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4 steps to prioritize the mending pile

Written by editor Nicole Bennett of Gidget Goes Home.

Ah, that mending pile. It seems to fall into the category of to-do items that contains things like Mary Poppins’ carpetbag… that is to say, it seems never-ending. There is always a button to sew back on, a strap to repair, a hole to patch. And if you like to repurpose and upcycle, then the options are endless as to what could end up in the pile.

So today, let’s take a tip-toe-ing baby step towards that pile and organize it a bit. I think that might help the tasks seem a little less daunting. Are you with me? I’ll use my own collection of things that need attention to guide us through this little experiment.

When we moved I whittled my mending pile down to things I actually and really want to fix, repair or tailor. Here are a few ways I’m determining what to work on when.

What to consider when prioritizing the mending pile

1. Size

Top priority will be mending items that belong to kids who will potentially outgrow said items soon if they don’t get fixed pronto. If I don’t really care about the item I will probably just give it away (I have to consider the worth of my time after all) but if it’s handmade or super cute, it’s naturally worth the time to fix.

These two dresses have been sitting here too long already (the handmade one on the right actually broke when my five-year old was wearing it, ahem), so they are taking first priority.

2. Simplicity

I like to get the easy jobs out of the way first so I feel like I’m making quicker progress through the pile. Sometimes this will take priority over even size if I’m really motivated– but a button on a a pajama top can wait a bit longer so I make sure to fix the dresses Hallee is on the verge of outgrowing.

But generally speaking, sewing on a button is one of the simplest and quickest mending jobs, and there’s really no excuse for its sitting in the mending pile for months on end, other than my own laziness. 😉

3. Season

The next qualification I will probably look at is what season a particular item belongs to, or in other words, how soon do I need it fixed?

For me, these summery tops that need to be taken in/straps shortened need to be taken care of sooner than this fall-colored dress that needs a new zipper. I’ll use the nightie and tank top as soon as they’re fixed, whereas the thrifted dress can wait since I’m imagining it with boots anyway (it’d be cute in summer, too, if I get my act together, but it’s less pressing as you can see).

4. New skill required

Finally, do I need to learn a new skill to mend something? If so, it’s going to take last priority.

I’ve never replaced elastic on a swim diaper or gotten wax out of a vintage linen, so these projects will have to wait, since I’ll need to do some research and take a bit more time to figure the job out.

How’s your mending pile looking? How do you decide which jobs to tackle first?

Reading Time:

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  1. alicia

    To get wax out of cloth ive had luck with stretching the cloth over a bowl, then pouring hot hot hot water over the wax. The heat melts the wax and the water helps “push” it through to the other side. You may have to do this several times until it has all disappeared. Hope this helps.

    And yes, i too an guilty of the pile. but, i have a ruler that before i start any new project i must tackle one thing from the pile. And once i have sat down it is usually more than that!

    • Jill

      I actually have had luck with the opposite of Alicia’s tip. Take a paper towel and fold it over the waxy area. Iron over it with a hot iron. As you press down, the paper towel will soak the hot wax up.

      My other tips…before anything even goes in my mending pile, I also grab whatever else I need – coordinated thread, a new button/snap, etc. and put those in the mending basket too so I don’t have to hunt around for them later. I also have a dedicated pin/needle cusion and tiny scissors just for this basket. I’m a seamstress by hobby so my pile also includes any hand sewing I need to do such as hemming or hand-tacking. For these items, I pre-pin them before they go in the basket. I also pin a note on odd items to help jog my memory as to what I needed to do with it.

      Then I wait for a good movie to come on and I do all my handsewing in front of the movie. Watching a good flick makes a boring job go a lot faster.

      • Nicole

        great ideas, Jill! I was going to try the ironing technique for the wax. I love your idea of including relevant notions in your pile and jotting down notes on what needs to be done!


      Hello there, I discovered your web site by the use of Google even as looking for a related topic, your site came up, it seems to be great. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks

  2. Amanda G.

    I have a small kitchen table in my basement where things that need mended get stacked. Let’s just say that the pile has gotten so big that it has fallen over to the chairs (…and the floors). The past couple of months have completely gotten away from me. I’m going to have to do holey clothing triage, otherwise I’m never going to be able to get through the mess.

  3. Heather

    The mending pile does not get my attention often enough. In fact, there is a loose seam in my husband’s suit pants that needs to be fixed, and I keep putting it off. Maybe I should just do it, and then I won’t have it in the back of my mind all the time! 🙂

  4. marci357

    The “pile” sits ON my sewing chair… If I have to move it every single time I sit down, I am more apt to get it done. As a Grandma… I have a LOT of mending to do. Always first priority is the work jeans for the diary farm…. They need to get back in rotation quickly as the few pairs there are are in great demand. 2nd on the list will be special occasions – needed for some upcoming event.
    As I ENJOY mending as a creative activity, it is not usually a chore for me at all – but rather something to be enjoyed…. plus… if it’s been there a week, that’s my limit… No sewing on my quilts until the mending is all done ! LOL

    • Nicole

      I love that you prioritize your mending before other creative work! You’re right– it totally is a creative activity!

  5. Emily @Random Recycling

    I wish I was better about mending things. If it’s really pressing, I hang it near my closet door so I keep seeing it. If it stays longer than a week, I try to send it to the dry cleaners who will take care of it for me. Sometimes just getting it checked off the list is worth the couple of dollars it might cost to have buttons reattached, hems fixes, etc.

    • Nicole

      The worth of our time is definitely something to consider! 😉

  6. Jessica Saunders

    my mother in law takes her mending on car trips, obviously this doesn’t work if you get car sick, but she does seem to keep up with her pile this way.

    • Nicole

      That’s a great idea! I can always use little things to keep me awake when my husband is driving. 🙂


    I like how you write your articles! Thank you.

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