Some people thrive on chaos and disorder. It has its place, but I have never been good at clearing my mind and focusing on tasks (creative or cognitive) when there’s mess everywhere. Once every so often I go berserk and blast through a massive clean-up and reorganization of my space, and avow that I will never again allow it to descend into chaos.

I presume we all know how that goes. If anyone doesn’t, I don’t want to hear about it.

My studio is an utter disaster at the moment, and I’ve been neglecting it for far too long. I have devoted this week — all week, if necessary — to a monstrous clean-up, so I can settle into a distraction-free and hopefully highly productive fall and winter. I have many pieces I need to devote huge swaths of time to — quality time — which is impossible with the way things are right now.

For me, there are three basic principles to consider here:

  1. The environment’s physical layout has to enable quality workflows (tools in logical groups / easy reach)
  2. The environment’s state of cleanliness has to be high enough to allow workflows to proceed with minimal distraction or logistical impact
  3. Ideally, the environment’s physical layout should make keeping it clean easier.

In other words, if the layout of the environment makes it harder to put something away than it does to just put it down, then it’s going to lead naturally to clutter. This is probably always a question of degrees, but designing a layout that’s as easy as possible to keep in order, and restore to order, should hopefully result in less frequent stop-everything cleanups that bleed away your precious studio time.

So it sounds simple enough, but isn’t always for me: if you have different materials that you work with, store them near where you work with them. I need to keep my painting, drawing, sculpting, and research materials near where I actually use them, not all in a “materials” section of the studio. If I have a materials area and a work area, then I have to move materials across the studio to use them, and guess what? That’s where they tend to end up. And that creates the mess you see above.

 

So before I just dive in and start putting things away, I’m going to spend a little time reflecting on what I want to do in here, and what layout would serve best for doing that. I don’t want to put things back into places they don’t belong, and will just escape from again next time I need them. My studio also isn’t big enough to set up dedicated zones for all of the various things I will do in it, so multi-tasking areas are going to be important.

By the end of the week, the situation will be better. I can’t wait to have my studio return to being a place of mental relief and focus, rather than the anxiety-provoking distraction that it currently is.