keeping and what’s going, you can put things back on the shelf or in the drawer. At this point, you can clean the space with a wipe or duster. Then put the items away. Refold fabric if needed, clip loose threads, wipe off dirty tools, and stack things neatly. This is the rewarding part, because you can see what a difference the decluttering process has made! And don’t be afraid of empty space — that space may get filled later in the process or save room to grow with things you love in the future.

Re-evaluate your space. Once you’ve made it through this process with your whole space, it’s time to view your space as a whole. Now that your space only contains the items you love and will use, you can decide the best use of the space. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Did you make enough room on a shelf to move fabric from a drawer or closet to that space?
  • Did you find similar tools in multiple places around your room? Do you have room to place all the same type of items together now?
  • Did you free up enough room to make your space work better for you —like an empty drawer next to your sewing machine to fit your threads and machine feet? Or a spot on your work table for your most-used supplies? Or a spot to store all your works-in-progress?

Move things around in your space as needed. That extra space may be just what you need to store your items better, smarter, and in a way that works for your needs.

Get it out. Now is the time to get rid of your donation pile. The longer you have that pile in the house, the more you’ll see it and think, “Now, why was I getting rid of this?” If it’s larger yardage pieces or precut bundles, you may consider selling it. If you frequently go on quilt retreats or to a quilt guild, bring the fabrics for the “free” or “trade” table, so your friends can find joy in what you’re discarding. If you want your fabric to go toward charity projects or teaching purposes, this list has great options.

Tough Questions to Ask Yourself

For tools/supplies:

  • Test it. Does it work? If not, is it easy to replace a part? If it doesn’t serve its purpose anymore, get rid of it.
  • Do you have more than one? Some things make sense to own multiples of — like a rotary cutter, your favorite thread colors, packs of sewing machine needles. But it may be harder to justify owning multiple of a specialty ruler. Be realistic — do you truly need multiples or can you narrow it down to the best one?
  • Are you actively using it? Sometimes we buy a fun new tool with good intentions of using it, but then never find a need for it. If may be the coolest item, but if you won’t use it in your projects, it’s just taking up valuable space in your room.

For fabric:

  • Do you love it? You should never get rid of any fabric you love. You’ll only regret it!
  • Is it the right size? Many quilters save scraps of fabric for their quilts. But if the size of a fabric is awkward, if it’s too small for the types of quilts you’re making, or you don’t save scraps, it may be fabric you want to donate.
  • Will you use it? This is often the hardest question to consider when going through your fabric, because it means confronting your expectations for your sewing life and what you’ll realistically sew.
  • Are you trapped by precuts? Don’t be afraid to separate your precut bundles. If you love half the fabrics in a fat-quarter bundle, but will never use the others, separate them and keep what you love. If you were obsessed with mini charm squares at one time, but haven’t touched them in years, you can add them to your scrap bin or get rid of them. Just because they’re packaged in a pretty bundle doesn’t mean they belong in your space.

Exception to the rules: If you’re working with fabric or tools that you have a very emotional attachment to (such as fabric that you received from a friend when she died, something you bought on a meaningful vacation, or a tool that was passed down generations), you should avoid touching the items. Have a friend hold the items up for you to look at when you’re making your decisions. If you don’t want the items but are still struggling to get rid of them, can you take a picture of the items to remember them by? Or can you donate them to a charity sewing organization so you know they’ll be used to better others’ lives?