A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Crafts and Hobbies: Maximum Creativity with Minimal Mess

I received several requests to talk about what to do with craft clutter around the house. I am a fellow crafter so I understand the desire to have all kinds of crafts supplies just waiting for my creativity to strike. The difficult balance seems to be maintaining a minimal mess while encouraging maximum creativity.

If you are a crafty person, a wide range of crafts often appeals to you. I have painted pictures, poured my own candles, enjoyed making hand-stamped metal jewelry, and many other random crafts throughout the years. Each new craft or hobby brings with it an entirely new set of supplies. Left unchecked, the clutter can spiral out of control.

How to Deal with Craft and Hobby Clutter:

  1. Narrow it down. You simply can’t focus on so many different things at once. Pick one or two hobbies that you really enjoy. I still keep a few basic candle making supplies on hand because I think it’s nice to be self-sufficient and refill your own candles. I also like metal jewelry stamping so I have kept that hobby for making gifts.
  2. Stick with the basic supplies. Don’t try to keep absolutely everything on hand you might possibly ever need in the future. The “just in case” disease is hard to cure. Don’t buy that scrapbooking paper that says “Happy Graduation” on it just because it’s on sale if your children aren’t graduating for seven more years. For making candles, I have some supplies on hand but I no longer stock dozens of different fragrances, colors, and containers. If you need a supply, you can find it then. Don’t overstock now.
  3. Define and organize your workspaces. It is a proven fact that clutter will grow to the space you give to it. If you have decided you only have room for one basket and two small plastic bins, then purge your supplies until that is the space they take up. Your clutter will control you if you let it. Take control! Organize in a way that makes sense to you so that things can be found easily.
  4. Evaluate unfinished projects. We all have those items we never quite got back to finishing. Before you keep hanging onto it, take a minute to ask yourself why it was left undone. Were you truly too busy to finish it or are you really not interested anymore? If it’s truly a priority to you, make the time to complete the project. If it’s not something you care about anymore, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just get rid of it and move on.
  5. Keep a basic supply inventory. There have been so many times when I’ve repurchased something I liked only to realize later that I already owned it. Avoiding impulse buying helps with over buying, but it also helps to keep a basic list of things you already own so you don’t duplicate them.
  6. Follow your gut. My last suggestion is fairly basic. If you feel like you have too much craft clutter, then you probably do. If you hear yourself rationalizing it all to yourself and your family, then you probably need to examine it again.

Crafts and hobbies can be nice to have, but not if they take priority over our relationships and what really matters.

What crafts or hobbies are taking over your house? Have you found any great solutions you’d like to share?

This is a section from my book Family-Sized Minimalism.


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Article originally published on 03/11/2011

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  1. I find your suggestion 3) the one that works most for me. Working out what is most versatile and has multiple uses also cuts down on the clutter! I did some thinking about this very issues over here (http://simplyalexa.typepad.com/trimmingthesails/2011/02/what-do-you-see.html) and produced a downloadable pdf if it’s of interest to you over here (http://itsacreativeworld.typepad.com/its_a_creative_world/2011/02/before-i-let-you-.html). I like the idea of a supply inventory too – thank-you for this!

  2. Hi Faith,
    I’ve never been the crafty type, but my daughters are pretty prolific when it comes to creating all sorts of art projects. Instead of a vase of flowers or other decorative centerpiece on my dining room table, I keep a neat stack of colored papers, paints, brushes, pencils/pens, and various other craft materials. I put each group of things in colorful buckets to “pretty it up”. It allows my girls to easily create whenever the inspiration strikes them (even while having dinner!) and I often get to be a part of the projects because they’re right where I can see them instead of off in a different room.
    I keep the clutter of multiple works of art down by having a “selection process” at the end of the day. Before my girls go to bed, we review the days projects and they pick the ones they want to keep and find a place to display it – the rest we toss.

  3. We are a very project-y family. Making things is a high priority in our lives. Saying that, the four of us live in an 1100 sq ft house and space can be tight. A few years ago we decided to get rid of our traditional living rm and turn it into a place where we could do arts & crafts. We built a work table that spans an entire wall with cubbys and boxes to store materials and tools. We put all of the furniture on wheels so we can push them away quickly and have more floor space to work on larger projects. The biggest hurdle is having to put a project away for the night when your not done. It’s the only way to keep the clutter down though!
    This week the kids are home from school and they’ve been going crazy on the crafts. It’s been a blast.

    • Faith Janes says

      Now that sounds like a super cool craft room. Growing up I was friends with a girl who’s family had a dedicated craft room. I also that was neat that they had every craft supply known to man ready at a moment’s notice. But even as young as I was I remember it being a total mess ALL the time. The furniture on wheels idea is genius and the work table sounds incredible. So neat!

  4. I got rid of my crafts and sewing supplies (including machine) after realizing I just wasn’t using them. I’m not a crafter but felt some bizarre guilt about it and kept half-heartedly starting projects. Once I got real with myself about what my hobbies really are (reading, running, Crossfit, movies, writing, cooking) it was easy to give away the embossing gun and quilting fabric.
    But I get questions all the time from crafty folk who can’t get control of their hobby clutter. These are great tips – nice work!

  5. I’ll never be able to trim it down to 1 or 2. I have however managed to keep it at 5 for a few years now. I’ve looked at some nifty new crafts like lacemaking and tatting, but I’ll skip picking them up until I decide to get rid of one of my 5.

    Most of my crafts take up 1 small bin. Beading, cross stitch, spinning are pretty compact 1-box crafts (except for the spinning wheel, and mine’s quite small and portable). Weaving is a bit more space-taking, I have 2 tabletop looms and a 4′ triangle loom (which collapses) and they all fit on a tall shelf. I’d have more looms, but I don’t have the space. Sewing is by far my most space-intensive craft, with 2 sewing machines, 1 serger, bins full of specialty tools, a dummy, and piles and piles of fabric. My goal this year is to get rid of at least half of my fabric one way or another, either by completing the projects it was bought for or selling it somehow. I have a cedar armoire, I’m hoping to limit my fabric stash to what can fit into it.

  6. Another thing not to be overlooked is to make sure any supplies you have aren’t expired, damaged, etc. – and to find a way to store them in such a way that that doesn’t happen (or happens as slowly and/or minimally as possible).

    Markers, paints, clay, play-doh, etc. can dry out. Paper can get crushed, wrinkled, inadvertently folded, etc. Certain chemicals may have outright expiration dates.

    There’s nothing like fishing out the graduation-themed scrapbooking paper you bought, only to discover that it got trapped under something else that crinkled it into an ugly mess. 😀

    Great post Faith!

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