I don't *think* I've posted on this before... ;)
So, if you're someone who buys for the future (as in 'This would make a great top!) instead of someone who buys for the next project (as in 'I need 2 7/8 yards of pink linen for this dress'), you and I are comrades...although I do admit to trying hard to move a little closer to the 'buying for the project' side.
In truth, if you sew a lot, it makes sense to purchase quality basic fabric when it's available and/or on sale, since that will get used. The stuff that could be trendy...well, maybe not so much. But sooner or later almost every sewing enthusiast will acquire a little more fabric than can be sewn in the immediate future...and the stash is born. I think my stash began back in the mid 80's, when I discovered Fashion Fabrics Club. I could get DEALS for $1.99/yd...and I sometimes bought on spec. In fact, what I truly think is the oldest piece of fabric in my stash was an early FFC purchase...a brown/black/cream tweed that I WILL make a jacket from one of these days. To my best guess, it dates from 1983. Old.
Anyway, keeping track of it has always been an issue. Fabric will get used if it's remembered. Over the years, I've kind of developed a system that sounds complicated, but it works. Helps on the accounting side, too, since when I purchase the fabric I don't always know if I'll use it for me, the kids, or a gift. Or, sometimes I change my mind. So there's a 'fabrics and notions' budget line that purchases come out of if I'm not *sure* what it will be; after it's made up then I'll transfer the expense from,say, kids' clothes to fabrics/notions in the budget. But that means keeping track of it.
I've actually got two levels of tracking now...one for recent purchases, and every six months or so I'll move the recent purchases that haven't yet been sewn into the stash. That's all just on paper...or rather, in the computer.
So, let's track a recent purchase; in June of last year, I bought some rayon knits from Emma One Sock, including a grey rib knit. The knits all got entered into the '2005 purchases' Excel spread sheet...information includes date purchased, where purchased, fabric description, width, yardage, cost/yard, a notation of what budget account I charged it too and any comments, such as 'dry clean only' or planned patterns. I also put a small swatch on a 3x5 card w/the same info. I didn't use the knit, so at the end of December I entered the information into my Access Data base, which assigns a number to that fabric. The number is written on the card and filed numerically in a card file box with all the rest of the stash cards. The data is alphabetized by fabric type (jersey knit, poplin, suiting, etc) and copied into an excel file, which totals everything for me (Yikes!). I print out the excel worksheet and keep it with the stash card file.
When I was looking for coordinates for my SWAP, I pulled the jacket card and started pulling other cards to coordinate. Lo and behold, the grey rib looked great with it, so I pulled that fabric and made another Vogue 7799 cross-neck T from it. I had already charged the fabric to 'Lisa's Clothes', so I didn't have to do any other transfers (although if I had used some notions, like lining or buttons, I probably would've transferred those). Note on the card what I made and when, and just add it to the 'completed projects' card file. When I next updated the Access data base, the line is cleared (not deleted) so the number can be used for another fabric.
That all sounds really complicated, but it really does keep me on top of what I've got and how well I'm doing on reducing the stash. I will never be without stash; there are some things that are advantageous to have stashed. But I do want to get it down to a reasonable number; surely 4 large rubbermade hinged totes should hold enough to keep me occupied for a while, don't you think? If I can get to the point where that's what I have, I think I'll consider the stashing under control.