If you're feeling depressed about your work, bogged down in your work area or just plain uninspired, your studio may need a makeover. Physical disturbances can affect the way you think and feel about your work and work area. Disturbances can be obvious and out in the open and consciously affect you, like clutter, or can be little things that nag unconsciously at you, like unfinished projects.
By unfinished projects I mean a variety of things, like...
- Projects you've started but not finished
- Materials you acquired for a specific project you haven't started
- Materials you have that don't inspire you anymore
- Ideas buzzing around in your head
- Filing that's piled up
- Bookkeeping or unresolved tax issues
- Reading you've meant to do but haven't
Clearing disturbances can make an enormous difference in how you feel about your work and increase your productivity. Asking yourself a few simple questions, answering honestly, and being willing to let go can clear your work area AND your mind.
Prepare To Clear
First, to set up you'll want a bag for trash, a bag for recycling, a bag for returns, and a bag for giving away. Also a notebook and pen.
Second, there are rules...
- Do NOT try to do your entire work area in one day, or even one week! TAKE YOUR TIME. If you take on too much at one time, you will become overwhelmed and lose momentum or even give up.
- Choose only ONE AREA to begin with, like one drawer or shelf or one area of a table. If you feel good after this one area, try another, but don't rush. TAKE IT SLOW! Even the smallest amount of clearing effort will make a difference.
Ask Yourself Questions and Answer Honestly
Third, choose the ONE area you'll be clearing and work on ONE item at a time. Ask yourself each of these questions about each item until you are either finished, out of time, or exhausted... Take a deep breath first and remember to keep breathing...
#1 DO I REALLY LOVE THIS
- If you answer YES, then ask... DO I WANT TO USE THIS
or finish this project? If you answer YES, keep it and continue with question #2.
- If you answer NO to Do I WANT to use this, ask yourself why?....
- Are you bored? Any chance you might be re-inspired? If not, let it go.
- Are you disappointed with how the project has turned out? Are your expectations of how a material would be used dashed? Do you want to try to make it right? If not, let it go.
- Are you burned out but still interested? Set it aside for later or let it go.
- Have you not had the time to work on it? Are you willing to make time? If not, let it go. If you are, write down in your notebook WHEN you will work on it, how long you'd like to spend or expect it to take, and get that nagging feeling out of your head.
- If you answer MAYBE to #1, then ask... DO I LIKE IT A LOT? Does it inspire me at all? Does it have potential? If YES, keep it. If NO - maybe the materials can be returned? If not, toss it, recycle it or give it away.
- If you answer NO to #1, then ask... WHY AM I KEEPING THIS?...
- Do I feel guilty?
- Did someone give it to you and I think I should keep it?
- Did I spend a lot of money on it and don’t want to waste it?
- Did I have grand ideas and feel disappointed in myself for not finishing?
- Etc., etc., etc.
Be Kind to Yourself
A few things about letting go...
First, YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO IT. I'm just suggesting it as an opportunity to clear your space and your mind, but you don't have to do it. Second, BE KIND TO YOURSELF. It's hard work on a physical as well as emotional level going through stuff you're attached to. IT'S OKAY IF YOU'RE NOT READY TO LET GO. Third, some things just have a lot of emotion attached to them. (For me it has been the sewing stuff I inherited from my grandma. It's taken me years to sift through it.) If you open a drawer or look at a box and feel completely overwhelmed just looking at it, close the drawer, put the box away, move to a different area in your studio. Work on it at a different time. Start with something easy.
- Fourth, BE WILLING. Be willing to let go. This does not mean you have to let go. Just being willing may open your mind to why you're holding on and allow you the space to let go. If you're really stuck while you're working on clearing, just say to yourself, "I'm willing to let go" and see what happens.
#2 WHEN WILL I USE THIS
Make a list in your notebook of when you will use the material, including amount of time you think it might take to complete and when you intend to finish the project. If you can't honestly say you will complete (or even begin) it in the next 6 months to 1 year, consider returning, tossing, recycling, or giving away. Write everything down and get it out of your head. We're clearing your work area as well as your head.
#3 WHAT DO I NEED TO BEGIN OR FINISH THE PROJECT?
Do I need more materials? If so, what and where can I get them? When will I get them? Do I need new equipment or tools? What and where can I get them? When will I get them? Do I need to make time? When will I do that?
Resist the Temptation
Finishing... first of all, congratulate yourself. This is hard work, physically and emotionally. WAY TO GO! Take some deep breaths, take a break, distance yourself from this project for at least 5 minutes before you finish... To finish you'll refine the details.
Take your trash bag out to the garbage can.
- Look through your recycling bag and sort items into recyclables for your area (ie plastic, aluminum, glass, paper, etc.) Put the rest in your giveaway bag.
- Look through your returns bag - Do you think you have receipts for any or all of these items? If you think you do, where are they? Add "look for receipts" to your list. If there are things you don't think you have receipts, consider moving them to one of the other bags. Resist the temptation to put them back into your studio.
- Look through your giveaway bag - Do you have things you think a friend or colleague might be able to use? Put those in a separate bag. Take the rest to your local charity as soon as possible.
- Look at your list. Transfer the items having to do with time to your calendar and transfer the items having to do with materials, equipment or tools to a clean piece of paper.
- Extra credit. While you're clearing, vacuum and dust. You never know what treasures you're going to find in the dark corners of your studio.
Space for New Possibilities
So that's it... The great thing about these questions is they can be applied, with some tweaking, to about anything, including your inventory and your home. Either way, your space will get cleaned and cleared and in the process, so will your mind. And imagine all the space for new possibilities and new ideas to bloom!