Well, this took a bit longer than I thought

Well, hello. It’s been a while. Happy new year. I cannot believe I’m only wishing you this now. It’s already February. If I’m honest, 2022 started off as an extremely stressful year. As if the last two years weren’t enough with a pandemic going on, someone very dear, and close to me, had her breast cancer come back with a bang, Matt needed urgent hand surgery, which was made riskier by leftover issues from 2018, and there was a lot of other stuff going on too. When it’s like this I find stress saps a lot, if not all, of my creative energy. There were several things I had been wanting to blog about, so I am aiming for a few posts in the coming weeks.

First off, I have a new amigurumi pattern coming soon, as announced on Instagram last week. I can’t wait to share the pattern with you. The pattern will be available on Ravelry and will be free.

The pattern is currently in the testing phase, and I am now working with an amazing tech editor to take my patterns to another level. She is fantastic. More on her in the near future.

There are a few crochet pots on the boil, and I look forward to sharing projects with you.

When I crochet I spend a fair bit of time listening to audiobooks. Most of my books are non-fiction, no matter how hard I try to listen to some fiction. One of the real gems I recently listened to was “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” by Margareta Magnusson. I know it is a much talked about book, so I had to find out for myself. I found it to be a delightful book, and not macabre, as one might expect from the title. I loved the practical advice on dealing with the emotional aspect of clutter, and the very down-to-earth approach to aging, decluttering, and ultimately death itself. One gets the feeling of making the most of a life well-lived.

For us as crocheters, letting go of our precious stash of yarn can be a horrifying concept. I have talked about my tendency toward minimalism before, but this was a totally different look at one of the reasons for taking the step of sorting through your things, and not keeping things that have no purpose. This includes things that may be fraught with emotion.

I have, over time, destashed my yarn collection drastically. I do still have a number of tubs of carefully sorted and stored yarn that I use for my designs. I’ve also started a new habit, one I never imagined possible. These days I tend to buy yarn that I specifically need for a project or design. If I like a yarn in the past I would buy it in every possible iteration of colour, or whatever metric I determined made multiple items desirable. That has been useful in my cotton stash for my ami projects, but generally has resulted in beautiful yarns going unused, with absolutely zero idea of why I might have bought them in the first place.

This isn’t to say that I don’t still buy yarn. I do. The difference now is that I am intentional about what I buy, and tend to usually use it for the purpose it was intended rather than it lying around, carefully stored in a tub, for years. It’s a whole new way of looking at how I consume things. I am a minimalist in many aspects of life, but yarn has always tripped me up. I won’t even talk about other crochet / knitting supplies. There certainly is a huge difference between collecting and hoarding, but let’s not kid ourselves that we don’t have a tiny bit of a problem.

I find that when there is less to go through I am less overwhelmed when choosing from the existing stash for a project. I remember reading that too many choices often overload people, and they end up choosing nothing at all. An example was a supermarket carrying different types of jam. When there were a limited number of choices people found it easy to choose a jam. When they were bombarded with a multitude of choices they often ended up choosing none of the available options. Too much choice makes us unhappy. Another interesting concept to think about.

I am the first to admit that my craft room, slash study, often looks like a bomb went off in here. The creative process really does seem to be a messy one for me. Having ADHD, and I won’t even mention the OCD, I find it very difficult to work in a disordered environment, so it’s a constant push and pull between creation and getting everything perfectly tidy. What I do know is you can’t organise clutter. There is stuff in here that needs to go. Once I get going with decluttering I’m really, really good at it. I don’t tend to hold onto things once the decision is made, and I don’t fret over it. It’s getting to the point of actually doing the decluttering. Getting momentum going. A body in motion stays in motion. This is generally true for me too. I intend to tackle this monster a little in the coming weeks, as my schedule will allow. I might share some of that with you.

If you are thinking of the enormous task of trimming down your craft supplies, such as yarn, I say go for it. Start with crafts you no longer do. That will certainly be easier, if not actually easy. Then work your way up to the hard stuff. The peace that comes with getting rid of what you don’t need is a marvellous feeling. Choosing to bless others with the unwanted items is a doubly extra delight. Nursing homes, schools, and I’m sure there are many places would kill for the craft supplies you tell yourself you are going to use again one day, but really aren’t.

Good luck. Let’s meet back here again soon.

Minimalism and the art of yarn curating

For a long time now I have been on a journey to live a more minimalist life. It’s not so much about reaching a destination, because technically there isn’t one. Rather it is a way of living mindfully, and doing things with intention. For crocheters, knitters, and other crafters the idea of minimalism can strike fear in the heart. What about my stash?

Anyone who’s ever watched one of those hoarding programs probably did so in absolute horror. Most of us would never want to be considered hoarders. There is a difference between hoarding and collecting, in that collections are items of value that are properly stored, cared for, and sometimes displayed. Hoarders tend to attach value to things that have no real value, and amass large quantities of, what others would consider, junk.

I was the queen of my vast stash of yarn at one point. I really think that I was obsessive about collecting yarn, and it was an entirely separate hobby from crochet and knitting. We had to erect a wendy house, that was not insubstantial in size, to house this collection. All the yarn was neatly sorted by fibre, weight, and various other metrics. The reality was that I was not going to be able to use all that yarn if I tried. Some of it was impulse purchasing, and I actually didn’t like the yarn in question as much as I thought. Frankly, I think I overwhelmed myself, and really I didn’t know what to choose sometimes, and often ended up buying more instead.

While it certainly was a well curated collection, when we made our plans for emigration, and I had to decide how much of it was actually going with, it slowly dawned on me that I wasn’t as attached to as much of it as I thought. Matt is great. He was fully supportive of me taking all my yarn if I wanted, but that was wasteful to my mind. I didn’t need it all. I didn’t like it all. I didn’t want it all.

My yarn stash was the final mental frontier in my journey towards a minimalist life. I had done a fantastic job of destashing the house. I was brutal with things I did not like, did not want, and did not need. What was very important to me was being more mindful of what I purchased. I didn’t want to make the mistake of decluttering only to have a house full of stuff in a year. This kind of intentional living is a lot harder than it seems. I didn’t think I was a really bad impulse buyer. I was kidding myself. I may not have bought vast quantities, but I did buy unnecessary and expensive.

When sorting the yarn to decide what to keep and ship overseas, I gave away vast quantities of gorgeous yarn that, at the time of buying, I had convinced myself I couldn’t live without. It was easier to let go of than I imagined, and I haven’t really missed it all that much if I’m completely honest. Since I got stuck in South Africa during COVID, and we decided to delay our plans a bit, the process is ongoing.

Yarn is not the only area of my life I took in hand. I have been refining my decluttering to include items of clothing, gadgets, and all sorts of things, I found it harder to declutter in the first rounds. I think it definitely gets easier. It’s like a muscle you build up. Even now I review my wardrobe, kitchen, books, crochet and knitting supplies, regularly and give away, and sometimes sell, the items I no longer need or want.

If I had to tell you what the biggest game changer is, it is not the decluttering per se, although it is important, it is making a mental shift to a place where you stop convincing yourself that you need stuff. I’m not suggesting taking up the life of a monk. What I am suggesting is getting to a place of enough. Where you feel you have enough, and where if you need to purchase something you are intentional about it. Good quality items that you actually need, and that will give you years of use.

I’m not a fan of the “one in one out” rule. It may work when you first start out, but it really is fooling yourself, and if you have the environment in mind, the consumption of more under this guise is not really effective. For me the tough one was gadgets. I am a gadget freak. I must always have the newest whatever thingie the moment it comes out. I’m an early adopter of technology. Sometimes it’s wasteful. Often it’s wasteful. I have really good stuff that will give me great service for years to come. The additional benefit I might get from a new version is likely to be in tiny increments, and not by degrees. This is a hard one for me, but I’m doing my best.

I’d love to share with you some of the people and ideas that made a huge difference to me.

My journey truly began when I read “The life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo. Her methods are certainly effective, but perhaps a bit harsh for someone who finds it really hard to let go of stuff. I think a kinder approach is “Decluttering at the speed of life” by Dana K. White. It’s more practical in the sense that it recognises that the balls to the wall approach of Kondo is a bit extreme for some people, and may frighten them off entirely.

Things really stuck for me when I read “Stuffocation” by James Wallman. This is where the gears started turning in my mind. The title was extremely apt too. Having too much stuff really can be claustrophobic. Nothing gives me pleasure like clutter-free, tidy and organised. Thinking you can organise clutter is kidding yourself. This was my go-to before I embarked on my minimalist journey.

I have immensely enjoyed the books (the latest of which is “Love People, Use Things”), essays, podcasts, and documentaries, by The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn, and Ryan Nicodemus. They really get it. They get how hard it can be. They offer so much to think about. There are so many areas that minimalism and intentional living can impact on, not just stuff. You may find that when you start to clear the clutter from your life, in parallel you begin to clear the clutter from your mind, your relationships, your finances, everywhere.

There are so many more things I’d love to share with you, but at the risk of waffling, I’d say this is a great place to for me to end, and if you’re interested, you to begin. If you are interested in a more minimal and intentional life, I would say, do it. You won’t be sorry.