Room to Breathe


pile of books

No Space to Create

Posted by Deborah Atherton


Leslie talked a little in her last post about finding room to breathe – and the question has arisen from several quarters – what do creative people do about the STUFF that sometimes accumulates and weighs us down?

There are some elegant souls among us who have a spare Zen aesthetic, who acquire only what they need and can use for their art or their life, and dispose of the rest. They live in beautiful, tasteful environments, and everything around them is a choice.

And then there are the rest of us. We may be the proud owner of 27 guitars, or 55 cameras, or hundreds of tubes of half-used paints, or 500 Playbills, or 5,000 books—or all of the above. We may have a room full of electronic equipment, half of which is out of date, but none of which we are ready to throw away. We may have every story or piece of music we’ve ever written jammed in boxes in the basement or attic. And at some point, the stuff may become more important than the work we want to do today. It may lure us to come fool with it, or it may intimidate us by the sheer weight of it. What to do?

Well, there are a ton of books on organizing, and I’ve probably read them all, but in my experience, one of the best things to do is to get a second opinion, and even more importantly, get some help. Only you can decide what to do with your creative projects; but contrarily, I’m guessing you’re the last person to be able to objectively decide what to do with the 55 cameras. Or even the 27 guitars (guitarists, do not rise up and protest!) This person should probably NOT be your significant other. Your significant other has their own relationship, perhaps not so positive, to your stuff. Get a friend, or a college student, or if you can afford one, a person who makes their living helping people make these choices and organize around them. Join a group (for a free monthly group on clutter, check out Sallie Felton’s site –

I am not advocating that you get rid of all your books and guitars. No one would expect a guitarist to survive without ten guitars. Maybe twelve. Or maybe you live in a mansion with a room dedicated to those guitars. Or have a studio so spacious that it could swallow all of Pearl paints and not hiccup. But if your stuff is getting the better of you – if it’s interfering with your day to day creative rituals and routines – it may be time to let a few of those Playbills go.

In the end, it’s about having the space to breathe to do your creative work, and sometimes that takes some adaptation of our physical environments, as well as our internal environments, to get to.


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