Monday, January 3, 2022

Decluttering your sewing machine station

WOW   --- I read the blog comments from the last couple of days. Here's a HUGE issue that I see most parents are saddled with. The kids leave home and leave tons of stuff behind - just like at my house. Elle's parents were HARDCORE --- she was given until she was 21 to take her stuff -- what was left was donated or sold. It's no wonder Elle is on top of the clutter in her house. 

But seriously  --- I've heard it over and over again, "My kids left their textbooks from university, they left furniture, or other stuff behind." If your kids wanted their stuff bad enough, they would take it. They do NOT want this -- they just don't know how to deal with it or how to say, "no thanks, Mom and Dad, but I really don't want that furniture!!" M left when she was 19, and I've been "gently" trying to get her to deal with it every time she comes home. 

I think it boils down to the fact that she feels it will no longer be her home if there is NOTHING of hers here. Funny how we seem to think that possessions in a house make it a home, and that is so not true! So we're going to try once more to get her to cope with her stuff. I see no reason for parents to become storage facilities. When she leaves this time, I will be giving it a clean sweep. 

Whatever excuses they give you for keeping it at your house will NEVER go away. Distance, size of their house, no room, too costly to ship, etc. -- those excuses will never go away, and you are saddled with their mess. Nope -- not going to put up with it any longer!

Someone else mentioned that they wanted to do room swaps. Hey -- some people, particularly if they are on their own, are swapping the master bedroom and their sewing room. If you are sewing in a small space while your large master bedroom goes practically unused, SWAP IT!!! If you need help  - I'm available. We'll get things done in a day -- you just need boxes. Seriously, this cleaning thing goes much easier with a friend around. I can be your friend!

OK -- so let's have a look at the sewing machine areas. 

So here's my area in Studio B- nice and neat. I will confess that it's a mess this morning, but I'm working on a deadline quilt, and it's strewn on that work surface, but it's the ONLY thing on that work surface. 

Sewing surface in Studio B

And here is the stuff on the right side of my machine. 

Stuff on the right-hand side of the sewing machine

I swapped out the plastic project box for the blue tin. I'm not convinced that this is the most suitable container, but I'll try it out for a bit. And I moved everything from the cutlery tray into the other tray. The cutlery tray is in the giveaway box. 

What's now on the right-hand side of the machine

Now let's take a look at what some of the others did. 

Cathie's "before: picture is not too bad. Notice, she has a cover on her sewing machine. It's a great idea if you don't sew every day. 

Cathie's "before"

But here is her new space  -- all spiffed up and look at those empty baskets on the right -- handy for holding tools or finished half-square triangles???  

The "after" picture

Cathie -- my only suggestion would be to get a better light. A task light instead of the lamp. That way, you can sew later in the day or early in the morning. Sometimes, the light in a bedroom isn't the greatest to sew by. But if it works for you -- then go for it! 

Cathie's sewing cabinet

Maryke also took the challenge, and this is what happened. Maryke LOVES pens, as you can tell from all the markers on the right-hand side of her machine! I wonder what happened to all her cups??? I've seen a few of those happening in her space!

Maryke's "before" picture

I love how those odd things collect on our sewing tables without us even realizing what happened. It's like little gremlins come in at night and throw things around. 

Maryke's "before" picture

And here is her new space. I love it!! I would be tempted to move the machine slightly to the right (if possible) so that you have more room on the left of the sewing machine, as that is where the action happens. The space to the right just invites clutter. There's nothing wrong with keeping stuff on the table as we all have different setups. That table looks very deep, so I'm sure the things behind it do not interfere with the sewing process. 

Maryke's "after" picture

Here are Heather's pictures. Oh my -- there's LOT of stuff happening around this machine. 

Heather's "before"

But now, look at the space. I love that sewing table -- I wonder if it is a combination of IKEA??? And it's nice to have that storage to the right of the machine. Perfect for keeping things close, but not on the sewing surface. 

Heather's "after"

And she has a second sewing machine - oh boy -- this one looks a bit messy. The sewing machine is on, so she must have been sewing, but that's a lot of stuff. 

Heather's "before"

And there it is --- nicely cleaned up! This looks so much more inviting to sew! This table looks like it used to be a desk? Looks like lots of storage in those two doors. Again -- a great idea. I'm not fond of having to sit in one specific spot (where the opening is), but HEY -- the desk looks fantastic, and we just put up with those kinds of things! 

Heather's "after"

Here are some before shots of Mary's area. Looks like lots of stuff has been collected. 

Mary's "before"

And look what happens when you leave too much room on the right-hand side. We see empty space; we feel compelled to fill it!!

Mary's "before"

And now it's clean!!! 
Mary's "after"

Mary's "after"

WOW -- it's so fun to see how much tidying people did. I hope you got a chance to do some tidying. Here are a couple more tips about the area around the sewing machine. 

  1. While we may work on multiple projects at once, it's a good idea to keep one project at a time at the sewing machine. When you don't get mixed up.  f I need to work on multiple projects (or multiple blocks for the same project), I use mini design boards. Then it's super easy to clean that area if I need to make a quilt backing. 
Mini design boards make it easy to keep the sewing area neat and tidy

  1. Once you are done with that project, then make sure that everything gets removed from the sewing area and back in the project box or wherever it needs to go. 
  2. Keep an eye on the right-hand side of your sewing machine. This tends to be a junk collection area. Keep what you NEED there and find a home for everything else. This is going to evolve over the next couple of months. Don't just randomly plunk anything there. I sometimes use a basket to corral small things, like Cathie has by her machine. 
  3. Don't be afraid to move your machine on your sewing space (if you can). Often we plunk the sewing machine in the dead center of the table. But it's OK to have only a few inches on the right and LOTS of empty space on the left. That gives you loads of room to work on those large quilts and NOT much room to fill with stuff on the right. 
  4. If you don't have drawers underneath your table, invest in one of those plastic storage units. They are on wheels and work like a charm to keep things organized and near you.

    Portable storage on wheels

    Two other portable storage units

Here's my sewing area in Studio U. Notice that I have TWO task lights in that space. The ceiling light needs to be changed, and as a result, it's dark in that room at times, so lots of portable light. 

Sewing space in Studio U

I try to keep this area clean, and you'll notice that I had an extension added to this side of the table. While I don't need much space on the right-hand side, there was practically NO space on the right-hand side with the original table. 

An extension was added to the right-hand side of the sewing table

There's a drawer in this unit, and I've been through it -- only the bare essentials are there. Just because we have space doesn't mean we need to fill it!!!

The drawer of the sewing table

Hopefully, that gives you some ideas to keep your sewing area neat and tidy. Hey -- we should talk about foot pedals, but I don't have time this morning. Perhaps tomorrow. Oh yes, we will rip our sewing rooms apart with all kinds of organizing tips. As mentioned, I've been refining this process for years, and I'm not afraid to try anything!

Here's the task for today - the ironing surface. Some of you have big ironing boards, while others use a small ironing station beside the machine. I'll share my tips with you in two days. So if you have before and after, please share. 

Here's my ironing station in Studio B (that's the sewing space in the basement for those that are new). 

Ironing station in Studio B

The surface is pretty clear except for what I took downstairs last night - three luggage straps that need to be put away and two pillowcases (found in the camping gear) and will be cut into pet mats. A job for later today. 

This is the stuff on the iron holder at the end of the ironing board. 

Stuff on the iron holder

BUT here's the ironing board in Studio U (Upstairs). It's a mess, and a little bit of cleaning is required. 

Ironing station in Studio U

The same rules we used for the sewing machine area apply here. DO NOT put this stuff in a box or on another surface. DEAL with it. Find a home for the stuff, or out it goes!!!

ALL of that stuff above has a home; it just didn't get put away over the last couple of weeks. 

On that note, it's time to get my butt to spin class. And it's COLD outside this morning, so it's a perfect day to stay inside and clean up. If you haven't tackled your sewing machine area yet, you have TWO jobs today. 

Don't forget to send those before and after pictures. It's a great incentive to take pictures, and it's a great way to peek into other people's sewing areas so we can possibly clean a tip or two from their setups!!!

Have a super day!!!!



  1. The thing that readers may find interesting? There were 5 of us living in a 3500sf house. My bedroom was in the basement. When I had to clear it out at age 21, it did not become something else. My trundle beds remained there until Mom/Dad sold the farm and left.

    1. WHOA --- that's a bit weird. I won't go there, but my brother and I had a LONG discussion about parents last night and it wasn't all pleasant. Have a great day!!