Hello, my name is Sandy.

Organised clutter

scissors, cardboard and cute stationery

My home is full of clutter. My life is full of clutter.

Since reading The Joy of Minimalism, I've been wondering how to clean up. Every thought is haunted; every desire tinged with guilt. I can see this becoming a manic obsession if I'm not careful, so I want to take it slowly and consider my reasons for keeping or throwing things away.

We have a lot of stuff. Not knick-knacks, but things made useless by quantity. We don't need so many pint glasses, for example, we're not a fucking pub. Yet, somehow, I feel the need to stockpile all this old paper and cardboard.

paper, yarn and scraps

It's a 10-year habit, from when I made my first zine, keeping paper to use as backgrounds and textures in photocopied art. The excitement of artistic recycling has stuck, even though I'm not into zines any more. When I look at junk, I don't see clutter - I see supplies.

I don't like the idea of just throwing stuff out. I don't want to be a mindless conduit between factory and rubbish tip; I want to make stuff count before it hits the bin. Among my clutter piles supplies are tools and decorations that can give scrap paper a second life. I've used plastic shopping bags to pad out stuffing in sewing and amigurumi projects. And sometimes I recycle pretty junk mail into colourful envelopes to penpals.

washi tape, glue, awl, paste brush, card stencils, clips, and string

But this is where I struggle. How do you reconcile minimalism with a crafting lifestyle? How can you have less stuff, and still have enough to make things with, without having to buy new materials all the time?

This isn't a build-up to some clever insight. I really don't know the answer. I've no way to tell if slowing down the 'hand to bin' process actually has an impact on the environment because we're a small household, but spending time working with clean household trash does help me appreciate how much comes in, and how little we need.

more piles of paper

According to the book, the core value of minimalism is an attitude favouring purpose and quality. My parents raised me with a sense of saving, and I can see how for all its usefulness, being untemperedly frugal can make life harder than it needs to be.

Like with clothes. I bought 3 tops for work at $7 each and thought I was so clever. But after just a couple months, the elastic began to go. Compare this with a top I bought for $40, which now years later still looks nice enough to garner compliments.

Then there's the cheaper dental fillings that don't last, which diminish my teeth whenever they get replaced. The bargain call-out mechanic whose fix-up came so close to costing thousands in car damage. The annual patch-up sanctioned by the strata, which must by now be nearing the original quote for a proper replacement.

I get that timing matters, and there's no once-and-for-all solution, but at some point, saving is no longer saving - it's wishful thinking. Spending more for quality saves the things for which there are no substitues: your time, your peace of mind.

a toppled Jenga tower

Anyway, that's clutter for the noticeable, physical stuff. My email is a mess too. My twitter, reddit and feedly cast a net so wide, I sometimes avoid logging on because I feel so overwhelmed.

That's probably a good example of being owned by one's belongings. Clearing out the virtual stuff will probably take more effort than the physical stuff. There's always starting over completely, but uuunnnggghhh, my FOMO~

So, baby steps. Yes.

DIY hardcover case for a Kindle

Kindle reader inside a home-made hardcover case

I bought a Kindle last month, and was determined not to let this new possession possess me - and buy itself a case, decals, bells and baubles. I fall into this trap often, and while sometimes it's necessary, it didn't seem necessary here. I did want a case, but I would have to make it myself.

I remember the first time I felt profound disappointment at a purchased item. The seam had come loose on my wallet, and I discovered beneath the factory-perfect machine stitching, behind the synthetic woven fabric... a sheet of cardboard. No different to a cereal box, just sans printing. The spell of storebought was broken.

Since then, I mentally deconstructed everything that crossed my path. Over the years, I found similar patterns of deconstruction used in everything from books to purses, clothing to cat toys. I couldn't replicate those patterns as perfectly myself, but felt increasingly sour about paying $50 for something that was essentially scrap paper, cotton and glue.

There's more to it, of course, and that's the more I want to learn by doing.

Kindle reader inside a home-made hardcover case

So here's my first hardcover item - a Kindle book cover. It's roughshod, and I would do some things differently next time, but just a few tools and salvaged materials can really go a long way.

using Kindle to measure cardboard


Mount fabric panels onto cardboard for stiff, nice-feeling things.

Materials & tools

  • 1 cardboard
  • 2 x scrap fabric pieces
  • PVA glue (white)
  • 4 strips of elastic
  • Scissors
  • Glue brush
  • Sewing machine

cardboard folded like a book cover

Measure your cardboard frame using your object (Kindle, tablet, notebook, whatever). Cut the cardboard slightly bigger than you need to - this leaves room for the thickness of the fabric when it bends.

fabric mounted to the outside of the cover

Brush glue on one side of the cardboard and stick one of the fabric pieces to it. Trim the fabric, leaving a 2-3cm edge around the cardboard. Fold the edges over and glue to the other side. This is the outer cover of your case.

completed inner panel

The inner panel is fiddly. Measure the fabric, and fold and pin the edges. Measure against the object and mark where you'll need the elastic holders attached to the fabric. Judge this based on your object, so the screen or buttons aren't obstructed. Pin elastic to fabric, except for the ends that go near the spine (we'll do this later).

Hem the edge, stitching across the elastic when you get to it, being careful not to attach the elastic on both sides of the fabric. That's the fiddly bit, so think about it beforehand. The elastic has to be loose on the other side, so the corner of your object can slide in.

You can reinforce the elastic with another line of stitches across the loose edge of fabric.

attaching the elastic near the spine

Now that the hem's done, we'll attach the remaining 2 ends of elastic. Where your markings are, cut a tiny slit, just enough to thread the elastic through. Stitch a line parallel to the slit, attaching the elastic to the other side. It'd look better to stitch a rectangle all around, but I didn't bother.

Finally, brush glue onto the inside of your book cover and stick on your newly assembled panel.

pen mark, from where I measured the elastic attachment

Learn from my mistakes

  • Don't use a pen to mark where your elastic goes - this isn't something you'll put through the washing machine after!
  • Wash your brush between uses so the glue doesn't dry on it.
  • Don't put your cover near piles of cat hair while the glue is drying.
  • If your scrap cardboard has printing on it, choose a thick, sturdy fabric that you can't see through. Or just avoid light colours altogether. Or prepare to decorate. :)
  • Consider a third piece of fabric to sandwich between the hard cover and the inner panel, so you don't get a dent where there are fewer layers of material. (pictured below)

Happy making!