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Tidying for creative spaces


Michelle Mars organized things

Marie Kondo is back in the public eye with her new Netflix show Tidying Up. You may love her methods or hate them but you have to admit she makes a good case for getting rid of what you don't use anymore. In this world of one-click buying, it's too easy to acquire massive piles of stuff in a very short amount of time.

I have read that her methods don't work for creatives. Tim Harford says her methods work for tidying your kitchen but not your studio space. While I do think that being overly neat can get in the way of creative work, there's nothing wrong with having your space organized so you know where to find things when you start a new project.

Here are some tips I have for tidying your creative area that may differ from Marie's methods in her book.

Take everything out

If you haven't tidied in a long time (or ever) it's a good idea to take everything off of the shelves and out of the drawers before starting. It makes it so much easier to start categorizing your stuff in ways that make sense and not how you've always had them organized. 

Hold on to your tools

What I mean by tools are the objects you use to make your craft. That could be obvious tools like hammers and scissors but also things like different types of glue, paints, paint brushes, pins, etc. These don't take up a huge amount of space and you'd be surprised how often you go back to these tools when creating a new project. 

When I first tidied, I got rid of too many tools thinking I wouldn't need them again. Tools were the only objects I was sorry that I had let go of.

Hold on to your sketches

I would also hold on to all of those paper sketches you've made so far. It may be a lot of paper (a lot!!) but I think they are worth keeping. Those are your ideas in their rawest form and they can easily spark an idea for a new project. 

Let go of text-only books 

I find that I only reference about 10% of my text-only books and the rest just take up space. So I hold on to those 10% and donate the rest. I may also buy the Kindle version of a book if I think I might want to reference it in the future.

As for those large art books with the glorious pictures, I hold on to most of those. As a designer, I can get endless inspiration from leafing through those images. One trick I use it taking phone photos of the most inspiring images and creating a folder for them on my computer. I find it much quicker to reference images that way and only browse the books when I'm sitting on the couch.

Use boxes for categorizing

I found this tip to be one of the most useful. Collect all the things you use for a specific activity and put them into an old shoe box (I personally like these IKEA SMARASSEL boxes). Labeling them helps for even quicker access. For instance, I have a sewing box, one for jewelry supplies, and one for painting. 

Keep projects in plain view

The worst thing you can do is hide away the creative projects you want to be working on. I leave those out (rather messily) in my work space. That way, it reduces the inertia to start working on a project when I have time. 

Rinse and repeat yearly

Unlike the KonMari method, I can't keep things completely tidy forever. However, it IS much easier to tidy the next time I do it. When I'm working on projects things get very messy indeed. But every January I go through all my stuff and get rid of what I don't use anymore. I find that what remains sort of tidies itself and now I have a fresh mental picture of what I own and where it's located.