Oo: Organize, Out to the Curb It Goes

During April, I will be blogging about how creative people can practice their craft every day and what rewards will come from the daily effort.


Oo: Organize
Out to the Curb It Goes

Although I love seeing pictures of artists’ creative spaces, the ones I see online come nowhere near matching the few I’ve seen in person, which are messier, more cluttered, and not nearly so spacious or bright. In fact, my friend who is a woodworker created her first work space in a hallway closet:  saws, workbench, and wood pieces where you’d expect coats, shoes, and hats.

This friend and I have opposite views, however, when it comes to organizing your workspace. She sagely advises you hang on to all of the starts, drafts, pieces and parts of your work and mine it now and then for fragments of ideas that could grow into something complete. I say, however, get rid of it! At least, after an appropriate amount of time hanging onto it. Only you know how long is enough, but I’m thinking months more than years.

In other words, every now and then, maybe four times a year with each season, take a break from your daily work for a day or two and organize your space—from shelves, floor, and desk to digital storage.

Sorting through your unfinished work helps you assess what you’ve done, where you’ve been, and then discern where you want to go.

Plus, it feels really good to finally let go of something that has not worked for a very long time. I finally recycled the paper drafts and deleted the digital files of an essay I’d worked on periodically for at least five years. It felt like sweet relief. The essay idea still lingers in my mind, but if I ever decide to tackle it once again, I’ll have a truly blank slate, no dead weight.

It’s like pruning dead branches from a tree. You make more space and lighten things up. It might look stark at first, but then you have room for new, vibrant projects, to leaf out and come to fruition.

“The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life.” —Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Perhaps a happy medium between my friend’s advice and mine is to create temporary storage space (digital and actual), where you put all of the works-in-progress you no longer love but feel you might want to reconsider. After a few months, whatever you haven’t pulled back out can be tossed to the curb in the recycling bin, given away, painted over, etcetera.

PS: I just remembered a newspaper article I read a few years ago. As I recall it, a painter held a “free” sale. She was sick of her old work and needed to clean up her studio, so she advertised like a garage sale and gave away her old work. This worked perfectly: she created much-needed actual and mental space and re-invigorated her creative spirit.

What she didn’t expect was how many people would show up for the free work and want to know about her new work. Their enthusiasm fueled her determination to get back at it, she found new fans and expanded her audience, and even ended up in the newspaper. So, maybe a free sale is a good way to move out the stuff you no longer want to work on and make room for today’s inspirations.

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8 Responses to Oo: Organize, Out to the Curb It Goes

  1. Rose L. says:

    I have yet to get my creative space organized after moving. The room will be painted first and then I can set it up. I am having shelves put in and bought a long table for one end to work on my photographs and crafts. I DO hope to be well organized!!

    • TRISTA says:

      Ooooooh, Rose! To have a whole, brand new space to design as your studio sounds soooooo incredibly lovely! (And intimidating, but mostly purely lovely!) I hope you’ll post photos. I can’t wait to see it. Of course, don’t make it so perfect you’re afraid to actually work in there and make a mess! (That’s what I’d end up doing!)

  2. EcoCatLady says:

    I love this idea. I totally suck at organizing and purging in general – especially with creative endeavors. You should see the number of crap photos clogging my hard drive! But it seems there is great power in letting go of stuff, partly because it helps us let go of the idea that the “thing” itself is sacred, when actually it’s the process that is. It’s almost like hanging onto stuff encourages fear – like you’ll never be able to create something else like it or better than it. Not sure if that makes any sense or not.

    • TRISTA says:

      Oh, this is so funny. We only know each other through our blogs, but I thought of you today and the digital images you create, and how you must have to save and organize a ton of images and how challenging that would be. Then I come home and read your comment. Ha! Too funny. BUT, way more importantly, I think you once again put into words what I’ve been trying to understand: hanging onto stuff encourages fear. That makes total sense. Thanks again for your great insights!

      • EcoCatLady says:

        Full disclosure… I don’t actually create all of those images on my blog from scratch – many are just filched from the web, others I make at the cheezbuger site. So I have even less excuse than you might imagine for my cluttered hard drive. “But, but, but… what if I NEED that totally out of focus shot of the violets in my backyard…” says the crazy voice in my head. Oy!

  3. Alex Hurst says:

    I also tend to throw away stuff…. I have regretted it nearly every time. Thankfully some can’t be literally thrown out (like an idea for a character), so I can always repurpose someone for a new story if need be. (I threw out all of my university essays …. really regret it now) 😦

    • TRISTA says:

      Oh, I’m so sorry you ended up regretting getting rid of things — That’s something I need to consider. I can’t say I have any regrets, just relief. I’d sort of like to see my undergraduate art work again, but the feeling of giving it all away and recycling the practice pieces overpowers any nostalgia. You don’t have to answer this if you’d rather not, but what made you regret getting rid of somethings, like the essays? Do you have uses for them now that you didn’t have before?

      • Alex Hurst says:

        Oh, I’m happy to answer. ☺

        It goes back to that perfectionism thing. If something felt flawed somehow, I would just trash it. Literally. And writing on the computer is especially subject to that (even though sticking it on a USB is always the smarter idea). I’ve thrown away book design templates, essays, plot notes, writing, character sketches and art…

        In each case the reason is slightly different, but my essays in college made really high marks, and I know they were interesting (Male Jealousy and Envy in Premodern and Modern East Asia) (Japan as the Post-Modern, connecting Lafcadio Hearn, Kawanabe Kyosai [the demon painter of Edo Japan] and the Western Invasion in the Meiji Era), etc…

        My struggle is that with writings like that, I can only now remember the gist. None of the information I worked so hard to collect. So it feels like I doubly lost the effort of time and struggle. Whereas if I still had a copy, I could quickly read it and refresh my knowledge on the subject. ☺ Lesson learned! Everything on USB now. Though I guess I should back up my blog as well every now and then.

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