For crafters, decluttering and rethinking a creative workspace might reap benefits beyond just finding the right paintbrush more quickly.
For some, it can spark creativity.
“It’s different for everyone, but it’s super psychological,” says professional organizer Fay Wolf of Los Angeles. Decluttering “creates space for the things you love and makes them ready to use at a moment’s notice.”
“People think structure is bad, but I think rules are great. They give you this framework so you have control,” she says.
A few years ago, Wolf set up her piano keyboard in a spare closet at home, and found she began using it more. And writing music. And singing. Songwriting “became the primary creative thing in my life, and all because I set up the keyboard. I gave it its own place,” says Wolf.
Wolf shares tips for getting rid of stuff, including art supplies from long-ago craft projects, in “New Order: A Decluttering Handbook for Creative Folks (And Everyone Else)” (Ballantine Books, 2016). She sets up a staging area with labeled sorting bins, and warns against letting perfectionism prevent progress.
“What plagues many of us is the ‘waiting for the perfect moment,’” which leads to doing nothing, Wolf says in her book. “Ditch the excuses and start with any amount of time.”
Wolf recommends using a timer, which many cellphones have. Set it for 20 minutes; you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish in that small amount of focused time, she says.
“You have to be OK taking small steps and knowing that’s the only way to do it,” she says, adding that it might take five such sessions before a crafting room starts to change.
Darcy Miller, editor at large for Martha Stewart Weddings, maintains an impeccably organized crafts room in her New York City home — until she doesn’t. Everything has its place: Pens are organized by type in glass jars on her worktable, and drawers are filled with tiny containers holding everything from color-coded paper clips to washi tape. But when she’s in the midst of a project, the room gets disheveled.
“If you could see what it looks like right now … ,” Miller said recently, shortly after hosting a daughter’s crafting birthday party. Miller is the author of the new “Celebrate Everything” (HarperCollins).
Cleanup is easier because of her organizational system, which puts frequently used items in clear, lidded boxes close at hand, and messy, bulkier supplies in gray, lidded boxes tucked onto shelves.
Miller recommends using a bulletin board to pin inspirational images and quotes, and to organize projects and unrelated ephemera, such as concert tickets or children’s school fliers. Her entire craft room is her inspiration board: She used wall-to-wall cork, sold in rolls, on all of the walls.
Eddie Ross, style director for the shopping site ATGStores.com, recommends a standup tool chest or a tackle box for storing small tools and supplies. He covers his work surface with inexpensive craft paper — torn off a roll — to keep his table protected from glues and glitter, and he keeps a hand vacuum cleaner nearby for quick cleanup.
Darci Meyers, a Boulder, Colo., psychotherapist, says that letting go of knickknacks and art supplies can create space for “what’s interesting and exciting in the present moment. … The fewer things we have, the less responsibility we have toward them and the more freedom we have in our lives.”
If you can’t toss the magazine stack or the dried-out markers, Meyers asks: Do they make you happy? If not, let them go.