Monday, February 14, 2011

Clear Your Studio, Clear Your Mind - Part 2

Tackling the Emotionally Charged Areas
by Tiffiny Appelbaum of TiffinyDesigns

Last month, I talked about how to
clear your studio or workspace and as a result, clear your mind and strengthen your creative force. No doubt along the way you've hit some rough spots, found areas you just can't begin to deal with or confront. Well, here are some tips to help you work through those really challenging areas, those areas that have a lot of emotional charge, like my big scary cabinet (below) that was so overwhelming I avoided it for, well, years.

AAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!! It literally took me over a month to work up the nerve to even OPEN THE DOORS. This cabinet has been a catch-all for YEARS and I didn't even know what was inside anymore. But I got it cleared out and here's some things that made it easier for me...

Take Inventory

Before you do anything else, take inventory. Set aside your anxiety as much as you can then choose one area, like a shelf or a drawer, and take everything out. Notice each thing as you remove it, as an observer, like "Oh, look, here's a pillow form" or "A mystery box - I wonder what's inside." Be an observer taking inventory.

I chose the top shelf of my closet to work on first. It seemed the least threatening area in the cabinet. There was enough stuff crammed in that one area to fill an 8 foot table! I found old artwork stuffed behind books I didn't know I had, 10-year old magazines, college textbooks, TONS of zipper plastic bags, pillow forms and more.

Rest When You Need To

This is hard work on a lot of levels. You might find you feel exhausted and need to rest periodically or even frequently. And you deserve it so don't beat yourself up! You're confronting overwhelm and anxiety, clearing difficult areas in your space and clearing your mind - way to go!

After the weeks it took me to work up the nerve to start on my scary cabinet, it took me another month to get it all cleaned out. I worked in fits and starts, whenever I felt I had the energy to deal with it. These things take time.

Enlist Help

Enlisting help from a friend, someone who can be objective about your stuff, might help you get through this more easily. A friend can be a great buffer, offer ideas and suggestions you might not have thought of, and also help you work through whatever fears and other emotions that might arise while you're clearing. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Ask the Questions
When you are ready, start evaluating each item you've removed. Ask the questions from the first segment of this series. Here's a quick review plus a few additions (marked NEW) that might help (To view the original segment, click here)...

  • If you answer YES, then ask... DO I WANT THIS? If you answer YES, keep it and continue with question #2.
  • If you answer NO to Do I WANT 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 WHEN you will work on it, how long you'd like to spend or expect it to take.
  • 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 it can be returned? If not, toss it, recycle it or give it away.
  • (NEW) Is it outdated? Is it still useful in some way? (i.e. Am I really still inspired by these 10 year old design magazines?)
  • (NEW) Can I reduce the amount of space this takes up? (i.e. tearing favorite pages from a magazine)
  • If you answer NO to 1, then ask... WHY AM I KEEPING THIS?...
  • Do I feel guilty?
  • Did someone give it to me 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?
  • (NEW) What if I need it someday? How long have I had this? When was the last time I used this? Can I replace or recreate it, if necessary? What are the chances I might use this again? (i.e. Will the client I made this custom wedding dress pattern for 6 years ago really come back for the same dress some day? Probably not. If she does come back, I can look for a similar pattern or make it again. OR I haven't used these art supplies in 5 years, do I really need to keep them? What if I want to use them again? I can buy replacements.)
  • Etc., etc., etc.
Answer honestly and be willing to let go of your material or project AND any emotional baggage attached to it. The emotional baggage is what drains your creativity and inspiration.

--2 WHEN WILL I USE THIS? Write down 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.

  • 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?

But I'm Not Ready

As I said in the first segment of this series, YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO THIS. You don't have to let go of ANYTHING. I just invite you to be willing. Be willing to let go and see what happens.
Sometimes you just aren't ready and that's okay. I just wasn't ready to throw out my 20 year old college artwork. I really like it and I'm proud of the work I did and it reminds me of techniques I enjoyed using. Someday I would like to get it framed and hang up in my house, so I made room in my cabinet... It's okay if you're not ready to let go.


There may be some things you just know you don't need or even want, but can't let go of. There might be one thing about it you love but other than that you feel yucky every time you see it or even think about it. It's okay.

For me it was jackets and dresses I've made over the years. One dress I made over 20 years ago. I love the fabric and the colors but I can't even remember the last time I wore it. The style is very outdated and I know it doesn't fit right and just takes up space in my studio. I decided to take detailed pictures of it, to document the details I loved about it. Somehow this was enough for me and I was able to donate it without regret. Maybe documenting will work for you too.

Another way of dealing with things you're just not ready to let go of is considering reducing the amount you have. Do I really need 50 zipper plastic bags? No. But how about 10? Reducing is like taking a small step in the direction you want to go. It's a way of letting you have a little bit of what you're not ready to let go while reducing the amount of space it takes up in your work area and your mind.

Don't Give Up

Lastly, keep going. Maybe it will take you a week to go through one drawer or a year to go through a cabinet. It's okay. You're making the effort and that's all that matters. After a month of sorting and cleaning and letting go, here's what my cabinet looks like. No longer scary and even organized and inviting! What wonderful things can I create to fill the space? Only time will tell.

You can do it too! Just keep going, one step at a time...