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I’m a creative horder and I need help

I know, for years I've been on and on about needing to organize… needing help getting it together and finding some sanity. I've ment it. I've tried to fix it. However, I can by myself anymore. It's not just my brain that needs to unclutter, it's my surrounding, especially my creative surroundings. They are either a result of my brain clutter, or my brain clutter is a direct result of my out of control craft stash. I think really it's both, they feed each other.

Lately I've been watching various “hording” shows on TV. People with enormous problems keeping and never throwing away things. I can completely relate. I understand the need to keep, the anxiety of throwing something away. I can relate to the stress of trying to organize because the job is just too big. I can also relate to the thinking that memories are attached to tangible things, so by throwing something out, I may forget the memory. I've even considered applying for one of those shows.. or better yet one of those organizing shows. However, there are two problems with it…

  1. If anyone threw something of mine away without making sure I was ok with it, I would no longer have a nice reputation.
  2. I'm not as completely bad as the shows, you can see my carpet.

Really my entire house isn't awful.. just where ever my creativity decides to plant itself. So the object is to contain the creativity into one place – yet it oozes out into other areas from time to time.

So more recently I have been trying really hard to teach myself that I don't have to keep EVERYTHING and it's ok to get rid of stuff. Since this time last year I think I have donated about 14 lawn bags full of clothing (the entire family, not just me). I've thrown out a ton of useless papers and broken things and I've slowly begun to organize. Again, I'm trying to teach myself that it's ok to let it go.

Why am I airing my dirty whatever? Because I need to be held accountable. I need to make time to make it better and I need to share how I deal with it – maybe someone else can relate and stop rationalizing that they do it too. I keep stuff because it could become useful. I keep stuff because it brings back memories. I keep stuff because I've been on the “I have nothing” side of life and don't want to be there again. I keep stuff because I'm a smart girl with better things to do but clean (that's the worst excuse). I keep stuff for all the wrong reasons and it's teaching my children they need to keep stuff too… or they don't have to organize, that's not ok.

So before you gasp at my crazy chaos of a work space, just keep this in mind… it used to be twice as bad! over the last year I've come through and organized the space enough that I have a space to work and for the most part can find the supplies I need. Prior to that I wouldn't work in the space at all. So it's improved and I hope it will just get better.

Welcome to my space.

My main work studio is in our unfinished basement. I have about 250 square feet of real space to create whatever my heart desires. And this is what it looks like when you come down the stairs and turn the corner:

The “room” wraps around the stair case and ends by the basement back door, so if you had come in from the other side, this is my space:

That's the big picture. There is methods to each angle of madness… let's venture in.

The main work area in the space is an 8′ x 4′ table. It's a board sitting on topΒ  of two industrial shelf pieces where I store even more stuff. The table is split into 2 work areas so I can actively work on a few things at one time without having to put everything away. Neither of which is extraordinarily clean right now.

This side I don't use as much because it's slowly become the recycling center which makes it hard to move around to work. I've started saving cans, boxes and plastic to incorporate into my projects yet I didn't plan ahead for a great way to store all these things.

On this side of the table I have a clear area where I usually do things that need to sit for a while like paint or glue. I also have a home made light box (which I will show a “how to make it” tutorial another day).

I recently bought a Circuit and plan on finding a dedicated work space on the table for that as well.

Onward…

This is my sewing space and as of today it is also my photo area. The sewing machine used to be my moms (I've sent Santa my wish list for something from the 21st century). To the left I have an ironing board, on top of unused filing cabinets) which I use for sewing and crafts. Just to the right of the ironing board I have a hutch that holds various sewing accessories, zippers, thread, etc. and a space for photographing my work (thus the lights).

If you look carefully towards the top of the photo, there is a set of drawers. They are filled with all kinds of supplies from scrapbook papers to chalk, hot glue, various tapes… my various fancy scissors etc. Each drawer containing only one kind of supply. This is organized nicely. (Some drawers are missing because I was working on a project but didn't have space down here so I took the supplies upstairs — boo).

Next we have a “kids craft” space. The table is shorter and there is lots of room for kids to get creative – when it's picked up. This is a 3′ x 6′ table… plenty big – can you imagine the painting and gluing and sticker fun we have here? ProjectsforPreschoolers.com come find out yourself (gotta plug myself, right?).

Here we have fabric, gift wrap and misc supplies. Fabric was purged and organized by color so I currently am stashing about 1/10 of what I used to have in the house. That was rough, but I'm happy I did it. In the dresser is various gift wrapping, one draw is tissue, one is bows, one is bags, etc.

On the far selves there are various supplies and “stuffs” from polymer clay or craft foam kits to plastic, fabric embellishments and card making papers.

Piles of computers. Now this isn't really part of my studio. It is.. but I don't craft with the computers. I seem to think that if I get rid of them, I will be getting rid of the history that goes along with them. If I break them down to create something new with them, I'm ruining their usefulness and “what if there is something on there I need?”. Bah humbug! I haven't used any of them for at least 7 years. I don't need them and I know it. Maybe I should sell some of it. I've got an old video camera, a fax machine, some zip drives, a printer and even a scanner… do you want to buy any of it??? No, you can't have the old radio, it was my great grandmother's and as soon as I have a set place for it, it will get used.

Once I clear out this space I can better use it for something I do need.

Here's a sad little space – 4 big drawers full of things I keep forgetting I have. Yarn and knitting/crochetting stuffs as well as a whole pile of various ribbons and I don't even know what's in the other 2. Idea – a 4 draw setup like this will be great to hold my recycled pieces and parts.

The second half of the photo is another view of that misc shelf I already mentioned.

The following is the magical stuff.

This is the mother load of supplies. I have paints for crafts and glass and fabric. I have stamps and shape cutters and crimpers and a whole shelf of ribbon. Jars of beads and sparkles and buttons. 8 little organizers of jewelry and more beads… along with a heat gun, embossing supplies, and various other really cool fun stuff. I love what's on this shelf… I hate this shelf. However, I'm grateful I have this shelf or I wouldn't find any of this stuff.

And finally, this is where the magic happens.

Right now, I'm actually sitting in that chair typing this post. Usually I'm in the kitchen but I wanted to try my hand at secluding myself in the space so I could really get a better feel for what I need to do to make this a place I want to work every day. Usually I do all my projects right where my computer is sitting.

And these are my most used tools… my creative mind in a tangible thing…

Now here's the thing. You can say I need to get rid of things. Fine. I'm not sharing all this to brag about what I have nor to show off all I'm wasting. I'm looking for ideas and brainstorming to make this the most magical studio ever. I have the space and the stuff… I don't have the vision. Odd, a creative person without vision – it happens.

I also don't have the time. Rather than come down here and organize, I come down here, find a new treasure and end up creating something fabulous. I can't say the space isn't inspiring – I'm constantly rediscovering cool things to make.

I want this to be my favorite place in the house – right now it has the potential but it's not a magnificent place to work. I love what I do, I want my work space to show that – I think if you look hard right now, it does show it, after it makes you want to get a broom and a trash bin.. ha!

I'd love your insight.. your story sharing or just your thoughts. Because I've now put this “out there” I will keep up my end of the deal… I will work to improve this and I will share that journey with you.

So until I have some progress to report – Happy creativity to you!

Jen is Passionate about Creativity. She is the owner and "doodle in charge" of JGoode Designs, a Denver based design studio. She is an illustrator, mixed media artist and creative lifestyle blogger. Jen has been a creative professional since 1998 but says she's been an artist since she was old enough to eat glue.

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11 thoughts on “I’m a creative horder and I need help”

    • Hi Gillian, I saw your full note and thank you so much for taking the time to write to me! I appreciate the support and hope by now you have recovered well!

      Reply
  1. I’m guilty of being a disorganized creative person withOUT vision when it comes to decorating OR organizing so I don’t know how much help I can offer but I DO know that if you ditch the monitors (they’re too old and clunky to help anyone anyway) and just pluck the hard drives out of the computer, you won’t REALLY be parting with any old info, & you can ditch the rest of the computer that will clear out at least a shelf or two. If you have old printers, donate or ditch those too! πŸ™‚

    Reply
  2. OK, first off, your table is back in the corner. You have to walk through all the stuff to get back there. You could make your creative work areas right at the bottom of the stairs. Move all that stuff back in the corner (neatly on shelves!) Hang some bright happy sheets or lots of glass bead room dividers to section off your work area from the “storage area”. Keep all your stuff back there on shelves and make your work area with big tables and good hanging lights for all your work space.
    That way you can walk right down the stairs and do a project already laying out, and not see any of the stuff waiting to become something. πŸ™‚

    Reply
  3. Hi Jen–I actually think you have it pretty well organized. It’s not even that messy. It’s just not neat. For that you need cabinets. If you know of anyone getting new cabinets in their kitchen you can offer to buy the old ones for cheap. You could paint them however you want. Then all your organized bins etc could fit inside them and everything would look neat. (now doesn’t that sound deceptively easy? he, he).

    Reply
  4. I can identify! My problem is the printed word – lots of books, newspapers, press kits, etc. You are inspiring me to tackle mine more aggressively too.

    When we were at Summit last August, my favorite suitcase was destroyed by the airline, so I had to replace it. That suitcase represented so many memories – trips to England, Canada and all over the US, family gatherings, important business meetings. But then I realized, as I’ve heard on those hoarding shows, that the memories were in my heart, not the suitcase. And with that, I walked out of that hotel room with my new suitcase, ready to collect new memories.

    I learned that losing the old baggage makes room for the new, and there’s always plenty of room for new memories. I know you’ll enjoy that too.

    Reply
  5. Loved the tour Jen! What a great playground for the creative genious that you are. My favorite quote was when you were talking about your old computers; ” I don’t need them and I know it. Maybe I should sell some of it.” This is the classic sign of a horder. NEWS ALERT! You can’t sell something that doesn’t have any value! LOL!!! In fact, you may have to do what I did and pay a fee to dispose of them properly.

    Thanks for sharing this…I TOTALLY get where you are coming from….not to say that I am ready to give anyone a tour of my creative wonderland anytime soon.

    Reply
  6. Ahhhh yes! you are a clone of my sister! hahahaha… I have spent many a day organizing her efforts to find things.
    Here is your problem… Everything does not appear to have its own place.
    Creative types often go out and buy more containers, put things in them and then can’t find them so they go out and buy more. I once found about a half dozen bottles or more of Elmers glue in my sisters studio. I got a box, labeled it glue, and we were good to go. The box has NO lid so you can see it.
    Think about all your boxes and drawers. Are they clearly labeled? Are what is inside the container what is IN the container?
    CReative types are always buying containers to get organized. The best container is one where you can clearly SEE what is in it. Look at all your fabric. Its in plain sight! You can find just what you are looking for.
    What is in all those boxes on the floor near your new circuit cutter? All of those things need a home.
    The computers can be recycled. We have the same bunch… ack! I have been wanting to chuck them for years. Finally I think Gary is going to go through the contents. Think of it this way, You wanna lose weight, you go on a diet. You elimnate all the unhealthy food in your cupboards. This extra unused stuff is the fat. REcycling is good. and then you will have a home for the other “stuff”.
    My friend did something cool. She hung some rods from her ceiling and attached white shower curtains to hide her stuff. So, she still has the stuff but it is out of her view so she does not have to look at it. All that stuff is chaos to our brain. I want to put one of those curtains up in my studio just so I don’t have to look and get distracted.
    Your favorite spot says it all. Everything in plain sight. The other things just need a home.
    Once you get things put AWAY in their homes, you may be able to breath. The hardest thing of all is to train yourself to put things in their homes.
    I think what has worked best for me is to get cheap white cabinets. They stand about 5 ft. tall with two doors. Inside are plenty of shelves. YOu can actually SEE what is in them. The
    supplies are not hidden. Another really really great storage is filing cabinets. Each drawer can hold all sorts of things that you can see right away when you open the drawer! YOu simply label the drawer! The good thing about these two methods for storage is that you don’t have to LOOK at what is inside.
    I had a lot more stuff when the kids were home. I can relate to how many bags you took out of your house. yea! I did the same in my teeny tiny studio!
    Hope this helps a tiny bit. les

    Reply
  7. I am in the same bag. Interestingly I keep the rest of the house organized, but the craft room was a HUGE issue.
    Here’s where some luck came in – I won the services of a professional organizer. She didn’t actually go through each step with me, more she helped me come up with a plan. She looked at the room and suggested using different storage units for different things and rearranging.
    Here’s my before (or rather my in the middle) http://www.iamnotahandbag.com/index.php/2009/09/studio-constructive-mess/
    and here’s the after:
    http://www.iamnotahandbag.com/index.php/2009/10/new-craft-room-reveal-and-the-new-table/
    So, I’m sure we can all feel for you – want to know the BAD thing? Then we moved! ha ha! So, I’ve had to start all over in a new house! Wish me luck

    Reply

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