When I downsized, I reduced my stash from 144 boxes of yarn to 40 boxes. It has been transferred to an armoire and five nine-shelf sweater bags with zipper covers as well as eight of the original boxes. My knitting books have been reduced to two shelves. I feel that I have done a good job and I try to knit out of stash whenever possible, but as every lifelong knitter knows, sometimes I must succumb to temptation.
How big is too big where stash yarn is concerned? I am in my early sixties and becoming resentful of comments that I will die before I use my yarn.
Stashes are one of the most personal things I know. They’re an extension of our bodies and our souls, a manifestation of our hopes and dreams in wooly form.
To suggest that someone’s stash is too big, or to shame a person for buying new yarn when they “already have yarn” in their stash, conveys a profound misunderstanding of why we stash in the first place.
I do know a few serial monogamists who work on one project at a time, buying new yarn only when the needles are again empty. But they are the minority. Most of the knitters I know, and I’m including myself here, maintain healthy yarn stashes with only a vague connection between intake and output.
We stash with the very best intentions. We stash for the pure love of a yarn, for the way it makes us feel when we touch it or examine it in the sunlight, for the story it tells, for the memories it holds of a time or place in our life.
There are no rules about stash size, nor are there any rules about using all your yarn before you buy more—unless it’s a rule you want to impose on yourself, and that’s your choice. But it’s certainly not for someone else to say. Likewise, I don’t recall signing any agreement to use up all my yarn and scrub the shelves clean before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Did you? The next time someone uses that line, you might do well to remind them that it isn’t in our rule book.
Now, I think it is important to acknowledge that you have, at one time in your life, had a pretty sizable stash. I don’t know how big these boxes were, but 144 of any kind of box sounds like a lot. Maybe the people giving you grief today still see you as the 144-box stasher of yesteryear.
Then you downsized. You eliminated more than 70 percent of your yarn and got rid of all but two shelves of books. Presumably you love what you kept, you use it whenever you can, and you feel pretty proud of yourself. That’s a huge shift. Can we pause to acknowledge this?
Basic Questions to Ask
You mention that you must succumb to temptation from time to time. Of course. If the arrival of new yarn is raising eyebrows or has even you worried, let’s reduce the discussion to some basic questions.
- Are your hallways still navigable?
- Do you no longer use your stove because the oven is filled with yarn? Is the fridge unplugged and packed with skeins?
- Do you no longer bathe because the tub is full of yarn?
- When you go to bed at night, do you have a clean bed to sleep on, or is it covered in yarn so you just curl up in a corner on the floor?
- Are you embarrassed to have people over for fear they’ll see the size of your stash and judge you and/or call the authorities?
- Are you not paying for housing, food, and clothing—taking care of your basic human needs—in order to buy more yarn instead?
No? I didn’t think so.
There’s a line between “collector” and “future candidate for Hoarders: Buried Alive,” and those questions begin to draw it. If any struck a little too close to home, perhaps it’s time for another culling of the skeins. Just a little one.
Your letter didn’t specify if you were getting grief from people who share your home, or just from friends who come to visit. Living alone is a fantastic luxury that can get us into trouble if we have acquisitive tendencies and nobody to keep them in check. But when we share our home with other people, we must compromise. If your stash downsizing was a compromise, I’d say well done you. I’ve lived for more than two decades with a minimalist and am, myself, a “non-minimalist.” We’ve had to navigate some compromises, especially where the yarn is concerned.
Which is to say, if your family is currently cowering in the garage because your yarn still takes up every room in the house, it may be time for another talk. But if you’ve negotiated a distribution of space that feels equitable to all parties, what you do with your space is your decision.
And as long as your stash is a source of richness and inspiration to you personally, as long as you’re taking care of all your basic needs and have negotiated a fair use of space with others, then the actual size of this stash? Nobody’s business but your own.