The Weighty Responsibility of Too Much Stuff

Like almost everyone else on the internet this week, I have been bombarded by opinions good and bad about the KonMari lifestyle- or the “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” Netflix program.  Having had several friends who have been long time converts to her ways, I’m not entirely new to the idea of organizing and de-cluttering based on what “sparks joy”.  In fact, isn’t that method, in some form or another, what has struck us throughout history to donate or trash what we no longer need or want?  But, like usual, I had to see a comical side to the story so yesterday, musing about the relationship of crafters and their supplies, I whipped up this little meme.


To my surprise, one day later, it had made 110,000 impressions on Facebook, and who knows how many on instagram, with almost 800 shares.


Being that this is in the media like gangbusters right now, from the shared posts that are public I can see a wide variety of responses to my meme.  From “you’ll pry fabric out of my cold dead hands,” to “harsh” and “missed the point.”

Let me come clean. This was entirely in jest.  I joke about single handedly amassing the largest supply of fabric originally owned by 80 year old ladies (thank you charity shops and estate sales), but in reality all my fabric is neatly organized in cute little see through bins that are labeled by type.  And I recently did a fabric purge where I got rid not of not only one- but THREE gigantic trash bags FULL of fabrics.

Some of you may know, some of you may not know.  My mother, who has just turned 70, has Alzheimer’s.  Most days I don’t think she knows who I am, but I do know she knows she loves me.  Last summer, the summer of 2018, I had the monumental task of sorting through her lifetime of possessions.  And we’re not talking like organized and put away in cute little printed bins.  We’re talking TWO rooms of “I can’t get in here unless I’m part mountain goat.”  My mom has always been a shopaholic, and as her Alzheimer’s progressed, she bought more and more, with seemingly less and less care about quality, condition, or usability.

You have to understand- growing up my mom was a middle class yuppie who prided herself on quality and name brands, so seeing her digress to buying half broken teacups and busted in printed tin trays from thrift stores was a bit of a shocker.  Think like Hyacinth Bucket, but the younger, California version.  I love my mom.  She was very bright, and funny, and full of life.  But man, let me tell you, I think I escaped being forced into cheerleading by a narrow margin.  I did survive etiquette class at Nordstrom, where I learned I most definitely did not fit in with my fellow young women who’s mothers shopped at that store.  BUT my mom did believe in marching to the tune of your own drum.  She was the first in our family to get any sort of college degree, and she obtained an A.A. in Art.  So my mom was a funny blend of “I want to drive a mercedes and take tennis lessons,” and “Be who you want, always listen to that inner voice. Don’t let anyone cage you in.”  But I digress…

The two rooms. You could BARELY walk into them.  My mom was a collector AND a crafter.  It must run in the blood, and if it does, my daughter in doomed.  I can’t even describe the amount of dolls, and quilt fabrics, and craft show “country’ toll painting, and scrapbooking, and everything else.

Just one of the two rooms I had to go through this summer.  This was partway through the process.

My mother must not have cleaned out her closet since about circa 1992.  Which, let me tell you, I got some shirts that were TOTALLY on trend for summer of 2018.  Thanks for the Miami Vice inspired pastel rayon shirt, mom.

BUT- this is what I’m getting to.  It gave a whole new meaning to “She who dies with the most fabric wins.”  Wins what? Because my mom has NO IDEA who’s stuff this all was (it was hers), and I had to sort through rooms of it, part of a garage, and some in the rafters of another room.  It took me about two months of driving an hour each way, twice a week, to get through it with the help of my husband, a friend, my stepdad, and his sister.

We had a HUGE estate/garage sale which almost no one came to because it’s way up in the sticks.  Even the die hard garage sale aficionados who probably do flea markets with the junk (I mean treasures) on the weekend pull up and said “You have a lot of stuff.”

So… how does this all make me feel about “sparking joy” and the Marie Kondo method?

Heck, do what works for you, my friends.

I’m about to fill up three boxes here to send to auction, and I just posted the silly meme yesterday.

Fabric comes and fabric goes.  Make yourself happy. And try not to stick your kids with sorting through stuff later.  I’ve got WAY too much but thinking about my daughter having to deal with all this the way I’ve just had to deal with my mom’s stuff makes me reconsider the relationship we have with possessions.

We all know thrift stores are already filling up faster than they can offhand the things we buy.  Factories keep pumping out cheap clothes and cheap belongings for us to impulse buy. We buy them up, fill up our houses, then get overwhelmed with how much we have.  We are stuck in a vicious cycle.  The most rebellious and life-changing thing we could do would be to re-evaluate how and what and where we acquire objects in the future.

This may sound funny coming from someone who depends on you buying patterns in order to support their family.  But don’t forget that I sell E-PATTERNS, so you don’t even need to look at the darn things until you’re ready to print and use them. (Kidding. Kind of).

Lots of love, my friends.  Don’t get too worried about what’s going on around you. Just work on what works best for you.  And I’ll be jealous of your cute little underwear rolls.  Come organize mine too, will you? Wait, that might be awkward.

4 Comments on The Weighty Responsibility of Too Much Stuff

  1. Kate
    January 17, 2019 at 10:13 pm (5 years ago)

    I think this is a thing a lot of us think about when we clear out the home of a parent (or someone else who has passed away/gone to a nursing home). Since losing my dad last year and fighting my way through his stuff I’ve certainly changed the way I do some things. For one thing I’ve become much more careful about filing things well so that if someone else needs to find a certain document they can find it. I’ve always had regular clean outs but now whenever I think about buying something I’m now thinking ‘someone will have to get rid of this when I die’. It’s amazing how much clarity that brings as to whether or not I actually need it.

  2. eimear greaney
    January 18, 2019 at 12:55 am (5 years ago)

    A very thoughtful post. I am rather suspicious of the ‘Kondo’ effect. (I have yet to read the book/watch on Netflix). I think a lot of times that clearing out makes way for buying more crap. It would be nice to think of the Kondo effect for consumerism. Does it spark joy after I did not buy it for 7 days and it still is worth purchasing?
    Having said that-I think all makers are hoarders and personally I try to keep to a limit (in my case thrift shop buys to remake) as too much stuff is distracting and affects my focus.
    Thank you also for the affectionate words on your Mother. I had to visit a favourite aunt I dont see very often and while her memory is very jumbled and she asks after people who have died – I am relieved she still remembers me and also relieved when I still get glimpses of ‘her’ when I make her laugh or spark a memory.

  3. Livia Rose
    January 18, 2019 at 10:14 am (5 years ago)

    I thought this was funny when I saw it on your Instagram. People need to see a joke. And lighten up on Marie Kondo and the often similar minimalism movement. Glean what one can, reject what doesn’t work, leave others alone, and move on. But I did feel that a lot of the minimalism group (I think people are associating Marie Kondo with things she hasn’t said or advocated, like minimalism, and maybe even things many minimalists aren’t saying) aren’t crafters, so I found some helpful videos on “minimalism” for crafters (one concept was limit your crafts, I have definitely been the person who wanted to try almost every handicraft and art out there . . . which would have been CRAZY).

    It definitely inspired me to cut down on stuff, including a huge portion of my fabric. I have a sort of mental block with sewing, so I have to get over that first. I will never be a minimalist but I’m definitely a spendthrift, shopaholic, shop for therapy type of person who needs to be reigned in, so I pick what I need to learn.

  4. Deborah
    January 19, 2019 at 7:31 am (5 years ago)

    This post resounded strongly with me. I had a very similar experience with my mother this past summer. If you are a parent, think carefully about downsizing or hiring someone to help you downsize. It is emotionally and physically exhausting to sort through and sell or donate possessions that you know were treasured by your parent, but you can’t possibly keep. It intensifies the loss.

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