Declutter your artist workspace

Sheila Chandra - Thursday, December 26, 2019

We’re coming up to the New Year – in fact it’s a whole new decade! How’s your workspace looking? All ready to go? Or sadly cluttered? Here’s some inspiration to help you freshen up your artistic workspace.


Artists need a system 

I’m a big fan of de-cluttering in a way that enables you to stay tidy pretty effortlessly. After all, I wrote an entire book about it called “Banish Clutter Forever”. Time and time again I’ve seen what a huge difference it makes when an artist declutters their workspace. There’s no filler, no baggage and no waste. Creativity blossoms as their focus becomes crystal clear. It’s exhausting to continually “spring clean” all the time. You can avoid this altogether when you have a system in place. A clean-up-as-you-go system gives everything a place. Best of all - you only ever use – and tend only to buy - what you actually need.


Think about your brand

Working in a clear space require ‘big picture’ thinking. So start with your brand. Are you associated with a certain colour palette? Or a certain set of materials? Or a particular style which takes certain tools to craft? Great! If you only work in four colours you can afford to bulk buy them and pass on any others for instance. This will keep your studio clear, and save you money.


Decluttering takes the pressure off your time – and reduces guilt

Many artists keep things because they think they have unlimited time to complete all the projects they’ve stored items for. Or worse, they’re convinced that, one day, they’ll think of a project to use the saved item for. In reality, when you hold onto an item for a project that you only have vague plans for, you hold yourself back. It’s unhealthy to constantly feel obliged to use something. And it creates a ‘burdened’ feeling and stops you focusing on the work projects that are most important.

Let’s say you have a huge blank canvas that an artist friend gave you two years ago. You feel like you should use it. After all, it was expensive! But you haven’t had any ideas. It’s currently gathering dust and taking up space in your studio. When you look at it you feel bad because you haven’t used it yet. Plus, you usually only paint on small canvases! So, maybe it’s time to let go of it? Sell it or donate it. Unburden yourself of the false feeling that you’re falling behind just because you haven’t found a use for it yet. When something isn’t a good fit, let it go. Would you keep a pair of shoes that are too small?


Out with the old - in with the new

Comics are always looking for new material. Photographers and filmmakers look for new locations. Having new things to work with is part of the creative process for most artists. Artists develop their skills and learn new techniques constantly. As old techniques and methods fall by the wayside and are filed at back of our mind - a new one arrives. This clever filing system happens naturally. What about equipment, materials and resources? Equipment gets updated, breaks or goes out of style. If you won’t use it in the next year then sell it, donate it or throw it away. Let go of old materials once you’re happy with the new ones. Maintain the in and out flow so nothing accumulates. This goes for your paperwork and career management too. For instance, do you have a bunch of new suppliers, partners and contacts that you now work with? Update your files and address books by removing the old ones.


Decluttering is about making choices as you go

Decision debt is the most common reason things pile up. Decluttering as-you-go will make you a more efficient artist because you consistently take action. Making a decision and following it through with an action builds momentum. Plus, you are instantly rewarded with more physical and mental space. It’s a great feeling to look at your artist workspace and know that you have exactly what you need and aren’t drowning in irrelevant stuff!

If you’re an artist who wants to declutter and get organized then you’ll find lots more useful tips in ‘Organizing Your Creative Career’. A new and revised print version is out on 14th January 2020.


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