Making Plans, Stashbusters, and Clearing Out

Every year in January I make some time to clean out something. This year it seems like so much more than ever before can just go. After the year of lockdown in 2020, and tentatively venturing out in 2021, this past year has seen more activity, but still not the way it was before covid. And I doubt it ever will be again. I don’t see us ever going back to having dinner parties, or even overnight guests much, although I am looking forward to having a long time friend visit from Wisconsin in March. My Sweet Babboo keeps making noises about downsizing and moving, and I am ready to decrease the amount of stuff in the house, to donate or sell a lot of things. But I am not ready to give up the wildlife, the view, our veranda or my sewing space with a longarm machine.

I was standing in the basement laundry room the other day, looking at the shelves full of decorating and tablescaping stuff, and wondering why I am keeping all that. I haven’t had a luncheon or dinner party in four years, not since before lockdown. Although I have participated in a tablescaping blog hop here and there, it just isn’t that important to me anymore. So, I’ll go through all that in the next month or so, and try to pare down to just a few things that will make our everyday tables nice, but not over the top. I mean, at this point, do I really need 14 sets of 6-8 chargers in various colors and shapes? Probably not. Readers have often asked about my storage area, and I have been reluctant to show it, but here it is. It is stuffed full of things I should get rid of, like the 50 year old electric skillet I used to cook meals with in college, and then used at the race track to cook when My Sweet Babboo did vintage racing. There’s a lot more here that can go as well.

One year I did my clothing closet, pulling out all my clothes and going through them with a critical eye. In 2021, after a year of wearing mostly pjs around the house, I planned to go through the closet again with that same ruthless eye. I did find a few things, but I didn’t do the thorough clean out that I needed to do. So, I put that back on the list for this month. My post What’s In Your Closet? involves taking a hard look at every item, deciding what can be repaired or altered, what is stained beyond use and should be thrown away, what no longer fits and can be donated, and what to keep.  There is detailed wardrobe analysis information on that post, applicable to clothes lovers like me, and to the nothing but t-shirts and jeans crowd, too. I still have things I like that I haven’t worn in a few years, because I had no place to wear them. Pretty sweaters and corduroy pants, sleeveless shells in every color imaginable, clothes meant for every season, what should I do? People will sometimes comment on how ‘dressed up’ I am for a guild meeting or a dinner out, but if I don’t wear those clothes then, when would I have a chance?

This month, along with my clothes closet, I plan to clean out the office closet again. I have so much shipping stuff, yet I have not been listing things for sale. I need to take my address off all these and recycle them, but I learned something surprising about recycling when it comes to mailers like these. Of course, re-using them to mail something else is best, but there are rules to follow when discarding into recycle bins.

Only the ones that are all plastic or all paper are easy to recycle. Paper ones like these can be put into any paper recycling collection.

Bubble mailers that are all plastic can be recycled, but they have to go into special bins for recycling plastic bags. We have those collection bins in our grocery stores for single use plastic bags. I also put bread bags and toilet paper wrappers in those. Any plastic bagging materials can be recycled in that manner.

The surprising thing concerned the ones we use most often, a combination of paper outside and plastic bubble wrap inside. These cannot be recycled as is. The plastic is considered a contaminant in paper recycling, and the paper is a contaminant in plastic recycling. So they get thrown into the landfill either way unless you make more effort.

It means separating the paper outside from the plastic bubble wrap inside, and placing them in the proper bins. Paper goes into the paper recycle, and the bubble wrap goes into the plastic bag bins. This is a bit of a pain, as often they do not separate easily. I cut my address off this one, then tried to get the bubble wrap off the back. It wasn’t easy, and I see why people don’t bother with this. With an entire shelf full of this kind of mailer, it will take days to get this done. From now on, I won’t use these mailers, I’ll get either all plastic or all paper. I get too much to use them all for mailing things back out, especially when we crank up the next Safelight project.

If you’d like to see some more posts on getting organized and cleaning out, here are links to posts in previous years for particular areas of the house –
Getting Organized Saving Recipes – finding a way to deal with all those clipped recipes
Clearing out a Closet – dealing with things kept for a purpose no longer practical
January Clean Out – tackling the linens and dishes

Dealing with keeping food fresh and reducing waste and freezer burn was the focus of my post on Clearing Out and My Dirty Little Secret. I share the way I eliminated having freezer burned food, plus using up things in the pantry before it was too late.

Now, to Stashbusters. First, I want to congratulate all the winners of the monthly Sulky giveaways and the grand prize on the last check in.
February winner – Rheanna
March – Kathie Weatherford
April – Pat Naveau
May – Sarah Wolfe
June – Diann at Little Penguin Quilts
July – Nancy H
August – Niki B
September – Elaine Nemeth
October – no drawing due to Autumn Jubilee
November – Connie Wolfe
December – Jo Anne Seccurra
January Grand Prize – June Neigum

Enough readers said they wanted to continue this year (even without prizes) so we will continue with monthly reports on the first Friday of the month. Today, set up a way to keep track in your sewing room, whether that is a clipboard with a pad of paper, a spiral notebook, or a file on your computer, make it easy to access so you’ll use it. We start at zero for the new year. No, you do not need to take inventory, and if you were on the plus side for your year to date in 2022, that reverts back to zero now. Just track how much you bring in versus how much goes out. Fabric in is reported as a plus (+) as it is added to the stash. Fabric used is reported as minus (-) as it is subtracted from the stash. As January for me is clean out time, here are two posts on getting a head start on the ‘fabric out’ – Cleaning Out the Stash, and Scraps Clean Out – from previous posts. Donating and discarding are perfectly fine ways to reduce the unwanted fabric, and both those posts have projects to help. Full disclosure, my stash closet is a mess again. More on that later.

If you have a blog, here’s a button you can use on your sidebar. This challenge goes hand in hand with every other quilt along, rainbow challenge and mystery quilt from fellow bloggers. Use this URL for the button and it will always bring up the latest Stashbuster posts –

So, there are my plans for the next couple of months for cleaning out and paring down. Do you set goals for reducing or organizing for January? What are your plans?

40 thoughts on “Making Plans, Stashbusters, and Clearing Out

  1. Rita C.

    It’s good to be accountable to ourselves. I have really been acutely aware of it since 2018 in our downsizing journey. Whether you actually take that step or not to move, you’ve got a good method going. Lmk if you choose to not participate at all in tablescaping in 2023. I understand! I’m feeling good about whittling down my booth inventory, and I reuse those paper/plastic markers to protect storing porcelain and ceramics for the time being.

  2. Darla

    Great post, Carole, and nice to get to know you a little better with your thoughts on letting go of things from our previous way of life. Tough decisions and also a little sad.
    I guess we all need to welcome change and new ways of doing things in our lives.

  3. You basement storage area looks organized, but you just have an abundance. If a move of any sort is in your future, cleaning out now will be such a boon when the even happens. In the meantime you will not be weighed down with “stuff” that is not used or seldom used.

    Thanks for the info about the mailing bags. It does annoy me to find that my efforts to recycle are defeated because of mixed materials. I guess I would put on a good movie and surround myself with those bags and trash bag and rip away: paper, plastic and those that won’t separate.

    I will be tracking my fabric in/out as mentioned before. It took a couple of months to get a method that was easy but it is easy now and part of my quilting journal routine. Love seeing the concrete numbers even if it is more in than out for a month.

    Make the “clean out” a joyful event that brings you happiness.

  4. We got a heavy duty shredder and I am shredding everything I get my hands on, even decades old magazines, like Southern Living. Hubby is the cook has has tons of cookbooks but mostly uses online recipes now.

  5. Mary Stori

    Oh I’m singing your song too. We got rid of a ton from two houses we had in WI before moving here……felt so good. But now this one is full too….. I too like the idea of downsizing….esp. the amount of property we have to maintain…..but ‘the husband’ says he’s not budging!!

  6. Downsize…Purge…Use the Stash. It seems to be the mantra of many this January, including myself. I actually made several New Year’s resolutions this year. #1 Clean up and clear out the UFOs that have been patiently waiting and collecting dust. I have 7 quilts and 3 scrapbooks that need finishing. One per month is my goal for that. #2 Purge the Stashes. Yes, I sew and also do scrapbooking, so double stash for me. I am going through it all with a very critical eye and have amassed quite a pile already. I want to try to sell some of it and will donate some. #3 I have several ongoing projects, many of which are Christmas gifts (yes, I’m planning ahead already!). I want to try to use stash fabrics, papers, kits, etc in all of those. I write a monthly Craft Newsletter to close friends and will keep a “scorecard” on those goals, just to keep my head in the game.

  7. Carole, you are excellent
    Thank you for the …. motivational message.
    I do have a lot of stuff in this big house.
    I do know in order to down size enough, we should only keep what we can fit on just one level of this house which is about 1900 sq ft. not bad.
    Anyway, just thinking about it makes me want to climb back in bed hahhahaa
    plus I have a lot of mom and dads stuff here….
    If you down size and move, where would you go?
    Hubbs and I do not know. Staying in northern Virginia 35 miles west of the swamp has it’s benefits, but it is expensive.
    I am excited to follow along on your stash busters trail. I probably will not participate bc I only have about 10 other projects, plus daddy keeps me busy.

  8. Rheanna

    Thanks for the motivation. The clutter in our house has been bugging me of late. I think I am going to start with the holiday decorations and pare those down. Plenty were left in the boxes this year which tells me it is time to purge. Next will be reorganization of my sewing room closet. I had stored Christmas gifts in there this year which led to a lot of things being scattered. Needs a good clean out.

  9. it is amazing isn’t it how life has changed into “before covid” “and now” I used to run around a lot, go to the fitness center daily and then run around doing errands stopping this place and that and always dressed somewhat nicely as you never knew who you would run into and where you would end up – perhaps a coffee shop if you ran into someone you knew – although for me it has always been jeans & comfy shirts – and then there was covid and life changed and a treadmill at home became my best friend. My closet is overflowing and I don’t have one dress in it – for me it is dozens of sweaters and shirts, walking shoes, hiking boots, various slippers – and then life changed and it was leggings and like you say living in your pj’s – for me it was sweats and leggings as I have never liked to wear pj’s all day – but yes the closet needs to be cleared out!

  10. Patty Brenner

    I started out last year thinking I’d do the stash busters, but quit when I bought a LOT of fabric from our spring shop hop. Then I went to the Houston quilt show in November and bought even more. I haven’t sewn nearly enough and I get overwhelmed just looking at or even thinking about my stash. I started a list of the quilts and things I think I really will make, and I’m going to let go of some of the fabric that doesn’t fit those projects. Thankfully I know of some groups that make charity quilts so it will be put to good use. We still maintain two homes (husband’s job in AZ, mine in TX, and I go back and forth), but we are getting close to retirement age – I’ve got my husband on board with starting to downsize things at both houses so it’s easier to combine into one when we do retire. It’s hard work but feels so good to start seeing empty spaces 🙂

  11. Nothing like moving, locally or long distance to motivate one to clear out stuff you have been saving and thinking you’ll use or re-purpose one day. I use the “two year rule”. If I haven’t used it or looked at it or touched it in two years, out it goes! Recycle it, thrift shop it, give it away! Any charitable auctions get a quilt or two. 😀👍🏻 It works, you feel empowered over your stuff and you rarely, if ever miss it!

  12. Vicki

    My community was in the direct path of Ian late September and while we were spared with only a downed pool cage and some minor damage, others were not. Many lost everything to the surge and after helping friends clear out water-drenched items, I’ve made it my goal to purge everything I can. I’ve sold fabric online and made more than $1500 (of course, much less than I’d spent on that fabric). We are putting in new flooring so every closet will eventually be emptied and I’ve vowed to only put back what fits with space to spare. It’s hard work for sentimental folk like me. Good luck to us all and here’s to less clutter in our future!

    1. I hear you, I hold on to sentimental things too. We have heirloom furniture I just can’t imagine getting rid of! What to do ! I certainly don’t want it just going in a bin. We do try to have those hard family talks but not often. Destashing and donating has become a mantra so I am doing okay there. Less clutter makes up lighter!

  13. Diane Newton

    I totally agree, we will never get back to life before covid. Sometimes life feels topsy turvy, but we will keep on quilting. Diane

  14. I keep saying that I need a move to get everything cleaned out at the same time. The thought is overwhelming. People just do not entertain like they used to with all the fancy dishes. Everything is so much more casual which allows the hosts to enjoy their guests even more. I guess that is the good side of it. I just need to get to that point. 😉

  15. I’ve been thinking it’s time to go through the closets again and get rid of clothes we don’t wear. I’ve done that a couple times since I retired 7 years ago, and can’t figure out why they’re still full, lol! I would have a hard time leaving your spot, too – the views and the wildlife you see are just wonderful. Thanks for continuing with Stashbusters – I found it really interesting to keep track of my fabric purchases and usage!

  16. Such great info! I just recently learned of the ability to recycle some mailers and package wrapping along with the plastic grocery bags. We still do curbside grocery pickup and the clerk that brings our order to the car, will gladly take my bag of recycling back into the store! Win-win! I am going to try to follow along with Stashbusters this year! I should be back in my sewing space by the first of February! 🤞

    1. Do you stitch when you’re away? We are doing our first stretch of away time ( newly retired).I do a lot of donating, we keep a box in the mud room for anything and everything and I have a few local shops that get them. Our cities here in Canada are stopping plastic use. First up is plastic grocery bags! yay us!

  17. Di L

    I just LOVE all you are saying about plastics.We need to get rid of them very soon, as a great deal of it is in landfill, & worse in the sea, and in the bodies of animals who are eating it by accident. It is a total nightmare. I love that you care. Stick to paper as much as possible. Another thing for the crafters to be concerned about is all the waste created by glitter and helium balloons. Just multiply their use by 1 for 50% of the countries population, & imagine the mountain of trash! Biodegradable doesn’t do the job because it just makes tiny grains that get into EVERYthing. So sad, because all these things look such fun.

  18. Elle

    Over time, I have marveled at your beautiful table settings and decor. Each and every one is warm and inviting and luxurious.

    My immediate second thought “where on earth does she store all this stuff that other 50 weeks of the year”? I’m a moderate minimalist in a 1650 sf home with empty space in the closets and cupboards. My Long-Arm is in the “formal living room” (Our home was built in the 80s before “open concept” was a thing). along with our desk and my upright grand piano. It’s snug but all usable, just not at the same time. If hubster needs to “work from home”, I cannot quilt but I can go to my Studio and stitch. My studio? We took down the walls between 2 bedrooms and a hallway and created 1 large room. Hubster built a Murphy bed so that when we have overnight guests, they have a comfortable real bed and a nice big space to spread out and enjoy. (the space is 14x19f).

    I share all that detail as you talk about downsizing as if you can’t have a LA and you CAN 🙂

    Enjoy the year and the journey through sorting and lightening your load!

  19. Kathleen M Cuilan

    Hi Carole. I applaud you for going through and getting rid of extra, no longer needed stuff! I myself bought the book called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson. Very enlightening for me and actually pushed me to clean, clear, and free up space in my home two years ago. I have felt so much better since doing it. I do start to fall back every now and then and I have to talk myself out of buying stuff. LOL But it was and still is a freeing experience for me!

  20. Kim from TN

    It is always a challenge to get rid of items that we paid good money for and still are useable, but we don’t use anymore. Over the Christmas holidays we were alone, so I took the time to clean up our kitchen. Sorted all those extras that one has but never uses. Lots of unnecessary utensils, Tupperware pieces, out of date spices etc. I need to do our closet and the dressers; we tend to add clothes but never eliminate any. Good luck dealing with your shelves full of treasures.

  21. June Neigum

    Whoa, I was shocked to see my name on the stash busters winners list. What do I have to do and what did I win??

  22. lois92346

    What a totally INSPIRING blog post, Carole. It was such an enjoyable read. I’m with you 100% on staying put in your lovely home. I would have to be dragged away, kicking and screaming. My hat is off to you for deciding to drastically thin out your tablescape materials. THAT alone will be a huge undertaking. I’m about to launch into another round of purging “seldom-to-never-used” items around my house and garage. I’m going to look into the links you’ve provided for past blog posts on the subject. I know I’ve read them before but it never hurts to revisit topics such as these.

  23. Mary

    My first thing to say is don’t be in a hurry to leave your beautiful spot with all your lovely views and room to move and probably no close neighbour noise!!
    Just thinking about ‘downsizing makes me feel weary!!
    I used to think downsizing was when the kids left home but now it means getting rid of all the things that have given you pleasure for some time. It’s very hard to decide to get shot of all these bits but that’s the new ‘in Saying’ because it’s fashionable.
    Books are the hardest because there is usually a history around actually owning it.
    I am a lover of kitchen gear and the thought of dumping it is toe curling.
    Clothes we need to wear but as we don’t get to go far these days (Covid) they sit hopefully in the wardrobe and I wear the same things all the time!!
    My sewing room is my happy place too. I always tell people that I will be so embarrassed when I’m dead and they go into my sewing room to clear it out because of all the ‘stuff’ in there.
    I’ll get round to clearing a bit of ‘stuff’ out one day and if I leave it long enough I won’t have to. :))

  24. Your storage area looks good, at least. I have a five-year downsizing plan. The clothes are easy. The books are medium. But then comes everything else. One step at a time! I’ll probably look back to a few of your posts!

  25. Julie

    Every year is a new beginning. I really enjoyed reading your plans & all the comments – looks as if there are a lot of like-minded people here. I just rearranged the downstairs where my sewing was spread out & consolidated a lot. My library is hosting a craft giveaway, I’m going to donate some things there &, most importantly, not bring anything home. I remain committed to your fabric stashbusters plan – Congratulations to all the winners! Even if you didn’t win or if you couldn’t continue for the whole year, don’t you feel like you improved things just by participating & moving fabric out the door?

  26. jseccurrtwcnyrrcom

    Your information about the mailing envelopes was an eye opener. After reading your blog, will never buy the padded mailers with the plastic bubbles inside again.

    When I moved to this home 30 years ago, I told my husband that I was putting my anchor down and when it came time to say good by to this place my plan was to auction the house and everything in it and we’d just walk away. LOL. I’m trying to clear out areas with a 15 minute a day approach as it doesn’t seem so overwhelming…and I’m finding that once I start I’m immersed in it much longer.

    I’m ready for 2023 Stashbusters! I’ve started a new spreadsheet. It was satisfying looking at my 2022 Stashbusters worksheet and realizing how many UFOs, charity and other projects got done!

    I am grateful for your sharing and inspiration!

  27. I think it feels great to clean out things. I try to do a closet or cupboard pretty regularly. I could take another swipe at the sewing room too, but couldn’t we all!

  28. Joan Sheppard

    I am cleaning too. Started when I wanted the silver cleaner at the very back of the kitchen cupboard (safely away from the kids) so while everything was out I pitched about half of it AND THERE’S STILL TOO MUCH STUFF! LOL Next week is the main bathroom. Working up to the sewing room. Clothes closet, you are very brave. So many memories there, a party, a vacation, a special dinner… Thanks for being our cheerleader!

  29. Sharon Vrooman

    The tupperware and plastic ware was a big removal for me and it was donated to the local food bank. The fridge needs a good scrubbing now that things are cleared.

  30. Sandi Scarlett

    I have never set goals for cleaning out as I guess I never really thought about it. I think it’s a great idea and plan on doing it and also getting things done that I keep putting off.

  31. Marjolein

    First, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year. It’s a bit late but here in Europe the Griep / Influenza keeps a lot of people at home.
    I read off all your plans of cleaning and doing things away.
    We have a lot of things and that what we keep for years means a lot to us. It’s a bit of the history of our live.
    I have two grandchildren ( 2 and 4 years old) and all kind of things come down .
    Toys, the sleigh , all kind of things.
    I love that.
    But what has to go are my skates and my skiand skishoes. To old for that now.
    Recycling is very important but I am not too fast in giving things away. It’s funny that here in Holland things from Tupperware are looked for! The quality is so good; it last more than a lifetime.
    Thanks for your blogs and your quilting inspiration.
    Have a good year.

  32. I think we all reach a stage when we realise we no longer need all that we have. I have found that approaching it all in small steps really helps to clean out all the excess. Definitely worth it. And great to know that someone else gets to use all the useful items when they are donated to a good cause.

  33. Thank you so much for this great post and the links. One of my sons is a great ridder and loosely f0llows the Marie Kondo type letting go. I think he is a bit brutal about it but it sure keeps his family tidy. You discover your own treasures and value what you have. I sorted the Christmas decorations and managed to donate early December so others could use them. It felt great to only 6 bins back instead of 9!! See you in the stashbuster links.

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