Last week my local quilt guild had a sewing room tour as our monthly program. I live near our meeting place so the event coordinator asked me to put my room on tour. I immediately told her, “No! That would require cleaning it!” She persisted so I gave in and agreed. Cleaning my sewing room would be good for me. And I had a month to get it done.
My children had a favorite book when they were growing up: “Mooch the Messy” by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Mooch is a rat who lives in a hole under Boston, Massachusetts. His father comes to visit and complains that his hole is messy. Mooch says he likes to be able to see all his stuff. His father complains that there are ants in the jam. Mooch says he knows, they like to go in the jam and get all sticky and happy, so he leaves the lid open for them. Eventually Mooch notices how unhappy his father is in his messy hole so he decides to clean it up. And his father is happy for the rest of his stay. Once his father goes home Mooch declares that he hates ‘neat’ and says “Hello shoe! Hello other shoe!” as he messes up his hole again.
My son had a messy room so we called him Mooch the Messy. It’s hardly fair though because he comes by it honestly. Like my son, I am comfortable with a layer of mess, a bit of clutter, a stack here and there. Beneath the surface clutter I am organized. My thread is kept in plastic boxes, organized by color and thread type. My fabrics are folded and stored by color or theme in plastic bins. I can actually close the lids on most of them. The frequently used rulers are on a peg board at the end of my cutting table; those used less often are stored in a drawer. I know the location of each ruler and can find it quickly when needed. Books are over there and quilting magazines here. I don’t go so far as to alphabetize them by title or author but they are loosely categorized with machine quilting books grouped together, applique’ books grouped together, etc. They are organized and they look tidy.
That’s the view behind the scenes. The “scene” itself has another whole personality! When I moved my old sewing table out of the room (3 years ago!) I lost two large storage cupboards where works in progress were stored. I decided that instead of putting the projects away if I left them out where I could see them I might actually finish a few quilts! And it might have worked – if I hadn’t started anything new. But the quilt shops have so many lovelies. The new projects are stimulating and fun to start. But before finishing it a deadline on another project causes me to prioritize, setting the project aside, adding it to the piles strewn about my sewing room. And the magazine and book shelves filled up – overflow issues ended up on the floor. And thread from a project or two didn’t get put away, there it was weeks later, still next to the sewing machine. And so it went until my sewing room looked like Mooch’s hole under Boston, Massachusetts.
It was time to clean it up and I had an incentive. My sewing room was going on tour. In just one month.
My plan was simple. Move the big stuff first. Four large quilts just needed bindings then they could be moved out of the room. One – two – three – four. Done!
A stack of charity quilts were waiting for machine quilting. I cleared off the machine quilting table (well, okay, I swept the contents to an open place on the floor – for now.) One – two – three – four. Done! I packed them up to send to another guild member who will add the bindings.
I was pleased. I looked around the room and felt smug. It looked neater already! I had accomplished so much in such a short period of time. I thought I deserved a break from cleaning. So I took a nice long, relaxing 3 1/2 week break.
Time passed until the sewing room tour was only two days away!
What was I to do? I looked around. It was really just the stuff on the floor. I didn’t have to sort and file every single sewing item I owned – just the stuff out in the open. What was on the floor anyway? Works in progress. Piles and piles of projects. Applique’ projects, pieced projects, wool work and embroidery projects. Tedious projects and quick projects. I have them all.
I knew what I had to do. Pack for my fall retreat! If I packed all those works in progress in tote bags not only would my room get cleaned up but I would be ready to finish those projects while on retreat. I set to work. Thirty some-odd tote bags later I began wondering if the retreat organizers would mind if I stayed a month – or two or three!
I needed another shelf to put stuff on in the closet so at last minute I decided to share some of my novelty prints. I stuffed lunch bags with fat quarters, 1/3 yard cuts, panels – whatever. Goody bags for those who came on the tour. A bag of fabric for charity quilts and another for a friend. There. Done. I filled the now empty shelf with stuff from the floor.
I rearranged a few items, dusted, and vacuumed. Wow! There is so much carpet in a clean room! It was 3 o’clock. I was finished – with 4 hours to spare!
The members came. They smiled as they studied my storage systems, admired my design wall and enjoyed looking around in my clean sewing room. I smiled and sent them on their way with a goody bag. It was fun. They liked it. I liked it.
The next morning, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I walked down the hall and into my sewing room. The very first thought to enter my groggy mind was, “Someone has stolen all my projects!” I sat on my sewing chair and looked around. It felt like it was someone else’s sewing room. It was too neat. I tentatively reached for a project bin. I shook the contents onto the table and said, “Hello project!” I shook a little more and said, “Hello other project!”