Ditch The Stash: Five Tricks For Getting Rid Of All That Yarn You Don ’t Use

Jun 15, 2010
This is a chapter from my book The Minimalist Knitter's Handbook
 


As a minimalist knitter, my goal is to only have enough yarn in my possession to knit projects for a three-month time frame. Projects I know I want to knit, using yarn and needles I know I love to knit with.
For most knitters, this isn’t the case. Surrounded by yarn and needles, most knitters find themselves with enough yarn to knit from their stash for the next ten years! {This is no exaggeration – I’m a member of a stash-busting group on Ravelry, and the average amount of yarn owned adds up to about ten years’ worth of knitting to get through!}

Most knitters are slaves to their yarn stash, carrying around guilt over skeins left un-knit. With the minimalist movement taking hold of the world, people everywhere are paring down their possessions, focusing on what truly matters to them, and loving more and more minutes of their days. It’s time for knitters to join the ranks! The truth of the yarn stash is this – if you haven’t knit through it within six months, you most likely will never get to it. We knitters love the yarn shop, and with new yarns showing up on the market all the time, we’re more likely to find something new to knit with than go diving into our stash.

Rather than hold onto all that yarn you’re probably never going to use, pare it down to the stuff you love and KNOW you’ll use soon, and let the rest of it go. It can be scary to start weeding through your yarn stash, but if you want to live with less and feel joy from your knitting rather than guilt at owning so much stash you never use, the following five tips can help you weed through half your stash in as little as a weekend!  

1. Figure out what you actually knit. Before you even dive into your stash, do an hour of recon work and figure out what you actually knit. If you’ve got a Ravelry account {my Ravelry handle is “adevinelife”}, look at your finished projects. If you keep a Flickr account, start surfing backwards.
  • Make note of specific types of projects you see a lot of – hats, baby items, sweaters, shawls. 
  • Dig a bit deeper and figure out which needles you use most often – are you a size 8 queen, or do you stick to the smaller needles, working mostly in the 3-4 range? 
  • What yarn fibers do you love most? Do you spend most of your time with wool, or do you love cotton or acrylics more?
Doing the work of figuring out what you love to knit, and love to knit with, will help you decipher what you don’t use. For me, it became clear I don’t use much sport weight yarn, cotton, or any needles that range outside of the 5-10 range.  

2. Flip Your Stash. Now the hard work begins – you need to dump out every container of yarn you have into the middle of the floor. I’m not joking here – don’t let any of it sit in a box. You can do this one box or container at a time, or you can do what I did and make one huge pile of all my yarn on the floor all at once.

Allow yourself to feel overwhelmed. You didn’t acquire this yarn overnight, and each ball and skein of yarn was brought into your home with the intention of being knit up into something amazing. Give yourself a few minutes to freak out at the amount of yarn you have, and then grab some garbage bags or boxes and get to work.  

3. Divide and Conquer. Remember that list you made earlier of what you liked to knit and didn’t like to knit? Now it’s time to use it – and be ruthless with it. Start at the top of your big pile, grabbing one skein at a time {or one batch of skeins, if you’ve got several of the same colorway together}. Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Has this yarn been in your stash for more than six months, without a specific project attached to it? If so, get rid of it.
  • Did you buy this yarn with a specific project in mind, but it’s sat in your stash for more than a year? You’re probably not going to knit it – get rid of it.
  • Did you think you’d love knitting with this yarn, but it turns out you HATED it? Get rid of it.
  • Is it a yarn weight or fiber that’s not on your “use it all the time” list? Get rid of it.
  • Does this yarn fall under the “love to knit with it, it’s the right weight and fiber type for me to use again and again” category? Set it aside.
Each time you have a skein of yarn that falls under the “get rid of it” category, put it into a box or bag to be donated. Do this over and over again until you’ve whittled down your pile. You should only have yarn left that falls under the “love to knit with this yarn” category or the “it’s the right weight and fiber type” category.  

4. Get rid of the donate pile. There are hundreds of organizations that will gladly take your yarn off your hands! Check with local organizations first. Not sure where to call? Here’s a few suggestions:
  • Check with your local knitting groups and non-profits.
  • Ask your local nursing homes if they have a crochet/knitting group. They may want any acrylic you have.
  • Lion Brand yarn has a great charity connection space, where you can search for organizations that are looking for yarn donations. Search your state first, the states around you next.
When all else fails, you can bag up that yarn and take it to the Goodwill. There’s always a knitter poking around the bins that will squeal with delight at the treasures you’ll have left for them. Concerned at the cost of shipping the yarn? Instead of thinking of the cost of shipping, which really isn’t all that much, consider the cost of storing all that yarn, coupled with the mental cost – the stress you feel when looking at all that yarn sitting around, unused.  

5. Go back through your “to keep” pile. Once you’ve donated all the yarn in your “get rid of it” pile, you’ll want to take one last pass through your “to keep” pile. Do you have more than three months worth of knitting there? If so, pare down again, or do the following if you can’t bear to let go of any more yarn:
  • Set aside yarn for specific projects.
  • Figure out a few fun and simple projects you can make for the holidays to give away, and bag up yarn for that purpose.
  • Create a “knitting club” for yourself with all the single skeins. Connect specific yarn with specific projects, and draw one project at a time until all the single skeins are used up. It’s a fun way to keep the surprise in your knitting.
    Exhausted? I bet! But I also bet your stash has been significantly depleted.

    Now here comes the hard part:  

    In six months, do it again.

    Chances are you’ll have accumulated new yarn in the interim, you’ll fall less in love with some of those skeins of yarn you had to keep, and you’ll have a better handle on how much you can knit with over a few months’ time. By repeating this process every six months, you’ll keep your stash manageable.

    I’ll be honest here – I’ve actually gone through this process twice in the last month. I know how hard it can be to let go of yarn you spent good money on and had pure intentions of knitting with. For me, the desire to be a minimalist knitter has won out over my desire to use up every skein in my stash. I know how fast I can knit, what projects I’ll actually complete, and what yarn it takes to do that. This means I have to repeatedly do the hard work of deciding what I can and can’t keep in my yarn stash. It’s a process I’m not done with, but am willi ng to commit to – and these steps are exactly how I commit myself to it.

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