Do you love to create, but feel that your workspace is holding you back? Nadia Arbach, of Clear the decks! Professional Decluttering and Organizing and host of the ‘Declutter and Organize Your Sewing Space’ podcast gives us some tips to help clear the clutter and bring your creativity back into focus.
If you’ve ever experienced writer’s block, you’ll know what it feels like to stare at a blank page. Or perhaps you’re an artist feeling helpless before a blank canvas. Your mind feels devoid of ideas and inspiration. But look round your creative workspace – is it as empty as your mind feels?
Chances are that your workspace is full. REALLY full. Full of things which aren’t necessarily helping you in your creative endeavours. And this clutter is what’s blocking your creativity.
No matter what your practice – illustrator, quilter, poet, musician, woodworker, or any other kind of maker – if your workspace is in disarray, your mind will be too. Decluttering your workspace can help you overcome your creative blocks and unleash your creativity.
It can be daunting to take the first step when you’ve got an overwhelming amount of stuff to sort through, but if you start with the easier items you’ll see some immediate progress and will feel encouraged to keep going!
Here are a few categories of items to kick-start your decluttering:
Even if you do your creative work at the kitchen table, you won’t get far if it’s got unrelated items strewn all around. Make sure that you’ve cleared the following out of your creative area before you start working: bowls, glasses, and cutlery, children’s toys, letters and packages to post, other to-do items, and papers which belong elsewhere in your house. These mundane items hijack your attention and downgrade your creative capabilities. If they keep migrating back to your creative workspace, it means they don’t have an adequate ‘home’ of their own elsewhere in your house. Make a specific place for them outside of your creative area, and let your mind focus solely on your creative work.
Gather up all your materials which are past their use-by date. Crusted-up tubes of paint, dried-out markers and pens, broken tools, faded fabric, expired rolls of film, broken reeds for musical instruments – you don’t need them taking up valuable space. Toss them without a second thought.
If you’re in the habit of writing notes for your projects on scraps of paper and then putting them down in different places, gather them up and put them all together. My suggestion is a small concertina folder which has different sections you can label to sort your notes. You could also buy a notebook and carry it with you to jot down your ideas as you go.
You may have other small paper items lying around your creative workspace. Gather up the following: product packaging, product brochures, instruction manuals, business cards, flyers advertising exhibitions or shows, old tickets for shows you’ve already attended, competition entry forms, receipts, and any other small bits of paper. How many of these are usable? How many will truly help you in your creative practice? Keep only the ones which you really need and file them. If you must save receipts for tax purposes, get another small concertina folder and add them in as they build up.
When you’ve finished with a project, do you toss the remnants of your materials, or do you hang on to them hoping they might come in handy one day? If you tend to keep them, you might have a build-up of bits which aren’t serving you: half-used skeins of yarn in colours you’ll never knit with again, paint samples, leather offcuts, bits of metal from jewellery-making, fabric scraps. Gather up and examine all the items which fit into this category. If you can use an item right away for a project you’re currently working on, great. If not, let it go.
Sometimes we hang onto items which require a ‘workaround’ or which are a real pain to use, without even realizing that they’re causing us stress or discomfort. Go round your workspace again and assess whether any of these are holding you back: tools which hurt your hands, tools which don’t do the job correctly, bad lighting, digital equipment which crashes constantly, programs which run slowly, and uncomfortable seating. You might need all these things to pursue your creative work, but their poor quality is hampering you. Think about upgrading them. Sometimes it’s worth the cost to have a seat that doesn’t cause you back pain, and tools you can rely on.
Clutter is often the physical manifestation of mind-set issues which haven’t been resolved. One huge mental block which can affect creativity is FEAR – fear of judgement, fear of rejection, fear of not being ‘good enough’ to accomplish your creative goal. Sometimes we use clutter as an excuse NOT to pursue our creative practice, and not to face our fears. In fact, we unconsciously create the clutter to conveniently explain why our creative practice is stagnating. It takes courage to face that clutter straight on and decide to conquer it, and to address your fears at the same time.
Here’s the simplest way to start addressing your fears as you declutter your workspace: every day, take three minutes to remind yourself that you love your craft, be grateful that you’re able to enjoy this creative practice, list three projects you’re proud to have accomplished so far in your creative journey, and remind yourself of what excites you about your current project. With this simple three-minute reminder you’ll put yourself into a positive mindset and the fears will seem less daunting. Your decluttering will soon lead to a clear, inspiring, ready-to-use workspace.
If Nadia’s advice has inspired you to get some assistance with your decluttering, you can find your local professional organiser here.