Thursday, December 3, 2009

Clutter busting my own Studio

Based on the principle that I should practice what I preach, I am letting you all see something that an artist never usually allows anyone to see! What my studio looks like when I'm in the middle of a big project!

There is a misunderstanding that being organized in some way inhibits creativity. Being organized is not the same as being neat and tidy- it certainly does not require being a "Type A" personality! All it means is that you have a place for everything, and when you've finished that big project, you can put everything away in its place. It means that you can find references or tools quickly, without diverting creative energy away from your project because you can't find or reach important items.

Basic Rules and Tools for Clutter Busting


Containers, sticky notes, magic markers, tape. For long-term deep clutter, dust masks and rubber gloves might be in order.

Dusting equipment, vacuum or broom. (I always recommend cleaning the cleared space before putting things back in.)


Think about what you want to do with this room or space. What is its purpose? If more than one person uses it, everyone should have impute; agreeing on the priorities and uses of the room is a must in order to stay organized successfully.

Consider what works - everyone has some areas that work for them! Why is that area organized? How can you apply what works there to other areas?

Take it a little at a time. Don’t try to do everything at once. Select a specific area and time to do it. Sometimes playing favorite music or an audio book helps enliven the experience. Have a healthy snack or favorite beverage at hand.

Don’t let yourself be distracted. Items for another room can be put in a box to be dealt with after the specific area is finished. Do not stop to read articles or finish that project you’ve been reminded of. Again, set them aside for later.

Don’t buy any organizing systems such as shelves or tubs until you’ve purged and organized at least into categories. You may find that you already have systems that can be used in new and more efficient ways. You’ll also be able to see the space better in order to judge what you need.

It is often hard to part with stuff, even when it well past serving any need for you. Knowing there are ways to give the stuff a good home can make it easier.

Memorabilia: it can be hard to give up stuff that reminds you of loved ones or happy memories. But the stuff is not the person or the memory. Keep those very special items that you have room for. For the rest, consider taking pictures of the items for a photo album or scrap book, then find new homes to sell or donate the items to. Remember, if it is really important to you, it should be out where you can enjoy it, not stuck away in a box or under a pile of other things in a closet.

Make sure items for donating are still in good enough condition to use. Charitable organizations appreciate it if the items are clean as well.

Clothes: There are many institutions around Champaign/Urbana that take clothes donation, like Salvation Army and Goodwill. Our own St. Patrick’s Food Pantry will take nonfood items such as clothes, bathroom supplies, even greeting cards.

Books: The library will take almost any book, DVD, CD as donations. The county jail also takes book donations, but paper backs only.

Recycling: Clothes hangers and dry Cleaning bags: Dry cleaners are very happy to take any you bring to them! Some, like Starcrest, have drop off bins to recycle the bags.

Recycling centers: they take paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, and aluminum. Does your college student need coins for laundry machines? Behind Jerry’s IGA there’s a machine that takes aluminum cans and pays 15 cents per pound.

Batteries/ Cell Phones: Anita Purvis Nature Center at Busey Woods takes old batteries (AA’s etc, not big ones like car batteries), cell phones, and plastic bags.

Plastic Bags: Most grocery stores now have drop offs for plastic bags. Jerry’s IGA in the Round Barn Shopping Center pays 5 cents per reusable bag that you bring in for your groceries.

Drug Disposal

Any out of date drugs should not be thrown in the trash or down the toilet. Carle Hospital’s pharmacy has a drop box for such drugs. They incinerate them to assure that they won’t get in the wrong hands or into the water system.

Empty Prescription bottles: The Humane Society is happy to reuse them for animal prescriptions.

Recommended Books:

It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh
Organizing From the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I'm Insured and Bonded!

As I get more clients and learn their needs, I keep finding new requirements to fulfill. My most recent client is in the hospital, and I am working alone in her home, getting it ready for her return. Naturally, she was a little concerned about that and asked if I was bonded. I looked into it and realized how important that is to my clients' confidence in me. Liability insurance (which I've also gotten) protects me, but Bonding ensures protection for the client. I went ahead and got it, and hope this will help insure (pun intended) my clients trust in me.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Organizing Bookshelves

I am an avid reader, and keeping my books in good condition and ready to hand has been a life long project. As an artist, I have also had many opportunities to acquire interesting objects throughout my career. In the process of organizing my home, I realized I wanted my favorites to be out where I could see and enjoy them, rather than packed in boxes. Once I had sold or donated everything I didn't really care for I needed a way to display my collection.

Slowly, over many years, I have gone through my book collection, being honest with myself about what books I would never read again and which had no value to me. There are many places that will take donated books. The Library of course, but also your local jail or prison will take paperbacks. Now I had sufficient room and shelves to exhibit my most precious and beloved books.

Stacking some books on their sides provided more shelf room as well as an interesting visual contrast to the upright books. I also laid some larger books on their sides to create a niches for some of my most attractive and unique items. Some items are placed on the shelf in front of the books, but not so many that either dusting or reaching getting out a book is a problem.

The taller bookcase is dedicated to fiction, the smaller, darker bookcase has my spiritual and theological books. If you have very tall shelves, place the books you use the most where they are easy to reach.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hilary's Kitchen drawers

On this visit Hilary and I worked on several drawers. The two nearest the phone I reorganized to make more efficient. All note pads and sticky notes, along with the telephone directory and address book ended up in the drawer nearest the phone.

Of course, the cooperation of everyone in the family is very important. If they go back to old habits of throwing things anywhere, the old clutter problems will come back, and these will turn back into junk drawers. I am trying to get the whole family’s impute so they feel involved, and might want to keep the place organized. They are starting to understand that items of importance were being misplaced, damaged, and lost, because of their habit of throwing them anywhere.

Recently we worked on Hilary’s pots and pans cupboards. It quickly became apparent that we need to find a way to make more room, since very little was going to friends, garage sale, or other cupboards. So I opened a side cabinet, and a top drawer and emptied these.

It turned out that Hilary had a shelf and a half full of paper plates, napkins, etc for block parties. A friend down the street is actually in charge of such things, and has a place to keep the paper ware. So we bundled them all up to return to her. Hillary can borrow what she needs as she needs it. This freed up a lot of space. The drawer was filled with junk that we were able to send to other locations or throw away. Between the two, we made enough room for all her pots and pans, with additional space for those still in the dishwasher!

Here are some comments from Hilary:

First, we took a tour through my house and she pointed out small, practical ways that I could implement getting years of disorganization under control. She gave advice like, "think about what you would like to use this space for". She gave me tips on what to tackle first (the not-so-bad areas), and said that the kids would be more train-able if they saw how things could be! Then we did a hands-on project together -- one kitchen cabinet. She had me get a bin and label it "FOR SALE". We took everything out of the cabinet together, then put it back in considering what we actually used and what was no longer useful. She had good practical suggestions and was really easy to work with. She made a project that would have been horrible by myself actually a lot of fun. I look forward to working with Lucy on lots more de-cluttering projects.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Music Closet

These are pictures of a closet in the process of being organized. I actually had to move some items out of the way in order to take the "before" shot! The client is a musician, and many CD's he cared about were found broken under all the other stuff. We moved the foot locker to another room where it could be used more effectively, and brought the filing cabinet in. He will eventually be able to store a lot of paperwork there, once he's organized it, which will eliminate the cardboard boxes still present. Many of the items in the "partly organized" shot were brought from other rooms. This closet, and the room it's in will be dedicated the music which my client practices and teaches. Even though we have not yet finished the project, he can now find what he needs. Instead of being scattered all over his home, his music tools and books are in the appropriate space. Before I took the picture, the white shelves had been on top of the foot locker, preventing him from getting to it. They had been sideways to the door, their content hard to see. Now that it is facing out, he can see what he has, and can reach everything.