Shedding Layers : Supplies & Creative Expectations

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).


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.

  • Hospital.

  • Church.

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.


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.


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.

75 thoughts

  1. Crystal S.

    2009-06-25 11:55:25 -0400

    Great post! I need to do a major purge. I have to admit I often feel to overwhelmed with all the stuff that I can't really enjoy scrapping.

  2. Suzie

    2009-06-25 12:34:35 -0400

    Thank you for the tips! I was inspired, but am sick. I plan to purge next week when I'm feeling better. This spot is bookmarked!!
    Have a great sunny day!

  3. Kristi

    2009-06-25 13:46:21 -0400

    Old fashioned Ali posting! I dig it. :)

  4. Dina

    2009-06-25 15:31:38 -0400

    Thanks for the info, Ali! I have been also trying to shed some SB supplies! I am halfway done. I know that I will get there one day.

  5. Vintage Mommy

    2009-06-25 16:23:17 -0400

    I recently did some purging and whatever was left after our yard sale is going to my daughter's daycare, where it will be considered TREASURE! Love that.

  6. Nancy B

    2009-06-25 17:03:45 -0400

    Thanks for sharing this info. It is very enlightening. Just the nudge I needed to get this done at home!

  7. debbi h.

    2009-06-26 01:04:09 -0400

    I have been working my way through my whole house and purging in an effort to "simplify, simplify, simplify". I find that having so much just means too much time is taken up taking care of all of it. My scrap supplies is one of the last big things to tackle. My church is planning on holding a crop and i plan to donate most of the things i don't want to it. I also find it hard to be creative when i have "too much" as i get overwhelmed with the choices as opposed to the scrapping.

  8. Barb

    2009-06-26 01:30:55 -0400

    Ahhh, speak to me. One of my favorite things to do is shed the stuff. It is so cathartic! Thanks for sharing this, inspiring and so right on. I love your blog, it is one of my "almost daily reads."

  9. Katie

    2009-06-26 02:04:37 -0400

    This has been on my mind for a while, thank you for sharing such a simple approach that i can do in my snippets of time that i find!

  10. Lisbet

    2009-06-26 02:20:57 -0400

    Long time since I took a inspirationsurf around the net. I really need to gather lots of fun ideas.

  11. Oma

    2009-06-26 03:14:42 -0400

    Ali, this is such good information. I've already set aside my punches I'll never use, but don't know what to do with old patterned paper and my scraps of paper...hard decisions.
    Do you keep scraps? I've been keeping anything that would make a 2 inch punch. I think I need to move to a larger baseline, but I don't want to have to cut a 12x12 piece of paper to get a small punch.
    There was an interesting idea above about donating to a senior center. I had been thinking elementary school (grandchildren), but wonder if the senior center would be better received and more useful.

  12. Jodi

    2009-06-26 03:52:04 -0400

    It feels so good to 'get rid of' and reorganize. I just went through all of my supplies and paper also. I was getting to that point of holding me back on the level of creativity. It was time! Thank you for inspiring others!

  13. Rebekah

    2009-06-26 03:55:37 -0400

    Love the tips, Ali. Now, if you could just post one for organizing my bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, kids' rooms . . .

  14. KateinCleveland

    2009-06-26 04:11:42 -0400

    Ali, your post reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
    The quote is from Karen Kingston's book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui:
    "Being clear of clutter is one of the greatest aids I know to discovering and manifesting the life you want."
    Wait a minute, did I get this quote from your blog? Anyway, I heartily agree and try to live my life like this.
    Can't believe how big Simon is ... and baby Anna is so sweet!

  15. CindyS

    2009-06-26 05:41:50 -0400

    Thanks for reposting this!!! I am a late comer to your site, the magazine, your books and classes. I really appreciate it. Just sad I can't find your "Life Artist" book in print. Can't afford the $45+ it's going for on ebay.
    Please keep pulling out your previous "stuff", I for one LOVE it and eat it up.

  16. shana

    2009-06-26 07:45:16 -0400

    Ali--this topic is SO TIMELY. I want to get on top of this (baby steps, as you say). I think my approach will be to go thru each Art Bin and really evaluate what I want to use now (I have some stuff that is many years old!!).
    The only thing is that all the scrapbook designers keep producing such cute stuff!

  17. Shelly Kettell

    2009-06-26 08:14:31 -0400

    Good to get back in touch...we've been moving and no computer drives me crazy...I've been busy enough to almost not notice! I am downsizing big time and this is perfect...I was trying to find your old posts showing your space when you were getting ready for Anna's arrival...btw they look so CUTE on the couch with their her little laughy smile!!
    Hope you're all doing well!

  18. Yvonne Stehle

    2009-06-26 09:38:17 -0400

    Oh Ali! If you only knew what an inspiration you have been for me over the last year!
    I read this post today and immediately went into my craft room to get rd of things and free myself from hindering craft supplies cluttering the entire space. I mad bags for the school art classes, for the kindergarden and even had some ideas for little craft kits to give away to friends or even for my little shop.
    And then I started cleaning everything and I am nearly done but will give myself util the end of the week end. I felt stuck and now I am thinking of my favourite thing I made last year and will repeat part of it to get going again! Thank you so much for helping me again out of a creative rut!

  19. Loretta Artful Yogi

    2009-06-26 10:38:04 -0400

    Thanks for the prompt, Ali. When this is complete it feels goosd to refer to what's still in use as "supplies" rather than "stash."

  20. Clare Bird

    2009-06-27 02:20:18 -0400

    Wow, I really needed to read this, have been feeling a bit rubbish about my creativity lately and am always comparing my art to others( I always come off worse!).It also struck me that I often feel guilty for not using some of the products I have accumulated, even if they don't inspire me, and this holds me back. I am more likely to be creative with a few resources that get my juices flowing, than gathering all the great things that are on offer. Have had a purge and will share with others setting out on their own creative journeys. Thanks for your inspiration C x

  21. Maureen F

    2009-06-27 02:31:08 -0400

    Thank you for sharing - I actually do enjoy purging my supplies, I realize I have way to much and could never use it all. I have donated lots and lots of stuff to the Girl Scouts and have also participated in a second hand sale for scrapbookers. It feels good knowing somene else can use those supplies that I may not be interested in any more.

  22. Deb

    2009-06-27 07:00:16 -0400

    Ali, what a great plog post. This is how I tend to live my life. I re-evaluate everything a couple of times a year too. I just did this with my scrapbook supplies and between giving some away to friends who are in financial straights right now and selling some to people who can afford to buy it I am have happily removed a lot of weight from my life.
    I do the same thing with the rest of my life. I look over what I am doing--what takes my time, what am I spending money on, who am I helping, what am I doing for others. I see where I have gotten off track and I prioritize things, ditch some things and move on.

  23. jamie

    2009-06-27 10:54:53 -0400

    thank you for publishing this article again. i try and purge once a month. but still often feel under it instead of on top. your common sense tips will help fuel my energy when i do some more purging in my studio, as well as around my home.
    thanks again!

  24. Dianne

    2009-06-28 06:31:00 -0400

    Excellent post. Thank you so much for the perspective. :D

  25. jessica crawford

    2009-06-29 02:31:09 -0400

    just now finding time to catch up on your blog--so very thankful for this msg. you re-posted. much needed. your experiential wisdom, advice, and personal display of your creativity is a huge blessing to me! thank you!!! and i just love those kids!

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