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Is Clutter Hampering your Creativity?

Over the weekend we had a family gathering to celebrate the end of summer, the return to school, and my husband’s birthday. One of my nieces shared that her favorite day of the summer is the day she gets new school supplies. Can you still remember the smell of the new crayons when you opened the box?

I’ll admit I love to browse through the office supply store, looking for some new treasure that’s sure to solve my organizational problems and instantly improve my time management issues. Of course, that’s not likely to happen, as it takes more than pretty colored plastic boxes and a new calendar. Before you make the trip to the office supply store, try the following:

1. Clear the clutter. Do you really need that copy of Quilters Newsletter Magazine from 1998? You know, the one with the fabulous quilt you liked back in 1998, the quilt that doesn’t hold the same place in your heart today. A couple of years ago, I went through all the old magazines I was holding onto. I put a note advertising them on the QuiltArt list, and I had a taker rather quickly. I don’t know why I held onto all the magazines for so long. Well, maybe I do. I would feel badly (i.e., guilty) getting rid of them. I held some warped concept of their value. They had really stopped being of value to me long ago and were only collecting dust. They went to a new home where they were valued, and I had several shelves open in my studio.

I could look at my fabric collection the same way. I know we need a “palette” as quilt artists. Do we need that large of a palette? And doesn’t our palette need refreshing every now and then? If you’re like me, you’ll never live long enough to use all the fabric you own. You’ve seen the saying, “The one who dies with the most fabric wins!” I’ve decided I don’t need to be in the competition. I regularly donate fabric for charity quilts and recently made a donation of fabric for my guild’s annual show. I think some month, I’ll just show up with a fat quarter or two for everyone who comes to the monthly meeting.

I know it’s hard to get rid of “stuff,” and it can be overwhelming to do it all at once. If you can’t set aside a full day, block several hours in consecutive days just to clear out what you don’t want. Sort it into two piles – items to donate and items to trash. I know many people say add a third pile for stuff that needs to be fixed. I used to go by that theory, until I realized I didn’t want to fix the stuff.

2. Keep clearing the clutter. You made great progress getting rid of stuff, and your studio is now clutter free. However, the magazines will again stack up and the fabric will again overflow. Part of the solution here is to decide what you allow to come into your space. The other is to maintain a system to keep up with the clutter. The easiest way to do that is to set aside a certain amount of time each week or month to de-clutter.

One of the theories behind clearing the clutter is that clutter is energy draining. I can see that. When my space is clean, my mind is clearer, and I work better. You’ve heard the saying, “less is more.” Well, this is a good example. Once you operate in a cleaner, clutter-free environment, watch what new opportunities arrive or how your creativity expands.

3. Look at how you use your space. Do you need something to hold your papers or tools? Maybe you uncovered something during your de-cluttering phase.  And if not, head off to the office supply shop and enjoy picking out the supplies you need, knowing they will be put to good use and not just add to the clutter.

And, as you think about adding to your space, remember this wonderful quote from designer and craftsman William Morris, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

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3 Responses to “Is Clutter Hampering your Creativity?”


  1. Laura Estes said:

    Clutter is part of the creative process. Just as apple peelings are part of a luscious Apple Pie. But, just as you must clean up the peelings and dispose of them, you must clean up, organize and put away or discard the leavings of textile projects.
    The trick is to learn techniques for making less clutter while still getting the job done. If you peel into a pan, it is easier to dispose of the peelings. Same goes in quilting. Pick it up and put it where it belongs, on the shelf, in the trash, or out the door.
    Every year, our guild holds a scrap bag exchange, ugly fabric exchange and backing exchange. Each bag must hold a pound or more of fabric. We have games for determining the exchange. (Fabric bowling is especially fun) You go through your “new” fabric, and a box is available for donating anything you don’t think you will use to the church this event is held in for their World Relief quilt group. It is easier to part with someone elses fabric you haven’t grown attached to yet. I always come home with less fabric.
    Magazines, our guild exchanges and cycles them into a box that gets donated annually to the local library for their book sale where they are snatched up in the first hour of the sale.
    All this stuff has value, just not to me anymore, now it can be someone elses treasure.


  2. Katie D'Aprile said:

    I like to get started in a clean space. If it’s cluttered, I find excuses not to get working on a project. For this reason,I try to make myself straighten up before I quit sewing for the session. I’m so much more apt to return to my sewing area and continue working if I have a clean space to get started in. Truthfully, it only takes a few minutes after each sewing session to straighten up. If you hate to clean up, set small amounts of time to chip away at it. I find I can do anything I dislike if I can make myself realize it’s only for a few minutes.


  3. Eileen Keane said:

    Okay, I have to get rid of a lot of magazines, I mean a LOT. I just contacted my guild president; our show is this coming weekend. I asked if they’re having a table with old magazines. I have to do something. They’re taking over!

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