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by Julie Brooks

Polite notice. All designs are copyright protected. I hope you will be inspired by my designs but please do not copy them. Thank you.

Monday, 15 August 2016

A different kind of therapy

Hi everyone

Did any of you watch the recent Etsy Up Conference live streams? I managed to watch most of Day 1 and the talk which stuck in my mind most was advice on de-cluttering.

Clutter. It's everywhere. Unless you're very strict with yourself (and other family members) about tidying things away, as time goes by rooms and spaces can become very cluttered without you even realising it. Clutter means stuff in the way. Stuff in the way of something you want to use, stuff in the way of something you want to look at, stuff taking up valuable space where you do your creative work. The result? Nothing creative going on, because all of that clutter is a mental block to achieving your goals and when you only have a small space in which to work and store everything, that mental block probably rears up way more times than it may do if everything was tidy and organised and you had that luxury called SPACE.

This was my workspace one time. Actually, it's frequently been my workspace over the years. For a long while I didn't have a separate room to work in - this was the dining table! But even since I've had a table in another room, it frequently looks like this, or much worse! You see - stuff piled up, which I'm using, or have used, or might use! All over my work area, so I only have that tiny bit of green left to work on! (By the way, this photo doesn't reveal the boxes (several of them) on the floor around the table which were holding all the other stuff I needed or might need!) And that's just my work surface - I dare not share photos of the shelves and drawers where all my other "stuff" is stored - equally cluttered, baskets overcrowded with stamps and dies, so I can't see what's in any of the baskets without pulling half of the contents out. The same for my papers - stacks of them, taking up two shelves in a large open fronted unit, crammed together, so I can't see the designs on any of them without spending time pulling them out! And that's just the ones I haven't used! I also have a few drawers full of papers which are part-used or paper packs or pads with a few sheets missing.

I think it's fair to say that many of us probably suffer from the above syndrome, and the best we can hope for is to perhaps take over a spare bedroom as our creative space, our studio, our shrine to all things crafty. Because we don't live in big houses with huge outbuildings which can be converted over into our dream studio, or we can't afford to buy that beautiful garden studio/office we saw at our favourite garden centre recently because we'd need to take out a small mortgage to fund it, and we'd need a good-sized garden to accommodate it, so we make do with a spare room, or the loft, or perhaps the garage if we're lucky or, as in the photo, a table, somewhere in the house. I think it's probably also fair to say that most of us have ended up with way more stuff in our crafty shrines than we really have space for, so it all starts to spill over onto our work surface, or is piled up on shelves so we can't see anything properly, stored on the floor, under the table, so it's in the way when you're trying to move around, or its out of sight so you can pretend it's not there!

If you're anything like me, that does nothing but hinder the creative process. If I can't see my stuff or everything is too cluttered, I forget what I've got, I can't find what I need quickly and my creativity just shuts down. Before I know it, I haven't been in my crafty space for a week, a fortnight, a month, because it just becomes too much for me to get my head round and deal with! When you're in mid-flow, with lots of different projects on the go all at the same time, all at different stages perhaps, you end up with a huge pile of dies, stamps, inks, papers and goodness knows what else all over your crafty space, because you're using it all, so you end up with less and less space to work in or to put things aside to dry. It gets to the stage where there's so much of it piled up everywhere that it's very overwhelming and too daunting to contemplate trying to sort it all out and put it all away again and you have nowhere to work. Sound familiar? It's OK, humans are naturally lazy, so don't feel guilty!

What I have learnt over time, and what was re-enforced in the talk on Etsy Up, is that we must de-clutter, tidy things up, find other places for stuff to go, so that we can see all the lovely papers in our stash, we can see all the dies, stencils, inks, paints, beads, buttons, lace and charms. In this way, the creativity will once again begin to flow, because not only will our space be de-cluttered and we'll be able to see things clearly again, but it will have the effect of de-cluttering our minds too. We'll feel refreshed mentally, because those mental and physical barriers will no longer be there.

De-clutter properly, put some serious effort into it, be a bit ruthless; be honest about all that stuff in terms of what you REALLY need and what you really WILL NEVER USE. All those things which you will realistically never use, you need to sell, give away or throw away, because they are taking up valuable space where the things you REALLY DO USE THE MOST could be stored instead and where the new products on your wish list could come to live. All those papers? They're all beautiful aren't they? But realistically, how many of them are you actually ever going to use? If they don't get used, eventually the paper mites will move in and start chomping them and pooping on them, they'll smell of house instead of that lovely fresh smell they have when you first buy them, the colours may fade, the designs will be outdated and they will start to disintegrate ..... What a waste. Better that they go to a new home where they will be used than festering in your crafty space because you just couldn't resist them even though you could think of no practical uses for them ... and still can't! It's hard, I know it is, I've been there, I'm just as guilty as everyone else in the crafting industry of hoarding way too much stuff, but at some point we do need to let things go, make space for the things that we will get the most mileage out of and for those new trend items we crave, because most of us don't have the luxury of a big space to store everything.

There are lots of locally run groups for elderly people, disabled (or differently able as I prefer to call it) people, where they make cards, do things with paper, and so on, so it might be worth enquiring to see if there are any of those groups in your area who would benefit from a generous donation of your unwanted, never-to-be-used crafting materials, if you don't want the hassle of trying to sell them. There are also nurseries and playgroups, and lots of other children's groups, who may benefit from a gift of lots of pretty papers, felt, fun foam and so on. Or take them to your nearest and favourite charity shop for them to sell. That way, even though you're giving away stuff you paid for, it will feel good because you're donating it to a good cause. If you never clear out stuff you purchased several years ago and have never or hardly used, how can you ever accommodate any new products? The world of crafting is evolving all the time which means new products, new innovations, new techniques and so on. So, give all of that "old" stuff which you've never used and never will a new home. Then, you will have space for all the new and gorgeous crafting products you've had your eye on for ages and finally be able to buy them because there will be somewhere to store them. Win-win!

It is a hard discipline to learn, tidying up after yourself all the time, clearing out things that are unused or no longer used, because let's face it, that's precious time wasted that could be spent on creating something. BUT, if you don't tidy things away and put them back in their rightful places, de-clutter and free up your space to work and be creative, then sooner or later, everything will be in one giant chaotic mess and your creativity, your productivity, will stall. Without a shadow of a doubt.

Don't put off 'til tomorrow what can be done today! Carpe Diem - or - Seize the Day. Those are great sayings and words we should all live by.

So, I have vowed to tidy up after myself to make my life easier in the long run. I'm doing fairly well, although recently I've slipped back into my old ways a little, though certainly not to the extent I used to. Life has a habit of getting in the way sometimes. I have promised myself I will be ruthless and clear out all the things I will never use at all/again. I have begun the process, with my dies and embellishments, I'm finding it quite difficult throwing any stamps out, and actually haven't - yet, but I know I have to - you know the ones I mean - those sets which you purchased just for one word or phrase or sentiment or image in them, and you've never used any of the others in that set. Next is going through all those lovely papers. That will be hardest of all.

I just have a pile of projects to finish off first .....!!

Bye for now,
Julie x