Another rambling post ahead...
So I'm reading a bunch of knit blogs these days. Sometimes these gals(guys) refer to their "stash" and I sometimes wonder if it means what I think it means. People describe large containers, closets, drawers, and roomsfull of yarn. They speak of buying yarn just to buy it, because they like it. They get possessed by the beauty of the fiber or colors or the smell or something and zippity-do! it "follows them home". I... don't get it.
I've NEVER bought any yarn without having a purpose for it. I have, on occasion, admired the yarn IN a specific project; generally, though, I can admire a yarn without buying. Notable exception-- some hand dyed sock yarn I recently bought on Etsy, a gorgeous purple colorway. But, you know, I'm going to make it into socks, so I don't think that counts as a yarn-based decision.
I would say it hearkens back to the type of knitter I am, but it's more basic than that. It's the type of person I am: linear-thinking, literal, and judgemental (in the sense that there is a black/white, yes/no answer for everything, and I don't dither or look back once I make a decision.) I don't make shit up, I follow patterns to the letter, I always knit for gague on the first try. I feel like a freakin' genius when I started that wool sock using only sock principles, not a pattern.
This makes me a very practically oriented knitter, because to me, it's about the finished product. I do enjoy the actual knitting, but to me, why would you do it if you didn't want something to use when you're done? I'm prolific, because I pick LOTS of small projects, and I'm watching 3 hrs of TV a night, so I'd feel lazy if I wasn't also producing something (multitasking taken to new neurotic heights!) The sight of empty yarn labels makes me happy.
I have, therefore, always purchased acrylic yarns. When you're pumping out the sheer numbers of FP's I do, you can't afford $10 for a freakin' 50 g skein. Gimme an acrylic Pounder @ $4.99 on sale, and I'm happy. I did just recently spring for some cashmerino aran @ $8.99 (and that sock yarn! $14! wow!) but I wouldn't be caught dead shelling out $100+ for sweater yarn. And I can't afford (financially or mentally) to buy stuff I might not use. Not enough closure, you know.
This goes towards explaining my stash, and why it bothers me to have one, even though it seems sad and inadequate compared to other knitters out there. It's currently way bigger than I want. My stash consists of the following types (hey, I'm a cataloger, you know I was going there):
1. leftovers. scraps, partial skeins, full skeins. crud that my frugalness has forbidden me to let go just yet. in my defense, my scraps are fewer than they were; I'm more willing to toss a couple of leftover yards than I used to be. this is my biggest pile.
2. things that are going to be knit. there are plans in the pipeline, patterns copied, it's just a matter of when. I would count my recent expensive purchases here, because I bought them with concrete plans to knit them up in the near future. this is a large pile at the moment because I've got a lotta plans, baby.
3. crap people have given me, because "we know you knit so we figured you can use this." the ONLY things I have ever knit from this type of yarn is baby stuff, because I needed some gifts and who wants to go shopping when there's something good enough sitting in the closet? I hate the stuff in this pile because I'll never use it. it's too big at the moment.
4. stuff bought on spec, ie., what most people are talking about when they talk about stash. for me, this consists of 6 balls of Lion Brand Magic Stripe sock yarn I got when Meijer was clearancing them-- regularly $7.99/ball, on clearance for $2-- and when I walked into the store that day I was handed a coupon for 40% off any craft clearance. it was Meant To Be. I only classify them here because it is entirely possible I will not make them into socks.
So there's my definition of stash. "Stuff I'm going to use."