Assignment #3: Set Up an Outbox

If the outbox is a halfway house for things to occupy while you decide to do with them, then I might be running some bizarre social services system for clutter:


That’s right, I don’t have an outbox, I have outboxes. Plural. The worst part is that I had to move the bins of Christmas decorations out of the way to take this picture. As I was putting them into the closet and rather smugly enjoying the fact that we now have proper, protective containers for our ornaments and wreaths, I looked up and realized that the closet is nearly packed with boxes, bins, and bags of other stuff.

Sure, some of it is useful stuff that’s used infrequently, like our luggage and an air mattress for when guests visit. Some of it is decor that hasn’t been hung up yet. Some of it is stuff that I’ve clung to through moves for sentimental reasons, like old school papers, or because it might be useful eventually, like extra power strips and cords. And some of it…is a complete mystery. I don’t actually know the full extent of the items in our office closet. We’ve only lived here a little over a year, so it’s not as though it’s stuff that’s drifted into the corners and then accumulated over a decade. I put all of these boxes into the closet myself when we moved in. It makes me a little ill to think about how much is in there right now.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t aspire to minimalism. I respect and sometimes even admire people who choose that path, but after much thought I’ve realized that it’s not my path, at least not right now. As a maker, there are tools and materials that are necessary to making, and there are compelling reasons to have multiples of the same tool, or to (thoughtfully) build a stash of fabric or yarn. But having things in boxes in the closet, where I can’t readily use or enjoy them, isn’t benefiting me. One of my goals, therefore, is to work on getting things that I use out of the closet and into more accessible spaces so that they’re actually to hand when I need them. If there are things in there that I don’t want out on a shelf or in a bookcase, I need to assess whether I’ll ever actually use them, or if I’ve only convinced myself that I might.

Of course, the idea of moving things out of boxes in the closet to boxes in the corner of the room seems a little silly, but that’s probably only because my biggest hurdle with using an outbox is actually emptying it. It’s easy for me to let it become just another form of storage, rather than a holding tank for things I need to re-evaluate and potentially purge. Luckily, there’s a dedicated day toward the end of the January Cure for emptying the Outbox, so I’m going to force myself to stick to it. It will likely involve trips to multiple locations, since we have clothes, shoes, housewares, and collectibles in varying states of repair. One of the things I plan to look into is textile recycling, since not all of the clothes can be salvaged for thrifting. I’ll report back on any options I can find.

On the sewing front, I went ahead and printed off the free Simplicity pajama pants pattern and started assembling it. (I haven’t finished taping, since I was having trouble getting the pattern lines to match up.) I think it might be a little large:


The smallest size is a 38″ hip, which is drafted with 6-7″ of ease. I get that they’re supposed to be baggy, but wow!

Since the pattern is free and already mostly assembled, I think I’m going to use this as an opportunity to practice shortening the the legs and rise. But when I do finally pick up Love at First Stitch, I’ll probably make the Margot pajamas too, just to compare. And because once I get home from work I live in comfy pants, so it never hurts to have multiple pairs. In fact, my entire lounge wardrobe could probably use an overhaul. Better get to work!

Assignment #2: Make a List of Projects

Now here’s an assignment that’s right up my alley. I make lists all the time. For work, for home, for shopping, and for packing, lists are my go-to way to keep organized and stay motivated. I am without a doubt one of those people that takes deep satisfaction from crossing tasks off a list of to-dos.

Unfortunately, I’m also one of those people prone to putting far too many things on my list and then feeling frustrated or guilty when I can’t cross everything off in a day, or a weekend. It’s like when you buy your first skein of yarn to start knitting and naively, blissfully assume that it will be enough for whatever project you choose, then realize too late that you don’t have close to enough to make (or worse, finish) whatever project you had in mind. When you consider it rationally you realize that there was no conceivable way a single skein was going to get you through a six-foot-long scarf, but somehow that perfectly reasonable thought never crossed your mind when you were standing in the store. Likewise, when I make a list of things I’d like to do around our apartment, it’s easy to trick myself into thinking I could knock out a whole room in a dedicated weekend. And that might be true, if I wanted to give up sleeping and eating and had no concern for being smothered in paint fumes while stitching yards of curtains and weaving a rug with my toes.

So I’m trying to take to heart Apartment Therapy’s advice to “resist the temptation to jump in and start cleaning or moving things around” and to keep in mind that not everything on the list is intended to be completed this month. In fact, this list is supposed to be for the whole year; January is just an opportunity to focus on the most pressing needs.

Since home improvements are going to be one of the main topics of this blog, I went ahead and created a page with my list rather than put it in this post. Confession time: as much as I love to make lists, this one isn’t actually new. I created it at the beginning of 2014, and then promptly failed to follow through on it. The desire to work on it stuck with me through the year, though—it was one of the reasons I wanted to start a blog, so that I’d have a place to record my progress and the impetus to see some of the less glamorous projects through (like removing the tape marks on the dining room walls or getting maintenance to replace our broken screen door). So I’m going to keep that list as my starting point and update it if we decide to tackle new projects. And instead of crossing things off, I’m going to add links as projects are completed to the post with project details. Anything that proves unfeasible or boring will probably be removed stealthily. Cool? Cool.

In sewing news, I was the very lucky recipient of 2.6 meters of Alexander Henry’s Christmas Pin-Up Boys from a giveaway over at Did You Make That? Unfortunately it arrived just after I went to visit family for the holidays, so I couldn’t shock them with a pair of pajama pants sporting scantily clad Santa Boys. Now that the holiday excitement has died down, I’m actually really looking forward to making some new bottoms to sleep in, since my favorite pair are too holey to wear in front of anyone other than Justin, and even he’s started giving me a hard time about them. I’m off to take a look at the free Simplicity pattern that Karen recommended, although I’m sorely tempted to use this as an excuse to order Tilly Walnes’ Love at First Stitch. Decisions, decisions.

Let’s Get Started

Starting anything new is hard for me. I’m not especially indecisive, but I am a perfectionist, and a determined researcher, and a gadget-lover, so beginning any new activity, whether it’s an entirely new hobby or just a new project, is necessarily a bit of an undertaking with me. It’s not enough that I want try something, or that I have the time or space to work on it—I first have to understand what skills are considered essential and where to learn them; I have to survey the required tools to decide which are necessary, which are helpful, and which give a superior outcome before gathering them up; and I have to wring my hands and agonize over whether, even with all the knowledge and tools available to me, I’ll be able to get the results I want. Suffice it to say that this is not a particularly efficient or effective method of arriving at a finished project. Although I seldom lack the motivation to see a project through, there’s no arguing that you can’t finish what you didn’t start.

The online community of makers, I’ve discovered, is robust, supportive, and prolific—in essence, possessed all of the qualities that I strive for. For months I’ve admired the way the sewists, knitters, and DIYers that I follow offer one another encouragement and constructive feedback, confronting various kinds of adversity with maturity, poise, and general awesomeness. I’ve also envied how productive many of them are, and the way that participating in a community has spurred them to set and achieve goals that would have otherwise seemed out of reach. And, let’s be honest, I’m downright jealous of the meet-ups, craft conventions, and community events where liked-minded folk get together with people who are just as enthusiastic as they are about Making All The Things. I’ve yet to find an in-person creative community where I felt like I fit in, but these online communities make you feel like you belong just by showing up. I’ve read, I’ve followed, and I’ve commented, and now it’s time for me to start participating.

Enter this blog. (Which, in the interest of full disclosure, had more than its fair share of false starts. I expect I’ll share about that one day, perhaps on the blog’s first anniversary, when it’s a distant enough memory that I can laugh about it instead of feeling faintly embarrassed.) If I want to be a part of a community of makers, I need to start making things, so this is my first contribution, which I hope will be part inspirational showcase, part instructional resource, and part kick-in-the-pants to me and everyone else who needs to just start doing and miking the the things we want.

This blog is also a gift to myself, an avenue for writing more. I love to write, and yet I’ve written only infrequently over the last several years. My ostensibly writing-focused job offers little opportunity for original content generation. Keeping a daily diary was a habit that never stuck with me, and my attempts at more free-form journaling tended to wax and wane with the major events of my life. Blogging about planned projects, Works-in-Progress (WIPs) and Finished Objects (FOs), which seems inherently forward-looking rather than present- or backward-looking, appeals to the part of me that hates leaving things half-done and loves having a thing to enjoy and show off, and is therefore a much better motivator than the vagaries of my emotional condition.

To keep me on track, my first series of posts will revolve on participating in Apartment Therapy’s January Cure 2015, which is aimed at getting your home clean, organized, and working for you instead of against you. I completed Assignment #1: A Weekend of Flowers and Floors this afternoon: I purchased a bouquet of white daisies for the dining room table, and I thoroughly vacuumed all of our carpets and laminate. You’ll have to trust me on this, since it the weather was too dismal to get a decently lit photo of the grocery store bouquet, and a shot of beige carpet is hardly the stuff thrilling posts are made of. More exciting home adventures are definitely to come.

So here’s to starting new things, whether they be home improvements, fulfilling relationships, creative endeavors, or just another project among many. Cheers!