06 July 2013

Reclaim Your Space - Hyperfocus

* This is the third post in a six part series about how I reclaimed my studio spaces.
* See the second post, "Reclaim Your Space - Enlisting Help".
* See the first post, "Reclaim Your Space - Your Mindset".

Where in the world does one begin when facing this?

The Warehouse Before the Purge

Here is the game I would play with myself: I'd sit in the living room thinking about how great it would be to have the Warehouse (the nickname I give to the second of my studio rooms that is used for storage of various items and completed projects) and how it's not such a big deal. I could clean it up, no problem.

Then I'd walk up the stairs, open the door, look at the mess and flee. 

I still find it curious that I was not able to concentrate on working on a small portion of the mess at a time. I mean, as an Artist, I'm obsessed with details. I can hone in on a two inch square and pack two tons of details into it. But ask me to pick one small pile from the giant heap to sort out and my skin would begin to crawl.

This was the first room to be tackled and I will be completely honest, I was skeptical about it getting done. But I decided on very clear parameters before Mary the Wonder Organizer even arrived with her good counsel: I would not spread the mess all over the rest of the house in order to clear the room (it fit in there or it went away), I would not get rid of everything simply to make space and then have to repurchase it later, and there would be nothing sitting on the floor in the middle of the room.

The purge was about getting rid of the things I absolutely did not need anymore and gathering all the stuff I would use into a cohesive manner so that I would stop re-purchasing duplicates and use it up.

Here's what Mary the Wonder Organizer taught me:

1. Start by making storage space. Take one area that can be used as prime storage and clear that out first. I originally thought we'd start with the center of the room but she wanted to start with the bookshelves. (I had and still have a lot of books. In order to make sure that I won't revert back to becoming a library again, I'm going to start purchasing more e-books. I still love actual books but there needs to be much more of a mix.) The need to provide a place for the things that would be kept was key.

2. Sort into larger piles. Take items that are kind of the same (or at least living in the same box/basket/container) and decide what stays and what goes.

3. If you say the words, "I hate this!" and then put in the Keep pile (as I did with a bottle of pink paint), then that's a clear sign that it needs to go away. Give it to someone who will love it. (I will always have Mary the Wonder Organizer's face in my mind if I do this again, her sitting in the middle of my fabric stash, looking over her glasses at me with an amused expression and raised eyebrows. Point taken.)

4. The mess always gets worse before it gets better. (I knew this one but I still struggle to remember it when I'm standing knee deep in safety pins and sharpie markers.)

5. You can't keep everything. You just can't, you are one person and the likelihood of you using it all within your lifetime is slim. Period. Let it go, give it to someone who can't afford to buy it for themselves so they can make art and create beauty in the world too.

I'm not going to say that I excelled at maintaining an optimistic view of the situation. At the end of the first day, I was really struggling to keep positive. I sort of gave up early in the evening. Mary the Wonder Organizer was willing to keep working but I found that I couldn't decide what to do with a bag of styrofoam bird eggs, I kept shuffling it from one container to another. When earlier I had been moving swiftly through the piles, letting things go and planning what to keep but suddenly I hit a mental wall.

In the end, I realized it's because I fell back into my old mindset of, "This will never happen. I'm going to be left with the same mess and what will I do then???" I panicked, plain and simple. Luckily, Mary the Wonder Organizer came back the next day and when I told her I was so worried we wouldn't make it into my studio and that's what I desperately wanted done, we both committed to doing what it took to get it done.

The support was invaluable.

The key lesson learned: There is always an end in sight. If you want to accomplish something, keep going. You have to do the work. Take a break when you need to and then come back when you are able to make choices that support your end goal. Stay strong. :)

In the next post I'll talk about the clear containers that I showed in the first post, why I chose those and how I ended up using them in the re-org.


Shirley said...

Fascinating to read. We've all been in the same situation. Can't wait to see it finished.

Candace Farmer said...

I thought I was alone! Thanks for posting. I am hopeful that I can improve my situation. I love the "giving away" thoughts .....

Robbie said...

OK...i have a confession
..my sewing studio is pretty organized (& thanks to you for some of it)
..but I haven't talked about my wet room dye area....guess I need to look into doing a reorg there...it's not terrible but I do have 'stuff' I know I won't use!!! But I want to play with TAP today!

Deborah Boschert said...

So what did you do with the bird eggs?!

elle said...

You are definitely not alone. Thanks for this. I am relating! ;)

Pattie Wall said...

OK, so I am NOT at the purge stage, but I AM at the clean it up, 'organize the mess' stage - I worked most of the day yesterday and found something that had been lost for awhile and was very important to life...so it was a good thing. There is no one nearby to GIVE things to, who would benefit from it, is what I keep thinking, but I will give it all the same. My biggest glut is BOOKS. Keep these posts and inspiration coming.

Beverley Baird said...

It has been fascinating seeing your working through the process of decluttering. There is hope for me!

AnneM said...

Very inspiring. I've cleaned numerous times but never purged. Perhaps it's time. Can't wait to see the final result. . . and what did you do with the eggs?

Janie said...

Oh boy! I so needed this series! Thanks..I look forward to each and every one...

Regina B Dunn said...

Not sure I can ever go to ebooks. I love regular books so much. But then years ago I remember saying I would never use email and now I can' live without it.

Jeannie said...

I loved the pink paint story. :) I am not sure about ebooks. I don't want my computer to become another junk room. We all forget how exhausting mental decision making is - keep, pitch, donate? Do I really love this? All the questions need to be answered and if you dawdle, the answer is usually - it needs to go. I think you are so wise to have Wonder Mary to not only keep you on task, but honest with yourself. Thanks!

Unknown said...

When I'm wavering about getting rid of something, I try to remember that so far all of my needs - in life, with materials, with hopes and dreams - have been met. So chances are good that if the thing I'm giving away is needed again, I'll be able to find a good or better substitute in the future...and something BETTER is what usually happens/comes into being.

I'm not a super religious person, but one thing i know for sure it that, for me, being able to destash/declutter is kinda the ultimate act of faith. And when when I act in faith, there's always a reward.

Sherrie Spangler said...

I can't wait to see your next installments. I SO need to organize my space, but I tend to freeze up when I look at it. I hope your final installments will help me visualize a plan.

KAM said...

Working through my collected treasures, I am getting a new organization to my studio...and much of what I treasured for so long is finding new homes and I am gaining more space...freedom...and now very soon will be the space for a daybed on which to read, sketch..plan or simply nap in the energy of a creative space. Thank you for the guidance and great suggestions in your blog for creating a delicious and most useful studio space.

Gisela Towner said...

Really great posts! As I read these and look around my own studio I can see why my work is languishing a bit.

Susan said...

yeay you!!!

Procion.Princess said...

Great posts. I am 80% finished with a MAJOR reorganization of a 15x25 foot space that has to serve as an art quilting and hand dyeing studio. Did I mention the house is only 1000 sq feet and this is the basement with the short ceilings?

You are keeping me motivated. I found that my biggest challenge in my small house is that I need a "staging are" - somewhere to sort. Another challenge is to only handle an item once. I need to put it away and not just move from pile to pile. Keep it up. Happiness is a clean and well organized studio.
Goodwill and Craigslist are your best friends for storage options. Keep up the good work.