Friday, August 21, 2015

Sewing after Konmari

Konmari is a powerful thing. It's been the single most effective method for teaching me to live with less, to curate my belongings and really love what I own.

I saw this book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising on instagram. All over it in fact. It seems everyone in blogland was getting their hands on this book and changing their lives. I wasn't sure what this book could really offer me. I mean I'm creative by nature which means I'm absent minded. I put things down, get distracted, wander off and then wonder where I put that Really Important Thing. I spend ages looking for it only to find it in some nonsensical or sometimes really obvious spot.

Things don't always have homes when you are this way.

Also I'm very much a Right This Moment kind of person. If some idea strikes me I put everything down and go in the direction of the idea often leaving things scattered about the house in my wake. I know I'll come back to them later. Cleaning is always for later. Later, later, later. The idea is always more important, cleaning up the boring things that aren't giving me inspiration is not.

So it's fair to say that my house is not tidy.

With that said how did this little book with a simple message cut through all that?

With joy.

The idea is simple and powerful. Take the things you own. Put them in your hands, those hands of yours that have veins flowing right to your heart, and measure the joy or absence of joy you feel by holding these objects close.

I wasn't really a believer as I was reading the book to be honest but there was this incredibly powerful urge to try it nonetheless. No sooner had I read about purging my wardrobe than I was on the floor of my bedroom heaving my tatty collection of shoes onto the floor. I gripped those suckers in my hands and willed my heart to decide whether to keep them or not. And wouldn't you know it. My joy-o-meter was already fully functioning without me knowing. I was piling up shoes to give the old heave-ho quicker than you can say The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising. It's a pretty long title though don't you think?

To give you some perspective on this giddy beginning I am one of those people who doesn't drive. I have my Learner's permit which I've had on and off for the last 15 years with about as many hours driving experience. This means I walk EVERYWHERE and don't my shoes know it. I hold onto shoes far too long. I put them in the back recesses of my wardobe and think I can't possibly wear them out in public anymore. But then I can't possibly throw them away. They're like my lifelong pals or something. Anyway, it's weird. That was until I Konmari-ed the sh*t out of my shoe collection. Giddy I was. Giddy I tell you. Suddenly I wanted to throw EVERYTHING out.

My clothes, including my handmades, were no obstacle for this girl. I was on a rampage. I went through every bit of storage we had in our bedroom (we have a quite a lot because of built ins) and I tossed out box after box of stuff I would normally have called sentimental or lovely memories. They weren't lovely memories, let me tell you. They were things, objects I didn't need and just made me feel guilty when I opened up boxes. Oh so-and-so gave me that, I should probably put it on display somewhere. Like my house is a giant museum of outdated objects that the other person has probably completely forgotten they gifted them to me.

I stared down not one but two overflowing Ikea Expedit's crammed full of books. Books that sat gathering dust on the shelves while I happily wandered to the library every Saturday morning. I even found myself borrowing something from the library that I had on one of my bookshelves but it was just more exciting to borrow it than to fetch it, dust it off and read it from my forgotten bookshelves. We ended up piling up the books we did want to keep and cramming an entire Expedit full of all the books which wouldn't make it.

To be clear all this stuff I had accumulated that I didn't want made it's way to our garage. We'll be organising a giant garage sale in the coming weeks and I mean giant.

So where does this leave me with sewing? I know this is a sensitive topic for some because I've seen a bit of conversation about it on instagram as we sewists navigate letting go of the most beloved things we own in our houses. My sewing room was not brutal like the rest of my house. My tossing out of patterns (for the garage sale remember? Calm down) was pretty frenzied, my crafty stash of buttons and beads a little less so and then fabric was the smallest pile.

The hardest thing for me to justify letting go is fabric. I'm one of those people that actually makes muslins now. So any fabric, no matter how hideous, is useful. I can carve it up, draw all over it and perfect it to my heart's content. All in the name of learning.

So I didn't really cull the stash much. Although to be fair my entire stash fits in 4 squares of an Expedit. Which I imagine is pretty small by most sewists standards.

This exercise was great for my sewing. Let's face it most things are incredibly inspiring when it comes to sewing. Oh look I cleaned enough to see the floor - let me sew something! Oh look I discovered that really great pattern from the internet in my existing pattern stash already - let me sew it immediately! Oh look I hung all my tools back up on my pegboard - let me sew something! You get the idea.

My Konmari was quite a few weeks ago now though and I've started to feel uneasy about my sewing. There was something really wonderful about the fervour of Konmari. It really hones in on what brings you joy and what you really don't need hanging about cluttering up the place. And while I don't have an excessive stash of fabric or patterns (even less so now) this idea of joy is bugging me more now than ever.

I thought it was nice that I came out of Konmari ready to muslin my first pair of pants, my first jacket, my first attempt at sewing for hubby, my first attempt at sewing a swimming cossie. I thought it was both great and convenient that I was so ultra focussed that all the things that had fear attached to them seemed to jump to the top of the queue without question. But I didn't know why. Why can't I sew another dress anymore? Why can't I sew another shirt anymore? Why? Why? Why? 

Apart from the nasty episode with my sewing machine being in for a service for way too long, I've been avoiding my sewing room without reason for far too long. I've finished some projects off that I've started but I can't bring myself to make anything new from start to finish.

But it dawned on me the other day. The reason for my discontent.

I have too much joy.

That might sound ridiculous, so stay with me here. When I make a new dress it brings me a sh*t ton of joy. I get the joy of buying fabric, the joy of sewing it, the joy of instagramming it, the joy of blogging it and then the ongoing joy of wearing it. That's not too much joy. That's normal for us.
What's got me in a bind is how many things I make for myself. Last year I made myself a great jersey winter dress and loved that dress to death. Not actually. It's great fabric so it still looks the same today as it did the day I made it, but you get what I'm saying. This year I decided I loved that winter dress so much that I would make another and another and another and another out of jersey, ponte and scuba and then I loved them so much I made another winter dress in chambray.

So. Much. Joy.


But when is it too much joy?

Just because I can make myself a ton of dresses and bring myself joy along the way and every single time I hold them in my hands, does that justify it? Is it ok for me to have a collection of dresses that eventually won't fit into my wardrobe just because it brings me joy? Doesn't this cycle get selfish somewhere along the way? And unsustainable?

Here is the crux of simplifying things. I don't want so many handmade clothes anymore. I mean I want the ones I've made. I love them. They define me.

But maybe I don't want to churn out clothes just because I'm at a skill level where I can look at a piece of fabric and just about turn it into whatever I like.

I think it really is time to pull back on wardrobe filling. I don't want to play the RTW game with handmades.

That's why I want to sew in unchartered territory. Make some pants, a jacket, a few great shirts for my husband. Sure I'll make stuff for myself along the way. I'll allow myself to be frivolous from time to time but I don't want the burden of all that joy overflowing from my wardrobe.

Know what I mean?

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