There is something inherent in the essence of this time of year that makes me ready and willing to make all kinds of changes.
As the weather heats up for those of us here in the northern hemisphere I feel empowered and inspired to take a long hard look at the ways in which I am feeling weighted down in my art and in my life. Today I want to investigate two different ways in which letting go of some of that literal and figurative weight can help you be more creative in your daily life.
I am of the belief that excess stuff can hold you back in the process of creativity. A couple weeks back I took some time to go
through my supplies and weed out the "this and that" that I know I am simply done with.
How do I know when I am done with something? Often it is a gut reaction - I simply don't feel that same "holy cow I have
to use you right now" sensation or I can't easily envision using it to tell any of the stories I have on my list. Lately I really seem to be sticking with the basics: words (word stickers, my typewriter, pen, or computer journaling), a bit of patterned paper, cardstock, and my photos.
Pairing down on the supplies I have on hand makes the process of choosing what I want to use easier and I feel lighter and more focused on my photos and my words.
Even if feel like you can't justify getting rid of any of your supplies right now, you may want to take therisk and do it anyway. Letting go of those products that are literally weighing you down may actually increase your productivity - the less you have to work with the more creative you may be (and it is that much easier to keep the focus on the words + photos).
HOW & WHERE TO SHED THE STUFF
Here is my own personal process for going through and shedding my excess supplies:
ONE : I have always loved (and employed) the idea of grabbing a couple boxes before you begin to sort: one for donations, one for a garage sale if that is on your list of things to do, one for recycling paper, and one for garbage (my goal is to recycle as much as possible but no matter how many times I go through my stuff I always come across bits and pieces of things that just need to be thrown away ).
TWO : I organize the majority of my supplies in baskets, my lockers, or other containers. I am a "give it a home" sorter when it comes to a working system for dealing with my supplies. This makes it easy when it comes time to go through my stuff - I simply pull down a basket and quickly go through the contents, placing those things I don't connect with anymore into my donation box (or other appropriate boxes). The cool thing about working with one basket at a time is that you can do this in small increments of time (rather than feeling like this is something you need to set aside a whole day to complete). Small chunks can make a big difference over the course of a week.
THREE : Patterned paper: this one takes a bit longer than the rest of my supplies to manage, but man it feels good when it is
done. My papers are sorted by manufacturer - this is the easiest system for me since I need to keep track of those sorts of things for publication purposes. Many other people organize their paper by colors, by pattern (geometric, stripe, floral, etc), or by theme. I do keep all my Christmas paper together as it makes it much easier to locate and work with when the holidays come around.
When it is time for me to go through my stash of patterned paper, again I pull it out one group at a time. I quickly go through and identify those patterns that I just don't love, that don't speak to me, that don't connect with me. It may sound silly, but I
find it much easier and much more enjoyable to work with patterns I love than ones that do nothing for me emotionally. Don't hem and haw and "maybe someday" - trust your initial gut and go with it.
The one thing I keep in mind as I am going through my patterned paper: there will always be more and in the scheme of all my supplies it is a fairly inexpensive thing to add.
FOUR : Another task I managed recently was sorting like things with other like things. The punches that I use the most are stored on a shelf under my table. The pop-dot adhesives are now within easy reach in the wall-mounted unit that also holds stamps. My question to myself: what do I love and use most often? If I love it, I kept it.
FIVE : I am simplifying a lot of things. I went from a big red tool box (which was totally cool and is waiting in the garage for a new home in our home) to a much smaller container on the top of my table for storing pens and scissors. I am all about embracing what it is that I love without going overboard with excess stuff weighing me down. Try it.
Now once you have a box of donations ready there are tons of different ways you can share your stash:
- Local school or early intervention program.
- Women's shelter.
- Create bundles of give-aways at the nextcrop/event youattend.
- Have a party to celebrate summer. Two waysyou can approach this - (1) have it be a surprise. Invite your friends over and share all your goodies or (2) tell all your pals, have them go through their stuff, and then bring it all to one central place where you can all share the wealth and then donate the excess to a school, woman's shelter, etc.
- Charity auction for a cause you care about.
- Consider taking those supplies and making something for someone else: a family with asick child, or a new baby, or someone who needs some cheering up.
For most of these it is suggested that you call ahead and connect with someone who can direct you to the right person to take your donation. Some places may be overflowing and can suggest another location to share your stuff.
Use something you have been hanging on to forever. Rather than reaching for your newest goodies - grab an older product. Maybe it is your favorite older product or maybe it is one that you find as you go through your stash - USE IT.
SHEDDING PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS & EXPECTATIONS
What thoughts about yourself as a creative person are holding you back right now? Are you dealing with those "I am not good enough/I am not creative enough" fear-filled voices in your own mind? How do you answer that? Who do you create for? Why do you love the process of creativity and what do you love most about it?
Now is the time to let those fears go and shed those layers that are holding you back from embracing your own creative energy. It is time to celebrate your own unique self rather than continuing to feel the pressures of being something or someone you are not.
One way to do this: challenge yourself to find your favorite thing you have created in the past year. Identify specific things you
love about it: colors, textures, tone of voice, photos, the story, etc. Then, over the next couple of weeks, celebrate yourself by repeating those very same things that you love on other projects. In the process give yourself permission to accept your creativity just as it exists today, right now. Through this process you are getting yourself ready to move onto the next level in your personal creative confidence.
GENERAL LIFE CHALLENGE
For many of you the idea of going through you stuff and shedding some layers may be just too much to handle. I encourage you to take baby steps. Don't feel like you have to accomplish it all in one hour or one day or one week. Feel free to
take this project on as an extended challenge for the next month. A little bit of dedication will go along way in helping you let go and move forward.
Originally published May 2, 2007 as part of my AEzine newsletter series. I will be periodically bringing content back from the archives, updating/adapting, and re-publishing here.