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4 Simple Steps to Clear Clutter and Boost Creativity

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Part of having a craft such as sewing, is purchasing and storing the supplies needed to engage in that craft. But what happens when we hold on to more than we can possibly use or need? Even if items are tucked away in drawers, closets and shelves, holding on to things that we no longer want or need weighs us down and keeps our creative energy stagnant.

Clear Space, Clear Mind.

Parting with items that we purchased, or that were gifted to us by loved ones, can be difficult. Often there is self-value associated with those items in which we chose to invest our time and money to buy. There can be sentimental reasons for holding onto items as well. However, it is important to recognize that clutter in your creative space has its own cost. When clutter goes up creativity goes down. That is because clutter leads to overwhelm. Feeling overwhelmed keeps us from doing. In fact, just seeing clutter makes us feel tired and have less energy.

Here is why: for most of us, there is only so much information that our brains can process at one time. Seeing tons of stuff everywhere (even if that stuff is gorgeous, pet-able fabric) overloads the senses. The mind is forced to move in too many directions. Instead of focusing our attention on the project at hand, we are dividing our attention among many stimuli and not making progress on anything.

The good news is that we can all get to a place of maximum productivity and creativity. But first, we need to dedicate some time to cleaning up and to clearing out. We can achieve this in small doses, for example, by dedicating 15 mins a day until the work is completed. Alternatively, we can tackle the task in one large chunk. Whichever method you prefer, the following steps can get you started.

Start Saying “No”.

The first step to a clean sewing space is saying “no” to adding anything more to your sewing “to do” list, at least for the time being. Self-help guru Marie Forleo calls this the “No Train” and she recommends you get a first class ticket and climb aboard. Marie also points out that you do not  have to ride the No Train forever. Once you have cleared out the backlog of old tasks to which you’ve committed and have completed them, you can jump off the train and start saying yes again.

How to Apply It:

As quilters we are always finding new projects to start and new gifts that we’d like to give. But in order to get organized, it is essential to take the time to say no to any new demands on your time. Instead, focus on projects already underway. Determine which ones are worth continuing on with, and put away or donate the pieces of projects that will never see completion.

Keep Only The Good Stuff.

In her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Marie Kondo is ruthless in her pursuit of an organized home. And for good reason. As she explains, “Once you have experienced what it’s like to have a truly ordered house, you’ll feel your whole world brighten.” The key is to keep only that which “sparks joy.” In making the determination, Kondo asks you to hold each item in your hand and close to your heart. She then advises you to eliminate everything that doesn’t provide you with a thrill, regardless of sentimentality or function. Before getting rid of the items, she advises we thank them for the purpose that they served in our life and then donate or discard them. In the end, we will be left only with items that we are confident that we want to keep.

How to apply it:

The KonMari method, as Kondo’s approach is commonly known, can be  particularly useful when it comes to our fabric stash. Eliminating fabric that no longer gives us a thrill can allow us to hold on to and appreciate the fabric that we do keep. And if you have a hard time parting with fabric, perhaps you can think about how others would find use for the fabric that sits in a pile or a closet in your home. As Kondo points out, “Can you truthfully say that you treasure something buried so deeply in a closet or drawer that you have forgotten its existence?” Instead, let the fabric go with gratitude and hope that it can be used by someone that truly enjoys it.

Forget About “Just-In-Case”

The third step to getting organized is to let go of the things we are holding on to “just-in-case” we may need them in the future. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, better known as The Minimalists, recognized that the just-in-case scenario accounts for a large reason why we continue to hold onto items we no longer need or love. As a result, these unused items take up space and weigh on our minds causing visual and mental clutter. The Minimalists’ solution?  They say to get rid of anything that you can replace within 20 minutes or for less than $20. If you really do need that item, then you can easily replace it. But in their experience, they have found that you rarely need to repurchase a discarded or donated item.

How to apply it:

Old patterns, rulers, notions, templates, pamphlets, books, guild handouts, orphan blocks. . . the list goes on. There are so many items we hold onto in the event we *may* need them. But this is where your “why” really comes into play. Why do you want to clean up and clear out? To increase productivity, lighten your mental load and increase creativity. When you keep your “why” at the forefront, it makes parting with those “just-in-case” items easier. Because living in the present moment free from clutter is a lot better than living in the future with too much stuff based on a hypothetical scenario that might not ever occur.

Accept that its a journey.

Doing a little clutter-clearing and tidying each day will help to keep you on track once you’ve started the process. One key to remember is to be gentle with yourself. Inevitably there will be hiccups. You may actually end up needing one or two of those “just-in-case” items. But in the long run, the mental load that you will be relieving by reducing the amount of possessions you have in your sewing space will lead to more and better-quality quilting time. You will be clearer, more focused and have an energy that will foster your most creative spirit to shine through!

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One thought on “4 Simple Steps to Clear Clutter and Boost Creativity

  1. Mario says:

    Marie Kondo is a hero! Once I started to organize and fold my fabric I learned two things about collecting fabric, first I have a crazy amount of green and it is not even a color I really like, secondly, the majority of the pieces are in too small of a size for anything larger than a wall quilt. I have also sorted into color families which is helping in the creativity department.

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