Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

June 25, 2009

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.


  • 1.
    Jamie said…

    I love the idea that shedding some of our stuff allows us to really embrace and focus on what we’re loving up right now. That helps flip it from seeming like a loss to an act of love. Thanks!

  • 2.
    caro said…

    great pep talk, Ali. I am s tuck halfway with my WHOLE studio – now I’ll keep tip-toeing thru – thanks to you!
    all the best to you & that cute stripey pair of kiddo’s!

  • 3.
    Shawna said…

    Thanks for reminding us. I am pretty good about purging but it’s time to do it again!

  • 4.

    I am printing this out! GREAT advice! I NEED to do this! Purging and decluttering is such a GREAT feeling!!

  • 5.
    jakki said…

    GREAT tip! although personally, I know I will struggle with it. I mean…I have a problem cleaning out my closet…LOL

  • 6.
    gail lindekugel said…

    This makes perfect sense to thin out but still I would love to have access to your garage sale!!!

  • 7.
    HeatherC said…

    Totally agree — letting go is hard, but I do agree that it needs to be done and is freeing. Last year I was forced to let things go when we moved — we were actually moving to a larger space that could have accomodated all of my stuff, but it seemed like the perfect time to weed out, and I did.
    An idea for donations — my CM consultant has crops often where we have a swap table. Add something to the table and then you are welcome to take something (I know, doesn’t always help you reduce…) Anyway there are always TONS of things leftover that they then donate to the local Children’s Hospital for their craft area.

  • 8.

    you continue to inspire me.

  • 9.
    Christine villacarlos said…

    Thanks for the tips, Ali! I really need to be in the purging mode right now.

  • 10.
    Gale said…

    Great ideas! The same principals can apply to the house in general. I cleaned out two junk drawers in my kitchen last weekend. It’s amazing how just two drawers can make for a happier self.

  • 11.
    Stacy Milford said…

    I’m not one that has (or can afford) to have all of the latest & greatest…but I do have supplies that I’ve had forever…& you are right, I have some patterned paper that I pass on OVER & OVER again, because it’s just not me…it’s time for those things to find a new home! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • 12.
    tami said…

    Our church has a girls’ group called Gems. They make birthday cards for the older folks in our church. They love to get donated supplies and I really prefer to work in a less cluttered work space.
    Thanks for bringing this up, I needed the inspiration to clean up!

  • 13.
    Noell Hyman said…

    In May my family left on a 5-week road trip and it was very exciting to see how happy we could be for that long a period of time with only the stuff we could fit in the trunk of our vehicle. Including my scrapbook supplies (next week’s Paperclipping video will be all about my one box of scrap stuff I scrapped from for 5 weeks).
    It was a very eye-opening experiment to see that we have way too many clothes, too many toys, etc. In fact, it helped me differentiate between stuff I really love and stuff I’ve been keeping out of guilt. I’m waiting for a day or two where I can spend the time getting rid of the excess I found we really don’t need or love.

  • 14.
    Katie said…

    Love this, Ali. Thanks for the reminder – I’m prepping for a garage sale next month so this was extra timely!

  • 15.
    Hillary said…

    Ali – as always – you are very inspiring. . .thanks for sharing.

  • 16.
    Valerie said…

    Wow, the timing of this post really came at the right time for me. Not feeling all that good about my creative space and stuff. Feeling the need to purge…the whole house, to make it feel light and airy which in turns makes ME feel lighter. Less stuff allows me to accomplish so much more.
    Thanks again for this reminder and sharing your To Do list to get it done!

  • 17.
    Evelyn said…

    This is just the message I need today. I’ve been feeling stuck and feeling that my stash has grown far to large. Can’t find things I know I have and tend to use only a few things anyway. I’m motivated now to reduce and reuse. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • 18.
    Nancy L in Vancouver said…

    Thank you for posting this. I was sitting in my living room last night in despair looking at what was weighing me down. I know I have to do it and I know that I will feel better when I do. Thanks for all those tips.

  • 19.
    Melanie K. said…

    Hi, Ali! I recently purchased (I know the OPPOSITE of decluttering … but….) a Silhouette. Once I get it in, I am planning on getting rid of my punches. Which is a whole five drawer cart-thing. I am not looking to see what is in there, just snapping photos and posting on Craig’s list.
    I have been toying with going thru my rubber stamps. but that is sooo hard to do. But I know i have a ton of floral stamps and with three boys … I never use them. Ever.
    I do have a question I wanted to ask you … I know you love your Sharpie white poster paint pen. I have one, but I can’t get it to work. I shake it, depressed the point until white comes out, but when I write the liquid comes out clear and dries to nothing. What am I doing wrong???

  • 20.
    laura j said…

    Timely post Ali. I am just going through my stuff and am not finding it easy to part with things!

  • 21.
    Ali Edwards said…

    Hey Melanie – unfortunately I think some of them are just “bad.” I bought a box of them and there were a couple that just would not work. Some were completely fine and others, terrible. I wonder if the Sharpie website might have some tips?

  • 22.
    Danielle said…

    Thank you so much for the encouragement and great ideas!

  • 23.
    Sue said…

    Thanks for the reminder Ali!

  • 24.
    Kate said…

    I just spent 4 hours yesterday going through my embellishments and sorting them by color. Now I have to see if this system of organization works for me or not. I have been wanting to do this for some time so it was good. I agree with you that having a lot of stuff does make the choosing part of scrapbooking more difficult. With these economic times I am working on using things in my stash already as much as possible.

  • 25.
    Laura said…

    Good stuff, definately good stuff… just wondering if you are going to post some pictures of your scrapbooking room, (with the lockers?) that sounds cool!

  • 26.
    darlene said…

    great post, we all need to shed a little more!

  • 27.
    Deiga said…

    I’m in the process of decluttering right now. I’m taking the excess to my daughter-in-law in Portland for my grandchildren to use, or their church, or their school. A good home for all my once ‘must-haves.’ I have to admit it’s tough letting go though!

  • 28.
    Tinkersdamn said…

    The 4 of us lived with my inlaws for a long time (mostly keeping to the 2 rooms upstairs) and when we moved into a 4 bedroom house 18 mos ago I thought Wow, this is a ton of space! Suddenly I’m finding that every cupboard is full, the storage units are overflowing, and the house NEVER feels clean even if stuff is “picked up”. So now I’m on the long march to de-clutter, room by room. I know I will eventually make it, and it will be wonderful, but in the meantime I feel much like I’m scaling Mt. Crapverest.

  • 29.
    julie k said…

    couldn’t agree more! :) thanks for sharing your perspective!

  • 30.
    Melanie K. said…

    Thanks – I thought that might be the case … oh well.(grumble, grumble)

  • 31.
    Heather P said…

    This was such a timely post!! Thank you thank you thank you for reposting this. I need to do this and now I feel like I have a good plan for how to go about it. Thank you!

  • 32.
    Melanie J said…

    Awesome reminder to “let it go”, Ali. Thanks! I needed this inspiration today.

  • 33.
    Maureen said…

    Wonderful post Ali (and very good to hear ‘your’ voice again).
    I plan to take my stuff to the local Boys and Girls club which just happens to be next to the Senior Center which is my gym. Might get me to go back to shedding some human pounds too. ;-)

  • 34.
    Nikki Love said…

    I’m a natural born hoarder. Always have been but I do use my old stash on layouts. I actually used some patterned paper that was from 1998 on a recent layout…lol.
    Today I’m disappointed :( I went to register for CKC in Charlotte and the main class I was interested in was the Everyday Life class. Sold out on both days :(

  • 35.
    Shelley said…

    Great post!!! I recently purged a lot of my stuff but could let go of a lot more!! I had a garage sale and made about $500 just from scrap supplies alone! Being out of work for 7 mos. has taught me how frivolous and how wasteful I had been while working. Impulse buying lot’s of stuff b/c it was a cute….but then never sees the light of day. The extra money was nice, it was a lot of work, and the sad thing is it doesn’t look like I made a dent in my office! GRRRRRrr….some day I’ll be able to let go of my other stuff and then will feel totally free :-)

  • 36.
    Camille said…

    man i love this post! i’ve sooo been in this place for awhile now, really wanting to pare down and purge stuff.
    thanks for some insight!

  • 37.
    Stephanie said…

    Wow, all of this and a new baby too! Amazing.

  • 38.
    jen said…

    oh, the irony… I’m a teacher on summer break and organizing and cleaning is top priority right now!! I just got done cleaning my closet. And, I my art studio is next.
    Now, I know it’s not the same, but I just went through my closet and organized all of my shoes. I have a hard time getting rid of shoes sometimes, because of that “maybe someday” thought. Regardless, I managed to get a whole large tupperware bin full of shoes to put in the garage sale. And, after reading this, I might be able to go purge some more.
    The art studio is next and it won’t know what hit it… THANK YOU SO MUCH for sharing your thoughts on this!!! It will be so helpful for today and the many days following. :)

  • 39.
    Ali Edwards said…

    Hey Laura – you can check out photos here:

  • 40.
    Monica said…

    Wow, were you reading my mind. I was planning on “cleaning out” my supplies this weekend. I’ve been thinking about it for months and finally set a date. Thanks for the article for additional motivation.

  • 41.
    nancy faith said…

    Thanks Ali for getting me motivated. My ‘decorating’ in my home has become more simplistic lately and has actually been a wonderful ‘stress reliever’… so I am thinking doing the same with my craft room will have the same effect. I have a few baskets; however, I do like your idea about storing more items that order to make cleaning them out faster/easier..

  • 42.
    Paula said…

    Thanks Ali: GREAT suggestions and you have helped me not feel so overwhelmed with my task this summer which is to go through all my scrapbooking stuff and scrap room to find new homes for it I am losing a craft room and it is going to become our new babies room, great reason to lose my room!!!
    So I am going from a whole room to two shelves in my pantry and some room in the garage.. I have felt very overhwlemed..but you have encouraged me to let go, donate, purge etc!! Now I am excited for the challenge to really ask myself, what I need, and will use and what means the most in keeping memories for my 4year old and new baby to come!
    Thanks, Paula

  • 43.
    Lisa Martin said…

    I love giving my things away. Just recently on a local website in Indiana,, a woman was asking for inexpensive scrapbook supplies. I emailed her and said I’d mail her some things and she loved getting them. I told her she could have it, no need to pay me. It was a great feeling!

  • 44.
    Laura said…

    awesome … Thanks!!

  • 45.
    Stefanie said…

    I know this is in regards to scrapbook supplies but I am going to do this for all of my crafty endeavors including my insane about of quilting/sewing fabric.

  • 46.
    Lora B said…

    it is that time of year… I need to do this… I try to “gift” it to my niece or friends that scrapbook.

  • 47.
    Bri said…

    Love all of the pointers. I am unfortunately a packrat. I always find myself coming back to wishing I had something. I buy supplies with the idea that one day, I want to only be limited by my creativity and not my supplies! I’m going to start drowning in them soon. :(

  • 48.
    tchrtiff said…

    You’re so right. Every time I go through my supplies and purge my stuff I feel so good afterwards. It really helps my creativity to not be bogged down by “stuff”. Since I’ve had great success with this idea in the craft area of my life I’ve been applying it to all other areas of my house–the kids’ rooms, my closet, etc. Every time I purge an area I feel so lightweight and feel such a sense of accomplishment. And amazingly I don’t get (or haven’t yet) the urge to fill up the empty spaces I’ve created. Thanks for such great inspiration, Ali.

  • 49.
    Cindy G said…

    Ali, I would like to plan a scrapbook supply swap at an upcoming scrapbooking retreat. Do you know of any “rules” for something like this, so that the swap is fair for everyone? Thanks! Cindy G.

  • 50.
    Linda said…

    This post made my day–as I was reading it I was boxing up stuff to send to my scrappy friends. I just posted what I had and asked if anyone wanted it–getting rid of lots and the rest is going to summer camp where my daughter is camp counseling all summer. I love how it feels.–NEXT my bedroom closet……..

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