Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Digging Out the Studio, Week 4: The Paper!!

It is so weird to write a post about "Week 4", when actually for me it's Week "Umm, we've been doing this for a really long time now." In fact, it is a different month entirely. But that is how things go in the life of a stay at home mom during the end of the school year. And the Sisters are coming back tomorrow, so let's get going on this post, before more stuff happens and I get even farther behind.


So, Week 4. This week was all about paperwork. 


You know when you are having company come over and you need your dining room table, but you've been using it as a catch all for everything you didn't want to put away for the last 8 months, and so in a feverish cleaning panic, you decide it's a great idea to dump it all in a bag that you'll sort out later? Yeah. 

There were a few of those. Like 6. They had been there since 2006, I kid you not. Well each bag was probably a different year of debris, but we are talking more than 10 years ago. Sigh. I even had a huge box of stuff. On top of the 10 year old bags. So embarrassing. But better to admit there's a problem and get on the stick fixing it, right? And fix it we did.

We busted out the power tools. 


Come on! You know you would so much rather read a story that starts with a rip saw than with piles of papers to be sorted. So we totally did...start the story with a rip saw. And I have the pictures to prove it.



Once upon a time, there were three mild mannered sister missionaries. And they showed up at my house to do service. Little did they know that I would hand them a giant saw, give them a lecture about how not to cut off their own leg, and have them chop a pallet to bits!

Sister Merrit stayed calm, cool, and collected, as always. She grew up with power tools and had developed an immunity to their charms. Hence, she did not go crazy or do anything photo worthy.

Sister Anderson, on the other hand, was super excited to wield the deadly tool! (Guys, she kills me with the cheerful smile. And the comfy dress. And the deadly saw. This kid is so not going to cut your leg off.)


Then there's Sister Kleven. A terror in the back yard! Ahhhhh!!!!!!


The dresses are killing my story. It is so hard to strike fear in the hearts of the readers when you have the three nicest girls in the world who are spending their time acting like Jesus and wearing dresses as your main characters. The dresses did not, however, impede the pallet from being totally cut into little bits. Thanks so much ladies.

Once the pallet was given what for disposed of properly, we all decided we could go settle in and get on with the paper sorting.

Look how eager they are. Such good volunteers.




Everybody got their own sack to work through.


I was so glad my kid ended up with the big box to sort. A ton of it was books and things from her childhood, so she could decide right on the spot what to keep and what to chuck. It would have taken weeks to get her to look through it if she hadn't been there when we did it. #simplegifts 

It was interesting how the right person seemed to wind up with the right bag. My oldest got the box of her own stuff. Sister Merrit got the bag full of family history materials that I had forgotten I even owned. She had such a jolly time looking at various family members and then looking at me and my kid to see who we looked like. 

Sister Kleven got the bag of small child pictures and crafts. She was in heaven and there was a lot of "Oh..so cute!" and "Oh...such a fun idea!" coming from her side of the table. She is all about kids and crafts.

Sister Anderson got the bag of bills and mortgage receipts from 2006. Bummer right? Not for this kid. She buckled right down and started putting things in stacks based on various categories I set up for her. She's all about order and details. Something I have remembered and planned for in the following weeks. 

And you guys are probably curious what bag I ended up with. Well, to be perfectly honest, I had to answer so many questions about what went where and "is this a keep or a chuck?" that they did all the work and I literally just supervised. And yes, I do feel a bit guilty about that. Then again, I had to deal with and put away all the papers once they were sorted, which did take me a week (or may be an on going thing that I haven't totally dealt with yet). So I suppose it's all good. In any case, they totally have my undying true love and devotion forever.

Here's what it looked like at the end:


 Ta Da! So much less paper!!!

And see the glossy blue photo album on the table? That's my photo album from my freshman year of college. My best friend/college roommate/sister-in-law made it for me. They got me telling stories from when I was a freshman. Which led to Sister Anderson telling us all about her posse. And how they found each other, got through a bunch of stuff together, and then decided to go out into the world on missions to make the world a better place.


She even had a scripture about it. (If you are faint-hearted when it comes to scriptures, skip to the end) It's from the book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, and describes when a group of friends and brothers decide to go out into the world and see what good they can do individually, seeking and listening to what God asks them to, with little regard for their own preferences or comfort. Pretty brave stuff. Follow the finger to verse 13:


Man, that brings back memories. I am still friends with several of the people from that part of my life...  

Oh, sorry, I drifted back in time there for a sec. 
My mission. That was such a strange and hard and amazing time. So far away...

I bet Sister Anderson never thought for a second when she was talking to those friends and got her call (That's what Mormon's call the location assignment you get from the Church headquarters for your mission) to Turkey - yes she's supposed to be in Turkey, but had VISA issues- that she's be spending Wednesdays cleaning out an art studio and using power tools. How funny to be part of someone else's mission story!

Anyway, we got those papers beaten back. I wish I could tell you that they are all completely dealt with... But if we were done with everything, what would we talk about? And we're not even close to done at week 4. So come back tomorrow to see if I wrote about week 5, kay? We actually go into the studio and attack it directly! So exciting! I know you can't wait, so I'll go get busy so I have time to tell you about it. 

Talk to you soon,


CM Shaw


PS. Here are the links to all the other exciting episodes of tackling the studio:





Monday, July 16, 2018

Week 10: The Whole Hog? Day 1

Ok, I know it's supposed to be "paper week" and I am supposed to write about week 4, But I think we will have a pause in our regularly scheduled chronology, because I really want to post something, and it happens to actually be Week 10. So sorry about the breach in chronological etiquette.  And for all of you here for the Sister Missionaries, have no fear, they will make an appearance on Wednesday. Unless I decide I need to write about week 4 and/or 5 tomorrow. Which I just might. In that case, they will be here tomorrow. But not really, as they only come on Wednesdays.

In any case, this week I am working on the studio everyday because my kids are all having a jolly time at camp. So I figured since I have all this uninterrupted time for the first time in weeks, I'd tackle things with a vengeance.

The goal this week is to take everything out of the studio, bit by bit, to go through it with an eye for seeing what to lose and what to keep, and then to put it all back in a way that makes things easy to use and find. And to make it look cooler. Such a huge goal. 


To be honest, I have been staring at the counters in my studio for weeks now, wondering exactly what to do with all the things scattered on them. There are just so many decisions to be made and so many little things that need dealing with. Combined with the kids being home all day and my spending the last 3 weeks painting a good friend's kitchen cabinet doors in my garage, it has been completely overwhelming. 


After a bit more hand ringing, I decided I better go back to the book, literally. I pulled out my copy of SORT and Succeed again. For those of you just tuning in, this is an organizing book by Darla DeMorrow that I reviewed here, that kind of inspired the current muddle studio project. Nothing like professional help to stave off the panic attack. I read through all the stages again, and for some reason, the idea of a reward stuck in my head. My kids are at camp this week, so I have all day from 8:30 am-3:30 pm to work uninterrupted. At least that was my plan. After perusing the book again, I was reminded that working longer than 4 hours a pop is not recommended. So I decided that my reward for 4 hours of work was writing to you all about it for a couple of hours! 

That may sound totally lame, but I have been dying to post all the stuff we have been doing, but just haven't had time. I have only posted through week 3, and it's really week 10. So I really want to catch up with myself. I may even get crazy and post every day this week. Shocking, I know!

After getting my SORT and Succeed pep talk (Demorrow really is a pleasant, encouraging author and coach) I marched myself back downstairs and got to work. As directed, I set my written goals for the day:


  • Deal with the extra shelf se
  • Set up sorting tables
  • Remove everything that has no home
  • Decide if these items stay or go
  • Put bills away in bag for shredding
  • Put away cooler
  • Check paint and find a home for labels, formulas or remove to trash
  • Empty trash and replace bag

(And I even made you guys a little video of my good intentions, but it isn't loading well. I will add it later, if I can find someone more technically savvy than me to help. Queue the teenagers. Alas, they are at camp.)

I started out strong with the extra shelves. I had a missing leg in this set, and another broken set of a similar shelving unit, and when I compared the two, the legs seemed like a match! So yay. The shelves are off to another family that just moved and can use them. 

Next I set up my sorting table in the basement family room, so I'd have a little more room to decide what I was gonna do with stuff.


It seemed so spacious. 

After about 45 min, it looked like this:


So depressing. 

I am going to have to set up another table to actually be able to sort anything. Good thing I have another one. I suppose I could also just make my kids clean up their stuff on the craft table in the back ground and use that. Sigh.

The good news is that one corner of the studio looks like this:



Definite progress. Especially when you remember I started here:



I kept taking things out and finding pockets of space on the "sorting" table. 

I also put away the cooler and dealt with the dead paint cans that the Sisters sorted and checked or me during Week 5. Check and check off my goal list!

Eventually, I got down to just the furniture, at least in this little corner. So I did what any normal tired person would do, I started moving the supports for things and lifting the drawing table up on the pallet by myself. Always the best plan when you have no help and the table is heavy and a bit wobbly. 


I also moved the heavy plastic drawer set and turned over the cement board, almost knocking the wires on my gas water heater. Seriously, I think there is something wrong with me. 

This all happened because I started thinking about new ways to organize the space. And I wanted to see what it would look like if I put the "Fine Art" section (I have decided I need a Fine Art section) on the far right, near the hanging racks. I loved it for about 2 seconds and then started seeing problems. 

The biggest problem is that the table is high and the chair is low. I could get rid of the pallet and cement board, but it floods about 1/4 inch in the studio every so often, so I try to keep everything off the floor. Especially anything cardboard. And I really like hanging my works in progress on the "board wall" to dry, not that I've done that for years. But it was great when I did it in 2010. And if my table is there, will I still be able to reach the board wall? And what about the the matte board against the wall and where do I put my fine papers? And? And? And?

This is about the time I turned around and saw this:


And my head blew up. 

So I walked out. And got some ice cream. Because we all know that ice cream solves everything. And while I was enjoying my snack, I looked at the clock my 4 hours were up. I felt magically excused from working any more. Especially since things weren't going anywhere good. 

So we'll see what happens tomorrow. I have big plans to go exercise first, so maybe the endorphins will help me unjumble all this. And just for the record,"Unjumble" is totally a word. I totally did not make it up right now.

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Digging Out the Studio Week 3: Getting Crafty

Week 3 was a whirlwind for me. I had just gotten back from my brother-in-law's wedding and I could feel a cold coming on. Things were going a little "End of the Year" berserk, so I almost cancelled. But the Sisters couldn't come any other day, so I just told them to come anyway and bluffed, like I had actually thought through what they were going to do. 

I walked into the studio and saw the bin of craft supplies that my kids use. You know the pictures that 3 year olds draw of the sun or spiders or octopuses, with 10,000 arms and legs coming off a messy circle? That was what this bin kinda resembled. "Great!" I thought with much relief, "I'll make them clean out the craft stuff," and proceeded to pull out anything remotely crafty that looked like a tornado had hit it.

Sister Kleven is particularly partial to crafts, so I put her in charge of the that crazy bin, as well as my ribbons that looked like they had been fighting amongst themselves since the Christmas onslaught. And can I tell you, this girl does not disappoint. Look at the order she brought to the battling ribbons! It's art, I say. Art!


And this is the former octopus-like bin. Look at the order. Could you die? All those Ziploc bags in their tidy little rows. I never thought I'd consider Ziploc bags a thing of beauty, but there it is. 


As for Sister Merritt, well since she had so much fun with the screws and nuts and bolts the first time, I put her in charge of putting them in their new home. Wasn't that so thoughtful of me? Actually, she wasn't even annoyed. She muttered something about "personal vendetta" and jumped right in.


And I have a confession to make. Last time I totally cheated. Sister Anderson's first week in our area, or even as a missionary, was Week 3. She was not even here for the modeling of the 80's clothes. But she heard about the cow print Guess? jeans and was jealous, so we pulled them out and let her play with the 80's too. Sister Merritt was actually the one trying things on, but we were laughing too hard to remember to take pics. But I ended up giving her the desert camo pants, so if you ask really nicely, she might model them for you. 

Anyway, back to Sister Anderson. New missionaries are called "beans" as in "green beans." At least they were in my mission. I had forgotten what an entertaining blend of spunk, enthusiasm, and insecurity they can be. It was so fun to watch Sister Anderson wrap her brain around the fact the missionary work also included wearing 80's clothes and checking if all the markers worked or not. Yes, I did. I gave her this huge bin of mostly dead markers and made her draw with every single one to see if they still worked or not. Welcome to full time service sweetie!


Sister Merritt finished wrestling with the nuts and bolts once and for all and asked if I had a pencil sharpener so she could tackle the pile of dull, unusable colored pencils next to the bin of mostly dead markers. 

I do, but it is electric and upstairs and prone to overheating. 

After consulting with Sister Anderson, Sister Merritt decided it would be better to stay with her companions and asked for a knife. 

A knife? Why yes, I have several. Take your pick

So a delighted Sister Merritt settled in and happily whittled her way though my stack of dull pencils. She kept telling us how great it was to be whittling again and how it reminded her of camping in the wilds of Wyoming, where she's from. Friends, this girl is the real deal. No Glamping for her. 

They all got so much done so quickly. It was mind boggling. So we had a consult, to decide what to deal with the next week and how to proceed after that. After pursuing the studio again, we unanimously voted to tackle the papers next week. Brave souls, they are. So there we left off, headed into the dark waters of the unknown paperwork ahead. You'll have to come back for the next post to see if we survived. 

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

 PS: If you want to catch up on our little journey of discovery, 
here are all the previous posts in the series


Friday, June 15, 2018

Digging Out the Studio, Week 2: Bin and Bins of Fun

Welcome back to our nifty little series on digging out my art studio/storage room. If you are new here, thanks for clicking over. You can catch up with these posts:


In any case, our story continues with me getting a phone call. Normally I hate being called by surveys or businesses selling things or computer scammers, but this call was a little different. It was from the National Children's Center, asking if I had any donations. Donations? Hmm... Let me think...What about the whole studio full of crap I don't want anymore? Can we donate that? We can!? Great! So I booked a pickup in three days

Do charities in the West or other parts of the country call you up out of the blue and ask if you want them to come to your house and pick up your stuff? There are a ton of them here that do. I think I am on the calling list of about 5 different charities, who will come and remove my problems...er, unwanted, gently used items about once a month. It's amazing.  You just put it in your driveway, with the name of the charity or "donation" taped to the top of the pile, and when you get back from the grocery store or work or whatever, it has magically vaporized and you are left with a receipt that you can deduct from your taxes. 

Best. Gig. Ever.

Guys I have to be honest. I was feeling like the smartest girl ever. It was such a good feeling. And I have a spoiler for you...Things totally worked out and they took all my stuff and I lived happily ever after.

Well, not all my stuff. There is still plenty of crap in the studio that I haven't got to yet. 
But they did take this pile:


Do you know what a bunch of those bins are filled with? VHS tapes! I know, right? I was so excited that someone can still use them. There was the whole collection of Disney movies like "The Emperor's New Grove" and "Mary Poppins" and "Bug's Life". And the classics from my kid's little days like "Elmo in Grouchland". Not to mention the more grown up classics like "Blast From the Past" (I'm not sure I ever actually watched that one after I bought it, but if you recall, there was a time when Brendan Frasier was actually worth looking at) and "October Sky" that no one remembers, but were fun back in the day. 

How sad to be old enough to really qualify for someone who can use the phrase "back in the day." Sigh.

Anyway, the people came while I was shopping and the VHS collection of my past was on it's way to some other fate than the trash heap! So crazy exciting. Especially since I have this reoccurring image of a world where all the trees are dead and black VHS film wraps around them like strangler vines. "Shudder." I am sure I am the only one who has that particular thought, but I did sleep better that night

But VHS tapes were not the only thing that found a new life. The sisters and I started by taking everything out of those bins, before we filled them with VHS tapes. The tapes were previously taking up half of the drawer space in the giant dresser I have living next to the freezer in the studio. And I had no idea what was living in the bins. It had been a while, like 10 years, since I had opened them. 

Guys, can I just tell you how great these girls are to help me? They actually came back to help again! After I made them sort all those little screws last time. So as a favor, I let them open bins containing who knows what and 80's and 90's ski clothing that mice had discovered. So nice of me. Fortunately, I was the one who opened that bin. I knew we had had mice and had gotten rid of them, so there was no hysterical screaming. 

What the girls got to discover was rabbit pelts (I am an animal fur junkie. I am sorry if you are a card carrying PETA member. I just really like animals and having their fur makes me feel safe and close to them. #justbeinghonest) and all of my Easter decorations that I never use and forgot I had. Some of them were pretty cute, but hello...I FORGOT I had them. Buh bye! I did end up keeping the eggs daughter #1 and #2 got at the White House Easter Egg Rolls when they were each 3. They were so cute and I was so happy to be there. Some things we keep. Even Marie Kondo of The Magic of Tidying Up fame says "Keep the things that bring you joy." So those posters and eggs and pelts stayed. 


The real fun started when they found the bin of 80's clothing I had saved because I totally emote all over material things. There were a pair of military issue desert camo pants I got at Smith and Edwards, a military surplus store in Ogden, UT that my grandpa and father go way back with. There was the designer periwinkle shirt and pant set I bought in a boutique in York, England, when I spent 3 weeks there after I graduated from high school in 1989, that I would still wear if it actually fit me. In the event I ever lose enough weight to get it on and do it justice, I will totally post pics here. There was a olive colored washable silk flight suit-like jump suit, right out of Top Gun that quickly became Sister Merritt's favorite thing. There was a cute pair of red Guess shorts and a few dresses my mom made for me, but the Piece de Resistance was definitely my prized and hoarded pair of cow print Guess jeans. 

I love these jeans as much as the cow skull that hangs above my mantle and that was a gift from my father who bought it at the Phoenix swap meet from a lady who found it in the desert. I know. I know. I am super weird, bordering on creepy, but I love that thing for all i am worth. it says, "home" to me in the best way. The cow print Guess jeans are like that. 

First, they are Guess? and if you were a teenager in the 80's, you know that owning and wearing Guess clothing made you a better person. Misguided perhaps, but when I wore those jeans, I felt like the most popular, magnificent, and cool girl on the planet. 

Second, they are a size 28. And they actually fit me. They are material proof that I was once "hot". Want to see? I knew you would understand. I freaking love this picture. Brace yourself for some seriously big hair:


I cannot express to you how much I miss this version of my butt. Sigh. And yes, I am standing on the counter, right in front of the sink. 

And here are the same pants on Sister Anderson, Sister Missionary extraordinaire!


A nice touch, the "Vote for Pedro" shirt, so you are completely certain that she is Mormon. And look. They are BAGGY on her. Sigh. But nothing will diminish my love for those jeans. Good times, I tell you. Good times. 

So that was this week's edition of "Dig out CM Shaw's Studio". 

How are you guys doing with your projects? Any progress? 
And if you are looking for some meaning in your life, I know a few girls...

Talk to you soon, 


CM Shaw

Monday, June 4, 2018

Dig out the Studio, Week 1: Motivation not required, but Missionaries go a long way towards helping reach your goal.

Warning, this post contains lots of pictures of a dirty basement.  
To prevent you from being overwhelmed, here is a picture of the azaleas blooming at the National Arboretum. It will give your eyes something pretty to look at, if the mess of my studio is just too much. 


Just kidding. I know you all can handle a good mess. We just went to see the flowers the same week I started working on the studio and figured they might be a nice foil to my dirty basement. And just as an aside, If you find yourself in the Nation's Capital with nothing to do on a nice May afternoon, I would highly recommend the National Arboretum. Here's another pic, including me:


So. Many. Blossoms. 

But this post isn't about flowers. It's about whether or not I can get all the garbage out of my studio and make it back into a functional space.

So last post, we were getting motivated, right? Oh yeah. The SORT and Succeed Method says we don't need motivation to get all the stuff out of our hoarder's stash ...er...art studio. Well, the first  week I actually put that theory to the test. I scheduled a time to work on the studio. And I invited a few friends I knew needed service hours over to help me, just to keep me from wimping out and "forgetting" to do it. 

And I figured if I was going to talk about the SORT and Succeed book, I had better actually try following that method. So I started with the first part of the acronym SORT, "Start with a written plan." My "Big Picture" plans are laid out here

After I wrote all that out, I went back to the book and realized I had totally missed the point. In Ch. 2, DeMarrow clearly states:


 "A project is an organizing job you can accomplish in one defined 
block of time by applying the SORT and Suceed system.
   If you think you'll need more than about 4 hours to solve your organizing 
problem, then your project is probably too big. You'll need to break that big 
project into some smaller projects." (pg. 22)

Yeah...Apparently "I am going to clean all this crap out and be a completely different person and live happily ever after" does not exactly fit the definition given for "a project". I kept reading, hoping for her to throw me a bone and make this easy. My friends were going to be here in 20 min. 


I found my solution in Ch.3: "Start at the door." 
Brilliant! I'll start at the door! This is what it looked like near my door.




So I quickly wrote out "Throw away any trash near the door. Put away things that have places. Make places or plans for anything that does not have a place. Deal with everything within 3 feet of each side of the door." I finished writing just as the doorbell rang.

(Sorry for the grainy pictures. My iPad doesn't love low light. There may be more than a few of these in this series of posts. Hopefully it just makes you feel like you are that much better a photographer. I am all about empowerment, you know.)

There is something I should tell you about my friends. While they are my friends, they are also serving as sister missionaries for my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know you may be scratching your head and thinking, "Aren't Mormon missionaries boys in suits on bikes?" Yes they are, but missionaries come in "girls with cars" form too! These kids give up 18 mos-2 yrs of their college life, paying their own way, to be volunteers, do service, and teaching about our church to anyone who will listen to them. It is such a good thing to do with yourself in that very self-focused time of your life.You can find out more about what full time missionaries do here) I don't know how exactly we decided it was a good idea for them to help me, but it got approved as "viable service", so they will be around for the next 6 weeks or so. Yay for me!

While I was planning what we were going to do, I realized that if I had help, I needed to have projects for them to work on that didn't require me to make any decisions. So I looked around at what there was to be done. Here is what I found.

What 20 year old girl doesn't want to break down a pallet with a rip saw?




They made short work of that puppy. Now I can finally build that easel I have been thinking about for 5 years. (I swear, Pinterest is the opposite of free time.) 

*Dear Mission President  and concerned parents reading this post: Please notice the protective eye-wear. Sister Kleven and Sister Merritt were very careful, listened attentively to my safety lecture about how not to cut off your leg with a rip saw, and both have previous experience with power tools* In fact, Sister Merritt said she grew up helping her dad do roofing projects in Wyoming. Woot! Some Girl Power there baby!



They also got all my mixed-up bins of screw and nails and bolts sorted by size. True love and devotion, I tell you. And they did it all with those smiles you see there.

And I dealt with the area around the door! Check it out:





Notice the distinct lack of debris, garbage, and things without a home. It worked like magic!

So far so good, I think. I have to say though, as much as I like the SORT and Suceed method, I think my magic ingredient may be the sister missionaries. This is so much more fun with a bunch of well intentioned 20 year olds helping. And this was only week 1. Wait until you see what we got up to in Week 2.


Are you guys de-junking anything?Have you read SORT and Suceed  or any other interesting books on organizing lately? How is your "project" going? 
Let me know. The sisters and I would love to hear your story.

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Big Picture: Where the studio is going

Exciting things guys! I have been working on the studio. I am actually 3 weeks in. But I am not going to show you my progress quite yet. Because every good story needs to have the stage set. So this post is all about where I want to go and the space I am trying to create. 

If you recall waaaay back in 2013 (I love you if you still read this blog after all that time), I used to actually make things in my studio. Like this. I know. After the pic from the last post here, that seems like a very long time ago indeed. But that is really all I want, to have a functional space that I can make stuff in that can handle having stuff dumped on the floor. It doesn't need to be a pretty space, just a useful one. Let's just say I have no desire for a space that looks like the one in this pin

And since I told you all that I was going to talk about the SORT and Succeed book, I decided I would actually try following that method. So I started with the first part of the acronym SORT, "Start with a written plan."

Um...Yeah. Easier said than done. 

They were talking about a small attainable goal, but since I'm me, and I tend to think big, I started with an overall vision for where I was going for the entire space. This is straight from my "Goals" notebook:

"I would like to have an efficiently organized art studio where I know where everything is, what I have, and with many clutter-free surfaces to work on.
  • drying space
  • work space
  • supplies space
  • tools space
  • display space
I would also like to have spaces to store mementos, Christmas and other holiday decor, camping supplies, rarely used tools and equipment, and food storage. 

I would prefer if almost nothing sat directly on the floor.

I would prefer if almost everything was easily reachable, at least with a stool.

I want to touch and make the decision "keep or not?" for every item in the studio. No unopened boxes. 

I am fine with a "storage room" look. It doesn't have to be fancy. Rough and Functional is probably better.

I want "like" things grouped together." 

So that's where the project is headed. You guys will have to keep me on track!

It is clear that I will not be finishing in May. But I think I will finish before the end of the summer. And since that is sooner than Never, I am pretty happy about that. I work on it weekly, on Wednesday afternoons for about 2-3 hours, and I have two slave laborers friends who come and help me every week. I pick a few things for us to tackle and put away. It isn't fast, but we get it done every time and usually end up laughing a lot. I am still sad I didn't take pictures last week. But that is a story for next time. 

In any case, things are moving in spite of the "end of the year" crush. So here's to SORTing and hopefully, succeeding. So far, so good.

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Read That Will Finally Inspire Me?

I think that inspiration is a function of timing, as well as energy. I have been inspired so many times to do so many things, but life has prevented them from coming to pass for some multitude of reasons. Most of the time, I just simply can't create the space for it in my schedule. Sometimes, it is derailed by extenuating circumstances. Sometimes, I am just not ready when the inspiration strikes. 


So inspiration leaves me. And the idea stays unrealized. 

But sometimes, the circumstances are right. The timing is good, I have the interest and the energy and the money and the will. And those times are magic. 

I have spent almost all of my free time for the last 4 years trying to finish all the design projects in my house. Getting rid of my debris has also been a part of that quest. I think I am on round 7-8 of major purging. In any case, I have read several books on the subjects of Decluttering, Organizing, Cleaning, and Simplifying. Most of them had useful information that may have made all the difference, had the time been right. But it never was. Until now. 


I am ready to tackle the studio. Let me show you what that means.






As you can see, it has been years since I really addressed this space. Or really did anything in here, but pile crap on top of crap. And no, I do not think I need to seek help for my hoarding issues, despite what these photos may imply. I do think I cleaned it up after the last barn sale I ran in 2013, but that was what? 5 years ago? Yeah.

In any case, I recently had a bit of serendipity fall into my lap. A friend of mine from Haven, Darla DeMorrow, recently contacted me to see if I wanted to review her new book on organizing! Perfect timing, right?


As you all know, it has been almost a year since I posted anything. (Note the reasons listed above. They explain my entire life)  I almost turned her down. But something niggled inside and told me to think about it. So I did, for a hot second. I realized I had already been moving towards clearing out the studio. Why not do it for you guys to see? I will try to post every time I work on it. My goal is to finish the whole space before the end of May. I am dubious that I will be able to do that, but for now, that's my goal. So cross you fingers with me, Kay?


But let's get to the book review that's the catalyst for all this. 


Organizing Your Home with SORT and SUCCEED: Five simple steps to stop clutter before it starts, save money and simplify your life (SORT and SUCCEED Organizing Solutions Series) by [DeMorrow, Darla]

Organizing Your Home With SORT and Succeed by Darla DeMorrow has two great advantages over any other organizing book I have ever read, before you even open the cover. First, it only takes about an hour to read the whole thing, cover to cover.  And second, it is free if you have Kindle Unlimited on Amazon.com or $4.99 if you are just a non-joiner, like me. (In the name of disclosure, Darla gifted me with a digital copy to review. All opinions are obviously my own. So are any spelling errors, gaffing social faux pas, and heinous messes left untouched in this blog post.)

I had no idea what to expect when I started reading, so I just open the file and dug in. I was really curious to see what she had to say that I hadn't heard before. The first few chapters are background on how she thinks about the process of sorting and working through one's possessions (Darla is a Professional Organizer in Philadelphia) and how our brains think about stuff. I am actually fascinated by how the human mind works, so I was happy about these chapters. You can skip them and go right to process if you want.

 I was surprised by a quote fairly early on. 

"Organizing is only worth doing if something amazing is going to come of it, and amazing comes from relationships, not things."

This one stopped me right in my tracks. I had never thought about organizing like this. But the interesting thing for me was, I had given up blogging the last couple of years (sniff..) so I could make my home more conducive to people gathering. Hmm. That sounds a lot like building a space for relationships to bloom, doesn't it? So yeah, I was pretty much hooked from there. 

Another thing that caught my attention was her statement, 

"You don't need motivation." 

Now I don't know about you, but I find this a bold statement based off previous experience. I have yet to experience organizing and sorting I didn't have to drag myself across coals to get through. And I am tired, after working on so many things for so long. But if she says I can do it and not need to drag myself through it, I am willing to give that kind of optimism a shot. I'll let you know how it goes.

The final quote that sealed the deal for me was this:

"Minimalism and empty rooms aren't the goal. Peace is the goal."

Dang girl, you had me at "empty rooms aren't the goal." I LOVE stuff. I love having a bunch of cool things to look at and memories to think about. But right now, I do not feel peaceful. I feel resentful that I have to spend so much time dealing with All. The. Things. Resentful that I don't have places for things, so I can't deal with them. Resentful that even though I am trying so hard and putting so much effort into making things nicer in my home, it never feels like I have done anything. I didn't realize it until I read that line, but Peace IS the goal for me. I don't know that I would have been able to put it that succinctly, but that describes perfectly what I have been working towards. 

Ok, so that's the philosophy that caught my attention. The system itself is described in Chapter 3, so if you are the impatient type (I usually am) and want to get right on it, then that is your starting point. Here is the whole system in a nutshell:

Start with a Written Plan
Organize into groups
Reduce Release and Reset
Tweak, enhance and then
SUCCEED and celebrate

It sounds so simple. But I got a little stuck when I started thinking about what I would actually write down for my plan in Step 1. I think, "Get all the crap out of the studio and throw it away" may be a bit too general and a lot too aggressive. I will have to readdress that, when I am actually ready to start next month. Once again, I'll keep you up on how things go when I am really doing it. I have a feeling that once I am actually standing in the studio, making decisions about how to break things down into smaller tasks, that this step will feel a lot more natural than it does upstairs staring at a book on a computer screen. 

I did, however, like her idea of starting with "the end in mind." It is kind of fun to think of my studio being functional again, with things put away and having counter space to actually create the New. It's been a long time since I've had that. And I found it deeply satisfying when I did. I would be willing to change to get that room back and keep it.

Step 2 is where the real action starts. You can tell Darla has worked with real people because she recommends talking yourself through the sorting process.  "This is a ____ and I need to do _____ with it" is a phrase that I have a feeling will become near and dear. I attach memories to objects like a champ, and I am hoping that defining what the thing actually is, may help me be more open to letting a bunch of things go. If it's a ratty, tired t-shirt, rather than a receptacle of my memories of my trip to the Yucatan, I am far more likely to say "Adios." 

This is also the step where Darla encourages you to: 

"Keep searching for things that make your heart sing". 

Um. Yes. I think you should sign me up for that. 

I will totally keep going through this crap these boxes of stored possessions to find treasures that make my whole life better. Not that I self identify through stuff or anything.  

Step 3 is the "deal with it" phase. This is where you take it to the trash, to recycle bin, the thrift shop. I feel like I have been living in Stage 3 for years. But it does work. Life is always a bit brighter after I see the back of the donation truck. This is also the point when you can start to see where this effort is all heading. I haven't gotten even close to this in the studio, so I will, once again, have to let you all know how it goes when I get there. 

Step 4 starts once the room looks like a room again and you are putting your new systems to the test. If they aren't working out, you just try a little tweak here and there to smooth it out. 

Step 5, Succeed and Celebrate. This is one I usually skip because A) I am very tired after dealing with all this crap,  B) I usually spent all my money on stuff for the project, and C) I am trying not to kill my children as they have already messed things up again. (Well, at least in the past they did. Now they've grown up into perfect human teenagers. Cough, cough.) In any case, I have decided that my reward for duking it out with my studio is that I get to post about whatever I did that day. The posts will be very irregular, sorry about that, but that's where I am right now. Any time to post will be a hard fought miracle. I have missed talking to you all terribly, and I think having a focused story to tell you is just what I need right now to keep on moving and feeling happier in the world. 

Despite it's short length, 84 pages, Darla packs in a bunch of useful information like a prioritized list of what order to tackle to rooms in your house, if you plan on doing the whole thing, ideas of how to store things, and how to schedule time so you will actually show up to work. I only scratched the surface. Go read it. It's an hour and a max of $5 out of your life. And if you want, pick a room and post with me on Instagram or Facebook, whichever is your thing, as you work though it. Let's use #SORTwithCMShawStudios. Or you can simply comment here after each post and keep me up to date on your progress. I'll be here, in the studio, fantasizing about a more peaceful creative space. 

Talk to you soon,

CM Shaw