How I declutter handknits and crafts

March 25, 2024

One of the biggest declutter challenges I had to face was when I decluttered my hand knits and handmade crafts. First, it's important to acknowledge that as makers, we’ve poured hours of hard work, creativity, good intentions, and big money into each item we handcraft. We had high hopes we'd love it forever, but like everything we own, we usually find that our tastes have changed and we no longer wear or use it. It may also be worn out and shabby or terribly out of style. Giving away things we once loved is hard enough, but having made the darn thing adds an extra complication. There are some nasty roadblocks and landmines on that particular road to declutter, but if we tweak our attitude and set a few rules in place we can comfortably release those lovingly handmade items. Here's where I hope I have some good advice for you. I have built up my declutter muscles pretty well over the last few years and I've been able to put some new strategies in place when I find I have too many knits and crafts crowding my space.

Here's what I do:

  • When to declutter? The answer is easy for hand knits--declutter when it gets too crowded or you have a difficult time finding what you're looking for. I designate a space for like items, e.g., sweaters in the armoire, scarves and accessories in hallway drawers, and when these spaces get too full, it's time to declutter. If I can't squeeze my newest hand knit in without having everything else want to squoosh out, it is definitely time to declutter. I won't allow them to seep into other areas of my house. They get their allotted space and only that. Period.
  • What to declutter? Donate anything you don't wear that's still in good shape. Trash anything that has been worn ragged. 
  • How to decide what goes and what stays?
    • When I've worn something to death because I've loved it to bits, I give it a kiss and put it in the trash bag and consider making the exact same thing all over again.
    • Pick out the least worn items and question, why isn't this getting worn? Do I dislike the fit? The color?  The style? It may be too long or too short or too itchy or too tight or too orange. If I don't regularly grab it and feel great wearing it, then it goes in the donation bag because just maybe someone else will think it's wonderful. Or maybe I'll want to unravel it and reuse the yarn? No, actually I won't do that, but maybe someone else will!
    • Lastly, I've long ago reconciled that I knit and make crafts for the pure pleasure I receive out of being a maker. I simply love to knit. I love to craft. I'm a maker and don't want to stop. I've decided that I'm not creating something that is to be treasured for a lifetime. I'm not making family heirlooms. I'm a maker who has the added benefit of wearing some pretty great stuff.  But if I don't wear an item anymore, for any reason, I can say goodbye with no guilt or regret. I've had my fun, now pass it on and keep knitting. Now, the cost of the yarn can be exorbitant, and that could be another roadblock to decluttering. Please remember that the money has been spent, you already had the fun of knitting it, and maybe learned a new skill, and holding onto it does not bring the money back.
  • How about my crafts? You know I'm a gal who loves making crafts, but I actually keep very little. I might make ten of the same Christmas ornament, keep one and give away the other nine, but some times I don't even save a one. The fun for me was in the making and the giving. I also don't mind if a gift recipient doesn't treasure my little gift. They can keep it or not. I'm sure they appreciated the gesture and that's enough for me. Example, the wooden peg dolls I enjoy making are given to friends with grandchildren, and they pass them on to the littles.
I don't want to preach that this type of decluttering, or any type of decluttering for that matter, is easy. It all takes practice and practice makes progress, so stick with it. A  positive, can-do attitude can go a long way when decluttering. I'd also like to add that not once, not ONCE, have I ever decluttered a handknit, a craft, or anything, and wished I had it back. I imagine that it's in better, more appreciative hands, and get joy in remembering that I got to own it during a period of my life when it did serve me well. Now it's serving someone else. I hope this gives you the courage to pass on things you have made or things others have made and gifted to you. They would not want you to feel burdened by their gift. We have to always remember that the real gift is the generous act of giving and the gracious act of receiving, not the actual item. Donating the item does not take the gift away.

I realize it's no great feat to neatly store handknits when one has plenty of drawers and shelves to store them in. That's my old house (thank you old house) and I feel very lucky for all the storage, but honestly, if I kept everything I've ever made over the last 50 years, I'd need 5X this storage. Maybe 10X! I think the takeaway here is, assign a space, big or small, whatever you will give it, and stick to it. Like all boundaries, you've got to respect it and honor it.

Shelf dividers help a sweater stack from toppling over. I use them for boots too.

The inexpensive Ikea Skubb cubbies are from Ikea.
They replaced my shoebox storage but shoeboxes work just as well!

May I show you my Easter dolls? These I just LOVE! They are all gone now, given to my girlfriends at a luncheon where they were very sweetly ouued and awwed, and I confess, I'm a sucker for that sort of thing. 

The darling Easter boxes are purchased from KB and Friends on Etsy as a printable download that you cut, assemble and glue. They are nice for candy and think they would look so cute in the Easter basket or in an egg hunt, but they are also perfect for my little dolls. I love this presentation and had so much making them. The dolls are purchased in bulk from Amazon. $12.99 for 50. They are so much cheaper from Amazon than from a hobby store and if you have grandchildren visiting, I have found that fifty is not too many to have! Helping little make their own storybook and superhero characters is a lot of fun. 

We recently had a cocktail buffet for 18 guests to welcome back old friends who had moved away. No pictures of the party but it was so fun and the food was fabulous. I made several appetizers and a few guests offered to bring something and I never say no, so we had an excellent variety of food. Everyone was very happy including me because I love grazing at cocktail parties! Our tulip magnolia was just starting to bloom and I was able to create these simple but striking arrangements for the sideboard. They got a lot of comments.

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  1. Thanks for your encouragement and suggestions on how to declutter also handknits. I'm still holding on a intricated cable cardigan that slightly felted the very first time I washed it (just after assembling). It has to go!

    1. Like you, I'm holding onto an intricately cabled cardigan bedecked with pearls knit in fingering weight yarn, and my husband loves it on me. I feel it's too small and outdated looking, but he won't let me get rid of it yet!

  2. Love the too orange comment. Want More Drawers! Thinking of those. peg dolls! Chloe

    1. I think I like orange, but not sure orange likes me!

  3. I always love your declutter hints. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful process. Because my home is so tiny and I has very little storage space, I have to stay on top of decluttering and it starts with limiting what I bring in in the first place. I love that you say you got to own the item when it served you and you can appreciate that, but now it's serving someone else. A great thought to have in the back of my head when letting go.
    Those flower arrangements are gorgeous! I love your entertaining posts too and would have loved to see more pictures (and the menu!). Looking forward to your summer gardening posts too!

    1. Thank you so much. I hope that my posts are inspiring and encouraging. Most of us in the western world and in this day and age simply have too much for one reason or another. We have to come terms with it and I hope this helps.

  4. Just parted with a few of my handknits - it was difficult but your words and attitude were very helpful. My issue is moths! I am afraid to store knits in anything other than a plastic ziplock. Looking for other ideas.

    1. Oh, I'd glad I could help. I've had moth issues before and it's beyond frightening! Good luck with that.


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