There’s no getting around the fact that I am a better person when my body is clean and clear. When I’m drinking lots of water, eating healthy foods and breaking a sweat every single day, I’m just a better version of myself.  I’m also a happier, saner person when the space around me is clean and clear too.


Working in a small studio, the thing I struggle with THE MOST is finding a clean/clear space to work on.  Any time I start a project, I end up with every possible inch of space FULL and overflowing.  It didn’t used to be like that – I used to have a place for everything and always returned every little thing to its place when I was finished with it.  Over my years of creating, my places for every little thing have become a little convoluted.  I’ve been working hard to remedy that!

First up was a drawer that I completely loved for its content, but NOT for the way it looked – the washi tape drawer!  I wish I had a before photo – this drawer was just a jumble of tapes, all thrown in, with no rhyme or reason and inclusive of EVERY tape I’ve ever bought.  So the drawer was overflowing and I rarely even opened it because I knew I wouldn’t find what I wanted and would just make a mess trying (heck, the ones I wanted where probably out someplace anyhow)! I started by taking everything out of the drawer.  Then I grabbed some little office supply organizing containers and began adding back only the tapes I truly loved.  I held each and every tape in my hand and pictured using it – if I couldn’t imagine using it or didn’t feel a strong sense of affection for it, out it went!  And now I have this…


Organized by color and pared down to a manageable number of tapes I will actually use! 🙂

Next up was stencils!  I’ve been collecting for years – REALLY ramped up when the Gelli® plates came out and could probably have said I owned well over 200 stencils when I started this cleanup.  On good days, they would be organized neatly in their original cellophane packaging (so I could remember the name & manufacturer) – on most days, however, they were just thrown in.  I went through the same process with the stencils that I did on the tapes – held each one, considered whether I (or my students) would miss it terribly and acted accordingly!

As far as how to store, I’ve been looking at a lot of different ideas over the last year or so.  I had some basic criteria in mind…

  1. had to be easy to get stencils in and out and easy to flip through and see them all
  2. had to have a way to note the stencil name and product info, so that I can share that with my students in classes
  3. needed some level of portability – so I could a) take them with me to classes and b) move them out of sight & mind when I’m working on other things.

As I was wandering the aisles of my local office supply store, I ran across a stack of legal-sized milk crates and my lightbulb went off.  I bought two, one to store tissue paper in (formerly stored in a box under my desk) and a second for stencils.  I can stack the stencil box on top of the tissue paper box, keeping the paper close but not in the way, lifting the stencil box to a better height for me to reach when I’m printing, and still having the whole thing low enough to fit under my table when not in use…


Then I got a box of legal-sized file folders, which were too short, BUT I refolded them so that the back was taller than the front, reinforcing the original fold with duct tape and making them plenty tall enough for 12×12 stencils.  I can write the stencil info on the folder tabs, flip thru everything easily, and (a bonus) even drop in wet stencils because the folder will lay open and allow them to dry…


Unfortunately, I have now pooped out on this project and still have a gazillion little stencils to deal with.  I’m thinking of getting the j-hooks mentioned in Stencil Girl’s recent storage video and hanging those little ones in some fashion – maybe a line or rod stretched across my big window or under the table.  Not sure, but will share if/when I work that out!

Lots of other clearing has occurred…

  1. I had two big drawers full of glues and other artist mediums – went through and pitched what I didn’t need or had multiples of and condensed that down to ONE drawer!  New rule is – if a new item doesn’t fit in the designated drawer, something has to go to make room!!
  2. I moved things I wasn’t using regularly out of the studio to other storage in the house.  I have a number of such areas, which I call “art annexes” and will share a little more about those in another post.
  3. Went through lots of drawers full of things I’d collected over the years and narrowed everything down to only what I truly love – a whole box of scrap paper that I haven’t opened in over a year – gone; a whole jar of beads that hadn’t been touched in years – gone; rubber stamps I haven’t touched or used for one project then forgot – outta here!; drawers that had collected junk and become unmanageable – now clean and uncluttered; duplicate supplies – donated.
  4. CEASING my habit of keeping something “just-in-case.”  Let me tell you, just-in-case is never a good reason to keep something – it is a disaster in the making.  It’s true that as soon as you throw away a just-in-case item, you will need/want it; however, the cumulative affect of keeping ALL those just-in-cases will bury you.  Just don’t do that to yourself! 🙂

The biggest thing now is to not return to that state of crazed clutter.  That’s the tricky part and the part that will take me some willpower and determination.  One of my BIG revelations is that I am an impulse buyer when it comes to art supplies – I see something new, interesting or sparkly and I get it without thought for how I’ll use it, just thinking I surely WILL use it (since it’s so new, interesting or sparkly)!  Or I go out and buy EVERY ITEM suggested for a new online class, even though I may have a perfectly viable substitute in my stash already.  Much of the time I think those substitutes will be just fine and I am determined to use what I have going forward – both for classes I take and for classes I teach.

“As I unclutter my life, I free myself to answer the callings of my soul.”
~Dr. Wayne Dyer