03 December 2007

enLIGHTening!

This weekend, I spent a lot of time decluttering the garage with the door open to enjoy the weather. I now own 12 fewer boxes of stored stuff.

My goal is to get my storage--things that I'm not using right now, but will later--down to 10 boxes, but I'll settle for 20. When I began this project a couple of years ago, I had over 120 boxes of stuff that I thought I had to keep; I'm now down to 37. It's obviously a slow process, but worthwhile.

Currently, I'm working with a few beacons in my mind. One is Seth Godin's blog entry, The Reason. I mentioned that in my last post.

Basically, I look at the stuff that I'm saving and ask myself why I thought it was such a good idea to buy/get it... and if that's still a valid reason.

In many cases, the reason why I've kept it... well, it devolved to a mindset focused on insecurity or even bitterness. Letting go of that stuff is excruciatingly difficult at times, but afterwards I feel vastly lighter... enlightened! *chuckle*

There have been other "ah-HA" moments.

Recently, HT and I were watching our DVDs of classic TV commercials. And, I was suddenly struck by the realization that I own a lot more stuff than my parents did. I'm not convinced that owning more equals greater happiness. If anything, I'd say the opposite.

I don't recall my mother ever complaining about not having enough storage space. In our compact, three-bedroom home, I can't remember storage, except for the holiday decorations, and seasonal clothing kept in the hope chest. We weren't poor... not even close. We just didn't surround ourselves with as much stuff as I do now.

A lot of this is about having too many choices. I'm realizing the importance of simplicity, and how it streamlines daily life. Frankly, when I went to a private school where we wore uniforms, I focused more on what was important (learning) than when fashion/status became a daily issue. (I could list other examples, but that's a really clear one.)

Most of my choices--the supplies that I'm weeding out--are about art. Getting myself to say, "Okay, I'm not really going to make an assemblage with that piece," is amazingly difficult. But now, when I'm looking for a particular supply for another project, I have fewer places to search. That saves me the one commodity that's not replaceable: time.

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06 July 2007

Focus, professionalism and clutter

Last night, I made a list of what I want to do in the life I'd like to lead. In order of importance: painting, travel, fabric art, and writing.

Then, I listed what I'd need for each. Okay, travel involves a ticket and throwing stuff into a suitcase. But everything else...

I was astonished to realize that I need the least stuff for painting, then for fabric art, and... well, my hoard of writing-related stuff is obscene. I can't even list it all. I have boxes & boxes of cool articles and notes that I'm saving, "in case I ever write about this."

Hello, that's what a good library is for.

I also looked at all the sewing stuff that I own, with the idea that I'll use it for fabric art someday. By contrast, when I was making quilts & wall hangings professionally, I'd buy a few bolts of fabric, use them up making quilts, give away the scraps, and then go buy more bolts... and the occasional accent fabric or two.

When I'm actively working in a field, professionally, I tend to use up everything that I own. I don't keep clutter.

In fact, I'm currently reducing how much stuff I use for painting. I'm looking at the number of tubes of paint I use, and how many of those colors could be mixed from other colors that I own.

In other words, the more professional (and productive) I am in a field, the less clutter I own, related to it.

This is on the heels of spending a day and a half looking for my glue gun, to complete the project for Go-Make-Art. It would have been better if I'd just tossed out the old glue gun and spent the $1.99 replacing it when I needed it again. (Okay, that'd be wasteful. My point is, I own too much clutter when I can't find my basic tools to produce art that I claim to be professional at.)

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05 July 2007

More declutter inspiration

Part of making more time (and space) for art involves being absolutely ferocious about decluttering. I like this article by Merlin at 43 Folders, in which he says, "If the stuff that you accumulate doesn’t help get you closer to the life you want to have, it’s simply not worth keeping. Period."

I look at all of my stuff and how much of it is about the life that I currently have.

I look at how much I justify with the idea, "Well, if I use this stuff to make something, and then I sell it, I might make the money that I need to live the life that I want to have."

And then I spend a week (or two or three) making whatever-it-is. I spend money on additional supplies that I'll only use half of... and then the rest of those supplies go into my boxes, with some idea that "I might need this some day." (I really hate buying supplies twice... especially if they aren't things that I use in art that I'll keep.)

I drop everything else that I'm working on, to get whatever-it-is completed and out the door. I throw it on my blog, or into etsy or eBay.

And then it doesn't sell. Or, it sells for less than the hours that I put into it, even at minimum wage. Or, I just break even on the supplies, period. The time is gone, forever.

Hello, why do I keep doing this?

I think that I have to be even more harsh with myself. I may need to wholly eliminate anything that I'm working on with some idea that it'll make the money that I need.

I think that I should start living the life that I want. I need to trust that the wherewithal will show up, or I'll see opportunities within the context of the life that I want... not the life that I've had enough of, thank you very much.

When I'm creating something, if it's not something that I'd want to keep/own myself, maybe I shouldn't be making it. I need to quit looking at what other people are doing, while I'm thinking, "Sure, I could make something equally as good, and then I could sell it at a profit, too."

Whether or not I can make something well is not the issue. It's coming down to the energy in whatever-it-is, and if I see real value (as opposed to "that's nice," commercial value) in it.

Even "cute" art needs to be taken off my to-do list.

If it's not about painting and making fabric art (quilts, wearables, wall hangings, very artsy dolls/figures), I think that it has to go away.

In a comment at the article linked above, someone named Cora said, "I got out a few sheets of crisp paper. I imagined my day and then my year, and wrote down the stuff I thought I’d need. Then I wrote down all the things I planned to achieve that year, and got rid of anything that didn’t fit, even things I really wanted to do or new things I wanted to learn. If it was unlikely I’d pursue it in the next 12 months, I just let it go — stuff might be outdated by then anyway."

I think that I'm going to do that, but for six months (in keeping with "The 4-Hour Work Week"), and see what I end up with. That'd be interesting.

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