My Very Non KonMari Adventure in Tidying Up My Creative Space: Part One

by Michelle M. Johnson

Recently, it seems like every where I go on the Internet and in real-life conversations, folks have the words "tidying up" and the name "Marie Kondo" on their lips, something I found bemusing as she published her book, the Life Changing Magic of Cleaning Up, years ago - why, all of sudden, was everyone in a huff and a twitter over old lifestyle news? 

But, last night, as my partner and I were settling down to watch something on Netflix, there was my answer at the top of our viewing feed, bold as brass - Tidying Up with Marie Kondo: the Series. Ever curious about all the fuss, we decided to alter our viewing plans (we are in the thick of Sex Education, a series, starring Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson, about sex and high school, yes, but also quite a bit more: parenting, relationships, personal development, courage, friendship, loyalty, identity, trust, I could go on and on - it is really wonderful, entertaining scripted television, likely not for the under 16 yrs crowd or folks who prefer not to talk about human intimacy, but it has been time well spent in front of a screen, if that's the sort of thing you enjoy after a long day at work:), and turned on the first episode of Marie Kondo's series...and quickly had to turn it off because 15 minutes in we both started feeling like we were going to have a panic attack.


I understand why Marie Kondo and her KonMari method is catching everyone's attention yet again: clutter is stressful, and despite our highly digitized lives, reams of it still enters our living spaces every day. It is also the beginning of a new year, a fresh start, and spring is around the corner; it's the time where we all feel a pull to take a closer look at our lives and perhaps prune a bit of this, trim a little of that. But, I also deeply understand the backlash against her teachings (books...books are clutter...are you f*&^ing kidding me??) however, that isn't the reason why her show instantly started to stress my partner, Steve, and I out. Clutter is always a symptom of a greater problem, not the cause, and seeing that play out on screen, watching folks jump at the chance to have someone come in an organize their house and realize that it is their marriage that needs the overhaul is NOT our idea of a relaxing Saturday night.


Clutter by its very nature isn't stressful, at least not to me (a mess of books, a chaos of Legos, an overflowing box of photos brings me more joy than a tidy shelf with strategically placed objets d'art), but spaces that create clutter do push me over the edge into the no-joy zone.  I find that living in a poorly designed or thought out space leads to things and activities not having designated places and therefore getting lost/misplaced/forgotten, which then leads, at least in my life, to the kind of clutter that has me screaming at whomever is available to listen (usually a cat, but occasionally the humans I live with get an earful, too).


It is my definition of clutter that recently lead me to do what I called a "deep cleaning" of my studio space here in my home. Yeah, yeah it was the turn of a new year, the season of resolutions and good intentions (geez, I sound bitter and jaded...), but this deep dive into my creative life's living quarters had been coming on for a LONG time - the space just wasn't working hard enough for me, and because of that I was breaking my back (literally and figuratively) in order to work in it. The irony that I decided to carve out the time to re-imagine my creative studio at the exact same time that the world decided to go (or not) all KonMari is not lost on me, in fact I find it rather hilarious. But, I am writing this blog post not because I wish to add more fuel to the "messy people suck, tidy people are royalty" argument (I neither identify as messy or tidy, and I find folks who are heavily on one side of the spectrum or the other and proud about it to be a bit...boring), but instead to share with y'all what I learned through the emotional process of trying to figure out how to make my creative space work harder for me instead of the other way around. The the whole ordeal (and I do mean ordeal - tears were shed, bouts of noisy frustration were had) has some interesting things to say about creativity, I think, so I here is part one. 

Yes, that's right PART ONE (of two) because as I thought about writing this blog post, the whole experience naturally broke itself into a BEFORE & AFTER dichotomy, for better or worse. Sorry, sorta not sorry.


So, welcome to Part One of my very non-KonMari adventure in tidying up:)

First off, before I decided to put all other projects and activities aside to focus on a full on overhaul of my creative space (because NO artistic work can get done in a room that is completely torn apart, believe me), I did some concentrated thinking about WHY I was choosing to stop progress on all things Have Color Will Travel to do what could have been a re-organization-as-procrastination decoy that my shifty brain put in place (I have been having serious self-confidence issues about my work lately, and one of my go-to creative block crutches is re-organization, so I was highly suspicious of my instincts). After thinking and not a small amount of talking with Steve, I came to the conclusion that, yes, a studio overhaul was indeed quite necessary for the following reasons:

1. I had lost art tools that I knew I absolutely would not have thrown/given away or lent, and I had been avoiding the projects that needed these tools because, damn it, I was NOT gonna buy another one! I had been looking in all of my usual hiding places in the studio for almost a full year, never finding what I was looking for, so a huge instigator of my overhaul was to find my lost art tools AND to help me know for sure I wasn't going crazy (me throw art supplies away - never...right???).

2. I needed better spaces for art tools that I really hadn't been using much in the last 5 years, but now all of a sudden are needed right where I can access them quickly and easily. Currently, I teach three different levels of tap dance and conduct regular private dance lessons, and the dance students at the studio where I teach LOVE getting whimsical hand stamps at the end of class. As it turns out, I have been collecting rubber stamps for the last 20 years, so I have a bunch of well cared for, out of sight, in boxes, under books, behind other supplies (you get the idea) rubber stamps that now have a renewed and joyful purpose. And, I need to see all of my stamps all of the time because if I don't see them, I won't remember to bring them to class, and then, oh my goodness, sadness ensues. 

3. I was looking for more space as last semester I began my online coloring shop, so now I needed shelf space to store reams of different types of paper safely, an area to store shipping materials, a location for cardboard inserts to rest, and a spot for all the printed cards and bookmarks to sit as I prepared orders. During last year's holiday season, my drawing table served all of those needs, and while all the items were safe and kept in good shape, I was completely unable to draw or create anything for all of November/December because, well, I needed MORE SPACE.

4.  I needed healthier space, also. Prior to what I now am fondly calling the Great Studio Overhaul of 2019, I was trying to do all of my computer/smart phone work (blogging, website creating, correspondence, social media) on a small drawing table in the corner of the studio that I had outgrown (see - I NEVER THROW AWAY ART TOOLS!), but something about the level/angle of the table or the chair just made my back feel 20 years older than I actually am. Buying new office furniture isn't in this I've-got-a-kid-in-college artist's budget, so with the overhaul I also wanted to piece together my own version of a stand-up desk in hopes that maybe, just maybe digital work doesn't have to hurt quite so much.

5. I was determined to make my itty bitty spare room (my creative studio used to be my son's nursery and is about the size of a contemporary house's walk-in closet, and I'm not complaining - I feel super lucky to have a dedicated creative space - but, lucky or not, it is small) a harder working space with this deep cleaning. In critically analyzing my motivations for wanting to re-organize my creative studio, I came to the conclusion that I need that space to serve three distinct functions simultaneously (a drawing room, a writing room, and a coloring/creating room). Part of the reason the space was always cluttered was due to the fact that I am not just an artist, but I'm also a writer, a choreographer, a teacher, a creator, and I do ALL of these things EVERY week. I was spending more time cleaning up WIP projects in order to complete other tasks that had popped up or had earlier deadlines than I was actually creating, and I was driving myself crazy.

And, here is where I'm going to leave this post. While I consider the reasons why I attacked my cluttered studio to be of value and worth sharing, it is what I discovered along the way that really took me by surprise. 

Stay tuned for that post, but until then, here is a very AFTER picture of the whole deep cleaning process. I snapped this pic today while I was working satisfyingly simultaneously at all three stations:)


Looks can be deceiving, especially when using the
panorama function on one's camera - my studio is no
where near this big, but at least now it feels like it is to me:)




Comments

  1. God I'm such a sucker for a Before/After decluttering narrative. I love how intentional you were about all the thought that went into why this needed to happen. Now I get to read the After post like some kind of blogger's dessert!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love being called a dessert!! To be chocolate and not wheat germ is my life's ambition:)

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