Sue’s comment a few posts back (which was about not feeling guilty about having stash) made me think about why I do want to pare down mine. Â For me, it has less to do with guilt than with thoughts about efficiency and waste. Â In general, I want to get things done as efficiently as possible, which means with the least possible waste. Â But what constitutes “waste”?
Lean manufacturing processes define waste as anything that does not give value to the customer. Â That seems like the basis for a working definition: waste is anything that does not help me produce things I value. Â Waste represents lost resources, lost energy, lost time – so I think reducing waste is good, generally speaking. Â (I recognize that there are plenty of people for whom reducing waste isn’t a priority – but I have limited resources and want to squeeze as much as I can out of them. Â So to me, it matters.)
What sorts of things are waste? Â Well, inventory for one. Â Stash, to me, is essentially money and storage space. Â If the inventory isn’t used, it’s a waste of money and space. Â Ditto tools.
Time can also be waste. Â If I go out to the local fabric/crafts store to pick up something, that can easily take an hour. Â If I could have avoided that trip, then I’ve just wasted an hour of my time. Â If I have to rework something because I made a mistake, that’s a waste of time (and materials).
And money, of course. Â Money can be translated into time – the time required to earn money, if you’re working – but that’s a pretty indirect representation, if you ask me. Â Money enables me to acquire resources – Â physical materials, working and storage space, training – classes, conferences, etc.
Unfortunately, of course, most of these things are trade-offs. Â If I don’t acquire a time-saving tool, I save money, but it takes longer to do the job, so I waste time. Â If I don’t have a critical item in inventory, I lose the time it takes to order it, and any cost difference (if, for example, I could have bought it on sale).
Typically, I have valued time over money. Â This results in acquiring lots of stash and tools because it reduces time in ordering it later. Â (It doesn’t help that I’m an instant gratification bunny, and I like shopping.) Â Living with Mike, who often values money over time, has made me revisit this. Â I don’t think I’ll ever achieve his level of spending reduction (in part because the things I do tend to involve more materials and tools), but I’d like to waste less money than I have previously. Ideally, I’d like to waste less time andÂ less money – but when it comes to tradeoffs, I’d like to dial the notch a bit further back towards saving money. Â This generally translates to reducing unused inventory – both in stash and tools – and being more careful about purchases.
Reducing waste also means looking at alternative ways of getting the same result – for example, yesterday I was wondering whether I wanted to add piping to the curved seams of the garment. Â I didn’t have a yarn of the appropriate size to use as cording, so I ran out to the fabric store and bought two skeins of yarn that I thought might be suitable. Â I then went home, created a few piping samples, compared them against the final fabric, and realized immediately that it wouldn’t work – the piping, even if handpainted with dye to match in hue, would be a solid color and hence stick out like a sore thumb, rather than providing subtle outlines.
At first glance, this doesn’t look like waste. Â I had a question, I sampled, and I got my answer. Â But, it wasn’t necessary to run out to the craft store to get the answer I needed. Â I could have doubled or trebled a yarn already in my stash to get the right thickness for a sample, saving me about $15 and a 40-minute trip. Â I could have thought through the piping and realized that the colors wouldn’t match without doing the sample at all. Â There are lots of ways I could have gotten the value (figuring out whether piping would work) that would have wasted less time/resources. Â I just didn’t take the time to think things through, and consider alternatives. Â That wasted both time and money.
So I think that will be my approach to paring down: when faced with a problem or question, ask myself what the least expensive (time/money) way of solving it is, and think of several alternatives rather than taking the first one that comes to hand. Â Also, purchase just enough to solve the immediate problem – don’t jump ahead and order enough for possible future work. Â I wound up with five yards of rayon velvet because I wanted enough to make both samples (2 yards) and the final product (3 yards), and didn’t want to “waste” the time on ordering more (a 2 day delay), should it work out. Â Since I wound up using only half a yard for samples, and decided not to use it in the final product, that’s 4.5 yards of waste – or about 90% waste. Â Not a good use of money. Â I do this kind of thing all the time, unfortunately.
Off the cuff, I’d estimate that I could save at least 30-50% of my project costs (if not more!) by changing this particular habit. Â So I think I will work on changing this particular habit. Â “I will spend less money” is not a useful statement because it is unfocused; it’s much easier to choose one specific thing to change. Â And it makes more sense than blanket statements, like “I will not buy more stash”, which can cripple creativity.