Yesterday our internet was getting fixed, or changed or whatever it is that the guy and Joe were up to (there was much talk of firewalls and routers and I sort of checked out after that) and thus unplugged, I commenced with the semi-annual Tossing of the Stash.
My stash is not an insignificant beast. It’s also probably not as big as you imagine it to be, and I used to think that it wasn’t as big as I wanted it to be, but over the years I’ve come to think that it’s just about right. Most of it is upstairs, in what we affectionately call “The Stashroom.” (The rest is downstairs* we’ll talk about that later.)
The Stashroom is a wee room upstairs at the end of the hall. It’s very small – if it had proper furniture in it, it would hold perhaps a single bed and a little bedside table – with no room left over for a dresser or anything. It’s tiny. It was likely built as a box room in this old house, and a few years ago I took it over for the purposes of containing and supporting the (upstairs) stash. (I took a few pictures of it way back when I first pulled it together.)** All my patterns and books are in there, and all the small quantities of yarn, and the spinning stash. (Mostly.) It’s pretty orderly, but every time I need something, I go in and stir through the lot of it, and because I am a normal human being, I don’t always tidy up after myself – or I do tidy up after myself, but not very well. I do things like buy sock yarn and toss it in the stash, not caring what cubby it goes in… or I go through the stash hunting for something and getting things out of order. I use pattern books and don’t put them back in the right place (I have kinda a knitterly version of the Dewey Decimal system going on for my books – and it is so much less neurotic than it sounded right there. I have hundreds of knitting books, magazines and patterns. There has to be some way of finding things.) Essentially, the highly structured organizational system I have comes undone over the course of a half year, and I go in and put it back together, to try and prevent chaos from taking over the entire thing.
Tossing the Stash has benefits beyond tidying up – because I assure you that while I rather adore being able to go into that room and know exactly, precisely where to put my hand on a half skein of blue DK from seven years ago (which I had to do on Sunday and it only took a minute) that’s not enough to get me to deep clean and organize a room in the house twice a year. (If that were the case, the cupboard under the television certainly would not have any VHS tapes in it, which it totally does.) When I Toss the Stash – I do a whole bunch of stuff. I take everything off the shelves and out of the cubbies, and I give all of those a good wipe. Then I decide if the way I’m organizing things still makes sense, or if I really do need one whole cubby for self-striping yarn
(I do) or if it would make more sense to keep the conservative sock yarn away from the wilder stuff – so that I can see at a glance if it’s possible to make Joe anything. (That makes sense too.) Then I start putting everything back in, culling the herd as I go. That chunky mint-green brushed mohair? Yeah. I’m not going to use that. Ever. I blame the 80’s for its existence at all. That sock yarn that I bought four skeins of – but then figured out that it’s so splitty that it makes Zsa Zsa Gabor look like she loves commitment? Gone. How about the skein that’s the really weird shade of pink that I would never buy but somehow own? I don’t even wonder how it got in there, I just help it find a forever home. Any particular reason I own three copies of The Knitters Handbook? Heck no. I think I keep rebuying it because I love it so much, but now two friends have copies too. I’ve even started letting go of some of the magazines. It’s hard for me, because somewhere in the centre of my being is a bit that believes that I am probably the only person in the whole world who has copies of Family Circle Easy Knitting all the way from 2000-2005, but I’ve never used them, they’re taking up a lot of room, and someone else is going to have to have responsibility for curating that particular collection. They’re out of here.
Everything gets a quick dust off, vacuum and inspection before it goes back in. This is Toronto, the moth capital of the world (I made that up, but for sure there are a lot) and this house is more than 130 years old. That means I have to think about the potential for mice and carpet beetles, both of which can live in the walls – along with moths. (Have I ever told you that many houses here in Toronto have wool as insulation in the walls – or plaster and lathe with horsehair are the walls? DELICIOUS.) All those beasts like privacy – dark, quiet, undisturbed places, and so pulling the stash out and putting it back in again means disturbing those places, and I will at least spot something bad before it’s really bad. (I also mostly keep my yarn in ziplocks. All those beasts can chew through them, but at least it keeps dust off, and would slow them down.)
At the end of the whole thing, I have a more streamlined stash, and a safer stash, and a tidier stash, and I can find things really easily. Things are sorted neatly into cubbies, beads are with the bead stash, buttons are in the button stash and I know just where my pincushion is, and there are no T-pins stuck in it. (They are in their proper spot with the blocking stuff.) I look at that little room in its organized glory, and I love it. It’s not perfect, and it’s not a beautiful studio space with twinkle lights and a good place to keep an ironing board (dare to dream) but it is the corner of this tiny house that holds the yarn, and it will do neatly.
It’s like having a yarn store that’s open 24 hours a day, is filled with only things I like (or liked at one time – I can’t explain the mint green brushed mohair) where everything is free. Space was made, spiritually and physically, the yarn and I had a good visit, and it was fun. *** Absolutely the only downside is that having a really good look at all your yarn makes you want to knit it all – and it’s no cure for startitis, I tell you that.
*I keep sweater quantities, “extra” sock yarn (sorted by colour) weaving and spinning tools and basic worsted weight wool in lots of colours downstairs in my office. It’s a pretty big cupboard. I’ll show you sometime.
**Actually, looking back at those pictures, I can see that despite dedicated culling, the stash is larger than it was in 2010. Making a mental note to get a grip.
***Sort of. It was still cleaning, so… you know.