Getting Organized to boost Creativity

We have all been told since we were kids that we should clean our workspace as we go along. That we should put things away when we are finished with them, and that everything should have a home? Well how does that work when I am working on multiple projects everyday for a week+ at a time? And how do I find the time to clean when I am working all the time and barely have enough time to get food on the table and have clean socks?

For most my life I have been fairly organized, but no matter what it always looks disorganized. No big open workspace. Everything always cramped.


I got fed up with it. I was sick of things being dirty. I would feel so ashamed when anyone would come over. Clutter, yuck. It was bad. Always. I thought it would better when I got my own place. Then I thought it would be better once I was out of school. Then I thought it would be better once I got “settled”. Then I thought…. “I’m not doing this right!” Haha. So I did what I do and started researching. The first book I bought on organizing was pretty light. It went over a lot of basics I already had a handle on… and that was not helping me so I dropped it off at the goodwill.

Then I came across a book, I am not sure where, called Confessions of an Organized Homemaker and I think that was my first break through. I picked it up from the Ames Public Library about a month ago and am a little over half way finished reading it. The most helpful thing in the book was the first few chapters. The author gave me permission to not hate myself for my space being a wreck. It is just stuff. And it is my stuff. And if I don’t like they way things are from the clutter of it, than I should declutter. My possessions don’t possess me, I possess them. And the thing that revealed its self was that it was a lot of stuff that I didn’t need, want, or even actively buy. Things that I just “had” to have, but never used or forgot about. So I started going through it. And it was overwhelming. The book has helped me to rethink my calender and schedule completely. It’s also helped with how I organize – grouping, first use (keep it in the place you will first need it), and deep storage (I don’t need to keep my suitcase in a easily assessable place, but I do need my sewing machine ready to go anytime I need it). It’s a good book and a good place to start if you are fairly organized, but feel overwhelmed by keeping it up or don’t quite know how to take it to the next level.

My friend Susan from Stam is the most organized person I know and was the first person who told me about the Fly Lady. I went to the site and was so overwhelmed, there was just so much going on in the site and the 10 emails a day thing scared me a bit. I read the Shine the Sink until it’s shiny plan and I have to admit I was pretty freaked out. It was my return to the Fly lady two weeks ago that really turned everything around. My other friend Sarah had mentioned how she followed it, just not every bit of it. We talked about how there were a lot of good ideas for people working from home. Things like getting dressed right when you get up every morning to put you in a “awake and working” mode. Setting up a daily and weekly schedule for cleaning is helpful for remembering to clean what when so it doesn’t all pile up on one day.  And if taken a little bit at a time – the baby beginner steps – it all falls into place so easily. (my old studio in dekalb still a huge mess).

I spent a few days looking through the site, really getting a feel for it, and at the end I decided to give it a shot. An experiment of sorts. I figured it wouldn’t kill me to try out the fly lady plan for the few weeks leading up to the maker’s faire. I can see how it goes and then really work at it once I get back.

I started by setting up my Control Journal using the Control Journal steps – just do one a day (or more if you are feeling inspired) and get your daily and weekly routines set up along with your “zones”. The fly lady system has a great way of cleaning the home – you do your daily and weekly standard stuff each day and then you focus for a little bit each day in the “zone” of the week.  The idea is to focus your reorganizing and deep cleaning on the zone you are in for that week.

When you first start out though you just declutter for 15 minutes a day in the current zone. Once you get completely decluttered, then you start the deep cleaning. Decluttering all the way doesn’t happen in just one week though, she (the fly lady) talks about just working towards that goal a little bit at a time and it will get done before you know it. I was shocked how much decluttering I was able to get done in just those 15 minutes each day and I saw real progress.

And Jason saw it too. Jason, the “I hate cleaning so much and never do it ever” person is now saying “hey, what are we supposed to do today?” He actually really likes the zones and lists because, especially with two people working on it each day. It is just a few things and only takes a half hour a day to keep things looking pretty nice. Today he actually said “hey, you know, I hate cleaning, but I have to admit: It is really nice having a clean space. So just tell me what needs to be done and I’ll do it without too much complaining”. It’s not just the apartment proper either – it’s our work spaces too. The craft cave is looking better than ever and so is the nerdom. We are able to find things so much easier and have both become much more productive at home.

And today we finally cleaned up the garage. I went though all my studio stuff that had been dumped in a big boxed up pile. We got some utility shelves and I was able to put all my supplies and tools in proper places. It is great. We have space for wood working and painting! I had forgotten all the neat stuff I had in my studio before – paper making supplies, mold making supplies, casting supplies, ceramic tools, metal working tools, woodworking tools, and, of course, loads of painting supplies! It was really inspiring. I’m really looking forward to getting back into the studio when I get back from San Francisco and starting some new work or finishing up some projects I started my last semester of school.

And that right there, that is the benefit of regularly cleaning. So I can easily access my supplies and continually be inspired by them. Plus save money – you would be shocked how many things I found that I had rebought over the last year – what a waste of money!

If you do decided to go with the Fly Lady program – start with making your control journal and the baby beginner steps. Sign up for the emails – but just get them in digest form (it’s a yahoo group email) instead of the 10 a day way, it’s much more manageable. That way you slowly work your way into it.

What cleaning/organizing program (or lack there of) do you use? Are there any books or articles that have been particularly helpful in staying tidy? Did you have a big turn around moment like I have? How do you feel keeping things neat helps your productivity?

I’ll see you all tomorrow. That will be my last post before I head out the door for the Bay Area and the Maker’s Faire! I can’t belive it’s just a day and a half away! I can’t believe I already have everything all set and ready to go too! And even with sending out Craft Leftovers Monthly last week, the studio is totally tidy! Amazing.

Best wishes and happy crafting!

5 thoughts on “Getting Organized to boost Creativity

  1. Thank you for that very inspiring post.
    Best of luck at the Maker’s Faire.

  2. this is a very interesting article to me since i struggle with the same issues. my studio/apartment will get overly messy to the point where i can’t concentrate or create.

    i don’t really have a schedule to clean, so i am interested in hearing what everyone comes up with!

  3. I use the Sidetracked Home Executive system (most of the time, I’ve fallen of the wagon lately) that FlyLady is based on. I like it a little better because it is an index card based system and I already use index cards all the time for business calls.

    Also, less annoying than the chirpy FlyLady stuff.

    I’m just down Lincoln Way in Nevada if you want to take a look at the books sometime.

  4. yay for flylady! I always feel like all of the decluttering things need a totally different approach for artists who USE leftover things and need lots of random stuff to play with. 
    But even with that, I have still done mad decluttering and may actually be able to see my kitchen & bathroom floors enough to clean them. 

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