Too Many Hobbies. Too Little Space. What to Do?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, by LisaClark https://www.flickr.com/photos/polkadotcreations/
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, by LisaClark https://www.flickr.com/photos/polkadotcreations/

I sew on the kitchen table.

Let me repeat that: I sew on the kitchen table.

I kneel down to pull my sewing machine off the bottom shelf in the shelves where I store my pots and pans, and I drag my serger in from the spare bedroom where we keep the exercise equipment, and I pull out the Stanley tool box in which I keep my notions, and I get the little lazy Susan dealio where I put the things I use a lot while sewing such as scissors and — heaven love ’em — seam rippers, and I get thread out of the self same exercise room and then I get the fabric from the exercise room closet and I get the pattern from the file box on the top shelf of the exercise room shelves, and … ahem … I’m sorta ready to sew.

That is, until I think of something that I’ve got to have that I forgot to get that is behind the second shelf where sewing incidentals share space with real-life casserole dishes and such. Then, I’m back, digging it out and lugging it to the kitchen table.

When I finish, I do all this in reverse and add a bit of sweeping up, polishing the table surface, and, sadly, trying to get the new marks I’ve accidentally made on the surface of my table up and off and out.

I’ve looked at a ton of websites that claim to instruct sewists in the fine art of sewing organization. Most of them are built around the notion that there will be a dedicated sewing room and at least $10,000 for decorating. The emphasis seems to be on expensive specialized sewing furniture to put in the sewing room.

Not only are these “dedicated sewing spaces” beyond my reach, they specialize in cute, and by that I mean the kind of cute that creates permanent visual clutter of the nerve-jangling variety. Among other things, they recommend that the sewist “go vertical” with her supplies by papering the walls of her “sewing space” with pegboards festooned with spools of thread, scissors, ribbons, elastics and such. The designers of these spaces evidently assume that people who sew not only love looking at that mess, but that they are all basketball players, since these displays are often pictured going straight up to the ceiling.

I don’t have the spare room or the $$ for decorating, and the thought of hanging such a bunch of stuff on the walls where I have to look at it makes me break out in hives. I want the what nots out of sight unless I’m using them. I want things to look calm, not all jangled up. I feel so strongly about that, you could call it a rule.

There are a few sites that talk about “sewing in a small space.” These seem to focus on cute; as in too cute by at least half.

They give advice on how to achieve cuteness that includes such impracticalities as storing expensive sewing notions in oh-so-precious, used cardboard egg cartons with the lids cut off. (I kid you not.) These uber cute knick knacks are photographed after they’ve been painted and decorated to make a pretty display. The photos show them with things like expensive pressure feet nestled in them, just waiting to be lost forever.

As if.

Several of these sites show cunning photos of a “sewing space in a closet.” There are shelves and a desk or table all neatly piled up to the ceiling with fabric and the tiny tools of sewing in a two door closet that is just about the size of the one that I have currently stuffed with fabric, batting, interfacing and things such as golf clubs and weights (It was a full-time exercise room before the sewing bug bit. My husband still thinks it’s an exercise room.)

All of these “sewing space in a closet” deals look claustrophobic. I think they’re more like “sewing-space-in-a-cell.”  They are crammed so full that the view from inside has to be constant visual chaos.

Staring at a wall, or, for visual relief, shifting my gaze to boxes full of random stuff, is not my kind of vista. I want to have a supply closet. I don’t want to live in one.

I’m the kind of gal who falls asleep when she’s getting an MRI. (No joke. I really do fall asleep during MRIs.) But I would find one of those old-sewists-in-a-shoe-had-so-much-stuff-she-didn’t-know-what-to-do cute, cute, cute “sewing-spaces” crazy making.

Besides, where would I cut the fabric? Where would I put the serger and the ironing board? Etc. Etc. Etc.

How do I organize this mess into something more functional?

I’ve already decided that I need to undo the year-long neglect I have inflicted on my poor house. It’s been licked and promised ever since I was diagnosed with cancer, and it’s getting to the point that I can’t stand it. My office — which I pretty much abandoned during the time of active treatment — became a catchall. Didn’t know where to put a thing? Put it there.

During the year, we had our first grandchild which added a ton of baby paraphernalia, I took up sewing and brought in major hobby paraphernalia, and I had surgeries and sickness mess which added its own piles of paraphernalia. Behind every closet door and in every drawer, there lurks a confused mess. All my newly acquired sewing purchases — and when I was in the sick-but-getting-better phase of being sick, I shopped online as … ummmm … let’s call it therapy — all my sewing purchases are just mess piled on top the mess.

I’m going to clean this house as it deserves to be cleaned, but I don’t have the stamina to do it on one big swoop. I’m going to have to go through it systematically, sorting, tossing, reorganizing and cleaning one area at a time. First, I will clean out closets, drawers and storage. And by that, I mean that I will clean out part of a closet. And rest. Then, I’ll clean out another part of the same closet. And rest. And so on, moving from one closet to the next until the job is done. It will take weeks.

Then, I’ll move on to steam cleaning the showers, dusting the tops of the ceiling fans, door casings, shampooing the carpets and polishing the wood.

I’m taking the pledge. No more retail therapy. I’ve taken out loans to get the medical bills under control. I’ll be paying them back for a good, long while, which is, odd as this sounds, kind of heartening. It assumes that I’ll be around to make those long-term payments. It seems the bank is optimistic about my future, and I’m happy to know it.

But I’ve still got to pay those bills. And I don’t need any more stuff. I’m full up on stuff right now.

So, the buying is finis. And the using is under way. I’m in the process of turning that fabric into clothing, both for me and for my granddaughter.

But the rest of it — the sewing machine, serger, notions and what nots of sewing — will remain. And I don’t have the first clue how to organize it so that I can sit down to sew at my kitchen table without spending a half hour getting things out and then another half hour putting them away when I finish.

Cleaning out the closets and drawers will open up storage space. I will have enough room to store everything. But how do I do it in a way that makes it easy to move what amounts to a major work area from storage and to the kitchen table, then back again?

Do any of you have ideas? You don’t have to sew to help me think this through. People who work on cars or do woodwork have remarkably similar organizational problems. That’s why my Stanley tool box is the single best organizational tool I’ve found for my sewing.

If you had to move your woodworking tools, supplies and projects from storage in disparate closets to the kitchen table, and work on it there, then put it back and clean up the mess afterwards, how would you simplify it? It’s pretty much the same sort of deal with sewing.

I’ve looked at big tool boxes that stand alone and would hold my sewing machine. But a sewing machine is too delicate for the garage — or at least I think so — and putting things out there would still leave me with the lugging it in/lugging it out problem. Besides, my husband thinks the garage is his. I park my car on my side of his garage. Other than that, I’m not allowed. He would pitch a fit if I started putting my stuff out there.

I need to organize and store the equipment and supplies of my sewing hobby in such a way that I can enjoy it without feeling like I’m preparing for a full-scale invasion of an alien planet every time I sit down to sew.

Ideas? Thoughts? Advice?

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