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The Creative Mess

Dealing with the Mess of Being a Creative

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

Perching at my desk, pressing the silver power button, the computer lights up, monitor assuring me it's getting ready. As I wait, my gaze starts noticing an assortment of brushes next to me. On my other side, a pile of papers, fully marked with ink and pencils sits waiting for me to find it a home. It is another few inches taller than a few weeks ago. Scanning the shelf, there are art books scarcely opened in the last half a year. Another shelf has containers of ink strategically jammed in place. Next to it, there is a pile of fabric with intentions of possibilities. A half knitted scarf cozies up to my microphone for when I eventually get to making a podcast or youtube channel.

Being a creative can get messy, and pretty quickly. Being told I own too much stuff, I make excuses for my small space. There is some truth to it, but in numbers, I do have a lot, even if a lot are papers that can fit snuggly into a small space, letting me feel like I take up less space.

Having all these materials around me, especially in such a confined little apartment, I find myself both inspired, stressed, and claustrophobic. On good days, I pull out a dozen bits and pieces and create as if in a frenzy of creating a last message before death. On bad days, I put on headphones, put a combination of calming music, along with nature sounds, and use every skill I've gathered to aid my focus.

Being a less than great day for that burst of passion, I found myself resentful of how much I own, and how many projects I have let slip. As I huddled into a grumpy lump, I sat there with high shoulders and attempts of blaming my outside world on my shame.

Though, as I stewed in my cup of caffeination, I forced myself to write down what I thought was causing such a mood, just to realize it was of my own making. I then proceeded to attack that creative pile and aftermath.

Here are a few things I do when the creative mess overwhelms me out of creating:

1. Write It Down

Before I dare touch my materials, during which I might begin to throw away in a flurried bout of frustration, I make a list of my stressors. That might be a messy sink, too many unfinished projects that need finishing, or acceptance of projects' time to leave this place. Beyond maybe someone acting out your utmost pet peeve, what are things you are doing or not doing that might be elevating your stress? And maybe even ask yourself the last time you left your space (I say as I squint looking out the window).

2. Sort Out Options

Now that you've attacked the page with such fervour, figure out what things you can deal with immediately that will take minimal time.

  • Maybe you've collected a few too many boxes, and need to flatten them and throw them out?
  • Maybe it's been a while since you've really put away your projects? I am horrible for having them as tidy stacks just floating around. Instead of putting them in a box or on a shelf. They just end up hanging out with me.

Those small things that can be done quickly might even just get the momentum going for doing some larger tasks you've been procrastinating with.

3. Reorganizing

As my stack of materials grows for a certain craft or medium, I tend to not notice them outgrow their space, and question why it feels so cluttered. At that point, I'm best off finding new storage options for them. And no, not just a bigger box... I've tried that too many times, thinking it's a great idea. It might need dividers or multiple boxes. Too much digging, at least for me, ends in a pile of stuff everywhere from my creative flurry looking for that exact thing I needed.

4. Having Funerals

There is actually a point when you will never touch that project or thing again. I'll look longingly at it, as if just staring will spark that old desire to create with it. But, I'm left realizing that pen has no ink and is not refillable. Then I attempt to use it for the next six months, and still feel I am not ready to give up on it. In reality, I needed to just purge that pile of dead macron pens. Yeah, I'm still working on this one. Such a bond to those old pens, sometimes a drink will help the mourning process.

5. Creating

The drink may come in handy here too. You might have to accept you just need to finish that project to be able to clear up space and clean up all the tools and materials needed to create it. At this moment, I glance back at my cutout patterns for Christmas gifts, and take a large gulp of my black tea, telling them they are next. I will get the KO.


Being a creative can get messy. For me, I constantly need to remind myself that so I can adjust for it. When living with others, it can make the need to get a handle on creative clutter greater, whether because they need to not be living in a stack of materials, or they create one more level of distraction. Either way, it's probably best to take control of those stacks of possibility, before it turns into resentment or stress.

Good luck creating,


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