Tag Archives: recycling

CLEANING THE ATTIC #21: In Closing

I honestly didn’t realize this was going to turn into a series…. I just meant to take you on my journey of de-junking my home, my studio and my life. A journey with odd twists and turns, roadblocks, breakthroughs and tears. An endeavor filled with brain lock, and dread, and insight and inspiration. (Geez, this sounds like a movie trailer….)

What have I accomplished?

I’ve proven to myself that I can do this. I can hunker down and really clear stuff out when I put my mind to it. (I honestly did not believe that til I went through this.)

What will this process now allow me to accomplish?

Time will tell. Time will tell.

Am I still a pack rat?

Yes! I don’t ever want to lose that. It’s part of who I am. I see stories in things. I create stories with the tableaux and vignettes I set up. Perhaps I should have been a photo stylist, or some other profession that would allow me to create little displays over and over again. But I still do it in my home and my studio.

It’s also part of my creative process. It’s a reflection of my artistic nature, and my imagination, to see such potential in the objects I find. That’s not a bad thing, unless I let it get out of control.

I can’t be “clean for clean’s sake”. I’ve learned my lesson there. If I’m afraid of making a mess, then no art will be created. My space just has to be functional enough to….well, function.

As my friend pointed out, the layers were good–it’s what I do. I create layers of fabric, layers of display, layers of meaning.

But when I start piling on top on layers, I need to either move something else on, or understand why I’m not dealing with the stuff.

I also know that there will be times where I can’t act on it immediately. If so, I can accept that, and understand I’ll have to take care of it later.

The pay-off?

Today I got a last-minute call from a potential customer. He’d seen my work at my last retail show. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. He wanted to purchase a bracelet for his wife. Could he stop in on his way through New Hampshire?

Normally this kind of request would put me in a panic. Either I wouldn’t even be able to find what he wanted, or I’d be babbling a jillion embarrassed apologies as we stepped through piles o’ stuff.

But instead, I said, “Sure! Come on by.” He would be there in an hour.

It took about that long to break down the displays and sales tables. I put all my book project displays into one big box for storage. I set aside the leftover fabrics for Freecycle. I pulled out a selection of bracelets and arranged them on a black velvet pad.

When my visitor arrived, I welcomed him into a beautiful studio. Dense and layered, to be sure. But also organized and neat. No “understory”. Nothing stuffed into every available nook and cranny. There were even a few clear surfaces.

I was proud of my workspace, and it showed.

He was delighted and enchanted. He bought a very nice piece for his wife. He admired my workspace and promised to come again for the next open studio, with his family.

Oh. My. God.

I know this won’t last, of course. The minute I start work on a new wall hanging series, the fabrics will fly, the threads will fray, and Bunster will once again play tug-o-war with my patience. There are still a few rooms and closets in the house to go through, and more boxes of display stuff to be put away.

But I found myself sneaking into my studio today at every possible moment, to make some simple pieces, to put away a few more things, to simply play at my work table.

It feels good to be in here. It feels great to be in here.

I’d call that a roaring success. Wouldn’t you?

4 Comments

Filed under art, business, cleaning the studio, life, recycling

CLEANING THE ATTIC #19: Take Out the Empties

As I enter into the last 24 hours of cleaning frenzy (assuming I don’t stay up til 2 a.m. for the next two nights, which I’m not saying I won’t, mind you, but at my age, it’s hard) there’s one cleaning tip I come back to again and again. It’s ridiculously simple, but perhaps the most single most helpful tip I’ve found.

When I enlisted the help of my good friend Carol Laughner, the second thing she advised me to do seemed kinda silly at the time. (I can’t remember the other two right now. If I do, I’ll share those, too.)

As I empty storage containers or organizers, she said I should gather them up and set them aside, in one big pile, in an out-of-the-way area.

I nodded my head obligingly when she told me this. After all, she was helping me. I wasn’t going to argue with her. But I couldn’t see why this was one of her “big three” organizing tips.

Well, guess what? It works.

It turns out that keeping them in your line of sight as you work creates a visual distraction. I’d find my eye roving around the room, thinking of what I had to do next. I would see an empty rolling drawer cart, or a magazine file, or a box, or a jar. Then I’d have to think, “Oh, it’s empty, I don’t have to do anything with that.” Except, of course, step over it, move it out of the way, push it aside or stack it on something else.

Also, when I’d get ready to reorganize a space, I’d think of a perfect “thing” to use–but then I couldn’t remember where it was. I’d spend several precious moments looking for it. And sometimes I’d realize I’d already commandeered it for another spot.

About the eleventh time I stepped over an empty plastic tub, or searched for a basket the right size, I realized Carol was right.

I set the “empties” in a pile near the door to my barn attic. Several times a day, I took them upstairs to the “master pile”.

I instantly had more walking-around space. And fewer distractions to boot.

I could then judiciously add some of the containers back in as I needed them.

I don’t know why this works so well, but it does. So listen to Carol and move those empties to a staging area while you work on your mega-mess.

1 Comment

Filed under action steps, art, business, cleaning the studio, life, organization, recycling, recycling tip

CLEANING THE ATTIC #18: Find Someone More Worthy

The end is almost in sight. I’ve achieved a few clear surfaces in here. And this time, it’s not because everything that was on them is stuffed in boxes underneath. The stuff is either neatly organized and stored in the attic, or G-O-N-E.

The process is easier some days, harder on others.

One consolation: There’s very little that’s pure-D trash. Most of it is saleable, salvageable, worthy of donation or recyclable.

Of course, if it’s good enough to sell/salvage/donate, it’s also good enough to keep. And therein lies the heart of the problem.

It’s easy to talk ourselves into keeping something that’s still “good enough”. Hey, maybe we really will have another baby (or somebody will), redecorate our home (in the same color scheme/style we left behind fifteen years ago), or take up weaving again (even though I hate threading the loom.)

One trick around this is to find someone more worthy.

I’ve done this by donating to good causes: Our public library’s book sale, which raises money for buying more books. (Better them than me, right?) An art center’s fund raising “yart” sale, and also direct donations to their art programs (photography equipment, art supplies.) An after-school art program. A family that makes jewelry and donates the money from sales to worthy causes.

When it comes to fabric, there’s one place that always gets the culls from my stash.

It’s a sewing program at a state prison facility for women.

I read about this group years ago. They make clothing and quilts for children in homeless shelters and babies with AIDS.

It really moved me that these women, who have made some disastrous decisions in their lives, were trying to comfort someone else–a little person–even worse off.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had enough fabric to donate, so I had to make quite a few phone calls to track down a contact. But the program manager is delighted I thought of them again. We’ve arranged a drop-off point.

Inspired again by this group, I found myself pulling even more fabric off my shelves.

Pay it forward. Find someone who could really put your unused stuff to good purpose.

And watch the world grow a little richer, a little brighter, a little more loving.

1 Comment

Filed under action steps, art, business, cleaning the studio, life, recycling, recycling tip

CLEANING THE ATTIC #17: Persistence of Utility

One of the biggest obstacles to de-junking is worrying you’ll get rid of something you’ll really regret later.

All of us have a story like that. One week, you throw away all your red widgets. The next, you realize you desperately need more red widgets. And they cost three times as much as what you paid for them last time.

Or you give away a wodget you didn’t use for ten years. And a week later, you think of some usage that wodget would be perfect for.

A friend once explained that phenomenon to me. It needs a good name. Like “rue-membering”.

The reality is, you’d already forgotten you had that wodget. if you hadn’t cleaned out your attic and come across that wodget, you still would not have thought of it a week later.

Or if you did find the perfect use for it, and remembered you had it, you wouldn’t have been able to find it anyway.

You remembered it only because you touched it recently.

It’s like that “persistence of vision” thing when you look at a bright light, then look away. You don’t really still see the light–you see an image of the light that’s temporarily “burned” on your retina.

Similarly, you are having a “persistence of utility” for that object.

And it creates just enough regret to slow down your purging process.

Remember that when you’re making your stay/go decisions and your supports-my-vision/distracts-me-from-my-vision decisions.

And if you find yourself still full of second-guessing, here’s a good statistic to keep in mind:

Out of the thousands of items I’ve given away in the past month, I regret giving away oh, maybe one or two of them.

And I can’t even remember what those are right now.

1 Comment

Filed under art, cleaning the studio, life, recycling, recycling tip

CLEANING THE ATTIC #15: Paper Chase

Someone told me years ago that 90% of the clutter in our homes is reading material.

After working on my studio purge, I believe it.

I am a readaholic. Too bad there’s no 12-step program for me. But I’m beginning to see the light.

Being a readaholic is connected to having packat-itis. Whatever mode we use to collect information, that’s a cue to what we hoard. Whatever gives us inspiration, that’s another cue.

Great insights, all. But the simple fact is….

I simply have way, way, way too much reading material in here!

First there’s paperwork. Experts claim we only use 20% of the papers we think we need to keep “just in case”. So we can safely ditch the other 80%. But how to decide??

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but whenever you read expert advice about organizing your paperwork, the first thing they tell is to keep seven years’ worth of records in case you’re ever audited by the IRS.

That…is a lot of paperwork.

And that’s exactly the kind of boring paperwork I’d love to chuck. If I have to keep stuff, I’d rather it were stuff I like to look at…

Can you say “internet banking”? Or “Quickbooks?” Okay, you still have to keep paper records or be absolutely sure you always back up your computer files. I have a sad story to tell about that, and no, it wasn’t my fault. Another time.

I have one solution that works really well, especially if you have to clean a pile in a hurry. You put all your important papers in big grocery bags or boxes. Set them aside (preferably out of sight, like in a closet or under a desk) for oh, six months to a year.

Then, when you have a few hours to spare, pull them out and sort through them. (Tip: This works even better if you leave it long enough to totally forget you even have it.)

I guarantee you’ll throw most of them away. (This wonderful cleaning tip comes from my mother. Blame her.)

Okay, you might find a few papers that will make you slap your forehead and go, “Ohmigod, that’s where that form went!!” So maybe you should pull out the bills, show applications, etc., the papers you know you need to deal with–and put all the “maybe’s”, “we’ll see’s” and “oh geez” ones in those aforementioned bags.

It’s amazing how those “maybe” things just don’t seem so compelling six months later.

Next are the catalogs. I am a catalog queen. I love catalogs. But I realized there are really only half a dozen or so I need to refer to regularly. And with so many companies now offering online ordering, I only need to keep the ones that are really informative and fun to read. I threw out all the others.

Another professional insight: Years ago, I considered sending buyers my catalog on a CD. I hesitated, because I wasn’t sure how easy it would be for them to actually use it. In my purge, I found one company had sent me a CD of their catalog. I looked at the date. Sure enough, I hadn’t looked at it once in three years. So substituting a CD doesn’t work as an alternative to a really good paper catalog.

Then there are the magazines….where do I start? I have given away hundreds of magazines in the last few weeks. I quickly skimmed many of the trade publications to see if there was anything that begged to be kept. There were a few. But the rest got passed on to other artists. (My home and lifestyle magazines were donated to various waiting rooms across town, including the emergency room at our local hospital, and to Freecycle. Thank you, gentle readers and fellow Freecylers, for the great suggestions!)

Books. Ahhhh….books.

If you’ve been reading this series all along, you know we’ve already purged well over a thousand books from our attics, hallways, bookshelves and living room. I’ve even managed to move on a few cookbooks.

It got harder in my studio. Hey, they’re all such great books! How-to (make jewelry, dye wool, solder silver, succeed in business) books. Books about art. Books about how to make art. Books about what to do when you hit a rut and you aren’t making art anymore. Clip-art books so you can use someone else’s art. Books about African, Japanese, Native American and prehistoric art. Books about bugs, sea shells, rocks, textiles, dolls and beads. Books that I intend to alter. Books for cutting up to decorate the books I intend to alter. And books that teach techniques for doing this. Even books that feature projects I wrote for making….books.

I have to pull the box-and-stuff-it-in-the-attic thing for a lot of these. It’s just too hard to ask “stay-or-go”.

But it’s actually getting easier as I go along. I have quite a pile of really cool art books that just aren’t for me anymore. Hopefully, some lucky visitor to my Open Studio will go home with one (or several!) instead.

The short story is this: I looked at everything and asked myself:

Do I LOVE this book/magazine/catalog? Does it continue to excite me and inspire me?

Or are those designs and projects now ho-hum?

Does it inform me?

Or can I get the same information quickly and easily on the internet?

Is it still useful to me? Am I really going to make that project, use that image, try that recipe, read that again to get that one little insight again?

Or is that moment over for good?

It’s surprising how quick and simple the answer usually is. And if it’s not, well, I just set the item aside to go upstairs for awhile. Maybe when I check again, the answer will be more clear.

It’s easier to let go of a title these days. Even if I find I have to own that book again, I can always buy another copy. It used to be really hard, and sometimes expensive, to find a specific book. But with today’s powerful search engines, and great resources like BookFinder, you need never go bookless again.

It helps, too, when I think about writing my next book. This is all in service to that worthy goal.

I’ve recycled most of this paper stuff. It’s either getting passed on, sold or put in the recycling bin.

A new book is still a delicious treat, a new magazine is a cheap and quick fix. Nothing like it. Some women buy a new lipstick, I buy a new magazine.

And when I am researching an idea, I love to immerse myself in all the possibilities. It works for me.

But I think I’m going reacquaint myself with our local library, too.

Um….you’ll forget everything I said about cutting down on books when it’s time for you to buy mine, right?

2 Comments

Filed under action steps, art, cleaning the studio, life, recycling, writing

CLEANING THE ATTIC #14: Focus on One Area

I’ve been sick all week. I have very little energy for cleaning.

But open studios wait for no woman, sick or not. And so I come in here and I keep plugging away.

What helps?

Focusing on one small area at a time.

Clearing just one shelf, or one drawer, or one pile, keeps me from getting overwhelmed. I still accomplish something. And one more little empty space opens up.

Of course, I need about 150 more of those little spaces to open up. And soon.

But I’m trying not to think about that til the fever abates.

P.S. Someone from my Freecycle group emailed, offering to take everything I’ve posted off my hands for another fund-raising yard sale. I gathered up all the items that people never responded to or never showed up for, boxed them up and stowed them in the garage. They should be picked up by end-of-day–yay! The person said they could continue to pick up more stuff for another week or so. Hallelujah!

I’m especially grateful because my local consignment shop said they are not booking “appointments” for accepting small stuff til mid-January (can you believe it??), and the thrift shops are all full of other people’s leftover yard sale stuff…

1 Comment

Filed under action steps, art, business, cleaning the studio, life, recycling

CLEANING THE ATTIC #13: It’s Okay to Keep Stuff

I almost gave away half my collection of vintage suitcases this week. I even offered my six vintage Samsonite overnight cases to my daughter, to use for storage. She said no.

And I was secretly relieved.

I’m glad I kept them.

Remember when I described my altered art/paper collage projects as “vacations” from my regular artwork in the last essay?

Well, I’ve stowed all the materials in my suitcases. I stacked them on one of my
rolling steel shelving units
from Sam’s Club. (Thanks again for the great tip on these, Bonnie Blandford!)

I can grab a suitcase, make a funny pink drink with a little umbrella in it, and enjoy myself thoroughly. Just like a real vacation!

They look really, really, cool, too.

3 Comments

Filed under action steps, art, business, cleaning the studio, life, recycling, recycling tip