Why is it so hard to let go of hobby clutter?

Last month, I had the opportunity to give a talk to a wonderful audience who were all looking for tips & resources around letting go of the hard stuff.  These are the things that you have in your spaces that pull on your heart or are surrounded by questions.  Which means this “stuff,” is usually put away on a high shelf or pushed to the back of the closet to be forgotten or looked over.

As I prepared for the talk, I peeked around my own house to hunt out some of the items that I thought would fit that “tough” category  And… (sigh) I found a bin in my craft closet that was holding fabric from a forgotten (wink) quilting project that I had started 5 years ago.  Ugh! 

I had thought I had a pretty good idea of what I store in my spaces, but this little tub had found a hiding spot where it didn’t need to be moved or looked at, so the contents were left in wait.  I pulled out those pieces & asked myself the same question that I often hear from clients.

“Why is it so hard to let go of hobby items?”

Here are the responses that I heard run through my head as I dug a little deeper into this question & the resistance involved in letting go of this category of stuff.

Collecting all these materials for my hobby was a big investment

If I were to take an inventory of my cabinets & closets, I would find tools from my watercolor painting phase, yarn & needles to aid my occasional desire to knit, rarely-used scrapbooking supplies, a bin of felting tools, and some fabric tubs.  Hobbies/crafts often involve a very specific set of tools & all of those supplies can really start to add up, so the voice in my head could try to coax me into keeping them around to ensure I get my “money’s worth.”  

How to talk back to that voice –  The supplies that you have been storing aren’t able to offer you their value if they sit unused.  Recognize that they have served their purpose and their investment allowed you to learn a new skill, meet new people, or find joy when you used them.  Offer them gratitude & send them off for someone else to enjoy or let them go with love.

This hobby is a part of “who I am” 

My hobbies have offered me chances to take classes, identify with the creative side of my personality, and feel like I belong to a larger community that shares my interests.  When I think about letting go of the supplies, then a little voice wants to tell me that I am losing a piece of my identity.

How to talk back to that voice – Letting go of the stuff surrounding the hobby won’t take away the memories that you have of that time in your life.  You are still a creative person whether or not you store 10 tubs of fabric or 3 bins of stamps.  Be choosy & embrace the freedom that can come from getting clear about the hobby/projects that really fit with your life NOW.

This project was meant for a loved one & it feels bad to give up on it 

I often start a project with the intention to create a gift for someone I love.  So, when it sits for years without attention, I can start to feel guilty for not following through.  That little voice tells me it would be unloving to give up on the project & let it go.

How to talk back to that voice – Recognize that your loving thoughts & good intentions at the time created a positive energy all of their own, but as time passed the energy shifted.  Let those feelings of guilt go as you release the project & recognize that you share love in so many ways.

I better keep them “just in case” I need them in the future.

As my interests change and as I start new hobbies I add more supplies to my spaces.  It can start to feel overwhelming and overrun if I don’t let go of unused things, but that little voice in my head could ask that I keep them around just in case I feel like getting back to it someday.  

How to talk back to that voice –  Ask yourself, “When is the last time I used these supplies?  And then “If I had open time today would I choose to work on this hobby?”  If the answer is no, then those supplies are ready to be passed on.  When you decrease the amount of options you have to choose from, you increase the likelihood that you will actually spend time on a hobby/project you enjoy.

I don’t know how to pass it on.

Some of the supplies that I am ready to get rid of have been used, feel like scraps, or were specific to a project. That voice in my head could tell me that it would be hard to donate those things or no one is going to want those things.

How to talk back to that voice – Donating can take a little more effort, but there are so many crafters & organizations that could benefit from your items.  And donating offers those supplies the opportunity to be put to use.

Next Steps…

Letting go of hobby supplies requires asking yourself some questions around what you like & what you want to spend your time on.  And taking the time to answer those questions is worth it!

The relief you will feel as you let go of those unfinished projects & outgrown phases of your life will create a new lighter energy.  A new energy that you can use to focus your attention on the hobbies that truly bring you contentment.

If you are looking for tips on how to get started on your decluttering project, download my Free Declutter Tip Sheet



And for donation resources, check out this post.  Ask Kate – Where can I donate fabric?

More thoughts on the subject?  Let me know below.

Ask Kate – Where can I donate fabric?

Are you a crafter or a quilter who has accumulated mountains of assorted fabrics that are taking up space in an extra bedroom, the basement, or on the craft room floor? 

Do you have loads of fabric that you bought with the intention of using it in a project, only to have it sit in a pile or bin for years & the project long forgotten?

I get asked about donation resources all the time & this Ask Kate post offers a few places that could take that extra fabric off of your hands and put it to good use.


Bundles of Love Charity is a nonprofit organization that partners with community service agencies to assist Minnesota families in need by providing handmade baby clothing, bedding and basic care items for their newborns.  

The Textile Center takes donations for their garage sales which happen a couple times a year.

Minnesota Quilters, Inc. is a nonprofit that celebrates the art of quilting and accepts donation to make that happen.

Humane societies or animal shelters often take fabric to create beds & toys for the animals.  Google & then give a call to find out locations, hours, and needs.  Locally try Windmill Animal Rescue or Prairie Edge Humane Society.

ArtScraps is a reuse store in St. Paul that will take all sorts of crafting materials (by appointment).

And if you would like to sell fabric or crafting supplies, check Facebook and see if there is a local online group in your area.  In Northfield, you can find it at Northfield Online Crafters Garage Sale.

A call to your local art teachers or crafting stores can offer insight into where & how to pass things on.


More questions? contact me & we together we can find a resource that works for you.


TiP for Your TUESDAY!

Create Space in Your Day for Gratitude

There is a whole slew of research that reminds us that spending time in gratitude each day has lasting benefits.  One study, sited In The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home & Work  by Dr. Christine Carter, notes that “people who jotted down something they were grateful for online for two weeks showed higher stress resilience & greater satisfaction with life and reported fewer headaches, less congestion, and a reduction in stomach pains, coughs, and sore throats.”  Wow!  That’s something it seems we could all use as we head into these dark, cold months.

Creating a little space for this habit each day is worth the effort it will take to get it started!  And one way to make it easy is to link gratitude to a routine that is already in place.  Spend a minute thinking of something you are grateful for WHILE you brush your teeth, wash the dishes, or walk the dog.  If you need a reminder until the habit becomes automatic, then post a sticky note on the mirror, on the dishsoap, or by the dog leash & then feel the benefits as your gratitude habit takes hold!

TiP for Your TUESDAY!

Take Photos of Your Child’s Artwork

Kids are always creating & that is AMAZING, but it can lead to lots of questions around what & when to let go!  If you have already displayed your/their favorite pieces and you are still left with a huge pile of art, then think about taking a photo as a way to remember their creations.  This simple tip can free up space & ease some guilt as you let go.

Bonus Tip: Create a folder on your computer labeled with your child’s name & the year (or their grade) & store all of those pics right there (and hopefully backed up somewhere!).  Let those photos be the way to take fun trips down your child’s creative memory lane.


What to Do When Your Collection has Become a Burden

As I peered up at the tubs of photo albums, this phrase ran through my mind. 

“When everything is important, nothing is important.” – Peter walsh

We have been storing photo albums and loose pics on a high shelf in our storage room for years.  They have been been traveling in their box as we moved from house to house- rarely touched or opened.  Some albums hold memories from childhood.  Some capture the behind-the-scenes of our wedding.  Others document the growth of our family.  All seem to hold nostalgia. 

At one time the albums were displayed and occasionally thumbed through, but as the years passed, the space was needed for items of greater necessity and the albums were gathered up in tubs & moved to the basement. 

And now as I look at these tubs & boxes of photos, I start to ask myself some questions:

  • Are these albums a blessing or a burden?
  • What will happen to these photos in 10 or 30 years? 50 years? 
  • What story will all of these pictures tell?

As I think about these photos all tucked away & forgotten, I can feel a sadness.  I know this collection is too big to reasonably enjoy.  They aren’t organized to tell a story that will make sense in 50 years when the next generation is stuck with them.  They aren’t labeled and many aren’t even the best of the best. 

And while thinking of all of that can bring up some sadness, disappointment, and overwhelm,  I also sense a feeling of exhilaration.  Paring down this collection to a size that is easy to manage & enjoy with our family, feels refreshing!  It feels worth the effort & exciting to create something that could tell the story of our life.  A collection that wouldn’t take up as much physical space, but would hold a more prominent place in our home because of it’s ease & simplicity.

Next Steps…

If you have a collection that has become a burden, then these tips might ease the overwhelm & decrease the weight of it.

Be a curator.  In the case of photos, I will pick the ones that truly mean something & have people in them.  With collectibles or other special items, you can do the same – pick the ones that really make you smile or touch your heart.

Shift perspective.  It can be hard to let go of things that have been with us for a long time; things that were acquired with love, took energy to collect and create, or seem to hold special memories.  But paring down doesn’t mean losing the memory and doesn’t discount all that went into gathering this collection.  Shift your perspective to gratitude for the enjoyment you received as you created this collection & lightness in knowing that the memory isn’t held in the item, it is held inside of you.  

Capture the stories in words.  As I sort & pare down the photos I know there will be a lot of reminiscing.  This is a great time to dictate, journal, or jot notes about the stories that surround the items & the memories attached to them.  Find the simplest method to make this happen – maybe with sticky notes, a notebook labeled “special memories,” or by dictating the story into a smartphone.  These stories can offer your loved ones an understanding of how these items or experiences made you YOU.

Share your collection.  As I dig into the collection, there will some photos of family or friends that might be worth passing on or sharing in a fun way.  I imagine taking a pic of a photo & texting it to brighten someone’s day.   Or start asking yourself if there someone in your circle that would appreciate your collection as much as you did?   If there is a  family member that took an interest, has a similar collection, or enjoys reminiscing as much as you, then share some of the joy.  (Remember to ask before you pass on physical items.) 

Use a service to lighten the load.  To pare down our photo albums, I am looking to a few services that have the tools readily available to support my goals.  Look for professionals, apps, software, or products that were created to manage your specific collection.  Then let these services decrease the overwhelm & enable your vision to become a reality in less time & with fewer headaches.

Let the decisions come when you are ready.  I know that as I begin to sort through my collection of albums there will be some photos that I won’t be able to part with quite yet.  I’m giving myself permission to take time with those tougher decisions.  When you are feel unsure or need more time around a decision, let it be okay.  Label & store those items for now.  AND then set a date on your calendar to check in and determine if your feelings have changed & you are ready to send them on.

Have you reached the tipping point?

As with anything you decide to collect- photos, nicknacks, hats, shoes, china- there comes a tipping point.  A point where you ask yourself how much is enough?  The tipping point between having just enough to use & manage in your space vs. it all becoming too much to handle.  A point where you can enjoy each item & their presence vs. collecting such an abundance of things that you begin to forget what you have. 

If you can notice & catch yourself as you near that tipping point, then the collection can be a blessing.  You will slow down the collecting, decide you have enough and enjoy what you have, or become very picky when faced with the idea of adding to the collection. 

But if you aren’t conscious as you collect, it can quickly become a burden.  Spilling over.  Taking up too much space & feeling hard to manage.  At this point, decisions can feel overwhelming.

If you have a collection that has passed the tipping point & you long to pare down & preserve it in a way that’s meaningful, then be in touch.  Together we can create a plan that fits your collection & intention.


Stay Connected!

Stay connected with all the happenings going on at Kate: Declutter & Redesign by signing-up for my twice monthly newsletter AND receive my FREE DECLUTTER TIP SHEET as a thank you!  It’s the cheatsheet that will get  you set up for success as you tackle any decluttering project!