For many creatives (myself included), the spaces we find ourselves in to create can become messy. Decluttering and organizing your space is also part of your overall self-care because clutter = stress. The more cluttered your space becomes, the harder it is to find things, and so the cycle begins where we spend less time creating and more time searching (where did I put the varnish again!?).
It may seem daunting, but I promise you, decluttering, organizing, and overall cleaning is a great way to get unstuck in the creative process.
How to Organize Art Supplies at Home
It might seem obviously, but you want to start with an overall strategy, a method to your decluttering madness. In order to be successful, however, you want to make sure the strategy works for you. You need to figure out if you’re a macro or a micro organizer.
The difference between the two is what level of detail oriented you are and what fits you.
- Micro Organizer: Just like its name, micro is more detail-oriented than a macro organizer. The groupings of their items are very specific. Think about it like organizing by type, and then categorizing further from there. Micro organizers will not only organize their brushes. They will organize them by their purpose.
- Macro Organizer: Macro organizers look at their organization on a larger scale. The groupings of their items are much larger than a micro organizer. Thinking about it like organizing by general type. Using the example above, organizing by brushes alone works for a macro organizer.
If you are a macro organizer, but you try to put together a micro strategy, you are doomed to fail because that’s not a strategy that inherently works for you, and that’s ok. You want to create something that works for YOU. It’s possible that you are a combination of both depending on what you are organizing. Know that and embrace the strategy as you start to declutter further.
I start simple by organizing and cleaning my brushes. I sorted them, tossed the old ones, and gave the keepers a good clean with Pink Soap. Now I’m ready to start with my next pet portrait.
For my brushes, I am a micro-organizer. I keep three jars on my workstation when I paint:
- One jar for brushes I’m using for the current project (currently empty as I’m just about to start painting)
- Another jar is a hand-made canister from LibertyTown Arts that holds my new and ready-to-use brushes.
- The last jar holds all the other 40-some brushes on stand-by. Keeping them upright helps the life of the brush.
Next, I clean my table. I love the old paint splashes on the table that my dad and I bought together decades ago in Sweden where I was born and raised. My dad meant a lot to me and this table is one of the ways I keep him close.
I only gently cleaned it by using non-toxic Branch Basics. I’ve used this brand since 2015 and I’ll never go back. It’s safe for all the family members (humans and fur babies!), and the environment which is important to me. This concentrate can also handle tough stains and I use it to clean everything, including as a laundry detergent.
Start with Greg Mckeown’s “killer question: “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I spend to buy it?” It’s a great way to evaluate:
- things you have
- things you need
- things that are holding you back from creating a space that helps you reach your goals.
When you look at all the “stuff,” and ask yourself that question, you might find that you would spend not even a dollar on it. If you’re still struggling to declutter you can also ask yourself, “does this item help me get closer to my goals.” If the answer is no, it’s got to go!
Use bins to store + organize
I keep some of the cardboard boxes that arrive at the house to repurpose for my pet portraits that I ship all over the world. They had been piled up for a while so I neatly folded a stack and tucked them under the studio coach. I took the rest to our compost in the garden.
While I’m dreaming of having cabinets all along one side of the studio, I’m organized my office supplies, canvas paper and video + camera equipment in a large wooden dresser. It felt good to keep it all in one place. I think it’s important to do the best we can, even if we dream of something nicer.
I use white bins from IKEA to store old prints, drawings and old inventory, like my flower notecards. When it’s time to prep paintings for hanging and shipping, I grab my gray arts & crafts bin from the Container Store and get to work. It’s so helpful to have those tools all in one place instead of wasting time searching for the screwdriver or shipping tape.
It felt so good to do a bit of cleaning and organizing in the studio for a change. Now I get to recharge while working on my next commission.