Take the Clutter Quiz: Start Fresh With a New Space

Copyright © 2010 Kate Harper

Want to start fresh with new ideas and a upbeat working space? Too much clutter in your art studio can weigh heavy on your creativity and inspiration.


1. Have you used this item in a year? If not, you have permission to purge it without feeling guilty about having purchased it in the first place. Life changes. We need different things at different times. Get rid of the stuff you aren't really using anymore.

2. Afraid you might need it later? Then put it in a box, date it and store it. If you don't open the box in a year, then purge it.

3. Can you rent, borrow, or get another one? If so, then purge it. Great for dumping books. You can always go to the library if you really need that one book again in a pinch.

4. Can you sell it? Sell it on Amazon Marketplace. You can sell almost anything: CD's, pet toys, old ipods, cameras, books, computer cables, you name it. Anything you can find for sale on Amazon, you can pretty much sell a "used version" of it, and unlike ebay, the website is easy to use and hassle free. You can even print out prepaid shipping labels.

5. Can you give it away? Donate it to the Goodwill. If it's too precious to give up to an anonymous buyer, think of a specific person or organization who really could use it. Seeing their smiling face will reaffirm you did the right thing.

I gave away a huge pile of paper supplies to people in my neighborhood a few years ago and made a dozen new friends. People came out of the woodwork because their sister, daughter, school, family, theater troupe and nursing home needed it. Even after 2 years, people still thank me for it. One woman even offered to let me use her empty house for a week, when I had a friend coming to town!

6. Don't know where to start? Move everything from you studio to another room except for basics (computer, phone, tables). Now, only bring back the things into your studio as-you-need them. After a week, you might find you are only really use 10% of the stuff you originally had in the room.


If you do 1 of these things: You have already taken a big step to being clutter- free. Sit down and have a martini with an umbrella inside.

If you do 3 of these things: Whoever shares space with you should take you out to dinner and celebrate! Tell them I said so.

If you do ALL of these things: Not only do you deserve a martini and dinner, you are an official expert and should teach classes on clearing clutter!


Don't want to hassle with selling things? Here are 4 ways you can make your clutter magically disappear and you *won't* have to make an appointment, haul anything away, or exchange money. All you have to do is drag it from the indoors to the outdoors.

  • On Craig's list submit a post that says your items must be picked up today (deters lazy people from writing back). When you decide who you will give it to, tell them where the item is on your property. (ex: on the porch, beside the garage, in the bin). Then you don't have to meet anyone at a specific time. I've done this for 10 years and have never had a problem.
  • Give it away online with freecycle (same instructions as above). Freecycle has a strong dependable community of people who will take almost anything. Someone even came to my house to pick up an old rotted fence post. Who'd a thought?
  • Send an email out to your neighborhood and tell them you have free stuff on the porch for the taking. It helps to list a few "teaser" items so they come and look at everything.
  • When you put the garbage out this week, include a box next to the garbage can labeled: "Free." Fill it up with stuff. You'll be amazed how fast the stuff disappears. You can even put out grocery bags, so people can carry stuff home! Side Benefit:Add new stuff to the box every week.


Dealing with Exhaustion: If you start clearing out your studio and start feeling overwhelmed, that's normal. Sorting through piles of paper especially is exhausting. It's important to take a break every hour, and only work on one section of the room at a time. Also, it may take several weeks to get rid of everything. Don't be too hard on yourself for not getting it all done at once.

Get Support: Find a buddy, spouse or studio mate who is willing to do the "Agile" or "Scrum" project management system with you. I've reinvented this for my personal use, and found it quite affective at accomplishing large tasks:

How to do Agile Project Management: Every morning, tell your buddy:
1) what you accomplished yesterday
2) what you want to accomplish today
3) what the potential roadblocks are.

You'll be amazed how magically effective it is. Use this until the job is complete.


Here's how I purged my studio. And it feels great! If I can do it, you can too!




John Ward said...

Thanks for mentioning Freecycle. I'd never heard of it before. Turns out there's one in my area. I just joined.

Ckennedy said...

I only need one more thing which wasn't on your list... A person to come to my studio (and closets) to help with the purging!

Great post... as usual!

Karyn Servin said...

Funny thing is I just reorganized and cleaned my studio two months ago. Now it is time again. Maybe this should be a quarterly endeavor. I think we artists tend to accumulate 'stuff' at a higher rate than normal folks : )

Thanks for the great post.

teri said...

accumulating art stuff is a problem??? ;-) I have found things up to and over 5 years old, never used, and was JuST the right thing for whatever the project was. I wouldn't know where to start.. these are STiLL great suggestions.

I need to clear out the accumulation of non art supplies from the "other" room first, then carry everything upstairs. This is REALLY a great push as there are many things I've been meaning to get to... then there's life....

thanks, Kate!

D said...

Yes, it really is time to get rid of your Bondi Blue iMac! (or else turn it into an aquarium).

I have a host of old computer stuff around the house. It kills me, because much of it was so darn expensive when I bought it. (QuarkXPress 3.3 or Photoshop 4 anyone?) The stuff is completely useless now, and it makes me kind of mad at the waste, yet as designers we are always expected to have the latest & greatest tech in order to keep up with our jobs.

Primary Work at Home said...

Great post. I like how you make over your working area.

BJ Lantz said...

Gosh, you mean I should get rid of my Bestine squirt can...? :-))

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