Organizing as a Creative Act


organizing as a creative act

Organizing Creatively – Transforming the Chores of Life into Joyful Activities

When contemplating the mess of papers on your desk, the pile of clothes in the corner, or your chaotic kitchen pile that just never seems to rectify itself, what are some of the impediments to organizing? Lack of time is one for me, given my long commute and well, there just never seem to be enough hours in the day. Being a human is a lot of work. Cooking, cleaning, traveling, working, and maintaining oneself in those ways we need to, just to present each day, is all a lot to manage.

The other thing is that hump one must jump to get to the start/go point. “Just do it,” doesn’t always work for me, nor does a high energy song, dancing in the living room, or the promise of something slathered in peanut butter as a post-organizing reward. I try all kinds of motivators, but there always seems to be something else getting in the way.

I’ll be honest, there’s always a juvenile and self-sabotaging little voice that says, “organizing is boring. I would rather play.” I would rather visit my friends on social media, go for a walk, talk on the phone, watch a good movie, go shopping, hang out with the neighbors, read a book, space out with a cup of coffee, or do nearly anything but clean. Also, I’m a creative person, and I really want to spend my little bit of free time on creative endeavors.

Even if you are not a creative person, maybe you can relate – especially when you spend the majority of your life at work (and I know being a homemaker is also a TON of work – often more than a full-time job). Time is precious. Life is precious. So if keeping clean and organizing can be a full-time job and you already have one, how do you manage? How do you get motivated? And how do you overcome that tantalizing and relentless little voice that keeps saying, “This is boring. Let’s play.”

But here’s the thing, ORGANIZING CAN BE A CREATIVE ACT. Yup, it’s true. And the more chaos you have, the MORE CREATIVE opportunities there are. No, I’m not pulling your leg. If you can’t make the leap from tedious tasks to creative acts, consider this: Creativity is bringing order to randomness and there is a fine line between chaos and order.

In Understanding Creativity, Jane Piirto quotes teacher Al Hurwitz on the creative process: “Art functions as an extended conversation between form and imagination.” How can this translate into organizing your home? Well, keeping a home is a continual conversation between you and your belongings about your vision of how you want your home and life to be.

Whether that conversation exists within a “Marie Kondo” construct – i.e., asking yourself if your possession “sparks joy,” or in a more complex assessment of where you are at in your life and how that relates to your belongings (read our Organizing for the Spirit Book Review), having this dialogue is integral to the creative process.

I once had a painting instructor who said she needed her studio to be a mess because it induced an agitated state that was conducive to creativity (“creating” being a way of establishing some order, if not in the room, then on a canvas). Certainly there are artists who have different working methods and standards, but there is, in fact, a strong relationship between creativity, chaos and order.

This is not to say that in order to clean and be organized, you must first create chaos. The important takeaway is that the process of organizing is akin to creating art and can be approached with a similar attitude.

So what is creativity? It’s a hard thing to nail and scientists are continually questioning the process, but one thing for certain is that it involves divergent thinking, multiple solutions, unconscious thought processes, and a unique approach to problem solving. For people who are not creative (and this is not a criticism), how-to guides may be just what you need for organizational motivation, as they give you instructions and methods of doing things. Certainly, blogs, books and Pinterests boards are great for sparking ideas for creatives and non-creatives alike.

What does creative organizing look like? Well, it could involve developing your own unique organizing methods to suit your style of dressing, crafting, cooking and so on. Does organizing with color appeal to you? You might want to check out our Psychology of Color article.

Are you handy and do you enjoy crafting? Building, repurposing and even just painting dressers, shelves and other storage systems might be a fun way to engage your inner artist. Whether you make it yourself or purchase readymade storage products such as plastic totes or freedomRail shelving or closet systems, designing your storage to fit your lifestyle is fun and potentially fulfilling and creative.

Incorporating decorating into your organizing is another way to activate your creative brain. Color, shape and texture are sure to get those synapses firing as you explore multiple possibilities for harmonizing and marking your environment.

If you have kids, approaching cleaning and organizing their toys and room from a creative standpoint is a great way to motivate them. Sure, you can establish rules and methods and locations, but if you partner with them to creatively devise personalized systems based on their own play preferences (with a little guidance, of course), it will likely engages them on a deeper level and encourage them to do it independently on an ongoing basis.

Locker organizing stands out as something kids love to do and it’s a fabulous way to express themselves and stand out from the crowd. An organized locker is conducive to good study habits and creating a “signature” locker makes the activity all the more sweet. Shelves, hanging storage and magnetic accessories are available for making standard lockers more useful, and the sky’s the limit for decking them out (think photos, collages, printed papers, fur and more). Combining the decorating and organizing tasks makes it a fun activity, and your child or teenager can enjoy all the benefits.

If you are an artistic personality, other people’s organizing solutions may not suit your need for individuality, or satisfy your desire for self expression. This is where you need to be able to tap into those creative reservoirs and apply that energy to your environment. If you find doing creative painting in the kitchen each weekend, maybe it isn’t a sin to repurpose a portion of the Hoosier cabinet to art supplies? After all, rules were meant to break and it’s your space. Really, the sky’s the limit for creative organizing when you give yourself permission.

Recently, I was struggling over pantry storage and considering buying a cabinet, as my old schoolhouse has an inadequate number of undersized cabinets. One day I realized that the built-in broom closet was underutilized, with space consumed by items I no longer use. I decided to build some inexpensive pine shelves inside of the closet and put the brooms and dusters in the stairwell on a rack. It was a little more work than the original plan, but less expensive and more aligned in character to the original kitchen cabinets, which were made of pine and built by handy nearby farmers (everyone had an extra trade in the old days of rural America).

My storage solution wasn’t a store-bought, out-of-the-box one, but rather, a creative one tailored to my own unusual space. And I’m pleased with the results, the extra room I now have on my counters – plus the kitchen still has plenty of open floor space. Creative solutions to storage may not be the most obvious, promoted or even simple ones, but they are often more fun.

Even if you don’t consider yourself to be particularly artistic, cultivating your inner child when organizing your home, work space and office makes the tasks more joyful and transforms your environments into more inviting, unique and comfortable spaces. Approaching organizing as a means to express your personality and style can be fun and motivational for both you and your family (if applicable).

Do you have a motivational trick or creative approach to organizing you’d like to share?