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How to Declutter a Craft Room

A peek inside my Shiny Happy World studio

I recently posted some photos of my newly tidy studio and a bunch of people asked for more details. A BUNCH of people. They all wanted to know how to declutter a craft room – exactly what I did.

I’m happy to share! Especially because this time I feel like I finally got it right. 🙂

Sure, I’ve “decluttered” before – but only with moderate success. This time I swore things would be different – and they were!

The number one change in my approach was a change in my attitude. Instead of asking “What can I get rid of?” I asked “What do I want to keep?”

On the surface that seems like it’s really the same question – but the subtle difference was key for me. First, let’s look at a before photo. It’s not taken from the same angle (it’s actually from the other side of the room) but it’ll give you a pretty clear picture of what things looked like.

How to Declutter a Craft Room

And this was a good day! Every horizontal surface is full of stuff. There are plastic tubs stacked under my sewing table and in front of my storage shelves. There are permanent piles of stuff stacked on the corners (out of the way, right?) of my work tables. There is stuff everywhere – and I wasn’t using even close to half of it.

No more!

Here’s what I did. . .

Start with one thing. The experts say to do one room at a time – but even that was too much for me. I tackled one piece of furniture at a time.

Remove everything from that piece of furniture. Stack it on the floor, pile it on a table – whatever you have to do to get down to an empty piece of furniture. As you unload, you’ll spot some things you know you need to get rid of. Bag them up if they’re trash, box them for donating – go ahead and get rid of them now. But know that this is the easy stuff – things like the jar of bobbins that went to a sewing machine I got rid of over ten years ago, or the water damaged tablet of nice drawing paper. This is where I’ve stopped before – the things with an easy reason to get rid of them. This time I went deeper.

Clean it. Clean it really well. Dust it, polish it, vacuum out all the weird nooks and crannies full of Cuddle Fleece fuzz. Make it look (and feel) like a new piece of furniture.

Now – start “shopping” in that pile of stuff. Pull out the things that you actually WANT. The knick-knacks that make you really happy when you pick them up. The supplies that you love to use. I used the word shopping very deliberately. If you were strolling through Joann’s and you saw this stuff – how much of it would you actually put in your cart and buy today? Probably not much.

The best example of this was when I went through my yarn bin. I don’t use much yarn. I’ll crochet something every once in a while, and sometimes I need yarn for hair or a tail – but that doesn’t add up to much. You wouldn’t know that from looking at the huge (overflowing – the lid wouldn’t fit on it) bin of yarn I had. I called Jo in (because she crochets sometimes) and we dumped it out on the floor. We very quickly picked the 5-6 skeins of yarn we actually liked – and got rid of everything else. Yarn in ugly colors, scratchy yarn, fluffy yarn that I loathe crocheting with – it all went away. And I breathed a huge sigh of relief!

Don’t ignore the emotional difficulty. Decluttering like this can be hard because it often means letting go of dreams. I had kept a bunch of small skeins of eyelash yarn (given to me by someone who was decluttering – ha!) because I thought I might someday use them in amigurumi. They’d be cute manes or tails, or be great for little hedgehogs or porcupines. The problem with that is that I don’t crochet amigurumi. I could learn – and I’d like to – but the realistic side of me knows that I probably won’t. Or – to be more precise – I will definitely NOT take the time to learn every single craft I’ve hoarded supplies for for the last two decades. I already sew, quilt, and embroider – I’m very unlikely to also learn amigurumi, knitting, jewelry-making, garment sewing, printmaking, watercolor painting, acrylic painting, and all of the other kajillion crafts I was storing supplies for, just in case I decided to try them out. And if I really do decide to crochet a cute little hedgehog, I will go out and buy the single skein of grey eyelash yarn I will need. None of the 20 skeins I had were grey anyway. 😛

Put the things you really want back where they go. Make sure they’re stored in a way you can easily access them – both to get them out when you want them, and to put them away again when you’re done. No storing things stacked on top of other things!

Move on the the next room/piece of furniture.

I did this over and over again, touching every single thing in my studio. And I mean every single thing. I went though my pencil cups and got rid of the hard pencils, the pencils with hard erasers, the pencils that were too short to get out of the cup without digging. I touched every single thing in the room and asked myself if I really wanted it. Not if I could think of a reason to keep it – you can always think of a reason to keep something. The question is – Do you really want it?

Two more decluttering tips for you. . .

Be fast. You know in your gut if you really want something. As soon as you touch it – pay attention to your gut. Do not start listening to your head. Your head will start telling you, “Well – you could use it for this or that or some other thing.” That’s what you told yourself when you picked it up at a rummage sale 10 years ago and you haven’t used it yet. You’re probably not going to. Get rid of it! If you find yourself dithering, you don’t really want it – but for some reason you feel bad about getting rid of it. Which brings me to. . .

Be ruthless. Some of your best decisions will be the hardest. Letting go of some things means letting go of dreams or might-have-beens. Sometimes there’s a lot of guilt attached – money spent on supplies for a craft you ended up not enjoying, time and money spent on a partially-finished project that’s been sitting on the corner of your sewing table for years. Sometimes people you love give you things you don’t like very much, but you feel like you need to keep them. It’s all hard – but I feel so good about every tough decision I made! Especially getting rid of the things that had guilt attached to them – talk about burdens lifted!

And now – I work in a lovely, inviting space that I’m not embarrassed to show you. My supplies are easy to reach and easy to put away. I don’t have to clear off a corner of my table to work on a project.

I have never experienced this before. Never!

But I love it – and I find that it’s spreading. I recently started on my kitchen – one cabinet at a time – and the results are fantastic. I can’t wait to finish that room and move on to my closet! I’ll have to move more slowly – decluttering my studio was basically a full-time job for a week – which means the results aren’t quite as dramatic, but they’re soooo satisfying. 🙂

So there you have it – my tips for how to declutter a craft room. Have fun!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

58 COMMENTS

  1. yesss, I did this to pretty much my whole house because we have to sell and move. that took most of september and october, and I think I could give several areas another go-through again even though I was pretty ruthless, even with the craft and art supplies. needle felting? HATED IT. I gave those supplies to my daughter’s kindergarten teacher, along with a huge pile of felt that frankly, I will never get through. And on and on. doesn’t it feel so good?!

    • It feels soooo good! And it’s great to pass on unwanted supplies to someone who really wants them! Also – I tried needle felting once too. I love the look of the final pieces, but hated the process. It made me feel stabby. 🙂

  2. This is so wonderfully written and executed!! The shift to your question, “What do I want to keep?” is huge!! I think I can and will do everything, hence the name of my blog…the distracted crafter. I want to do it all, but I know I won’t. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • It’s really, really hard to let go of some things that you want to do – but there are only so many hours in the day. Plus – now that I have a clear deck – if I decide to try something new it will be because I really want to. Not because I’m feeling guilty about the craft supplies I’ve been hoarding. 🙂

  3. Elaine Judd SAYS...

    This is an excellent read full of truly useful information. This is the best decluttering advice ever! Especially important to recognize that emotional component that keeps us tied to things we don’t need and will never use.

    • I’m so glad it was helpful! Recognizing the emotional component was really important for me – I think it’s the number one thing that has kept me from doing this “right” in the past.

      • Elaine Judd SAYS...

        I have a lot of first-hand experience with decluttering. As a professional guardian I have had entire homes dumped on me (figuratively, of course) and as a hobby I have organized homes, churches, etc. I can go through anyone else’s stuff carefully but with immediate decision-making, and yes, touching every single item, organizing and purging as I go. My own move six years ago left me floundering and reduced me to tears (or great sobs) on more than one occasion. My old place was oerfectly organized, but after my move nothing seemed to fit. But it feels great to complete and is worth all the turmoil. Encouraging any with similar resistance to just do it. The results feel great! Your soace, Wendi, is just awesome!

  4. I recently cleaned up my studio but it was for a magazine shoot. Unfortunately I only dealt with the “pretty part” and the clutter is hiding in the closet! I think that’s the hardest part for me: Coming up with the actual organizational system. I have fabric to keep, but where do I put it that makes sense for easy access and will stay organized? Do my current systems work or do I need new ones? And filing…the paper is a problem for sure.

  5. wendy SAYS...

    THANK YOU for clear directions and encouragement to do something so many of us find so difficult!

  6. katie yoakum SAYS...

    Love your space and love the post. I am very motivated by it and hope that these tips will help me greatly as i prepare for our guild’s upcoming yard sale in February.

  7. Pingback: #craft365 day 151 – 180 | Lacer's Life

  8. Laura Jolly SAYS...

    I have read so many articles/posts on decluttering. This is by far the best. You nailed it Wendy! Thank you!

  9. Thanks for a very motivational post…I really like the shift to what do I want to keep! I am going to try again and see if I can come out the other side with a neat space, I am awful about the piling and the hoard guilt!

  10. sue SAYS...

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Two things smacked me up side the head: What do I really want to keep and Do not start listening to your head. What an excellent post so specific to crafters. Thanks again and btw, I am making (your pattern) gift bags as I declutter.

    • That’s a great one to make as you declutter! You can use all kinds of fabrics for it!

  11. GrandmasBeans SAYS...

    Thank you so much for this post! As stated by many before me, it is very motivational, very informative, and very clearly written. And so timely… isn’t the New Year when we all start to change our lives, beginning with getting organized, only to give up because we become so overwhelmed with it all? This is perfect advice, and the only time I’ve ever seen the advice to consider the emotional side of things. That is so important… I’d never thought of looking at it a different way. And deciding what to keep instead of what to get rid of somehow makes the process easier. I also love that you say it’s easy to take it slow – trying to do too much at one time has also been a reason I throw my hands up and throw the towel in. I started not on my craft room (it’s fairly new), but on a bedroom that has been driving me crazy. Thank you so much for sharing your success!! This may be the year of SUCCESSFUL decluttering for me!!

    • My number one goal for the year is to get the rest of my house in the same shape my studio is in. 🙂

  12. Thanks for sharing. I find that one of the only things that makes me clear of the sewing table is when I’m sewing curtains or filming a new sewing video. Realistically I need to sort through all my storage areas and have a place for everything and get rid of things I don’t need! You’ve inspired me.

    • It has been SOOOOOO nice to always have my table clear and ready for work!

  13. Donna SAYS...

    Hi Wendy
    Thanks so much for this advice!! I’m looking to organise (still – have been trying to do this for 2 years now!!) but every time I try I end up getting nowhere! With your fresh spin, I think I finally can!
    I’ll be giving my unwanted stuff (the decent bits, not the stuff which is only suitable for the bin – we all have that in our cupboards!!) to the local kids hospice, they can always use crafty bits!
    Would it be ok to post a link to your advice on my blog and Facebook so other people can learn from your ace advice please?
    Donna x

  14. Beth SAYS...

    Thank you for sharing this with us. Awesome!

  15. Migdalia SAYS...

    You are so amazing at putting your ideas written as instructions someone else can do, even us sewing novices. I love this well written decluttering blog. You should get 5 star rating. Hey, There’s an idea you may implement in your blogs, every now and then ask for a rating. You will get an idea what most people like. I am definitely going to follow your method to declutter my craft space, and who knows, I may even be brave enough to finally use my old sewing machine that was just tuned up and oiled.

    • Thanks so much! And if your machine is freshly tuned and oiled she’s just BEGGING you to use her. 🙂

  16. Rachael Anderson SAYS...

    Thanks for this excellent post Wendi. As others have commented I enjoyed the “craft specific” angle to it as it seems that crafting and hoarding go hand in hand! …. or is that only me???
    I had already started to clear my work room but will be thinking about your mantra – What do I want to keep? or Would I buy this? Thanks again.

    • Good luck! I’m not exaggerating when I say this has made a huge difference in my life. It’s crazy!

  17. jean from maine SAYS...

    I love reading your blog–your generosity in sharing information, your patterns and inspiration.
    This entry, however, may be the most useful and welcome EVER(for so many of us). I am mired in years of fabric, sheep fleece, notions, books, etc.etc.etc. and now feel as though I can crawl through it and liberate myself from the overwhelming clutter that prevents me from doing my best work.
    Thank you thank you thank you.

  18. Anonymous SAYS...

    Just what I needed to get started with guilt free decluttering! I have been scared to do it becuase of the guilt I feel with how much money I have spent….and the dreams that never came to fruition, however, I do know that it will feel great when I am done! Thanks for that little push that I needed!

  19. Hi I was hoping to see an ‘after’ photo of the cluttered space. Wow you are so lucky to have such a large space to work.

  20. Rashmi SAYS...

    Wow! So inspiring…Thank you so much for sharing the pictures and tips and tricks. Now I am actually looking forward to de-cluttering my art space:) Thank you!

  21. VirginiaK SAYS...

    Just read this from the link on your email and it’s the most helpful thing I’ve read on decluttering! Your approach really makes sense and I can’t wait to put it into practice!

    • I’m glad it was helpful! I’m so thrilled that my room still looks just like this!

  22. Dot SAYS...

    This is the best declutter, organize, sort-through article I have read. Loved the details and emotional issues. Just what I needed as I start working on my room. Thank you!

  23. Sheila Perl SAYS...

    Oh boy, Wendy, I remember reading this article LAST Year and started decluttering but…….I never finished it :p
    I realized on rereading the article that I never incorporated the “be ruthless”!!
    I am looking at piles and piles of upholstery fabric and denim that I was going to make pencil cases out of for Shoeboxes…If I made 25 everyday for the next 5 years I couldn’t get through all this fabric!!!! But I never realized that last year!! 🙂 I have found a sewing group that is going to be SO happy to receive my bounteous supply 😀
    Thank you, Wendy for reposting this great article!!!

  24. Autumn SAYS...

    I read pretty much every thing written about organizing and declutter and your is by far the best I have read. I have never comment before today. I had to thank you for taking the time to share this!!! I’m now motivated to get started organizing! I like how you said to ask yourself what you want not what you don’t want that’s actually really great way because now your focused on what you truly want. I always work fast so I don’t let myself have time to think of a reason I will someday need this! Great tip on would you actually spend money and buy this if it were in the store! That is perfect! Thank you again!

  25. Alex Z SAYS...

    Wow! Definitely what I needed! We recently moved and been postponing unpacking all of my craft things because of all the mess I know it will then into but now I think I can look at it as going shopping and give everything a right place. One question though, what do you do with the stuff you don’t want anymore? I’d hate throwing it away when it can be useful to someone else, I guess that has been styling me as well, the guilt of throwing away something that can be used,and at the same time knowing I can’t do it right know for lack of time.

    Other than that I’m ready to start, thanks again!

    • I only threw away things that were actually ruined (like the tablet of waterlogged, stuck-together paper). Everything else I bundled up and took to a thrift shop that supports our local women’s shelter. They loved it – said craft supplies (and partially finished items) always sell well.

  26. Brilliant, inspirational post. The shift from ‘What do I want to get rid of’ to ‘What do I want to keep’ is very subtle but very very powerful.

    You have given me the emotional help I need to make some tough decisions. Bring it on. Many thanks.

  27. Carolina Schierholz SAYS...

    What do I want to keep?
    I have never heard this approach, Thank You so much for this article, I love the idea of shopping from your own pile.
    I am going to try it this afternoon. tThank You soooooo much!!

  28. Jennie SAYS...

    The first time I read this I was really “going to do this today”. Now more than a year later, it has gotten only worse. I’ve decided the 4 media I want to work in, fabric, block carving and printing, glass mosaics, and polymer clay which includes the need for acylic paint. So why is it so difficult to get rid of the rest? Or even think about doing it. Sure we had social engagements that year, our daughter got married, medical problems, my husband had back surgery, then there was the scary part of the year when the company that my husband worked for went out of business. I’ve spent my year in a state of going from happiness and panic. Neither is a good time to purge. But this is a good week to do it. My sewing machine is out to be cleaned and tuned up. I don’t have anything I need to make for anyone this week. So after the dishes and the laundry I think I’ll start….. Unless I need a nap.

  29. Jennifer SAYS...

    I am really inspired by this post. Thank you!

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  31. Ann Campbell SAYS...

    This article is fantastic. The question “Do I want it?” will make a huge difference to me as I start to declutter. Thanks for sharing!

    • DebraJ Willliams SAYS...

      My granddaughter said to me, “I love shopping at Grammy’s”; that will tell you how much STUFF esp crafts I have! Started to get rid of things and felt sad! Donating a lot to a kids’ Summer Camp will help me let go of many things?. Thanks for your advice!

  32. Dottie Weirich SAYS...

    I can relate totally!! After my husband died, (agent orange) 5 and half yrs. ago I relocated from our dream home (w/ 28’x35′ sewing hobby room) in Oklahoma to Ohio. I wasn’t at the house when the movers packed up, a “friend” was. Anyway I’ll say maybe half made it to me in Ohio. I down sized is an understatement, 3550sq. ft. to 1200sq. ft. . I’m just now coming out of my fog and I can hardly move in my sewing/craft room, (not counting under my bed), so I will be pulling my big girl panties up & throw a couple days for a cry, laugh & trash party for one! Thank You for sharing your reality check – it’s my turn now . Happy New Clean Crafting Life & Year everyone! God Bless

  33. Bianca SAYS...

    I love, love, love the acknowledgment that there is the letting go of dreams. It is this vision of possiblities that keeps my studio so very cluttered no matter how often I try to be ruthless and clear it out. I do not like the idea of artist as hoarder no matter how many great ones have been.

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  35. Roxann Miller SAYS...

    The thing that got me the most was “Would I buy this again today?” and just as you guessed, my answer at least half the time is “no”. I started one 4′ table today which is only a baby step in my craft room but I’ll keep plugging away at it. Thank you.