How to Organize Your Yarn Stash, Part 2: Pare It Down!

comments (6) August 20th, 2008     

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LindaPermann Linda Permann, contributor
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My stash after the decluttering operation, shown with the big bag of yarn Im getting rid of.

My stash after the decluttering operation, shown with the big bag of yarn I'm getting rid of.

Photo: Linda Permann

Okay, you've got all of your yarn untangled and in one place, but you're totally miffed as to how to decide what should stay and what should go. Or maybe you think you're a crazy person for giving anything away at all. But after painfully sorting through my own stash to write this series of posts, I came up with some great reasons to let your yarn go. Keep these thoughts in mind when you are sorting through your yarn to stay motivated.

1. Everything in your stash should be inspiring. I know it's tempting to hang on to that brown acrylic yarn because your sister just had a baby who needs a teddy bear....but don't you think it would be cuter to make a colorful version? Be honest with yourself about what you like and what you'll use, and don't keep yarn just because you'll feel guilty getting rid of it (this especially applies to yarn that "isn't you" but was a gift). The way I see it, there is someone out there who will love it, so set it free. Projects you make with materials you truly love always turn out better. And if you end up needing that yarn sometime, there will be more waiting for you at the store.

2. Consider the color and amount of each yarn. If you're hanging on to a certain yarn because you want to make a sweater with it but realistically there is not enough to make a sweater, either let it go or come up with a new game plan, such as:

  • Order the remaining balls so you can start the project. Although this might sound counterintuitive to reducing your stash, actually making stuff with stash yarn is a great way to reduce it, even if you have to take on a couple balls of extra yarn to get going. (Note: If you don't want to spend the money on the extra yarn, maybe it's just not "you" anymore. Don't throw good after bad; consider the options below instead.)
  • Make a smaller project (you can let the extra balls go right now!).
  • Combine the yarn with another yarn or color to complete the project (or an alternate project).
  • Swap (or sell) the yarn for something that suits you. Read Jennifer Worrick's post on hosting a crafty swap if you've got lots to get rid of. Just remember to come back with less yarn than you brought!

3. Think about what kinds of projects you like to make now. See if you have a lot of certain types of yarn (for instance, sock yarn). Then be realistic about how many projects of that type you actually complete on a regular basis. If there's something you were once interested in but no longer like to make, donate or swap the corresponding yarn.

4. If you're on a budget, have a conversation with yourself about acquiring new yarn. It's so fun to buy new yarn—I know! But rest easy knowing that no matter when or where you are, beautiful yarn will be available to you. There's no actual need to stockpile it in your house. Personally, I try to let the local yarn shop do that for me. Yarn bought when you're not actually ready to make a project usually goes straight to the stash. If you've already got a sizeable stash but don't want to totally put a moratorium on spending (which usually doesn't work anyway), try setting a goal number of yarns to have in your stash for each type of project. For example, let's say you have a lot of sweater yarn. Maybe you want to only ever have enough yarn for four sweaters at a time—that seems realistic to me. As you complete one sweater, then you are allowed to buy another set of yarn for the next sweater. Don't set the number too high (starting with the number of projects in your stash is decent; lowering it down a couple is even better) or you'll defeat the purpose. If you like to work on a few different types of projects (socks, hats, sweaters), you can set a different number for each category.

5. Using the number you set for yourself, pare down further. Let's say you have enough yarn to complete eight pairs of socks. If you had to, I bet you could pick the five you like best. And if you like those five best, chances are you wouldn't work with the other three until you used up the first five. Between now and then, you might even purchase more sock yarn that you'd work with first, so why keep those three less desirable balls around? Try to set yourself up so that the only way to buy more yarn is to actually use (or give away) the yarn you have. Remember: buying yarn is fun, but completing projects is better.

6. If the number doesn't work for you, dedicate a certain amount of space. For instance, set a goal such as "my stash will only fill three 66-quart bins." If you want to buy something new that's going in the stash, something else must come out to make the space for it.

7. If all else fails, follow the old clothing rule. If you want to majorly purge your stash, use the old standby: If you haven't used it in a year, toss it. If you move often (which I seem to do), and you can remember wondering if you should get rid of a particular skein last time, and it's still there...well, you know the answer. When faced with parting with it last time, it's likely you were at your most motivated to use it. If it's still around, chances are it's just not inspiring you anymore.

8. If it's too weird to let go right away, store your "donate" bag for a little while. Put it in the closet for a few months and see if you even go back to it to find a yarn you miss. If not, it's ripe for donating!

I know that part of the very definition of being crafty is working with what you've got. But getting rid of some of your "junk" yarn really does free you up to think about the yarn you have and love, and eventually sets you up to buy exactly the yarn you want for each project you complete.

When I started writing this, my stash consisted of:

  • Two 66-quart bins
  • Two approximately 30-quart buckets
  • One 2x2-foot Ziploc bag
  • One under-bed bag


And by following the steps outlined above (and squeezing lots of air out of each bag of yarn), the stash is down to the two bins and one overflowing bucket of WIPs. I'm happy to say that I'm donating or swapping the rest.

Once you've got your yarn pared down, store it in the slider bags and place them into bins or boxes (sorted in categories that make sense to you). If you have room to store it in a hutch or shelving system, you certainly don't have to bag it. Try to keep your yarn in an accessible place so you know that you have plenty of materials on hand when you want to start a project. After all, knowing what you have is a big part of staying organized. If you'd like to really kick into gear, check out Tina Hilton's recent post on taking inventory of your stash.

Next week, I'll show you how to whip up a pretty hook case to contain all of your hooks, so be sure to fish any strays out of your stash as you organize it.

posted in: stash

Comments (6)

Tuxedokatz writes: In my church they gather even 2 or 3 yards of yarn and use it to make hats for the kids who in poor areas of town who need hats. They want to make the hats colorful so the kids are not identified as gang members.
Posted: 9:07 pm on April 7th
AlwaysKnitting writes: I'm challenging myself to pare down my stash by making as many Christmas presents as I can. My goal is clean out my entire under-the-bed bag. Anything that fits into a dresser drawer in the guest room is fair game to keep.


Posted: 4:31 pm on December 9th
MrsEhorn writes: I have a friend who only buys for specific projects and doesn't buy more until she finishes one and starts another. I really admire her self control... but man, I don't know that I could do that.

Thank you for the tips on organizing, though my stash isn't huge relative to some people's, our one bedroom apartment makes it look big! I would love to find a corner hutch to keep it all in, that would be amazing.

oh and ps - if anyone has any yarn they are giving away in the Chicago/Minneapolis area, I will take it for my knitting/crocheting club at church...
Posted: 2:59 pm on October 29th
pepsi4me55 writes: I used to also wonder what to do with the leftover yarns. Then I got an idea of making afghans with them. I believe some of the afghans made with the odd yarns are much prettier than the ones I have bought certain colors for. Another thing I am presently doing is making hats on my kniffty knitter. Teens especially love the "funky" combinations I come up with.
Posted: 7:49 pm on October 24th
LindaPermann writes: Pandabearcubs-- I am sure you could try posting on a site like freecycle.org to find someone who has yarn to part with. Thrift stores are also good places to find lots of yarn for very little.
Posted: 2:09 am on August 25th
Pandabearcubs writes: I used to have several skeins and balls of odd yarn from projects that I completed. Now I need to restock my shelves with new. I have been asking for others who might have old yarn that they might like to get rid of and I would love to have it. I make things to donate too. I will be buying more yarns in the future. I have several things I want to make for Christmas for one of our kids whose house burnt down and they lost everything. So I am making hats, scarves, mittens, toys, and afghans for them for the cold weather.
Posted: 12:53 pm on August 23rd
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