Saying farewell to a hobby

There are hundreds of books and resources available on the topic of breaking up with a love interest. There are even ones exploring the topic of breaking off a toxic friendship and dumping bad business relationships. But, I have yet to find anything out in the ether on how to kick a hobby to the curb. Noting that, I proclaim this Unclutterer entry as the authoritative work on breaking up with a hobby (I’m a little goofy this morning, just go with it). I call it:

You’re Just Not That Into Your Hobby

Do you consider yourself a tennis player, but the last time you touched your racket was when Bill Clinton was president? Do you like the idea of being a scrapbooker but have never made a complete scrapbook? Are you keeping canvases for masterpieces you may one day paint, yet all of your paints are dried and your brushes deteriorating? Is your guitar missing strings and in a case at the back of a closet? Do you have areas of your home set aside or filled with stuff related to a hobby that you spend less than 10 hours on a year?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you are just not that into your hobby.

It can be difficult to admit, but if you’re not averaging at least an hour a month pursuing a hobby, it’s time to let it go. The space you’re sacrificing in your home is too valuable to store things you don’t use. If you don’t have storage issues, it’s still worthwhile to get rid of your unused hobby stuff. Every time you walk past it I bet you think, “I wish I had more time to do X.” You don’t need that stress and guilt. If it were really important to you, you would pursue it.

Five steps for deciding if now is the time to ditch your hobby:

  1. Identify all of your hobbies and all of the things associated with them in your home, garage, and office. You may benefit by collecting these items and laying them all out in your front yard or an open space in your home to see how much space you’re sacrificing.
  2. List all of these hobbies and then estimate how much time you’ve spent pursuing each of them in the last 12 months. Be honest with yourself.
  3. Any hobby with an estimation of 10 hours or less should immediately be moved out of your home. Pack up the equipment and head to a used sports equipment store or an appropriate charity. If the hobby stuff is valuable, photograph it and list it for sale on a site like ebay or craigslist.
  4. Any hobby with an estimation of 24 hours or less should be carefully reviewed. If you went camping one day last year, you would reach the 24-hour mark for camping as a hobby. However, is one day of camping worth all of the space used to store your tent, sleeping bag, and all other accoutrements? On the flip side, if you spent one Friday night a month last year playing Bridge with friends and averaged about two hours of playing time a sitting, it’s probably worthwhile to hold onto a deck of cards.
  5. Any hobby with an estimation of more than 24 hours also should be considered for review. You may realize that you’re spending so much time and space on your hobby that you’re neglecting things more important in your life, like time with your spouse or children. It’s okay to break up with these hobbies, too. In most cases, however, you probably have a healthy relationship with your active hobbies and you’ll decide to keep up with them. You still will want to evaluate how much stuff you have for them. If you have more supplies than you could use in a lifetime associated with that hobby, it’s time to weed through the collection of stuff. My rule of thumb is that you should never have more than one year’s worth of supplies for an intense hobby — and less than that if you can manage.

There is a caveat to my assumption that you’re just not that into your hobby that I feel I should mention as a footnote. The truth may be that you really like your hobby, but somewhere along the way you misappropriated your time and let it fall by the wayside. Instead of making chairs in your woodworking studio, you’ve been watching television. If this is the case, make new priorities and recommit to your hobby. Turn off the t.v. and head to your studio. Decide to re-evaluate that hobby in six months. If in six months, however, you’re still watching t.v., then it’s time to admit that watching t.v. is your hobby not woodworking.

47 Comments for “Saying farewell to a hobby”

  1. posted by Steph on

    Ahh, this is so me when it comes to the tennis thing. I played JV in high school and thought I would play with friends occasionally in college – well, that happened once, and I haven’t touched the racket since (almost three years later). I have a bag of balls that have barely been used. It’s garage sale time for those and the good old racket.

  2. posted by Jen on

    Excellent posting today … this is something I haven’t thought much about until I read your post. I have several “hobbies” or things I thought I enjoyed doing until I really thought about how much time I spend doing them. And, I realized that I spend so little time doing them because I actually no longer enjoy them! How strange! I was keeping some of that stuff “just in case”.

    And then there’s the stuff I have for a hobby I keep telling myself that I will start once I have the time, but really what it boils down to is I don’t have the patience or energy to commit myself to that particular hobby because, well … I just don’t really enjoy doing it that much!

    Wow — very eye-opening. Thanks!

  3. posted by The Minimalist on

    Wow! I find it quite coincidental that I pulled up your bookmark on Technorati this morning as I was contemplating turning my office into an art studio! Even though I do the books for our family’s business, the truth is, I don’t sit in my office and work, I go more with your brief case system! The office just holds the printer and files. I’d much rather pay bills while I watch Oprah! The truth is, I’d rather paint while I watch Oprah too! Hummm… maybe a guest room? And… I remember the sad day I realized I’d probably never silk screen again. Some hobbies are enjoyed simply for the time exploring them They aren’t all meant to stay around forever. Thanks for the inspiration. :)

  4. posted by Jarick on

    Not only that, but you also have the emotional clutter (or mental perhaps) of that particular hobby. For me, I used to be big into music, played lots of instruments through high school, even did a lot of recording in college. But the last couple years, I did a 180 and got into other things.

    I find I still keep wanting to buy things and hold on to musical equipment in order to “get back into” it, but perhaps it’s just the case that I’m not into it anymore. I’ve sold off a lot of it, and I keep thinking I should spend a lot of my hard-earned cash on this stuff, but it doesn’t make sense when I’m not actively involved.

    I guess the point is to let your time, money, and space follow your hobbies instead of the other way around. If you find you have to invest so much of yourself into the hobby in order to keep your interest, it’s just not your hobby anymore.

    And when you DO let it go, you find you have more time, money, and space to devote to the things you love or new hobbies to enjoy!

    Excellent post!

  5. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    I go through the exact same steps when I help clients get organized. Personally though, we are a military family and we move quite a bit. For 2 winters we didn’t use our cross-country skis because we were living in a region with little snow. However, I knew eventually we would be moving to a region with a LOT more snow (like this past winter) and we used our skis almost every weekend. So, I’m glad I kept OUR skis. I did give away the children’s skis because they grew out of them anyway. We bought them new skis when we moved back to “Winter Wonderland”.

  6. posted by martha in mobile on

    Very good post!

    Knitters have long realized the over-dedication of space and energy to the supplies of our hobby. In fact, extra yarn is called “stash” because of its addictive quality. More yarn than you can possibly use is called SABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyong Life Expectancy) and buying (as yet) unneeded yarn is referred to as SEX (Stash Enhancement eXpedition). At last review, I realized I have 5 years worth of yarn, prompting me to go on a (what else) “yarn diet”.

  7. posted by MikeDude on

    I can see the point, but on the other hand, some hobbies don’t take much space and will save money by keeping them around for when you have more time to enjoy them.

    A tennis racket is pretty small for what you can do with it, and although I went for years without playing, I met a new colleague at work and now play regularly.

    Now, painting, that is another matter. I will get rid of my paints, brushes, and unused canvas during the next spring cleaning. That takes up lots of space and clutter.

  8. posted by stephanie on

    I read the intro to this article and then decided to skip the rest – because it is so true and I don’t want to face it! Maybe I’ll be ready to come back to this article in a couple weeks. . . :)

  9. posted by Kayla on

    I’m with Stephanie. I am new to the world of unclutter, and I don’t know that I am quite ready to get rid of that guitar.

  10. posted by Michele on

    Before law school, I dabbled in experimental filmmaking. I had several super-8 cameras, a dozen rolls of unused film, and hand-splice editing equipment kicking around. By 2008, nearly two years into law school, I hadn’t done anything with films since about 2005. So I called a local filmmaker friend and offered him all my gear.

    I got a few boxes of stuff together and he picked it up one weekend. It was awesome! I kept one camera and the few reels of completed projects; it fits into one cabinet drawer.

    If I ever do get back into filmmaking, I can always get more equipment — or call up my friend and see if any of my old stuff still works. For now, it was good to move that equipment along to people who will use it, rather than keep it in my physical and mental space.

  11. posted by Smurf on

    Hobbies are a serious issue for me. I love to learn new skills. My tricks?

    Some hobbies utilize things you already own. For instance, soapmaking. I use the Pyrex measuring cups and cookingware I already own, and the molds pack down to a very small space.

    Sewing results in a scrap pile. Get rid of this. No matter how much you love that satin, you will never use a yard of three-inch-wide material. Love your yarn stash, but keep it manageable. One in, one out.

  12. posted by J. Todd Leffar on

    About a month ago I begin a quest to simplify my life. I started by doing exactly what you described in the your post — making a list of my hobbies, my commitment to them, etc. I haven’t followed up with excising them yet, so this was a good kick in the pants. Thanks!

  13. posted by mud on

    Then there are those things that our society has classified as a hobby that I will keep around anyways. Sewing and gardening are two of them. I don’t consider them hobbies. I consider them about the same as keeping around a drill, saw, hammer, etc. They’re for repair and upkeep of house and household items. I sew twice a year, at season change when I need to let out or take in clothes. It’s not a “creative” thing for me, it’s practical necessity. Same for gardening equipment. We have a yard, it’s not fancy but stuff needs pruning, digging, weeding. That equipment isn’t a hobby to me, I have others that are, but I would, before you chuck out all of your ‘hobby’ stuff think about whether or not it’s a practical good that you use or if you are keeping it about for a project that you don’t need or consider “fun”

    I think that there is a difference and you should assess that too. So much of necessity and practical reality has, in our abundant society, been reclassified as a hobby instead of household work.

    Just a thought.

  14. posted by Alex Fayle on

    Excellent post. I used to be a total indoor rock climbing freak. I would go for 2 hours, 3 times a week. Then my business got busy and I started to go less often. Then I moved to Europe. I brought my climbing gear as I was living near the Pyrenees and thought I’d finally get into outdoor climbing.

    I never did. When my parents visited last March, I had them take my gear home with them and when I visited them in the summer, I told them they could contribute the gear to the local fireman’s charity sale.

    I especially like your footnote, by the way. Too often inertia and procrastination are the real reasons we don’t get around to doing what we really want to do.

    Cheers,
    Alex

  15. posted by twosandalz on

    A couple years ago, I cleared out the gear and gadgets of hobbies that I had stopped doing. At first it was hard to separate the stuff from the good memories associated with those hobbies. But I told myself that I was making room for new and current hobbies which would create new good memories. That helped a lot.

  16. posted by Laura on

    I’m new to unclutterer and this post is so right on the money! My problem is though, is that I don’t WANT t.v. watching to be my “hobby”. I really DO want to get my photo albums in order, work on old sewing projects, and paint masterpieces. I need to take heed of your footnote and re-commit myself to those hobbies.

    Also, your post and all of the comments made me realise there should be a website for people who are “Just not that into their hobbies” because as they say, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. I would love to find someone who was wanting to get rid of their screenprinting equiptment and buy it cheap used. Instead of getting rid of our stuff, we could pass our hobbies that we’re “just not into” on to someone else who might give them the commitment they deserve!

  17. posted by MamaBird/SurelyYouNest on

    Ah, I need to let go. But I can’t yet give up on my dream even for hobbies I haven’t learned yet! Like that sewing machine I got off freecycle. Sigh. Great idea, tho.

  18. posted by Kim on

    I love this post and completely agree, but I have a request. How about a post regarding bathroom clutter? I am the most uncluttered person I know, but my bathroom still always manages to fill itself up (I know I’m not doing it).

  19. posted by Lisa on

    I have accumulated a lot of crafting supplies (sewing, scrapbooking, cardmaking, etc.) which I deeply enjoy but I never have enough time to spend on them. Since starting to read Unclutterer, I’ve begun trying to unload some of the stuff I ‘might use someday’. I think I’ll unclutter the other stuff I don’t need before I start on my crafting stash!! Thanks for the great tips and inspiration!

  20. posted by Sue on

    We recently re-assigned some space, and I discovered the reason I wasn’t scrapbooking much was because I had to move aside DH’s keyboard and stool to access my stash. I moved all my stash to the basement, where I took over a dresser we’d moved down there. I already have a table there, because that is my sewing area. Now I can see quickly what supplies I have and projects go much faster. Plus I am not buying duplicates since I can SEE what I have on hand.

  21. posted by Anna on

    You are brutal! You’re saying that anything that you spend more than a half hour a WEEK is too much?
    Anything less than that is pittance, and should be discarded. Where’s the middle ground? How much time on a hobby would be considered healthy?

    I think two or three hours a week is still fine, for the average hobby. That would be 150 hours a year.

    Any kind of practice needs to be more than that, too, if you want to be good. Exercise, piano, gymnastics, karate, etc. Those people might spend two or three hours a day.

  22. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Anna — I think you missed part of the text …

    “Any hobby with an estimation of more than 24 hours also should be considered for review…In most cases, however, you probably have a healthy relationship with your active hobbies and you’ll decide to keep up with them.”

    Spending a few minutes thinking about something you do — where’s the harm in that??

  23. posted by Mike on

    I played Magic: the Gathering.

    Yeah.

    Anyway, it has taken me (so far) four MONTHS to sell off my collection, separating out sets and top rares so as to maximize the coverage on that sunk money. I hate sorting cards so much I can’t believe I ever bought into this game.

    And yet I love the game. Still do.

    Ah, dilemmas.

  24. posted by Jack on

    I am very, very hesitantly getting into collage. I’ve seen how scrapbooking supplies take over a space like alien mold, and I don’t want my art supplies to do that; right now they’re a large shoebox and a small shoebox in my closet, and I don’t intend to let them get much larger than that until I’m regularly producing things from the stuff I have.

    As for current hobbies, most of the things I do either require minimal equipment (martial arts), are done on the computer, or are reading. And of course, books are a whole different subject for uncluttering… XD

  25. posted by sara on

    Amazing article thanks :-D

  26. posted by Louise on

    I read this post yesterday, and kept it up on my screen all evening to make me think about my guitar. It’s been hanging on the wall, untouched, for about 18 months. Like Kayla, I wasn’t ready to give it up.

    I am an ardent unclutterer, and had to face the fact that I had a large object, unused, in my 300 sq ft RV.

    So today I pulled the guitar down, tuned it (ugh, was it flat!) and started practicing. My fingers are tender, my callouses are gone, but it felt GREAT!

    Thanks for the kick in the pants. I’m committing to 15 minutes a day to re-own this hobby. Then my guitar will not be clutter, but a useful, used object.

  27. posted by Kay on

    I came across my snow skis in the great purge of 2008. It’s hard to part with them since I do still use them occasionally, but I figure it’s better to rent them. Maybe one day when I make that move to Colorado, I’ll be ready to buy new ones.

  28. posted by Suzanne on

    Great post! I also love the purging of the mental clutter, along with the physical stuff. Life is too short for regrets. Say “bye bye” and get that stuff to a new home…you won’t believe how much lighter you will feel.

  29. posted by debtdieter on

    Great post! I realised recently that I’ve totally gone off cross-stitching as I have a heap of things still packed in boxes that I moved and haven’t even opened. I really need to get them listed on eBay & out of my apartment.

  30. posted by Josephine on

    Too often the objects we hold onto are nothing more than tangible symbols of our dreams, wishes, and hopes. I believe saying farewell to a hobby is difficult because in essence you’re saying farewell to a dream. Emotionally, that can be daunting.

    When I first embarked on a major decluttering project this year, I donated items to which I had no emotional attachment. I was then able to step back and check my progress. Suddenly those items to which I was more emotionally attached overwhelmed me, and letting go of them was not so painful. And while I am an avid knitter and knew this was the one area where my involvement would not diminish, I was able to reduce my yarn stash.

    I love to learn and frequently take new classes (most recently beading / jewelry design). In the past, I would have purchased all sorts of gadgets, books, etc. related to my new-found hobby only to find that the passion didn’t necessarily last or was not quite as strong as that with my knitting. (Perhaps the hobby and acquisition of associated tools served to fill a void.) I am now able to restrain myself fully from such purchases and am fully aware where my passions lie.

  31. posted by SaraJean on

    Before disposing of hobby stuff, I believe one needs to honestly evaluate the chances of returning to the hobby, not just make a decision based on the amount of time one has spent on it in a given year. Personally, I find I return to hobbies after taking a few years off.

    For example, I put away my french horns in 1995 and resumed playing in an orchestra in 2007. I put away my triathlon gear in 2001 and won medals in my division in 2006 and 2007.

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  33. posted by acomplia on

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  34. posted by sarah on

    Interesting that you recommend getting rid of hobbies if one is watching TV instead, but don’t recommend getting rid of the TV. We haven’t had a TV in five years. Although we do watch movies and TV shows on DVD on our computer, we find that because we don’t see commercials for new products and trailers for upcoming movies, we have no desire to spend money on these things!

  35. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @sarah — Sorry to ruin this for you, but if you’re watching movies and TV shows on your computer, then your computer is your TV. No difference. People with DVRs don’t watch commercials either.

    The reason I don’t recommend getting rid of your TV is because I find they have utility. In an emergency, most broadcasters can still transmit over the airwaves. Cable signals and websites go down much more easily. In the hours immediately after 9-11, it was a great convenience to have a TV to get the ongoing stream of news in DC. This is the same reason I think it’s a wise idea to have a radio in your home. In an emergency, you need access to information, and TVs and radios are very stable forms of communication in contrast to their more hi-tech counterparts.

  36. posted by Megan on

    This is such a great post, because I have had emotional hobby clutter – my oil painting supplies! I’ve had a year of painter’s block and been struggling to determine if I just needed a break or not.

    I’m chalking it up to cluttering up my time with cable – the TV is an easier/lazier “hobby” after work or on weekends! I’m moving next week and dropping my cable. Without hours and hours of HGTV accessible to me, I’m looking forward to better utilizing my spare time for activities I really enjoy, but have neglected – like painting.

    Granted, in a year, I’ll re-evaluate to see if my plan has worked. :)

  37. posted by Loren on

    Just stumbled across this post (I realize it’s over a year old). But I’ve been trying to declutter my life, I am a big craft-er though, I love to sew, crochet, draw anything that my hands can do. I tried several times to weed out my crafting supplies but I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of anything. Finally I organized everything, made nice labeled boxes, gave everything a home. And realized I hadn’t touched my acrylic paints in over a year, I pull them out every now and then for tiny embellishments, but this is no reason to keep an entire tool-box full. So I packed them up and gave them to my sister (a huge shoebox full of stuff) I kept my water colors, which are in a convenient tiny case, less than a paperback book and I can do anything with them that I used my acrylics for. Now maybe I can convince myself I don’t need all those sharpies, or that pile fabric I haven’t used yet.

  38. posted by lola meyer on

    Often our unused hobby supplies can go to groups who need them. Material to quilt groups that make quilts for disaster victims, womens shelters, hospital housing,etc; yarn to knitters that make hats for the EMT crews to put on accident victims to keep them warm in transit; sports equipment to schools with limited budgets; art supplies to pre-schools, middle and high schools, and daycares; instructional books to libraries and charity book sales; musical instruments to churches and schools.

  39. posted by rosel on

    Camping equipment is expensive to rent. I have nice stuff, I use it every two years or so. I have room in the back of a closet. I wouldn’t upgrade, but I wouldn’t get rid of it either. That would be just be annoying. Camping isn’t out of my life, it’s just rare. It would be even rarer if I got rid of my stuff and had to think about renting a tent and everything else. I guess if I lived in a 300 sq ft place I would, but I have a townhouse with a basement.

  40. posted by Meg on

    OK, this is EXACTLY the question I’ve been asking myself for the past couple of years!
    I read “It’s All Too Much” and actually emailed Peter Walsh to ask his opinion! He called me back, and said, “Gee, I don’t know what to tell you!”

    I have several hobbies which require very expensive equipment, and some of that equipment takes up a lot of space. I would not be able to afford purchasing that equipment again, and I use most of the equipment more than 100 hours a year. Some of the equipment might only be turned on for 2-3 hours a year (ie, a router) but when you need one, nothing else will do in its place. The problem is that I’ve moved onto an acre which only has a 900 square foot home and a one-car garage, and it will be a LONG time before I can build another garage.
    A secondary problem to this is that here in Texas, garages are very hot, very humid, and can also get below freezing. I’m keeping many of my tools in the house, to keep them from rusting in the humidity. I also keep things like paint and herbicides in the house, as they are ruined if they freeze. Running a second a second climate control system will cost an extra $30-50 a month, and I really don’t want to do that.
    Hobbies and equipment examples:
    woodworking and home improvement/repair (table saw, hand tools, power tools, electrical stuff, painting stuff, plumbing stuff)
    papermaking and making custom invitations (presses, pulp, cans, cardstock, envelopes, etc)
    gardening (potting bench/soil, garden tools, fertilizer)
    chickens (equip for various stages of chick growth)
    goats and cheese making equipment
    canning and jelly making equipment (I only use these about twice a year, but it’s for 4-5 weekends a year)
    dog rescue (I foster dogs, which requires crates and other various-sized doggie equipment for the various sized dogs I’m assigned)

    Any ideas?

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  45. posted by Susie on

    Good ideas but…..several years ago I was getting ready to dump all my knitting stuff, which I hadn’t used in over 12 years. Ha! Instead I decide to give it one more shot..and have been going strong ever since. If I had given it all away, I’d have spent hundreds of dollars for needles and yarn and more books. Well, actually, Ive been doing that anyway, guess I missed the whole point, huh?
    Seriously, there ARE lots of hobbies to dump.
    Thanks for the thought provoking ideas.

  46. posted by Maureen on

    I came upon this article just today, Thursday, January 7, 2010. My church is going to have a “craft swap”, where women can bring craft items to trade for someone else’s craft items. All those things not claimed at the end of the swap will be donated. As one of the old posts said, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

  47. posted by adijuh on

    Unclutterer has a new post about “saying farewell to a hobby,” which reminds me again that I have a handful of rather expensive “how to draw manga” books sitting on my shelves that make me feel guilty whenever I look at them.

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