by Susan McCarthy
If your parent was a crafter, when you’re cleaning out their home, you may find yourself face with a lot of art and craft supplies – including brand new materials. Don’t engage in this creative outlet? Here’s how to rehome inherited craft supplies.
Most crafters have a stash – a variety of supplies that allow them to create on a whim. A paper crafter will have paper in all the colors; a quilter will have bins of fabric just waiting to inspire them; a knitter will have lots and lots of yarn.
Some crafters will meticulously organize their supplies so they can see what they have. Other artists may have a random collection of supplies and they find it inspiring when they must root around and look for things.
Your parent may have been in favor of order or inspiring messes, but chances are they have a lot of supplies both new and used. You’ll also probably find numerous half-finished projects – including a lot that they may have set aside years ago.
If you don’t share your parent’s pastime, after their death you may be wondering what to do with all these inherited craft supplies.
Connect with Other Crafters whom Your Parent Knew
The good news is that there are a lot of crafters out there who would love to add these supplies to their stash.
As someone who crochets (and used to knit), I’ve received many boxes, bags, and bins of yarn as well as other supplies and tools from friends and acquaintances who were cleaning through their parent’s estate. When I taught art and craft classes, I welcomed many donations from crafters who were downsizing or decluttering their home as well as from people emptying their parent’s home.
If you’re looking at a box or a couple of bins of supplies, you may be able to find a single new home for these things. However, if your parent had a craft room or workshop, then you may need to rely on using a variety of methods to rehome all this stuff.
If they had a friend or family member who joined in this hobby, they may be your first option for selling or giving away items. Even if that person doesn’t want any of these things, they may be able to help you identify what you’re looking at, help you price items, and connect you with others who may be interested in these items.
Find out What Supplies and Materials You’ve Inherited
One of the first things you’ll need to do with art and craft supplies is find out what you have. If you aren’t familiar with the pastime and have no clue what you’re looking at, connect with someone who does know. Even if you don’t know everything that you’re looking at, chances are you’ll be able to identify some things.
If your mother was a quilter, you may not understand all the tools and supplies she had but you will understand that she had bins of fabric. Posting the fabric for sale or to give away will introduce you to other quilters who will be able to tell you what else you have (and they may be interested in these things).
To figure out what you have, take the following steps:
Gather. To make sense of what you have, the first thing you’ll want to do is gather everything you can find to one location. This will not only make it clear what you have but you’ll find out what quantities you’re dealing with.
Look in closets, under and behind furniture, in spare rooms, up in the attic or down in the basement, really anywhere in the house. (So, this won’t be your priority, particularly if as you’re walking through the house you happen to notice a dozen of bins in the attic that proved to be filled with fabric from your mother’s quilting hobby.) if you think that there are a lot of crafting supplies throughout the house, bring them to a central location as you find them.
Sort. If it isn’t already, sort supplies by type (a bin of glue) or by craft (scrapbooking, sewing, acrylics). If there are materials that got used for multiple media (scissors, white glue), put those items together in a ‘frequently used’ pile.
If there are bins or drawers of supplies, don’t just glance at the space, empty it out so you can see what you have. (Unless it’s clear that your parent kept items ordered by type.
Eliminate. Toss dried tubes or bottles of paint. Tangled messes of yarn won’t excite anyone; toss them. Dried glue, rusted scissors, anything mildewed or smelly should all go. Yes, crafters are a creative lot, but they don’t need unusable crap.
Now that you’ve gathered and sorted through the materials, you know if you are looking at new items, partly used things, etc. and you can better decide what you’ll do with them.
How to Sell Inherited Craft Supplies
Chances are that your parent had a mix of new supplies that were untouched as well as those they removed from the package when they acquire the items but never used. Some brand-new materials could be years (even decades) old.
Check supplies like paint, ink pads, tape, and other items that may have dried up and become unusable over time.
When you want to sell unused art and craft supplies, group related items and consider selling the item by the lot. This will help you to clear out many small items as quickly as possible. As you group items, consider how big a box is filled. Are you willing to pay to ship a large, heavy box? Will a customer be happy to add that expense to their purchase?
For copious quantities of items, consider posting online to Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or other website-based sites where local pickup is a feature. If you have a lot of stuff, you could even sell it at a local craft fair. (I provide a lot of links in my guide, Rehome Mom & Dad’s Stuff: What to Do with What You Inherit.)
When pricing craft supplies, don’t expect to charge the price of the items when they aren’t on sale. Chances are that your parent bought a lot of stuff on sale or clearance. Reflect on your goal. If you think you can make back all the money your mom or dad spent on hobby supplies, it’s not going to happen. The more stuff you’re trying to sell, the lower your price will be for each item because you want to encourage buyers to buy more.
Give Away and Donate Art and Craft Supplies
When you’re donating art and craft supplies, you’ll be able to pass along brand-new items as well as partly used supplies. You can give away or donate to individuals as well as groups and organizations. If your parent belonged to a hobby group or had family or friends who shared the same pastime, ask them if they want what your parent had.
Some people may want to select items, so if you want to see all of it gone, make clear what you have and tell them you want it all gone. The individual who takes the items could share the items with other people or groups. In most cases, it may be easier to send the items to a variety of new recipients.
If this isn’t an option, contact schools (public and private), daycares, homeschooling groups, as well as camps to find out if they’d be interested in the supplies. You may need to sort related items and take pictures of what you have so people can judge is they want to say yes or no.
Posting on a local Buy Nothing group may make your parent’s hobby supplies disappear within a day or two.
What to Do with Finished and Unfinished Projects
While you may not have an emotional attachment to skeins or yarn or jars of nails, you may be face with a collection of unfinished projects that will tug at your heart. As a crafter, let me say that not everything you find will be something that your parent was recently working on.
In fact, if your parent hadn’t participated in this pastime for years, then they may have a lot of things that they held onto just because they didn’t know what to do with the items. I remember an acquaintance telling me about the scrap of an afghan her mother had been working on when she died. For years, she held onto this strip of crocheted material with the intention of learning to crochet so she could finish the blanket. At one point, she’d even asked if I’d consider finishing it for her.
When she showed me what she had, I realized that whoever finished it would be completing most of the item. Would it really have been her mother’s project? I suggested that she drape what she had over the top of a couch or lay it at the foot of her bed as is. I think the strip that her mother had crocheted (with the rest of the yarn for the full afghan) went back in its tote bag.
If you find finished projects, given them to willing family members. Donate completed items that family isn’t interested in.
As for partly completed projects, use the people who you were selling or giving away items to as resources. Are there charities that would take and then finish the items? Would the local animal shelter be able to take unfinished blankets and quilts (providing there are loose ends that would prove dangerous to animals that would chew on them?)
Some barely started projects may be destined for the trash barrel if there isn’t enough of the item created to be useful to someone.
Take pictures of items, finished and unfinished (a closeup or a change of camera angle can hide that something wasn’t finished) if it is important to you to keep a record of what your parent used to do.
And if you do take home some of your parents’ projects, put them on display as opposed to hiding them in a box…that doesn’t honor your parents’ love and time given to this craft.
What to Do when You Inherit Your Parent’s Art and Craft Supplies
If you don’t share the same interests as your parents, then you’ll want to get these supplies to those who can use and appreciate them. No, thinking that you should honor your parent by learning to knit or to start scrapbooking really shouldn’t be your option. Chances are the stuff will just sit unused in your home.
While art and craft supplies can be a challenge based on the quantity of items your parent may have owned, you’ll find enthusiastic makers and teachers who will gladly add these items to their stash. Hobby supplies are just one type of item you'll encounter when clearing through a deceased parent's stuff. Download the free Empty the House Starter Guide so you can create a PLAN for going through everything in the house.
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Hi, I'm Susan
Emptying my parents' overpacked 800-square-foot house left me popping handfuls of peanut M&Ms and doing a WHOLE lot of comfort-crocheting. The experience of sorting through mom and dad's stuff also encouraged me to become a professional organizer...so now I can offer techniques that work much better than chocolate.