For two whole years, my studio has been a disaster. Even after I unpacked, there were bins, boxes, and bags all over the room. While there have been plenty of distractions, I finally realized what was really keeping things so messy and unsettled: perfectionism.
Even before we got our stay-at-home order from the governor, the mess in my studio was weighing on me. Every time I walked into the room, I groaned at the sight. I have projects I would love to do: quilts to finish, clothes to make, watercolors to experiment with. But I had nowhere to do these things.
I’ve been trying to cleanup all winter, but I’ve been stuck. My last studio was carefully organized. I spent weeks sorting and re-arranging until everything had a logical home and I could find things with ease. I wanted the same thing for my new studio, but couldn’t seem to figure out how to accomplish the task.
Granted, I was merging two rooms into one that had much less storage than I’d had before. In the last year, I bought three pieces of used furniture to help with the storage problem, but I still had a mess on my hands.
It also seemed like a crazy idea to tackle my studio right now. The stress of the pandemic and our uncertain future has made mashed potatoes of my brain. How I could I solve my organizational problems when I felt like I was barely functioning?
Thanks to the pandemic, I am spending most of my time in this room now. While I usually write and sew here, it’s now also where I hold Zoom meetings six times a week. It’s both a solitary refuge and a place I can talk without interrupting or disturbing others.
In the end, I attribute my success to three ideas I had.
The first was to do the simplest thing I could until I knew what was next. For example, I spent hours winding leftover yarn when I was supposed to be sorting it. Technically, it made the yarn easier to store, but it was also a soothing activity that gave me a much needed break from thinking.
The second was to use drawers for things I would normally put on shelves. I put completed sketchbooks, sewing accessory boxes, and tool trays into my drawers instead of on shelves.
The last was to let go of perfectionism. When I first had this idea, I didn’t word it that way. What I thought was: “Stop trying to get organized. Just put stuff away.” So I started finding homes for things. I looked at everything on the desk and asked myself “Does that really need to be out?” Most of it did not. I put as much of it into drawers and onto shelves as I could.
I worked my way through the piles over several weeks, and kept working as the COVID-19 news grew worse. The best thing about doing this now is the emotional lift it’s given me. I was filled with joy when the room was clear, and I celebrated on Sunday by letting myself start an entirely new sewing project and sewing as much as I wanted to. (More on that later.) Every time I walk into my studio, I feel relief and joy, something I particularly treasure during this stressful time.
My cleanup is not finished. There are boxes and bins in the dining room I need to find homes for, and who knows how long the donate pile is going to have to sit there, waiting for Goodwill to open again. But it’s much easier to face those piles now that I have a tidy workroom to spend time in afterwards.
Are you doing any cleanup tasks while sequestered? What tricks have helped you to get the job done?