Spring Cleaning for Artists: Things to Lose and Things to Try!
Have you ever walked into your art studio ready to create and found yourself entirely overwhelmed by the level of clutter and disorganization to the point where you slowly back out of your room and your creative spirit? The creative process can be a messy, wild one for many of us – paints pulled for use and left in a rainbow of colors across the table, brushes drying in a variety of ways, sketches taped up in random areas, and more. It’s organized chaos, but when you come in to create, sometimes it just feels like chaos and can impede starting something new. While regular cleanings are a necessity of any artist, an in-depth spring cleaning can be a great kickstart to a new season!
It may not feel like it at first glance, but keep in mind that cleaning and sorting is a form of creating. It’s creating an inspired workspace, a room where your energy and attention can flow freely without being tripped up by a thousand distractions and an environment in which you can find the supplies and tools you need without a frustrated search. Realizing that this is an inherent part of the creative process is a nice first step towards carving out time for this activity. If you label it a chore, it will feel like a chore! Put on some good music, some comfy clothes and get ready to bring new life into your studio.
Start in one corner of your workspace – tackle your workbench or storage area. Having one section finished will inspire you to keep going! Start by creating three piles – keep, trash or donate. If you’ve had something in your studio that you have not used in a year, give it a good hard look. Is it worth keeping? Does it expire? Does it inspire any creativity in you? If not, let it go! There’s nothing that stifles our creative spirit like the burden of things that don’t bring us joy. Better yet, it might be a great gift for a friend or a welcome donation to someone who can’t afford supplies. Once you have your area sorted look at what kind of storage system might benefit you most. Are these things you need handy? Have you not used them because you couldn’t find them or they’re not visible? Are they extras and backups? For the items you’re donating, look up local schools nearby (regular or art schools), community shelters or other places where your unwanted supplies might be absolute treasures. Move on to the next areas working in succession and adding to your keep, trash and donate piles. When you’re done, move the donate and trash piles out of your area and sit back to look at what’s left and what space you have created.
There are so many ways to organize your art supplies – from high-end custom solutions to amazing 5-minute DIY fixes! Put your feet up for a bit and browse Pinterest and see if any solutions suit your needs. I typically use old coffee cans or jars to house my paintbrushes (and never worry about paint splatters making a mess). I love using simple binder clips on my paint tubes and I hang them from a pegboard. Use desktop organizers or kitchen utensil organizers to keep larger brushes, rulers and scissors in order. Desktop or hanging filing systems typically designed for work papers can house your finished sketches, work papers or canvas boards. Repurpose makeup displays for pastels, a rolling cart as a place to work from and store the supplies you’ll need for your current work, or sectioned cubbies (my favorite is the IKEA Kallax unit). Use your wall space to hang rulers and long tools and consider something fun like a butcher paper roll to sketch out ideas on! Don’t feel like you need to buy new items for storage – I personally feel that finding something lightly worn means I won’t mind if I dump my paint on it or if it gets a little loving ding in the side. Browse through your area’s Craigslist or Offer Up websites.
As artists we are all about creative energy and finding ways to encourage that flow from our imaginations to our fingertips. If you’re constantly tripping over a bookshelf or find yourself cramped at your desk, look at moving your furniture around. Sometimes simply shifting the direction we face while creating or making a clear path from your supplies to your easels can make a huge difference in your overall workflow. If you’ve got space, consider adding a comfortable chair or chaise lounge – something to sit back in and assess your work. If you are in tight quarters think about using a wall-mount folding desk or wall-mounted easels.
We hope you find yourself inspired to freshen up your space this spring and look forward to hearing what tips, tricks and tools work best for you! Please share in the comments below!
I am constantly having to set aside 1-3 days to clean up my space and it drives me nuts. We moved from a house where I had over 2,000 sq ft to work in – to a tiny basement area of about 700 sq ft. Nothing fits and I’m always walking over my supplies and messes. It depresses the heck out of me that I don’t/can’t clean up as I go.
I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling in your new space. Downsizing can be tough for sure. I would suggest looking for ways that you can organize your materials in a way that helps your space to feel larger. Whatever you do, just keep creating!
As an assemblage art I went through the same thing with piles of things all over. My husband built me 3′ high cupboards (all white like the walls) that have doors that are on most of the walls in my studio. But there are places like Ikea or Home Depot that sell cupboards. Inside I have labelled translucent boxes with all my stuff inside. I organize the sections of cupboards to mediums I work in….painting, collage, photography and assemblage. So I just go to one cupboard to find things for the medium I am currently working on. Don’t have them too deep (mine are about 14″ deep) and if things get piled in front of each other I actually just make a list and tape it inside the door so I know what is in there without taking everything out. The top of the cupboard does double duty as a display or a work space. Hope this helps. My studio is about 600 square feet.
This all sounds amazing!! You are lucky to have such an awesome space to work in!!!
I moved to another appartment, about a month ago. Now I have one room for my studio. I choose also Kallax from Ikea. They are not expensive and so easy to use and put all stuff in. I’m thankfull. Greetings. Mieke
That is so awesome!! I am glad you have a space dedicated to creating! You are so right about the Kallax! I agree 100%!
This is a good reminder & it is Spring! What better time for a Spring cleansing in our creative spaces! It does always feels so good afterwards – I intentionally said cleanse as it does feel like that sometimes. After you have this space newly clean, created and ready for all the beautiful things to come from it. I have some storage bins with lids that are waiting to be used in the next couple weeks, when I can find a weekend to get in there and do my own Spring cleansing!! Happy Creating!
Cleaning feels so good, and you are right, it is a cleansing for sure! I love cleaning and clearing out! I feel so refreshed after and it somehow bring me new inspiration!
The best thing I ever did empty out every crevice of my studio, sit down and sort everything into like piles, glean, and put it all away again.
Once I got over my sense of embarrassment (32 pairs of scissors! Elementary school dried out markers! I seldom use gesso why do I have a gallon?!) I had a sorted space where I could lay my hands on everything.
Now when chaos ensues post project (as it always does!) it is easy to put things back because they all have a place.
Though I will admit because I do mixed media work almost everything is an art supply so my studio is packed to the gills!
But I like it that way!!!
I love pulling everything out of it’s space and putting it back! It can take time, and feel overwhelming, but in the end, you have tidier space, and everything can be organized in a way that makes sense! When everything has a space, it is much easier to put away later! Thank you for sharing!
I also went to IKEA for storage where I found their standing flat files for storage of paper and I converted two of their childrens dressers (with doors that open and one basket at bottom) to hold 7 baskets each, perfect for paint and supply storage. I also used clear plastic containers from walmart for hold oil paints so smells are contained. But, I struggle with an overabundance of supplies purchased on sales over the years for potential projects never started. Too many videos, online classes and art supplies can actually stop creativity. I love the suggestion to seriously go through everything and donate to community centers and womens shelters etc. to help spread the joy of creativity and to enhance my own. Thanks for the wonderful and timely reminder!
Oh yes! These are also super awesome! Ikea just seems to have the answers to all of our needs! Haha!