This is the second article in a series on Organizing Your Creative Space. To see the first article, click on the link at the bottom of this page.
The sorting step is the hardest step for most people. Artists tend to be pat-rack types and keep a lot of items in their art stash. If you are worried about this step, bribe a supportive friend to help. Offer to help them organize or promise a hand-made gift when your space is complete. If you think you need professional help, hire a professional organizer. Check references and ask for referrals if you choose the professional route.
Start sorting by gathering boxes, garbage bags, and a recycle bin. Then make four areas: keep, donate, trash/recycle, and unsure."Unsure" will become the box labeled with a list of its contents. Then store for up to one year until you decide to let those supplies find a new home or you start using them as discussed in the first article.
If you are ambitious, you can add a fifth category for items to sell. However, be realistic about the quality of your items and your time. Sites like Etsy, e-Bay, Craig's List, or an art fair can be a market for your old supplies. Visit Etsy to check out what is being sold and market rates for items. Selling and shipping items is a commitment. Consider your goals when deciding if you want to sell. Follow the same rule with selling items as you are with the "unsure" items. Set a time limit. If you haven't sold your items within a set limit, donate instead.
If you need motivation, promise yourself a treat when you finish. Bribery can help you accomplish your goal. You can do a "treat" after each timed session and then a larger "treat" like a new supply after you have an organized space. Small treats can be something like thirty minutes reading an art blog or an afternoon nap. Bigger treats can be a new set of Inktense pencils. Anything that keeps you on track and motivated works. Praise yourself for each accomplishment. All of this helps you grow your artist-self.
Set a time limit and begin. If you can only do ten minutes, that's fine. Begin where you are and don't judge yourself. Ten minutes is a step closer to your goal. Eventually all those ten minute sessions add up to a clean and organized space.
When sorting, refer back to your list on the functionality of your art studio or craft room. Think about what you sketched and/or your vision board. Everything you keep needs to be part your overall goals for the space. Anything that doesn't meet this standard should be donated or recycled/tossed out. This includes gifts and sentimental items that don't add to your creativity. It is okay to donate these items. Imagine them finding new life in a new home and let them go.
Touch everything in your creative space at least once. Group like items together. Think of the cliché, "birds of a feather flock together". For example, all paints go together. You can put them in subcategories like oil paints, watercolors, and acrylics but all paints should be in the same pile. Later, when you are putting things away, all the paints should live in the same section of your art studio.
Don't worry too much about this step. Don't let the subcategories start to overwhelm you. Remember, the goal is to get like with like. If you get all your paints grouped together, you're doing great. You can refine your subcategories as you work in your newly organized space. This step gets easier once you have everything sorted and your supplies to a manageable level.
Keep a supply list while sorting. Toss anything dried out like glues or paints. Note on your list what has been tossed that needs to be repurchased. Also note supplies that are running low. This list becomes invaluable when you go to buy supplies. It is a great reference sheet if you find a good sale. A smart phone or tablet is a great place to keep the list so you will have it with you. The list helps you save money by keeping you from purchasing duplicate supplies. It will also cut down on frustration when you are in the middle of a painting because you won't run out of your favorite paint color.
When sorting, a really important step is to donate all the items in your donation pile. I'm all for breaks but don't let this wait. Do it immediately. It's important to let go.
To find donation locations contact a local elementary or high school, parks and recreation program, summer camp program, post on freecycle.org, and/or donate to an artist friend. Depending on the type of supply you are donating a college art program may also be a good option. A local shelter is another excellent choice.
Once you have cleared your space, clean everything. Wipe down shelves, sweep and/or vacuum, toss all trash, and recycle all the recyclables.
Now you have a clean slate. Sit back and bask in your accomplishment. This is a huge step. Give yourself a treat. Maybe two treats.
Next week we will cover putting your sorted items away and storage solutions.