As a scrapbooking expert and crafting enthusiast, Lain Ehmann has quite a stash of supplies - but she’s also a realist who knows that as much as she’d like to, she can’t keep it all. I’ve invited her back today to tell us how she goes about deciding what stays and what goes.
I think it was the venerable Will Shakespeare who said, "All the world's a stage." I'd like to paraphrase that from the crafter's viewpoint. When you are a truly creative individual - you know, the kind who can build an exact replica of King Tut's tomb from an old egg carton and a handful of styrofoam peanuts - then everything you see around you becomes grist for your creative genius. In other words, all the world's a craft project.
As I sit at my desk and write this article, a quick look around me shows a grocery bag full of empty Altoid tins given me by well-meaning friends, a stack of paint chips from the hardware store, a dozen empty exam test booklets I picked up a yard sale, and a Tupperware container full of ribbon scraps - and that's only what I can see without swiveling my head! I have more raw material for my future crafty endeavors than I could ever hope to use.
Here's the challenge: I never know path the creative muse will send me on, so I have a difficult time discerning between what I consider to be useful craft supplies and tools, and what my husband calls "trash." Admittedly, there's a fine line - one I work to define daily. After all, I can't keep it ALL.
In my 10 years as a published artist and crafty-type, I've developed some guidelines that help me figure out what to keep and what to toss. If you suffer from "keep-it-all-itis," as I do, try using it to evaluate your own craft stash:
- Do I have a clear project in mind? Do I know immediately what I'm going to use the item for? In the case of the Altoid tins, I have plans to make a lunch money box for my little one to stash in her backpack, and I also want to turn a few others into mini-scrapbook albums. Okay, that accounts for three of the 15; maybe I can let the other dozen go.
- How hard is it to get another one? I've met crafters who keep every piece of paper-based detritus that passes through their hands, from straw wrappers to receipts to bar coasters. But tomorrow will likely bring more receipts, more straw wrappers, more bar coasters. So it's okay to let something go if you can easily track down another.
- Have I used something similar in the past? I have a soldering iron, which I've never even taken out of the package. This makes me sad because when I bought it, I had high hopes for making jewelry! Unfortunately, I've never gone further down that particular path than just saying, "Wouldn't it be cool to..." It may be time to send the soldering iron (and the accompanying wire, etc.) to someone who will appreciate it and USE it.
- How much did it cost? There's a big difference between deciding to toss a complete set of Copic markers (price: $6 each) and a complete set of Crayola crayons (price: $6 total). If you invested heavily in the supply or tool, give yourself the benefit of the doubt and hold onto it. If it didn't break the bank or was free, toss with abandon.
- Do I have to talk myself into it? Oftentimes I'll put something in the "toss" pile, knowing without a doubt that I am not in love with the object or the potential projects it represents. But then I do the double-think thing, telling myself, "Weeeelll, I could paint it yellow/take it apart/learn how to use it..." If you find yourself talking yourself into keeping something, stop. Let it go. Move on. There are plenty of projects and supplies to love without forcing yourself into a half-hearted relationship with Mr. Not-Quite-Right.
- Is it broken or dirty? If the item is not in working order, if it's frayed, stained, ugly, or otherwise unsightly, think about moving along. (Note: Your willingness to restore it to working order or cleanliness is a good sign that you do absolutely love and want to use this item.)
- How long have I had it? If those Altoid tins are still sitting on my bookcase a year from now, you can bet your sweet glue gun that I'll be more likely to send 'em packing. If you've had something for more than a year and haven't put it to use, it's probably time to move on.
Hopefully this checklist will help you cut down on the amount of crafty "stuff." And the cool thing is that when you have less, you actually become more creative and use things more.
Now, anyone want to buy a soldering iron?
Lain Ehmann is a scrapbooking superhero who inspires women to capture their family's memories in a simple, fun, and fast manner.
She shares tutorials, project ideas, classes, and more on her blog at http://www.layoutaday.com.
Photo: © Stephen Depolo