Defining Your Chaotic Mind
To build a system that you’ll use consistently, you need to understand how your mind works, what your body can manage, and what habits you’ve already been able to develop and maintain. What are you willing and able to do to create a space you love?
Answering the questions below will help identify habits and personality traits that will guide you towards a system that works for you.
I included my answers as an example, and of course yours might be wildly different!
1. What happens to new fabric when you bring it into the house?
I can ignore clutter for a very long time, carving out small spaces amongst the piles. Any system I create must not lead to new piles.
2. How are you storing fabric right now? What works and what doesn’t?
What works for me is assigning different types of fabric to a specific container, shelf, or drawer, to be put away before they become hidden. This removes the need to dig through large storage containers looking for a specific fabric, a process I find painful and exhausting.
3. What other aspects of your sewing life need to be organized? How do you manage notions, interfacing, tools, etc.?
I like to have the items I use most often close at hand, so my system needs to allow for that.
4. What bothers you most about your crafting space?
Fixing the parts that bother you most is key to a system that works for you. I hate it when I need to cut out fabric but my cutting table is covered, or when my cutting space is too small for the fabric I’ve chosen.
5. Are there physical factors to consider, such as height, mobility, pain management, etc.? I am five feet tall and have pain and mobility challenges. I need to ensure that I store fabric in places I can easily reach. Size and weight of containers is also key, as I’m not physically able to lift and carry large, heavy tubs of fabric.
Find the systems that work with your personality, and not against it, and those systems will help you to create order from your chaos.
Create Rules That Work For You
Create rules for managing your fabric and notions that work with the habits you’ve already developed and ways your brain already works. Identify your habits and things you already do consistently.
How do you manage new items that come into your home? What are things you do every day to make your life, health, and household run smoothly? If you can replicate those habits in your crafting space, you will have a system that works. Even simple, routine tasks like brushing your teeth, putting away groceries, doing laundry, and organizing your kitchen can help you create a model for how to manage your crafting space.
Here are some of my rules:
- When new fabric or notions are brought into the house, I must unpack them immediately and put them in their designated places. This is modelled on what happens to groceries when they come into the house.
- New fabric that needs to be washed before sewing is immediately laundered, dried, folded (selvedge to selvedge first, so that it’s ready to be cut), and put away. This mimics how laundry is managed in our home.
- I assign designated containers for every type of item—fabric, tools, notions, scraps—make them easily accessible, and put everything away when I’m done for the day. In the same way, there are designated places for glasses, plates, bowls, and cutlery in my kitchen, which makes emptying the dishwasher or preparing a meal a much easier process.
- I keep my workspaces clear by putting everything away every single time. Creating easily accessible places for everything makes this easier for me. A place for cutting tools and pattern weights near my cutting table. A place for my seam ripper, thread snips and other sewing tools near my sewing machine. A storage container for my thread spools and bobbins near my machine. My morning and bedtime routines are set up in this way so that even when I’m half asleep I don’t forget to brush my teeth or wash my face.
Storage and Sorting
You’ve determined how you need to organize, now put it into action.
1. What do you need to store?
Our sewing stash is not just about fabric. It’s about all the other bits and pieces that go along with it, including tools, notions, and interfacing. What is on your list?
2. Start with what you have.
What do you already have available to use for storage? Think big and small:
- Unused furniture that has storage capacity: a dresser, shelving unit, bookcase, etc.
- Plastic tubs, baskets, boxes, and other containers
- Magazine files or accordion files can help organize patterns, magazines, and books
- Carts on wheels, with drawers or shelves, are useful for any tools and notions you might need to move around the room
- Small cups, chipped mugs/glasses, and desk organizers can help keep tools, markers, and other small items organized
Convenience is a big part of my making experience. If I have a place set up for sewing and cutting fabric, I’m more likely to sew.
4. Sort and Assign
What is the most useful way to sort your fabric for your purposes? Think about the fabrics you own and the projects you like to make. Sort in a way that makes most sense to you. If you’re a quilter, you might want to sort by colour. If you like making garments, sorting by weight and fabric type might make the most sense to you.
Nothing stops a good plan faster than being overwhelmed and too tired to carry it out.
After you plan, break it down
Once you have a plan and you know how all the pieces will fit together, break it down into small chunks. Your chaos developed over a long period of time; don’t try to change it in one day. Break your plan down into small, achievable tasks, and give each one a time limit—thirty or sixty minutes, for example—to make them more manageable and to give you a sense of success. Then reward yourself with some high-quality making time! Using the space you’ve created for making will remind you why you got organized in the first place and will encourage you to keep going until you’ve created your ideal crafting space.