A Story About Soap

Posted on April 11, 2021 by prairiemoonquilts in Studio Organizing Challenge

. . . and how it relates to quilting . . .

I’m not really giving us a new organizing challenge today, since we’re supposed to still be working on getting rid of one thing a day for now. What I’m here for today is to give you a little food for thought.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m trying to work on my own version of minimalism. At the same time, I absolutely hate to throw out perfectly good usable items. If I can find good homes for things, I have no problem with it, but my grandmother (who lived through the Great Depression) taught me not to be wasteful.

So about the soap . . .

In my bathroom linen closet, I keep a basket with extras of toiletries, like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, toothpaste, and the like. You know, it’s a place to keep the new ones you buy until you’ve used up the old ones. When we run out of something we’re using, the rule is to check the basket and make sure we don’t already have what we need before adding it to the shopping list.

Well, the basket had lots of random little bars of soap in it. Where do random bars of soap even come from? And yet, I was occasionally buying soap. So in my efforts to downsize our possessions, yet not be wasteful in the process, I announced that I was no longer buying any soap until all the soap we had was nearly gone. (This did not include the soap My Cowboy uses in the shower, or he would have rebelled.) And it’s not like soap is a high-dollar item on the shopping list every  month, but still . . .

What I DID buy was a soap dish.

I plunked it on the bathroom counter, and we started using up all the little odds and ends of bars of soap we had here. Guess how long that soap lasted? FOURTEEN MONTHS! (And we live on a farm and wash our hands a LOT.) I’m happy to say that we are down to our one last bar of soap, so last time I went to the store, I bought My Cowboy a bottle of liquid hand soap, and I will soon retire the soap dish, and he will be very happy. And I’m very happy that the linen closet basket is more organized and we don’t have all that extra soap hanging around.

While we were at it, we used up all the extra body wash, shampoo, and conditioner, too.

What’s next? Lotion . . . so many bottles and tubes of lotion. I’ve slowly been working my way through those, too. But I do have to keep extra bottles of this on hand during the winter . . .

. . . because it’s seriously the only thing that works for My Cowboy, so it’s the only one I’m buying until all the rest of the odds and ends are gone. And when they are, I’ll have an empty basket that I can completely remove from my linen closet and free up some space.

It’s the little things that make me happy!

And how does this relate to quilting?

Well . . . you know I’m always talking about getting our studio spaces organized.

And how it’s difficult to organize things when you have too much stuff.

And if you don’t have space to store all the things you have, then it’s time to downsize.

So I did the soap thing with my thread.

I used to have THREE of these hanging on my studio walls.

Sure, they’re pretty, and I really never thought too much about it. But when I decided I’d rather use my wall space for something else, they needed to go.

So I went on a mission to use up all the little odds and ends of random kinds of thread, so I could downsize the entire collection and get down to just one wall rack. And I did! I now have just this one, and it hangs near my sewing machine area. And I’m now in the habit of using up odds and ends regularly, rather than letting them languish in my space.

I also went through all my longarm thread, got rid of the types my machine refuses to use, and sold or gave away all the others. It’s so nice to know that all the thread I have left is thread I can (and probably will) use up.

It’s easy to let the little things get out of control, while you’re worrying about the larger things, like the fabric stash, or the UFO pile. But I realized it ALL needs to be dealt with, and it frees up space for other things (in my mind as well as my studio).

So what’s next in the studio?

Well, I have several things to choose from:

Masking tape: I had about 8 rolls of tape. (Why??)

I vowed not to buy any more until all of these are nearly gone. I use the tape for marking quilting designs (both machine and hand quilting), and it obviously has other uses as well. If masking tape gets old, it becomes difficult to tear off the roll, so it becomes useless, anyway, so I’m planning to use up what I have while it still works, and only buy more when I really need it. And I’ll keep that one roll on the pegboard in my longarm room where it’s handy to use, and it’ll free up drawer space.

Needles: Look at this!

I should never have to buy another hand sewing needle as long as I live, right? I’m not even sure why I kept buying more, knowing I have so many here at home. Sure, the packages are cute, and they’re a different brand, or a different size, but seriously! This is ridiculous. And I do use lots of different types of needles, so I’m sure I will still have a collection, but I don’t need so many of each type. I’m on a needle-buying moratorium for the present time.

I have also read that a hand-sewing needle has a life span of approximately 11 hours of sewing, but I’ve never tested that theory. I usually wait until I’ve bent one to get out another. And we won’t talk about the ones that I just lose somewhere randomly! Yikes!

• Marking pencils: I have some odds and ends that need to be used up, which will free up some drawer space. Then, if necessary, I can replace them only with the ones that are my favorites and that I use all the time. Again, I use a lot of different types, but I’m trying to downsize the types and the amounts I keep on hand.

There are probably many more things I could list, but this is a good start. I’m dreaming of all the empty drawer space I’ll soon have!

So how about you?

Do you have any stashes of little things that you want to clean up and use up? Things that you don’t even realize are out of control? I’m interested in hearing what types of items you have this problem with. It might remind me of something I haven’t even thought of yet that I still need to work on!

What item(s) are you going to start using up so that you can downsize your “collection”?

Or am I alone in this tendency to stockpile more supplies than I can ever use? (I think I’m probably not, but it sure helps to know when I’m in good company!)

24 responses to “A Story About Soap”

  1. I love your thread storage space. It is perfect and a space saver!

    I have been sewing up a lot of fabric lately and will need to reorganize my sewing room before long. My space is small. Perhaps I can get rid of a cabinet if I reorganize. You have great ideas!

  2. I’m sure I have a glut of a type of thing but what I’m focusing on are the things I touch and shuffle a million times but just do not use. They’re making a journey to my quilters group for their use.

    I haven’t gotten rid of my one a day things but have been identifying them. It’s just a matter of getting them out my door now. Working on some of that today in fact.

  3. Cindy Wiens says:

    This was SUCH a good post for me to read today! I’m going to begin the mission of using up all the little bottles of shampoo etc. we bring back from hotel rooms, especially since we are not going anywhere right now. My granddaughter has been having so many skin problems due to all the washing. I hadn’t thought of Cornhuskers but that might be a good one for her to try.

  4. Louise says:

    Funny you should write this post. I have been on a use it up kick also. We too used up all the little odds and ends of soap and all the little bottles of shampoo that my husband insists on bringing home from hotels. He used to be on the road a LOT before he retired, so we had a LOT of shampoo to use up. It is all gone now. I found six mostly empty packages of band aids in the drawer. I combined them and now we have only two. I have been doing the same thing with my spices. Why do I have three open jars of cinnamon????? I have really loved your challenge of getting rid of one thing a day. I am trying for more each day, but I absolutely must meet the goal of getting rid of at least one thing each day. My best day so far was giving away 20 jars of homemade grape juice. We love it, but can’t begin to use up all that I make every year. Thanks for the encouragement to organize and downsize.

  5. Raewyn says:

    Sound advice!! I have also realised how many bits and pieces we have (like toiletries) sitting around that should be used, and haven’t been. Even ‘special’ gifted things sometimes sit because they are too lovely to use! And think of the $$ saved by not having to buy any more for 14 months!

  6. Tonia Johnson says:

    You are not alone! I am still half a thread rack to go! My soap dilemma is this…beautiful, nice smelling soaps that have been gifted to me over the years..but they dry out my skin and Mr.Wonderful does not care to have floral smelling hands! I hate to throw them away though. And what to do with gifted projects. You know the ones ..linen. Cutwork tablecloths..wool yardage, linen yardage..what do we do with our bounty? “you sew…you will know how to use this.” And we say thank you because it is beautiful, and we do know what to do with it..but we never will do any thing with it because it just is not our passion. Can any one relate?

  7. Suelynn Williams says:

    I’ve been using up the small tubes of toothpaste and dental floss samples from visits to the dentist!

  8. Kerry says:

    Yes, soap! How such a small bar seems to last forever! A couple of years ago I participated in a crafty Secret Santa. The person who drew my name sent two bars of home made soap, two pots of hand cream and some candles. I’m just finishing the last bar – we are on a sliver. It’s the downstairs cloakroom so gets more use as, like you, we wash when we come indoors! Prior to that when we moved in the previous owner left a large bar of soap for us – now that took forever! So yes, I agree that is something I’ve been working on for a while!

  9. I am using up the smaller thread spools. If I am doing a postcard, even if I will run out of thread, I use it up as a design element. LOL
    as crazy as this sounds, I’m using up candles. I have many half-burned candles. I’ll burn until they won’t burn anymore and then melt and add to a melted candle container. When it is full, I’ll burn that before I burn another candle.
    Lotion. I have so much lotion. I’ve started to use partial lotion bottles. I’m amazed at how long the bottles last. I have years of lotion already. I’ve already don’t this with the antibacterial hand soap.
    Sewing wise I’m using up the leftover pieces of binding. If I make a scrappy quilt, I go to the binding box first. I might pick the colors in the quilt or I might just use anything. I’m down to two small containers.
    I did this with pens and pencils too. I think I need to begin that process again. How do I get so many pens?

  10. Amanda M. says:

    I’m trying to make myself cook more and use the stuff that’s close date on expiration. I always stock up on stuff in the fall to use over the winter since I often don’t get to town much. I’ve been trying to use up scraps whether it be fabric or paper. I’ve also tried to use up odds and ends of soap and think I’ve finally succeed.

  11. Deanna says:

    We did the same recently with first aid supplies. I am pretty sure some of it was army surplus from WW2. It was time to clean and sort (and get rid of). Now I can actually find what I need when I need it, instead of buying MORE.

  12. Karen E. says:

    I keep whittling away at lots of different things—thread, fabric, doubles and extras. I can’t see much visible difference so far, but surely the day will come when I see a difference! Giving away one of more items a day is a motivating challenge.

  13. Judy S. says:

    Marking pencils! I’m sure they need sorted out and auditioned. I’ve tried every marker on the market and still use just two types, chalk and Frixion.

  14. Sharon Gratz says:

    Use it up, wear it out, eat leftovers, use what you have and make do……….this is the way I was raised. But, my more expensive machine didn’t like the inexpensive thread I was using…….had to get new thread. And I got tired of winding bobbins…..bought pre-wound. Hence, I have thread and filled bobbins. To be truthful, once in awhile, they come in handy. Do y’all ever save the thread spools you empty throughout the year just to see how many there are???? lol

    • Elle says:

      I do. In January a take a photo of the empty spools and cones and then toss them! I have quite the collection of photos over the years 🙂

  15. Jocelyn says:

    I have been de-stashing my fabric. I gave away several boxes of fabric to QOV and Project Linus. I included thread, as I have too many spools. As I have tried to downsize, I look at things from a different view point. When my in-laws passed away, there was so much to go through and deal with. I’m a long way from getting a handle on things, but I really don’t want my kids to have to deal with everything.

  16. Marlene Clausen says:

    I have pretty much solved my quilting, hand quilting, and embroidery thread storage. My biggest problem is multi-purpose sewing thread. I don’t sew nearly as much as I used to BUT I do sew some and there are always those quick jobs and repairs. Most of the time thread needs to match so throwing out even nearly empty spools and bobbins doesn’t seem prudent. I’ve corralled the bobbins in a large bobbin case. It’s what to do with the spools? I can’t seem to come up with a workable solution.

  17. Patricia says:

    It is the small things, I hoard and cannot seem to give away or throw away in my sewing space.

  18. Rose Marie Smith says:

    I have been working on the basement and the closets. Just recently have I begun to look at books and quilting stuff. Reading and quilting are my favorite activities. I am looking at quilt books, patterns, and have started using up thread, too. I appreciate your emphasis on just that one. I will concentrate on this quite a bit. I also want to add that I have been working for 3 solid months on leftover cut scraps……pinwheel triangles, squares, etc. etc. I spent a good part of March piecing them into blocks. The blocks are now being put into community service quilts. Yippee………some of this will have a purpose.

  19. Debbi says:

    Great ideas Shelly. Always inspiring to read your posts!

    I’ve been decluttering my fathers home in CA, so much easier when nothing is personal. Tools, car stuff and lots of lightbulbs, only a few family treasures at this winter residence of his.

    Looking forward to getting home on working on MY projects and back to sewing!

  20. Betty Baker says:

    I was one of those ‘thread’ collectors. First, it was the ‘cheap’ thread from Wally world (remember those 5 spools for a dollar way back when)? Then, It was the estate sale where I purchased about 75 spools of maxi-lock thread for $10.
    Solution? I started winding bobbins for my DSM (domestic sewing machine). So what if there was some pink or orange thread on the bottom side of my piecing. Unless I was using very light colored fabric; it didn’t matter what color that bobbin was.

  21. Stephanie says:

    OMG Shelly, this article could have been written especially for me. I have stashes of all sorts of small stuff. Time to make a concerted effort to use it of lose it.
    Thanks for the pointy boot to the you-know-where!

  22. Nann says:

    In 2002 when my sister and I cleaned out our parents’ house after they passed away we found many caches of multiples of stuff — including a drawer of hotel shampoos so old they’d begun to de-emulsify. I resolved then to USE UP THE STOCKPILE. This February, after 10 months of no traveling, I had to BUY shampoo and soap because I’d used up all the hotel souvenirs! ….. And, yes, I’m working on pens and notepads and post-its…..

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