Decluttering IS creativity. (Whoaaa.)

Yes, I speak to creative folks about decluttering. About how the disorganized artist theory is a myth. About how we need to be able to access to our creative tools to easily create. And, among other things, how getting a handle on our digital lives can help us better communicate with creative collaborators.

But decluttering itself is creative. The act of decluttering, I mean. For everyone. Just by doing it. 

Perhaps the biggest misconception about decluttering and organization is the idea that one needs a certain type of brain to do it well. Pshaw! Sure, an organized space can appear ordered--and thus feel intimidating. But a beautiful line of dancers in a performance piece can feel ordered, too. And those dancers may have found that straight line through a very creative process. A song, too, involves order--even just by staying in tune the whole time. But creativity is what ultimately birthed it into existence.

A decluttering project isn't much different. You try one thing, and see if it works. And then you try another thing, and see if it works. And sometimes it gets messy (or even messier) for a while and you honestly don’t know if you’ve just made the biggest mistake of your life by starting this thing. But then you go juuust a little further. And eventually, something new and better starts to take shape. 

True, there are basic guidelines you can follow. (Just as there are within choreography or songwriting.) With decluttering, you can set yourself up with some labeled sorting bins before you start. But beyond that, you can just play. You can just let imperfection and creativity do their thing by saying "I don't know what I'm doing but I'm going to do it anyway." Set 20 minutes on a timer, start picking up items, and just see what happens. Before you know it, you've created something that was different than before. A space with less. An uncovered chair that the sunlight hits in a slightly different way. A feeling of release. Creativity in motion.

I don't know what the "finished" picture of a client's space is going to look like before we start decluttering it together. I don't know which items we're going to find, which we're going to choose to hang on a wall, or give to the in-laws, or take to recycling. I don't know which items are going to make a client cry, or have a funny story attached, or are completely meaningless to them. And I don't know if the desk is going to feel better against the back wall or in front of the window. We're human beings, not robots. We can't know until we embrace the inherent imperfection of the task and let creativity take over. 


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[Sorting bins illustration from #NewOrderBook by Jeremy Gates.]

Fay Wolf