Clutter Busting: A Creativity Snippet by Patricia Belyea

clutter busting


By Patricia Belyea

Talking about cluttered sewing studios is tricky. One quilter’s visually busy studio might make another quilter uneasy. And one quilter’s pristine studio might make another quilter uninspired.

All the same, we need to examine clutter and find a way to take advantage of what we learn.

Clutter sits in the middle of the sandwich between messes and hoarding. Clutter is when piles of disorderly stuff start residing in one place. They never move until we give them attention. 

We are the source of clutter, not the collection of objects that gather. Choosing to deal with clutter means taking on a task we’d obviously like to ignore. And the bigger the pile, the more monumental the task.

To get started, we need to admit we have clutter. A simple exercise is to draw a floor plan of our sewing rooms and put an X anywhere there is a jumble of things. Some of us might make a big X over the whole drawing!

It’s advisable for each of us to take on a small pile to get started. We need to physically touch each item, questioning whether it makes us happy or is valuable for where we want to go with our quilting. If the answer is yes to either of these queries, then the item gets saved and put away. 

If not, it needs to be recycled, given away, or thrown away. It’s best to have three bags handy for the rejects— labelled RECYCLE, GIVE, DISPOSE—so they don’t become a new set of piles!

Clearing out clutter is a counterintuitive way to receive fresh energy in our lives. With a renewed sense of hope, we can take on another pile. Or dig into our next quilt project with vim and vigor.

The etymology of clutter comes from the old English word clott or clot—meaning a lump or block. So chaos in our physical spaces can block our ability to find our way forward. We can get overwhelmed. Casual towers of stuff can slow us down in so many ways.

Does the problem come from having too much stuff? We’ve been encouraged as quilters to collect fabrics nonstop. A funny line found on t-shirts and novelty items reads “Whoever dies with the biggest stash wins.”

Do we need to buy lots of bins and fold everything on cardboard rectangles to make our studio look like a cute shop? Or does that make us tidy hoarders?
Can we justify all of our fabrics because one day we might want to make a confetti quilt? Therefore we’ll need all the colors and textures we can get. Or perhaps our interest stretches to scrap quilting. Again, the more the merrier.

Understanding who we are and what we want to do with our quilting time helps us determine how much fabric we truly need. If our preferences and design directions have changed, it might be time to discard some of our fabrics and quilting possessions.

There’s no guilt or self-blame here—just a look at how the calm of our studio reflects the calm of our beings. Decluttering our studios can also declutter our thoughts and emotions. It can move us from overwhelmed to encouraged. Our tendency for procrastination diminishes as we move from disorder to order. We become stronger decision makers—which is key in creative quilt making.

With a consciousness of clutter and how it accumulates in our spaces, we can unblock our spirits and inventive energy. We can get on with making the quilts of our dreams!