CLEANING THE ATTIC Tip #5: Identify Your Legacy

This is too funny. I almost called this essay, “Break a rule”. You’ll see why at the end.

I almost tossed a pile of ArtCalendar magazine back issues. But as my hand hovered over the top issue, I saw a blurb for an article: Summer Project:Declutter your studio/Three Easy Steps

Now, I wasn’t about to fall for that one–remember what I said about magazines promising to change your life in 7 easy steps? And this one claims only three!!

But my coffee was ready, and I thought it would be fun to read for 10 minutes.

Oh, I am so glad I did!

The article’s author is Jo Israelson, master stone carver and installation artist. She also moonlights as a personal organizer. I can’t find any information on that aspect of her, though, so you’re going to have to find that back issue of ArtCalendar magazine (April 2007). No, you can’t have mine. I’m keeping it!

Jo uses those same ol’ strategies of sorting (keep, recycle, donate, trash) we hear so often, but with a twist.

She first requires that we identify our goals for the process. Understanding why we are doing this will help us stay centered and focused when the process gets hard.

I’m at that hard place this week. Most of the easy stuff to lose is gone. I can see attic floor! But my studio is in worse shape than ever. Decisions are getting harder and harder. I’m stuck again! (A friend has offered to come help me think, but not for another week….)

I apply Jo’s techniques and suggestions–and they work!

What are my goals?

Am I downsizing? Retiring? (No.) Trying to be more organized? (Yes.) Am I making room for larger work? (Yes!) Getting ready for a studio tour or sale? (Oh, yes, yes, yes!) There are even goals of a more personal and spiritual nature, and on that list is “overcoming a block”. (gulp…yes!)

But the part that is absolutely brilliant to me is when she asks us to define our legacy goals. This will help us move through the inevitable emotional wall we hit when the initial euphoria of de-junking ebbs, and the sadness, confusion and frustration of the process overwhelm us.

In the article, she says:

“…Most artists feel the underlying purpose of their work is to communicate, often in ways they cannot articulate explicitly themselves. Collectors often talk of being moved by, spoken to or touched by a particular work. Your legacy goals will serve as the framework for the distribution of the remaining items.”

What is my legacy?

What am I really trying to accomplish with my artistic life? What will I leave behind? What do I want it all to mean?

As a good friend always asks, “What is the highest and best use of my (artistic) time? And energy?”

What clarity this idea gives me!

Suddenly, I know what to do with the knitting machine my sister-in-law gave me a decade ago (and I only used for a few months.) It was a good thing for awhile. But what it taught me is, I love hand knitting, not machine knitting. I know now someone else will use it and enjoy it more than I.

I also know what to do with the tons of old books and cool “junk” I’ve acquired for making altered art. I love my altered artwork, and I’m good at it. But it’s more a creative process for me, not my actual body of work. (It’s not distinctive enough, for one.) Time to keep enough materials to play with, and release the rest back into the world.

I have a different legacy.

I know my fiber work, my jewelry, and my writing are the gifts I’m meant to focus on, for now.

And the funny part?

One of Jo’s rules: “Do not stop to read old magazines… (Y)ou had plenty of time to do that before you began to declutter.”

Well, that’s one rule I’m glad I broke today!

Back into the fray I go, with a lighter heart.

And hopefully, an emptier studio.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

6 thoughts on “CLEANING THE ATTIC Tip #5: Identify Your Legacy”

  1. Your knitting machine is my potter’s wheel. I just couldn’t let go, thinking I’d use it again when I retired or something. Meanwhile I’ve found my focus is completely different over the years and especially today. Even just deciding to let it go out into the world and be used instead of sitting alone in my basement was liberating.

    I offered it on Freecycle, with a note about “life changing direction” – which garnered as much response as the potter’s wheel itself! It ultimately went to a woman who wanted to donate it to her old high school in a tiny town in another part of the state, in an effort to give back. She was soooo grateful and said the school was too. It was like a triple win, in my mind.


  2. my new mantra – this is a must read for “cleaning” days. the interesting thing as I attempt this for my dad’s space – is that the grandkids (all 20-30 somethings) are wanting things that my mom just sees as junk – see my “where are they now?” post But it is really helpful for my own “personal” space as well. thank you thank you thank you


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: