Conquering Your Stash: Musings on Yarn, Organization & Letting Go

This article was originally published in Holla Knits Warm Weather Accessories 2015.

When I first got into knitting--really into knitting--I became obsessed with the idea of having a stash. Initially like most beginners, I bought yarn for one careful project at a time and knit monogamously on it until it was finished. Once I was introduced to this nebulous concept of stash, of having a yarn store within your house, of buying yarn willy-nilly with no empty needles waiting for it….that was my downfall.

Okay, so it’s not really that ominous! Having a stash is a fantastic tool to have at your disposal as a knitter, especially if you don’t have a LYS within easy distance or prefer to buy most of your yarn online. Stash is great for last-minute gift knits, swatching stitch patterns before committing to knitting a whole sweater in a p5tog pattern, and for queuing up your next project without having to shop for more yarn. As time went on though, I found my stash had become a proverbial ball and chain. My stash yarn guilt-tripped me from its storage bins and my tastes evolved, making a portion of it no longer appealing or useable. In becoming a designer, I now viewed my stash in new light; thus, the Great Stash Clean-Out was born.

The internet is buzzing about konmari, a cleaning and organizational technique developed by Marie Kondo. I’m not about to buy a book about cleaning (let’s be honest here!) but a quick Google search yielded the basic steps of the konmari method, the first of which involves dumping all of the items in question out on the floor so one can view the extent of the issue. Or maybe be shamed into cleaning their floors first, which is what I did. After a quick vacuuming, my 60-gallon storage tubs were unceremoniously upended and all scattered balls of yarn were rescued from their various nooks around the rest of the house. I looked at my stash in all its glory, organized it by color and weight for fun, took notes, and divided it into ‘yes’ and ‘heck no’ piles. The ‘heck no’ pile included partial balls I’ll never use--such as the leftovers from small knitting projects for ex-boyfriends, yikes!--and yarns in colors or fibers I’ve since discovered I’m not terribly fond of. (Cotton: I’m Just Not That Into You.)

A surprising trend that emerged was my apparent desire to buy yarn for the knitter I wish I was, not the knitter I actually am. I ooh-ed and ahh-ed over countless gorgeous fingering weight sweaters on Ravelry and in the process, somehow convinced myself that I was really, totally going to knit a bunch of fingering weight sweaters. I like knitting shawlettes and socks but don’t dedicate too much time to them, so the reasoning must have went something like this: “Oh, what gorgeous sock yarn! I don’t need new socks or a shawl though, so I know! I’ll buy 4 skeins instead and make a sweater!” (Repeat 4 more times, never actually knit said sweater.) This realization led me to make some guidelines for myself and my rejuvenated stash.

Above all else: be honest and don’t be afraid to let go. It’s only yarn and if it’s not bringing you joy, it’s not worth holding on to. As knitters we control our yarn, by knitting it into new shapes to create textures and beauty, and blocking finished objects into submission until they are just right. Don’t let your yarn control you!