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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

The Aspirational Lightness of Being

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The studio of the Irish-born painter Francis Bacon has been painstakingly reconstructed at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin; here is the artist’s explanation for the chaotic state of the place.

I have been a messy person for a very long time now, or at least that’s how I’ve seen myself. I have manila envelopes stuffed with scraps of ideas going all the way back to my years at NYU, and I have a bad habit of leaving piles of trash in the corner of my room for days or even weeks (paper recycling, mostly—never rotting food or anything, I do feel the need to clarify that!) Instead of filing documents and receipts, I’ve tossed them into a cardboard box to be dealt with on some occasion in the nebulous future when Camille Finally Gets Her S**t Together. (And it isn’t just my apartment; my stepfather has affectionately remarked that my bedroom looks as if I still live there.)

When I visited my aunt and uncle in Arizona in 2007 on my little Mary Modern book tour, I slept on an air mattress in my aunt’s craft room, where the walls are lined with neatly organized scrapbooking and soapmaking supplies. How lovely it was to wake up inside that roomful of potential, to think of all the things she hasn’t made yet that will be. The reason why all that stuff (however organized it is, it is still STUFF) didn’t stress me out is, of course, that it isn’t my stuff. All the ideas I have yet to implement, the books I have yet to read, the art and craft supplies I have yet to use: these things are making me anxious. I have no system for keeping them in order, for curating (such a buzzword these days, ha) my collections so that I don’t feel overwhelmed by too much creative potential. When I looked through the plexiglass at Francis Bacon’s studio at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, all I could think was please don’t let me end up like this.

 

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Thing is, though: I’m the one who decides how clean and organized my working and living spaces are going to be, and it doesn’t matter if I’m being a bit hard on myself here—either way, I have to find a system that works. I want to feel that I’m working (or crafting) effectively.

 

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The state of my desk/worktable on New Year’s Day. In fairness, I’d just unpacked a lot of things I’d brought up from NJ, and I’d also moved in a new armchair (which required rearranging a bookcase).

 

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…aaaaaand the state of my knitting. THREE different kinds of blue yarn, hopelessly tangled. I have no excuse for this.

 

So here are some resolutions:

1. MAKE THE BED. For crying out loud.

2. Break down the seemingly-endless task. My sister pointed out that it makes way more sense to figure out and start using a system for organizing my ideas as I get them, folding in the contents of those manila envelopes over time, rather than tackling the backlog straight away. I always attempt it that way, and an hour later I throw up my hands.

3. Do the tasks regularly so they never reach the point of ‘seemingly-endless’! On Sunday nights I’m going to input receipts into my tax spreadsheet, ‘process’ any other paperwork, and empty my wastebasket.

4.  Get the right storage. I picked up one of those black-and-clear-plastic five-drawer cabinets via Craigslist the other week, and I’m going to buy some cubbies (like Ikea, but not) for my art and craft stuff, which will go under my desk (which is actually an 8′ long table, so no built-in shelving).

5. Use Trello (thanks, Elliot!) to manage to-do lists.

This is good for a start, right?

And here are some links I’ve found helpful and/or inspiring:

Unclutterer

Bookavore’s How I Got Organized

Paul Jarvis on Productivity

Fringe Association, The Great Closet Clean-Out 

 

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This is not a filing cabinet.

 

 

I’ve been meaning to do a “nesting” post since last summer, but it’ll be so much better to do it once my space is naturally tidy (as opposed to my tidying it up for the picture taking, ha). One thing I’m excited to share is my (DIY) project bag rack, which makes use of the odd (as in charming!) space created by the slanting attic wall. More soon!

(This post is a continuation of item five on my 2015 list of intentions.)

 

4 Comments to The Aspirational Lightness of Being

  1. January 15, 2015 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Oh no! Trello! I just had to click the link. Now, my over-containering mind is itching to start using it. I think your resolutions are manageable and achievable. As for the yarn situation on your knitting, for that small amount of yarn, try bobbins or wooden clothes pins for each color.

    By the way, I received an ARC in the mail for Bones And All! Can’t wait!

  2. Sarah's Gravatar Sarah
    January 15, 2015 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    I could talk “systems” all day. ALLLLLLL DAYYYYYY.

    I liked Trello for a bit but am now a hardcore devotee of OmniFocus. I honestly attribute a huge drop in my daily anxiety to it.

  3. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    January 19, 2015 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I have found that clutter forms on our desk and bedside tables no matter how often I deal with it. I realized recently that the two main reasons are a lack of places to file papers I need to keep and the refusal to just throw things out. For instance, I’ve had a little scarf that Elliot put on his suit for a wedding six months ago. It’s a perfectly nice little scarf so I haven’t don’t anything with it, but in reality he will never use it again. I need to learn to just get rid of it!

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.