De-Cluttering for DIYers, Homesteaders, Artists, Preppers, etc.

Interior of a Laboratory with an Alchemist. David Teniers II. Oil on canvas, 17th Century

Interior of a Laboratory with an Alchemist, David Teniers the Younger, 1610-1690, Eddleman Collection, CHF, Philadelphia

We are a special people and we need special exemptions, yes?

Our posts on de-cluttering seem to have hit a nerve, judging by the amount of feedback we’ve had, on the blog, on social media and on the street. We’re really happy if we’ve helped anyone at all streamline their lives a bit. But one protest, or exception, or question which comes up a lot is, “What about my [specialized materials] for my [craft, hobby, preparedness lifestyle]?”

I figure anyone who reads this blog–anyone who is more of a producer than a consumer–will have collected tools and materials for production. These tools and materials don’t fit neatly into the KonMari scheme. The KonMari method, as well as other types of de-cluttering programs, including techno-minimalism, seem to assume our homes are places where we simply relax, surrounded by our well-pruned and curated items.

In a DIY household, there is always something messy going on. For us, relaxation is tinkering and making and cooking and repairing, not reclining on our immaculate sofa, quietly tapping on our iPad.

And while we’re aware that other people might accumulate random, useless consumer toys and frippery, we are confident that we don’t…er…mostly. Or if we have, those sorts of things are easy enough to part with. Our weakness lies elsewhere. We accumulate tools and supplies–more than we need– and we hang on to these things, just in case.

Creative people seem to have two kinds of production. There’s the work they actually do, the kind with tangible results, and then there’s the work they think they might do sometime in the future. Imaginary work. Theoretical work. They have tools and materials they actually use regularly, and then they have other tools they keep around...just in case.

Just in Case

Three dangerous little words, Just in Case. Dangerous because they are slippery. Just in case of what? Just in case when?

Just in case is a clause which stretches to the end of time, or more realistically, to the end of you.  At which point your heirs will heave all your just in case into the nearest dumpster while muttering about what a pack rat you were.

Just in case can be apocalyptic thinking (“This will be valuable when the oil runs out.”).  It is also that tiny persistent voice in any creative person’s head which says, “I could make something with that..someday.” It’s also the nagging voice is the frugal person’s head which says, “Better hold on to that. If I don’t need it, someone will.”

Just in case is not a useful category in which to place any belonging. Get rid of this category as an excuse for keeping junk around. We can be producers without being hoarders.

It’s real, useful and secure only when it is in your hand or under your eye

The problem with accumulating materials and supplies which we are not using immediately is that we lose track of these things. We forget where they are. We forget we have them at all. How useful are these things at that point?

The truth is, if you don’t know where it is, can’t get to it because it’s buried somewhere, or have forgotten it altogether, it functionally doesn’t exist anymore. You’ve lost it. You lost it long ago. All you’re holding onto is a spacial and psychic burden.

Also,  as someone who suffered a moth infestation this summer (and ended up handpicking moth larvae out of a wool carpet, thankyouverymuch toxin-free lifestyle), even if you don’t quite forget what you have, the processes of entropy have a way of taking care of unused things.

I think Nature does not like unused things, and sends rust and mice and insects and mold and flood waters after them, in an attempt to return them to a more useful state– useful to Nature, that is, not you. Nature doesn’t care about your anxieties and abandoned projects and unrealized plans.

And if I can’t convince you by appealing to Reason or Nature, I’ll invoke KonMari, the pixie dominatrix. She does not want you to have anything in your house which you do not use and love, and that includes tools and supplies for your various endeavors.

You can be practical, creative and yet streamlined

I tell myself this.

It’s hard to break the habits of a lifetime. And honestly, I’m in this boat with you, so I don’t have all the answers. All I have are working ideas, as follows:

#1 Project driven accumulation, with deadlines.

This is a simple behavior adjustment, but one which will be difficult for many of us.

No more picking something up out off the street or at the thrift store or off the beach just because you think you might make something with it someday.

No more buying yarn or fabric or paper because it’s pretty. Or a good buy. No more buying tools because they’re so very tempting. This is putting the cart before the horse.

This is the new law: First you think of a project. Then you commit to it. Then you give yourself a deadline. Then, and only then, can you begin to accumulate materials for that project.

Project Idea -> Commitment -> Deadline -> Materials Hunt

Trust that you’ll find the materials you need when you need them. The world is bursting with stuff. It’s on the sidewalk, it’s on Craigslist and Freecycle. You can put out a call on your social networks for help. You don’t need to keep supplies squirreled away in your house, as if the world is short on egg cartons and empty jars and scrap wood.

If you happen upon some wildly exciting find, something you’ve not planned for– a steel tank, a piece of burl wood, the most amazing yarn—and it’s really, truly amazing, then fine, pick it up if you must. I’m not going to stand in the way of your creative destiny like some evil troll.

But when you pick it up, at that time commit to a project and a deadline. You can’t just drag it home and hoard it away because it “has possibilities.” If you hoard it away you are killing its possibilities.

Hoarding materials may kill your own possibilities, too. If we have piles of never-started or unfinished projects collecting dust on the shelves of our workshops (or in the back of the closet, or under the bed), it’s confusing, and guilt inducing, and makes you want to avoid your workspace. I really like the idea of deadlines which produce results. It feels good to have a finished project in hand.

It would also be nice to have projects done when they need to be done. Jam made when the fruit is ripe. Christmas gifts finished before Thanksgiving. That cob oven built in time for the summer party season. Imagine.

#2 Let go of old interests

Creative people are curious people. We go through a lot of creative phases. And in each phase, we accumulate equipment and supplies specific to that phase. Once we go onto a new thing, we often don’t return to our old thing.

Sometimes a phase doesn’t even get off the ground. You end up holding onto a tool or an instrument or supplies or a kit that you bought because of an impulse that never took root.

Either way, we accumulate a lot of stuff which we are not using and most likely will never use again. We like to keep these things because we think we might want to go back to them someday, but we should remember that there will always be some new craft or skill or activity to intrigue us. That is our nature.

It’s rather like books. We keep books because we think we might want to re-read them some day, but in truth there are very few books we love enough to re-read. The others just weight down the shelf–mostly because we are distracted by all the new books. (Shiny new books! Shiny new crafts!)

If you look back on your creative history, I’ll bet you’ll find that you’ve rarely returned to an older interest–or conversely, you have a steady core interest which takes up most of your creative energy.

I believe there are two basic types of creative people. There are those who commit to a skill and practice it the rest of their lives. I call those people the Masters. And then there’s the rest of us, those of us who love learning new things and who are always changing interests. I call us the Dabblers. (Fondly)

Masters might accumulate too much stuff around their center of interest, and need to prune a bit, but Dabblers have it much worse. The strata of our former interests fill our closets and garages. It’s hard to let go of these old materials, but it’s vital to do so, to make room for new ones to come in.

The more room you have for your current passion, the more room you have to spread out and really express yourself. Imagine clean cupboards. Imagine organized, easily accessed tools. Image open workspace  for the taking. It doesn’t have to be a dream. You just have to let go of the past.

But what if…?

Dabblers don’t go back to old hobbies very often, but it  does happen sometimes. Erik went back to fencing. I’m giving sewing another go after a stab at it in the 90’s. In all of our history of creative activity and random hobbies (and it has been an epic history, believe me) these are the only exceptions.

I say be fearless with your old craft/hobby items. Give them to someone who will use them today. Remember Nature and Entropy. Paints dry up. Leather rots. Silverfish nibble at paper. Sporting gear gets outdated or outgrown. You can’t keep it forever and you can’t take it with you.

If someday you do find your heart leading you back to an old interest, have faith that you’ll be able to get the stuff you need when you need it. Trust the universe that much.

After all, it’s not the end of the world if you have to buy a few things to get going again. You’ll be much savvier the second time around regarding what things you really need, and you’ll know where to get them for the best prices.

#3 Keep the supplies for your reoccurring activities lean and in shape

In contrast to hobbies we leave behind, there are sets of activities which we do regularly if not constantly, and which require their own tool set. Canning equipment. Baking supplies. Brewing equipment. Soap making bowls and molds. Woodshop tools. Gardening supplies. Sewing and knitting stuff.

All this stuff is wonderful, but it takes up space. There’s no getting around that basic fact, but we can be more disciplined about keeping those supplies trim and tidy.

Speaking from experience, I know I don’t need a hundred canning jars on hand at all time, much less their dented and rusty rings to be able to preserve food a couple of times a year. You might not really need that bin full of fabric scraps. But somehow this stuff does accumulate. Thin it out.

Also, as we develop experience with any skill, we tend to find tools and techniques which work best for us, and we drop tools and techniques which don’t fit our style or our needs. But we don’t get rid of the unused tools. We’ve still got the less-useful size of that thingamajig, or that other thingamabob which is almost right, but not quite, so you don’t really use it but you keep it around…just in case.

There’s no need to keep the extra baggage around.

Here’s an easy example. Say you love to bake cookies, but if you look at what you bake, you realize that 95% of the time you make drop and bar cookies. Do you really need that fancy cookie press and all its fittings, which is taking up half a kitchen drawer? Or that rossette iron which you used once, five years ago?

Trim your equipment to the most loved and the most used. You’ll find you can very well do without the excess stock.

Should you ever regret getting rid of something you had, because suddenly you realize you could use it for a certain project, trust that you can either do without it– suck it up and work around the problem–or borrow it, or find it in a thrift store.

In other words, someone else has a cookie press cluttering up their kitchen drawer. It doesn’t have to be you.

#4 Streamlined Emergency Preparedness

Of course it’s okay to accumulate in this category. It’s necessary to accumulate in this category. However, I think it’s important to keep this category streamlined and active, just like everything else. Know what you have and how it will be used, love it, and use it regularly.

As with any other sort of supply, if you don’t know what you’ve got, or can’t find it, you may as well not have it.

You don’t want to wait until the emergency to find out what you have–and you will likely not be in the mood to sort through all sorts of random stuff that you jammed in the emergency supply bin just because you didn’t know what else to do with it. Nor will you want to discover your canned good are all expired, or that your camp stove doesn’t work.

Don’t let your emergency supplies gather dust in bins. Instead, integrate them with your daily life.

Stock Up

Keep a stocked, rotating pantry full of dried goods for day to day cooking and expand the quantities so that you have enough for an emergency. (Personally, I think that, at minimum, any sensible household should be able to hole up for  a week without power or water.)

Your family will be more comfortable eating familiar foods like tuna, peanut butter, soup, grains and beans and home-canned goods during an emergency than they would eating weird emergency rations. You won’t have to worry about expiry dates, because you’ll using these pantry basics constantly and replacing them as you go. Don’t forget to stock up for your pets, too.

Make your emergency preparedness first-aid kit your everyday first aid kit, so you know it’s all fresh and you know what’s in it. Keep extras of your necessary medications on hand too.

The bright side of this stocking up is that you should never run out of anything, meaning no emergency trips to the store for cat food or toilet paper.


Hold “Olde Tyme Nights” where you unplug everything and pretend you don’t have electricity or gas. Or the Internet. It’s fun, and it will give you a good idea of what kind of  equipment you need to be comfortable, how much light you’ll need and where, how you’ll keep busy and warm, and most importantly, how you’re going to cook. Try it in the winter and in the summer, to note seasonal variables.

On these nights, play with using what you already have, rather than buying specialty supplies. Are your decorative candles and oil lamps in the house bright enough and safe enough to use for emergency lighting? Can you improve that? What about cooking? If you ordinarily grill a lot, play with that. Can you make non-standard things on your grill, like oatmeal and coffee? If not, how are you going to boil water?

If you camp, all your camping equipment can perform double duty in emergencies. I can’t recommend camping enough as the best form of emergency preparedness.

Water is essential, and it’s also incredibly awkward and inconvenient to store.  There’s no getting around it, though, you’ve got to find a place to keep it  We keep ours in BPA free, rectangular 20 gallon containers. Right now those containers are in my office/studio, which I don’t like, but right now are the only place they can go. I’ll like them much more after the Big One hits.

There are other scenarios that you may want to prepare for–everything from having bug-out bags to plans for complete societal collapse. All the same rules apply. Keep your supplies lean but sufficient, and use them.

Remember always that preparedness is mostly an inner quality.  It’s in what you know, what you can improvise on the fly, and most importantly, your attitude. Preparedness is not in the stuff you accumulate.


Whew! This has been an novel of a post, what they call a “long-read” in this post-literate age. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for spending so much of your day with me.  I’m really interested in this problem of living like a producer, but not becoming a horder. If you’ve got any ideas or input, please do let me know!

Leave a comment


  1. We like to DIY, but we’ve taken on a new practice when it comes to tools: trading with friends. And actually, we’ll give a new tool to a friend with more storage space, so we can use it when we need it, but it doesn’t clutter our smaller home.

    We’re not preppers, though. I’m fine giving it up to the zombies at the first sign of apocalypse.

  2. I listened to about two hours of the audio version of Marie Kondo’s book, and decided that I need a different approach to decluttering. I’m going to try Peter Walsh’s “It’s All Too Much” next. I am one of the creative imaginers you wrote about, as is my partner, so we do have a few “just in case” stashes, and no real storage cupboards! Oh, I liked your “Olde Tyme Nights” idea, and want to try that soon!

  3. When we were still on our little Bay Area condo, one of the biggest problems we had was no room to actually SEE what we had! My husband and I moved in together after college, and had to move our childhood stuff out of our parents’ homes. Who knew two 20-something’s could fill 800 square feet that fast! We did some paring down prior to the move, but moving out of the parents’ house is already emotional anyway so makes getting rid of stuff even harder. And once we were in the condo, AND getting into DIY, baking and canning…the stuff just accumulated.
    This new house we sort of fell into on our company move to CO is sometimes too big, but it has allowed us to finally see what all the accumulation really is. And by seeing that (boxes of letters from someone I’m no longer friends with, mixed in with totally useful craft supplies) it’s helping us to fully let go.
    We both still fall into the trap of keeping things just in case, but by getting rid of so much useless stuff I think we’re striking a better balance now.

  4. Although I totally agree that it feels much better to be a producer but not a hoarder, I do think it’s OK to keep some things for later or because they are lovely, the trick is just not to have too much of those things.

    What works for me is to give myself a set amount of storage for something (for example one medium-size plastic bin for yarn). If the bin is full, I won’t let myself buy any more yarn until I use up some of what’s in there or give some away, etc. This way I get to save some things that I love and haven’t figured out what to do with yet, but the total amount is small enough that I have a good mental picture of what’s in there, and it doesn’t make me feel guilty about unfinished projects.

  5. As a crafting/hobby/reading kangaroo (my fond way of saying “dabbler” and/or always-working-on-multiple-project-streams-at-once 😉 ), I really like the knitting lingo term “SABLE” = Stash Accumulation/Accumulated Beyond Life Expectancy. If I sit down and look at the various stash situation for each craft/hobby/useful-skill-to-know activity and spend a moment being brutally realistic about how long each said proposed “someday” project within that category would take. Even some very rough calculations can make it apparent that, no, given so many hours in the day/year, I don’t want to spend that time just clearing out the “someday” to-do’s, let alone whether it’s actually humanly *possible* and I really am in SABLE-land. It then becomes much easier to cull the herd. I think this also gets back to KonMari’s saying that by getting rid of the “someday” project stuff you don’t truly LOVE, the projects you really do love come to the forefront to actually get DONE (or, at least, more realistically in the queue).

    Another mental gymnastic trick I do is asking myself if, hypothetically, I did not already own this item and saw it in the store, would I go YES!!!!! MUST. HAVE. THIS., and buy it all over again? Just a different way of asking oneself if the item is truly something that you LOVE in the *now*, but for some reason it puts me in a slightly more neutral space about it if I’m feeling a bit too tugged about it to sort out LOVE from buyers guilt, especially if the item was pricey 😉

    • This SABLE of yours is a truly depressing way to look at activities once you’ve reached a certain age! 😉

    • Well…I don’t take it *quite* that literally LOL 😉 Even if only taken tongue-in-cheek, though, it’s definitely some cold water to the face when you add up the time to finish things. Thanks so much for your decluttering threads here, though, because it’s been great to see the DIY/craft/hobby angle of it through other people’s lenses!

  6. to me, this is one of the most beautiful concepts ever!!!: “I think Nature does not like unused things, and sends rust and mice and insects and mold and flood waters after them, in an attempt to return them to a more useful state– useful to Nature, that is, not you.”
    i think this alone will get me through so much!! often i get so frustrated because something i rescued from the garbage or wherever is just being “saved for someday” ends up getting ruined somehow and what point then was it in the long run for me to take up my mental and physical space plus, at the end, feel the guilt that i didn’t ultimately save it but wasted it anyway….so now my mom and i still save stuff from the trash or wherever but even before we get it in the house, we look it over, check it out for usefulness, and if we cant fit it or use it NOW then we take it straight away to the goodwill.
    thank you for this beautifully worded sentiment….rootsimple has moved me along on my de-cluttering more than anything including watching horrid episodes of hoarders and animal-hoarders plus i don’t feel depressed after reading your columns like i do after watching those shows!!!!!!!

  7. A great post – thanks Kelly! The Kon-Mari and other techno-oriented decluttering methods just didn’t seem to really resonate with our DIY household. We do many of the things you mentioned: canning, brewing, soap-making, beekeeping, gardening, woodworking, reading, sewing and knitting…. and so we do seem to have a fair amount of gear. And yes, there are hobbies that I undertaken in the past and plan to go back to, but haven’t found the time. Your post is a timely reminder to focus on keeping what we know we will use and to give the rest away to others who will use it now – thanks!

  8. Fantastic well thought through post, thanks.
    So relevant to me – I like home DIY and collecting tools and free material,
    but hate the clutter.

  9. Oh my gosh YES!!! This is my achilles heel! I can be ruthless about many things, but I really struggle to declutter my craft stuff.

    What is this “Commitment -> Deadline” thing you speak of? LOL. That’s definitely the part I have trouble with. I will say this in defense of my giant fabric stash (while I do dabble in other things, sewing is my number one and the only hobby where I’ve really accumulated a lot of supplies): I am often struck with an urge to quickly execute a new idea or to make a quick gift, and sure enough, I have the supplies! Ha! Awesome! This happens just enough to provide a positive feedback mechanism that makes it even harder for me to throw anything out. At any rate, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to sew more of the fabric I have stashed, and stop buying any fabric unless I do have a concrete plan for it. Also, it seems safe to say that if I’ve had a piece of fabric for 20 years and haven’t done anything with it yet, it’s unlikely I ever will. Beyond that … I can’t commit! Ha. I’m obviously still struggling with this whole decluttering thing.

    • Ah…I know that positive feedback mechanism, and it is devilish. Those rare “I’m glad I have this” moments seem to justify all the clutter for all of time.

    • I’ve been rewarded by my stash too often as well. But I’m starting to separate out general materials and tools from specific project oriented materials and tools. The general stuff I’m more likely to keep since it can be used for lots of things, while the specific project stuff gets subjected to the harsh “will I ever really make this?” line of questioning. It’s still tough, but I’ve made some progress.

  10. My husband & I laughed all the way through as it was sooo TRUE. Thank you so much. Wonderful wonderful post.

  11. Thank you so much, all of you commenters for your feedback. It’s comforting to know that we’re all in the same boat — the good ship “‘Nuff Clutter”, that is!

  12. In addition to all the astute observations in this post (which I swear you sneaked into my house and took notes for!), there is another hoarding rationale that plagues me. I hate sending stuff to the landfill! So I end up with a lot of things that can’t be sold, bartered, or donated in their present state that I think I’m going to fix/repurpose/craft into something someone can use. It’s the intersection of DIY confidence and environmental concern and it leads to lots of junk accumulation. Lots and lots. But I think I’m into SABLE territory by now, so there’s really no choice other than to let it go where it was headed when I intercepted it – to the landfill. This is my most difficult area to deal with. Not that the rest is easy, but this one is just harder.
    Thanks for a great post. I still think there’s a book idea here…

    • ^ THIS! I have so much guilt about throwing things out. Some of that is “Green” guilt. After all, I’ve spent the last decade trying to unlearn the consumer patterns of my youth, when everything was disposable. That said, it’s possible to overdo this; I try to remember, for every item I bring in the house, something else needs to leave the house.

  13. You are practicing Lean Six Sigma! Ask any engineer.

    As a creative research type, I have suffered tremendously because they got rid of the good junk at work. Often the odd, orthogonal idea inspired by good junk is worth much, much more than the junk itself!

  14. Thanks for letting me off the hook. I was anxious about decluttering when I thought of my sewing room. It is 18’x19’and perfect. It is/was the one room in the house with its own rules, like there can be thread and serger detritus all over the floor.

    I have been sewing for almost 65 years, since I was four. When I was 8, I learned to use a treadle. At 10 I sewed on an electric machine.

    My best declutter item is a Simplicity or Butterick pattern cabinet. It holds all my supplies. A dining table in my sewing room holds too much fabric. I am getting rid of most of that.

    I do have transient side crafts. My one crochet hook takes up such a tiny bit of room. The supplies for needlepoint are almost as few.

    Once, I started making things from gourds. The hole saw was really the only thing I needed. So, there is nothing left of that craft. Even sewing is my one abiding love, I do other things as they strike me. I have consciously decided never to start a craft that will bring in too many tools or cost very much.

    So, sewing remains my one abiding love. I went to a nursing home to deliver Christmas gifts. My one question was, “May the women bring their sewing machines?” Happy Day! They may!

    I really cannot stand for things to go to the landfill. Old, rotten thread from about 50 7″ spools is now recycled for birds to make their nests. One year, I put out a pickup load of fabric on the curb the day after garbage day, kept it clean. People were notified to come take all they wanted.

    This was an excellent post. Before, you seemed unduly harsh. It was hard to listen when I thought of my sewing stash of buttons, lace and things I use or supply to other people. Now, you have spoken to the heart of the producers, the owners of the means of production. Thanks.

  15. being single & living in the Boonies,I have bought several quantities of camping items,for my friends that “will” come here if & when a disasters happens I’m ready for them, That’s my plan, They help me & I want to have supplies for us all.never know we all might have to dispurse-at least we all will be Prepared. It might seam like to much for (1) person but NOT for my friends If they Need me & a place to come to. Prepper “yes”

  16. Right on! Great article: My biggest problem is getting junk people out of my life. Unlike other junk, they aren’t that easy to throw away; they keep coming back! And man do they ever take up time, space, energy, assets, and resources without ever giving any positive in return. thanks

    • Oh my goodness! You hit the nail on the head!

      I hate the idea of calling some people ‘junk’, but that’s really what their effect is. It is so exhausting trying to manage them in such a way that they do not sap the life out of my life. Unfortunately, in my case many of these people are family so I’m sort of stuck with them forever – or what feels like forever. Moving to an adjacent state helped; now we’re moving several states away so that might help even more unless, of course, they all invite themselves for an extended stay.

      Dealing with physical clutter is so much easier than handling people clutter.

    • OH MY YES! Someone needs to write a book on how to get rid of junk people. People who are invited for a set length of time and who come and then announce that ‘lucky you’ they can stay for 3X’s that length of time. People who never contribute, expect you to be a provider and tour guide, paying for everything and not giving anything back. Outside of telling them to take a hike, what can one do? Especially if they are family or friends of many years.

    • People with no healthy boundaries who want to stay at our house get firm boundaries back – in advance. If they announce they are coming into town, we let them know that we can maybe check around/suggest some local room/s for rent/hotels etc etc. If it’s a relative from out of the country low on cash, we’ve even offered to pay for some or part of it for them. The $ up front was worth not dealing with the hassle. The most important part, though, was setting up our conditions ahead of time, leaving no room for assumptions/passive aggression by the other person. Not exactly “take a hike”, but just being assertive and heading off the worst of it before it starts. That being said, you *do* have to risk the other person *feeling* that you are telling them to “take a hike” and them acting accordingly, but that’s where you have to be comfy in knowing that the alternative would be worse.

    • I had a friend who was her own worst enemy. She was a “not a Rhodes Scholar but the other one”. She came back from three years overseas and after her whining about no money and no home, I allowed her to stay for two weeks at my home. After a month passed and she stole from me, belittled me, at my food, borrowed money, infected my home, and other things, I was finished.

      She caught full body jock itch, a yeast infection over her whole body. She threw her wet towels from a bath over a stack of clean towels. I removed all linens from there to washer.

      Her huge dog left poop that she never cleaned up, tied him to neighbors’ fences, told me to go inside when he was trying to bite me, and he tore up my front porch floor.

      After the floor incident, I took a deep breath and told her tomorrow she was leaving. I found out by calling her past friends that I got off easy, trouble-wise and money-wise.

      If anyone ever came with the news that the stay could be 3xs longer. Well, it would not happen because I would have told her I had company coming the day after she left, so she could not stay longer than originally planned.

      Oh, she took my premarin and used freely from all I had. Well, I finally put meds in my locked car.

  17. I’d say decluttering is one of the most important actions we can make, I mean everywhere in life. It just means learning to let go, isn’t it.

  18. Ah yes, the “project clutter”–the Achilles heel of the harebrained and eternally optimistic do-it-yourselfer. Funny, I recently Googled “What to do with a washing machine motor” and came across a forum on that exact topic. The best comment was this: “Think about what to do with it. Can’t think of any thing to do with it but put it on a shelf somewhere because it’ll “come in handy.” Six years later sling on the scrap heap. Six years and one week later realize that what you need right now is an old washing machine motor.”

    I loved the post, but consider myself hopeless. And yes, that motor is still around here somewhere…

    • LOL, I like it.
      I still have my old washing machine motor.
      Hoping to use it to power a homemade soil/compost sifter – yeah right, not in my lifetime probably.

  19. I bought the KonMari book after reading your posts and listening to your podcast. I’ve always been pretty good about purging things, but I can still get rid of a lot more. The book made me really look at my things and ask if they bring me joy. I tackled clothes and had about 8 bags of clothes and several other household items, including some perfectly good light bulbs that my mom will no longer use now that she’s in an assisted living facility. We took all these things to Goodwill and the guy who unloaded our truck was so rough with our stuff it turned the whole process into something very unpleasant. I told him there were lightbulbs in the first bag he took and he said yep, then dropped the bag in the bin and dropped the next bag right on top of it. He didn’t care one bit about being careful with what we were dropping off. I’m sure he broke several things that were in perfectly good condition. I was so upset about giving them our well cared for belongings and watching him treat them that way that I will never take anything to Goodwill again. Now I’m a little less enthusiastic about tackling the next category because while I might not love or find joy in many of my books anymore, I want them to go to some place or someone that will appreciate them and find joy in them. That will not be Goodwill!

    • I am very careful where I take my things ever since I donated to a thrift store and then took my dog on a walk in the neighborhood only to find a huge dumpster in the back of the thrift store with beautiful clothes in it. Well I went back in to the thrift store and confronted the clerk and she said that when they got too many things they just put them in the trash rather then sort them out. I was shocked! I asked why they did not sent them to other thrifts and she said they did not want them either. It has really made me realize just how much stuff we have here in this country. Stuff that no one wants. It really is a shame and more reason for me to buy wisely and keep what I have, repairing and reusing. I have begun using old clothes for stuffing in pillows and hassocks for the kids to sit on.

    • I’ve noticed the same thing, so I try to post on Craigslist, FreeCycle, Twin Cities Free Market (if you’re in east-central Minnesota), and e-bay, if I don’t have to get rid of it *right now*. It doesn’t usually take much more effort than delivering it to a thrift shop.

      I mean, I like to support the thrift shops’ missions and all, but if they’re not going to earn anything from it anyway…

    • very sad stories about the thrifts….ill have to be more wary.
      i was previously unable to give any of my books up….until i found “friends of the library” at my local library….i now feel like i have somewhere safe and who will appreciate them. the man who helps run it is fantastic. i have encountered other library book sale rooms or shelves and they haven’t been very nice – but at least i found a place i feel i can trust for my books at the moment….and I’ve cleaned out MANY MANY books to the library sale….of course, I’ve bought some more from them so i suppose it all evened out….not much decluttering there but somehow i refuse to count books as clutter.

    • In Lindstrom, MN is a place called Recycled Wardrobes (also a store on Main Street in North Branch–but they prefer big donations in their Lindstrom store). They take all clothing, bedding, etc. in any condition. Their mission is to keep things out of the waste stream. I always separately bag & label the torn, stained items–anything that I would not find good enough quality to buy.

  20. As a chronic Dabbler, this was my favorite of your decluttering posts. I think it nicely complements a post about minimalism on the Art of Manliness (

    Also, I would add that you can set up automated notifications for project items on Craigslist, which does two things for you: first, it gives you an idea about how commonly/rarely the thing you’re looking for shows up (e.g., if you get e-mail notifications about cheap 55 gallon drums every day, you know you don’t need to pick them up until you actually have a chance to work on your project), and second, it lets you pounce on the really good deals as soon as they show up. A while back, we wrote about how these notifications can fit into a project planning cycle:, which Green Machine Farm elegantly refined with this post:

    Sorry for all the linkage; as you said, this series clearly strikes a nerve with lots of folks!

    • You have a spinning wheel? I actually watch for spinning wheels on Craigslist but I only have two if you don’t count the decorative antique Czechoslovakian parlor wheel I got at an estate sale…

    • OMG I’ll take it!! 🙂
      Seriously, if it is in good working order sell it! I’m still saving my pennies for one.

      But it is time for me to give up the kiln that I dont have a 220 plug for 🙂

  21. Thank you for writing all this VERY USEFUL information. At 66, I found your writing an Epiphany; a moment of enlightenment.


  22. Just now ah-ha’ing on the fact that much of my personal DIY/Craft/Homesteader etc clutter is generated because of Veruca Salt “but I want it NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!” syndrome. More specifically, an “I want to be self-sufficient/completely sustainable NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!” problem. As such, there’s this desire to learn ALL the skills (and their accompanying tools/supplies etc) NOW, because you never really know what you can do/contribute over the long haul until you at least TRY many of these things.
    I think a lot of this stems from so many skills which our grandparents and such used to have, but have been lost, so we didn’t inherit either the know-how or the supplies. This lack then translates into that not knowing which of these skills we really WANT to expand on over a lifetime etc, v. ones that we’d rather pay/barter for (eg I’d rather knit and someone else would rather bake/can stuff). Hence, the massive dabbling. Hence these phases of accumulating supplies until I’ve reconciled myself to how said activity/project realistically fits into my life as it is.

    As an example, I’ve had a goal of at least trying to/have the ability to make all of my own clothes. I learned various handwork arts as a child, but only learned to knit about 3 years ago. I then became inspired by all of the POSSIBILITIES!!!! and acquired loads of supplies/books and whatnot. It’s only been over time, though, that I can see which bundles of yarn/projects I *could* do, but honestly don’t really want to anymore. The knitting is definitely a lifelong craft for me now, but the refining of what I *want* to knit has taken time to come into focus. Meantime, it’s been hard to tell what other crafts knitting has supplanted permanently, in addition to the realization that I don’t actually have the time or inclination to knit certain elements of my wardrobe that I thought I would like to.

    I could definitely apply this overall cycle to many other things I’ve taken up in recent years in the name of “but I want to be self-sufficient NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!”-ness. Somewhere there, there has to be a middle ground in realizing that self-sufficiency can be a long process, and that I may never reach the levels of it that my grandfolks did. In any case, there’s a lot of needing to give oneself permission to SLOW DOWN this process and not let the ambitions to “do the right thing” in the long run get ahead of what storage and time will actually allow in the NOW.

  23. I’m starting to have the sneaking suspicion that when my hold(#76 on 21 copies!) of this book comes up and I finally get my hands on it, I’m going to know all the good parts and some really useful parts that aren’t even there. And I’ve started using KonMari as a verb. “Look! I’ve KonMaried my drawers!”

    Also, I realized after this post that I *don’t* need another set of #1 circular needles. I can just finish the project that I’m currently working on and then move on to the next project. For some reason I’ve felt like I have to have several projects going at once, which just means that they all take longer to get finished.

  24. The best standard I’ve found for keep or toss: Is it alive for me right now?
    This Fung-Shui question helps distinguish between dead items that stop energy flow and create congestion, and those that are still entrained.
    I use it for sorting books, art supplies, furniture, well, everything really.

    I freecycle most things, but if in doubt, I put all the ‘maybe dead’ stuff in a big box or two and store them away (except food of course) for a few months. On second look the answers become more clear.

    Freecycle rocks! It’s amazing what people will be happy to have. Partial bottles of cleaner, food, vitamins. Empty plastic bags (I’ve both given and received these). Anyone have other ideas for moving things on?

  25. Fond dabbler = dilettante = doing it for the delight (diletto).
    That term might also need the “in a good way” disclaimer as well, but I like it. May our lives be filled with many delights!

  26. After her book itself, this is my favorite bit of writing about the Konmari method. You take so much of the “stuff” that she kind of glosses over and makes it so much clearer: What to keep, what to let go.

    And this bit of writing is incredibly smart: “I think Nature does not like unused things, and sends rust and mice and insects and mold and flood waters after them, in an attempt to return them to a more useful state– useful to Nature, that is, not you. Nature doesn’t care about your anxieties and abandoned projects and unrealized plans.”

    Thank you for your thoughts on this.

  27. Mental house-cleaning to de-clutter and get rid of all mental junk is the first priorty in life. The more junk we get rid off the more light will brighten and enlighten the mind. A mind full of mental junk shuts out all light.

  28. Pingback: The Clip: March 4, 2015 | West by Midwest

  29. Ooph. This will be the most difficult thing to do. My boyfriend is a carpenter so we have all these random loose tools around and all his screws and such. Plus all of my thibgns that I’ve kept just in case. Empty zip lock bags from tools and bits of Ikea hardware. A clip for a bike pump I no longer have. Plus all of our camping stuff and all his airsoft gear. It is eye opening to see how much stuff two people can accumulate while living with their parents. This post actually helped me to mentally sort through my old crafts and realise that if I haven’t done beading in over a decade, I won’t be doing in in a month either. Much easier to give away at this point.

  30. terrific post and really useful comments. I’ve been Kondo-ing clothing really successfully, books somewhat less so and I was stymied when it came to art supplies. I just KNEW if I googled I would find some wisdom on the subject and here you are. thanks for the insights.

  31. I can totally relate to this- it’s the one area I get stuck on, every time I declutter. I’m fairly organized and fairly minimalist, until I get to the craft supplies. I’m mainly a knitter, but as you said: we dabblers continually shift interests and are always trying new things!
    As for the prepping supplies, we have been camping often and it really does sharpen the focus on what’s necessary, and what can be done better with minimal gear! I found your blog while looking for Konmari info, and I’m so glad I did 🙂

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