3 Creative Clutter Problems and How to Solve Them

When you sit down to create, spend time making it count instead of searching for things

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

You know what it's like when you sit down to create. Whether you're a painter or a writer or a woodworker, it takes a while to get your mind into the task at hand, if you even know what that's going to be.

You stare at the blank page, or canvas or whatever you're working in and wonder when the muse will make an appearance.

More often than not, however, you skip the entire process because it would take so much time and effort to clear a space to work that you don't even bother. By the time you got it cleared off, you'd be too tired and your time would be up. You'd have to make dinner or go pick up the kids or whatever.

It's easier to watch TV or go shopping.

Does any of this resonate with you?

American consumer culture is killing the American creative spirit.

We are bombarded daily with admonitions to buy, buy, buy.

And we do. The average American spent $3,154 on eating out last year, $1,803 on "apparel and other services" and $2,913 on entertainment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's almost $8,000 a year!

Of course, we need clothes, and it's nice to go out and have fun once in a while. But $8,000 worth?

What much of that spending results in is time not spent on doing what we love, but on shopping, and a house full of things we don't need or don't use, but that we have to dig through to find what we really need.

All that stuff comes with hidden costs too — the costs of storing, cleaning and maintaining it, and the cost of your time.

It also comes at the cost of your creativity. Here are three ways clutter can hinder your creative work and some solutions to help deal with these issues and increase your creative productivity.

Problem: The cluttered work area

Sure, you want to get to work, but your desk or the kitchen table or wherever you like to work is piled high with the day's mail, the kids' homework, dirty dishes, bags, and countless other items that have nothing to do with the work surface's intended use.

Clearing it for work means you would have to deal with all the things on it. You'd have to make decisions about invitations, figure out where to put things that currently have no home, do the dishes.

All of that takes time and is way less fun than not doing it.

Solution: Do it once, then maintain

Unfortunately, there's not really easy way around this. If you've let an area pile up, you're going to have to deal with it.

So set aside some of the time you would normally go shopping or watch TV to work on your space.

I've got some ideas of how to clear it off here:

Once that's done, keep it clean.

This is the hardest part at first, but it's the most important. But think of all the hard work you JUST DID to clean that off. It's akin to someone tracking mud across a floor you just mopped. You'll be frustrated and will do pretty much anything you can to avoid having to do it over.

After a while, it won't be so difficult. You'll get used to putting things away instead of dumping them on your work space. You should have set up a system for dealing with papers and other items that come into the house, so once using those systems becomes a habit, you'll have a consistently clear space to work.

Problem: Digging for tools

Maybe you've got tools in various spots around the house: some in the closet, some in the garage or basement, some in the attic, some in the kids' closet.

Having your tools spread throughout the house makes settling in to do your creative work a chore.

You have to go around the house, climb stairs and collect the things you need. And if you forget something, then it's circling through all the spots again, searching for the right thing.

Or maybe you've got them all together, but they're stored in a bin in the closet, under a couple of other bins and a couple of precariously balanced bags.

Digging tools out to create something and then having to put them back away gets old really fast.

Solution: Keep them all together in one easily accessible spot.

Make things easy on yourself. Gather all your tools together.

Decide what you need. Chances are you don't need everything you've got, so let some of it go.

Then, figure out where you can carve out some space to store them that is easily accessible.

You may have to rearrange a few things or get rid of some things that are less important. If that's difficult, remember why you're doing this in the first place: You love to create, and the world needs your art.

If you can get to your tools easily, you're more likely to use them, and thus more likely to create.

You're also more likely to put them back, so your house stays tidy in between work sessions.

Problem: You lack inspiration

Even if you've managed to clear a space to work and you've located all your tools, clutter can still weigh on your mind.

Clutter exerts a psychic pull (actually, more of a psychic crush) whether we're aware of it or not.

Have you ever cleared out a drawer or some part of your home and just felt lighter? That's because the clutter was weighing you down, even though you might not have been able to see it. It's one of those things that you don't notice how much it affects you until it's gone.

You're freer and more able to focus when you're not surrounded by clutter. It can be distracting, which can ruin our concentration and affect our ability to come up with good ideas and to execute those ideas.

Solution: Keeping your space tidy lets your mind focus on what's important

The best way to keep clutter from affecting your focus is to make sure you don't let it into your life.

If you've done the hard work of clearing it, don't sabotage yourself by going back out to the shops because you're bored or a friend invites you. There's always something better to do, like go for a walk or get a cup of coffee.

And like I said before, putting things away makes a world of difference. If you know something is where it's supposed to be, and you'll be able to find it when you need it, you've conquered the clutter beast and your mind will be free to focus on the things you love.

Clutter sucks so much out of us: money, time, mental space. Those are all things that are better spent on the things that we love. Why give these precious commodities over to something that just takes and takes without giving anything back?

For our creativity's sake, for our mind's sake, and for the sake of our wallets, we have to clear the clutter. For the sake of our families, friends and the world, let's focus instead on doing what we love.

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