Sunday, December 31, 2006

Desks of Creative People

I love synchronicity! After my last post, it delighted me to run across the blog On My Desk, a site where various artists share a look at creative Stuff of their lives.

I have about 6 flat areas in house that might qualify as "my desk." Right at this moment, though, my desk is my lap, the ottoman in front of my chair and a small side table to my right. Oh, and the fat arms of the chair itself....
Here is the Zann's-eye view of my current working space (sorry for the flash -glare)

Wishing all of you a very joyful New Year, full of abundance and creativity!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Two Articles

I've been sick for days and am slowly recovering, so I offer for this entry links to a couple of interesting articles which relate to Clutter, Stuff, Accumulation.

This first one, from Art on Paper magazine really tickled me:

"At the time of his death in 1987, Andy Warhol left behind a warehouse full of cardboard boxes that contained the ephemera of his daily life, cleared from his desk on a regular basis from 1974 onward...."

I have boxes like that all over the place. I'm just imagining needing an archivist to deal with them, instead of a Merry Maid.

The second one is from the New York Times of 12/21/06, kind of a defense/rationalization for clutter called Say Yes to Mess.

This article made me remember writing an essay in high school called Creative Clutter: A Mess with Purpose! I think there are good arguments to be made for certain kinds of "mess," but there is a point when clutter becomes dysfunctional and makes life difficult and miserable. That's what I'm trying to deal with here.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Progress Report

Despite the fact that I am not blogging about it often, my decluttering project continues. With Turtle as my totem animal, I am just moving along, slowly and steadily. The structure of the project has changed immensely since Patrick's death, but the long-range goal remains exactly the same.

I no longer seem to be able to pick an area to work on, post a "before" photo here and then get the task done and post an "after." I sometimes don't even know I'm going to declutter an area until I'm in the middle of doing it! And then I'm not thinking of pictures, but just involved in the work.

Perhaps the biggest change in how I'm approaching this is that I now have a Personal Assistant! Well, la-di-dah...I know I'm very lucky to be able to manage this. I wrote about Molly's boyfriend Roy helping me at the end of October by vacuuming and taking lots of stuff off to the recycling center and Goodwill. That worked well and Roy really needs some extra work these days, so it's turned into a two times a week event. Sometimes Roy runs errands for me to the post office, bank, grocery store, etc. and sometimes he helps me work on an area that desperately needs decluttering.

I once thought that no one could help me with this, since there is much Stuff that needs to be sorted and evaluted and either let go or kept in a better place. What I discovered is that Roy can be a sort of First Response Guy....the clutter disaster area beckons, Roy goes in with a bunch of empty boxes and sorting flats and the vacuum (with dust mask) and gets everything organized for me to do the actual sorting out.

Sometimes I'm able to do it while he's doing another thing, and at the end of a couple of hours, he's off to Goodwill with a bunch of stuff and I have yet another decluttered spot.

Maybe no one else could help me this way - Roy is Molly's boyfriend now, but he was one of Patrick's best friends and a he's been like part of the family for many years now. So I'm comfortable working with him, and he's so respectful and understanding and shares the loss of Patrick with us. Because it's Roy, I was able to visit the storage unit where we have most of Patrick's possessions and begin to use it again for our other storage needs, like some of my mom's things, the books for my business -- the reason I got that climate-controlled unit in the first place.

And now, for some pictures...these are some of the things we've worked on over the last few weeks:
In the root cellar -- well, it's not really a root cellar, but for some reason I think of it that way. It's a small room in the basement that has a long worktable in it and lots of shelving along the other side. It became the repository of boxes and boxes of Stuff, many of them never unpacked from our move here ten years ago. There were a great deal of homeschooling-related papers and files and materials. It also housed the phenomenal amount of things I used and saved from my intensive two years organizing workshops, protests and vigils against the death penalty. There were at least 8-10 boxes of materials, both in the root cellar room and in one of the main basement rooms I use for an office.

Because I can no longer do this work as I used to, I decided to donate my materials to the more active Bloomington Coalition Against the Death Penalty. I allowed myself to keep one box worth of these materials.

Final result of the massive sorting, about a third of that work table cleared:

Please imagine a crazy pile of boxes and flats and papers and newspapers and bags of buttons and t-shirts all piled on top about 3 feet high. Underneath imagine a stack of shipping boxes with a 1-inch layer of dust over the top.

Now you can see how much better it looks, right?

The table itself looks yucky, but it's clean and best of all there's a goodly amount of freed-up space. I reduced what I'm keeping to this (yeah, okay, it's more than a box, but I haven't fully organized and sorted the Keepers. I still intend to reduce it to one box):

And in my office area, please imagine two precarious stack of boxes full of flyers and videos and paper, paper, paper -- all so heavy I could not get the top drawers open on these plastic bins!
So all this freed-up space is becoming Functional Space instead of Clutter Storage Space! On top of the plastic bin, I have two files which I am culling and a box in which I put things to be mailed to people.

I have already turned the rootcellar table space into a sorting area for that bunch of boxes of papers you may remember from a few entries back:
This is the pile I was promising to go through little-by-little:
Well, I went through it, consolidated, had Roy do so much shredding the paper shredder was practically smoking. What's left, along with some similar To-Be-Sorted bins from my kitchen table is now in the Root Cellar Sorting Area:

This is much reduced from the massive pile of papers above, and is continuing to be reduced. I hope to have that work table bare again, ready for another project.

And here is the space that was occupied by those towering piles of papers:

Functional again - I am using the space to sort boxes of books I will be putting in the book shop I hope to be working with after the first of the year. When I fill a few boxes, they are going to the storage unit to await shelving (and hopefully SELLING) in the shop.

The materials I sent to Bloomington weighed 78 pounds and fit in this box (which I wound up repacking into two easier-to-handle, cheaper-to-ship boxes):
That's a pack of incense propped against it for size comparison. Oh, and I also went through a bunch of other shelves and donated a big box of science materials to our old homeschooling group:

To sum up, this entry was about letting go of materials from activities and life that has changed, freeing up spaces in my basement, creating functional areas that are giving me more room to work on continued decluttering. Of course, the main goal is to have my bookselling work areas become pleasant and efficient. Not there yet, but getting there!

Next: The Saga of the Kitchen Table