by Twinkie Chan
What does your creative space look like? Is it a dedicated room, one particular bookshelf, a plastic bin, a small walk-in closet where you sit on the floor making magic at three a.m. with your clothes brushing against your head? My creative spaces have been all of the above, but one thing they had in common was that they had minds and lives of their own. They grew. They wanted to be seen. They tossed balls of yarn on the floor. They spit pom poms everywhere. They hid and unhid my measuring tapes, so now I have five of them. It’s not me; it’s the space.
I’m a crochet designer, and a yarn collection takes up a lot of room. I have additional art/craft interests, and those supplies take up room, too. I feel a lot of pressure and expectation for my creative space to always be clean, tidy, and beautifully – even cleverly – organized. People ask me for craft room video tours all the time, and I rarely do them. I’m usually working on day-job projects and several personal projects, and frankly it’s embarrassing in there. I’m a real person with a lot going on as far as creative pursuits, and I honestly do not know how to also be a magical cleaning elf that can maintain a picture-perfect working space. I know that some of you can relate.
So what do you do if you’re a Creativebug instructor and the video crew wants to come to your house to film B-roll for your new classes? PANIC. Obviously!
Come with me on a voyage. A voyage to clear out the craft clutter. Journeys are rarely straight lines and sometimes the place you land is not the place that you had planned. Let’s see what happened on my most recent round of craft clutter clean-up.
The Craft Room: Before
My craft room is formerly my dining room. It’s in between my kitchen and my living room, so it’s also a thoroughfare. I’m so grateful to have this dedicated space, but it’s also tricky because I can’t close the door for the night and un-see it. The fact that people need to be able to walk through it keeps the floor relatively free, but then the Towers of Cardboard Boxes begin to grow on the sides, and that’s when you know you are in trouble. I apologize for what your eyeballs are about to witness. The left is a night-time shot I took earlier to give the crew an idea of the room’s layout, and the right is during the day when I started my cleaning adventure (Bunny the dog included). I don’t have a lot of “before” photos because I had no idea I would be writing a blog post about it, but you get the gist.
I had the weekend to erase this disaster before the crew was coming that Monday. This was only enough time for a cosmetic clear-out, which meant that everything just went upstairs in my bedroom without much thought. I know. Not ideal. But just temporary. I took a photo of my bedroom because this looked and felt so horrendous that I had to text my pain to everyone.
Moving most of the mess into a different room made me want to deal with it even more, so while the concept is a little nonsensical and inefficient, you might want to try it if you have a hard time with motivation. It felt like I was giving myself a preview of my future creative space without doing the hard work. And when I put the hard work in my sleeping space, I wanted to handle it immediately.
The Craft Room: After (Part 1)
My goal for filming day was to give us a 100% clear view of the yarn wall. Quick tip if you have lots of yarn balls on display that are in constant use: tuck in or trim all the dangly yarn tails. Those are what make your yarn area look the messiest if you don’t have time to re-wind them and organize them properly.
I had an unexpected reaction to this cleared out space. I could recognize that it looked better, but it somehow also felt less alive to me. I realize there is a lot of color and tons of stuff and chaos in this photo, but I was still left with a weird feeling of discomfort. I just knew this wasn’t realistic for my crafting lifestyle. My giant box of Polyfil isn’t even in this photo! Part of me felt like I SHOULD embrace the emptier, more minimal version of my craft room, but somehow it did not feel like MY space or a place where I could actually DO anything.
It worked well for filming, though, and we ended up throwing a cute rug (coming soon to a class on Creativebug!) on the floor near the yarn to make a happy and almost picnic-y crafting zone. Mission accomplished.
The Craft Room: After (Part 2)
Okay, so I did end up moving everything in my bedroom back into the craft room. I just could not handle falling asleep in supreme clutter. I was lucky to have taken a few days off from work the following week with no plans to go anywhere, so I used my staycation to focus on reassessing my supplies and getting rid of things I didn’t need – which, can be really difficult when it’s a super fun crafty doodad. I think it says a lot about my lack of spare time and energy to organize my craft room when I have to use my vacation time to do it!
All kinds of past advice whizzed through my head as I sat on the craft room floor, digging through bags and boxes. Does this bring me joy? Have I used this in the last year? Is it easily replaceable? Hey, look at all these funny old products with my original branding! To be honest, I haven’t read any books about organization. I made piles for Goodwill, landfill, and recycling, and did my best.
I finally labeled all my plastic bins filled with side-hobbies like beading and book-making, plus I bought a few more to store all of the things that didn’t have a house yet. I think plastic bins are pretty unattractive, but they are a quick and easy way to organize your stuff. It will take me a little longer to find baskets or other containers to replace them, but for now, this is progress.
I did some slight shelf-rearranging to make my supplies more accessible, and I even cleared an extra shelf space to make a small area for my pressed flower diary project. I got this extra space from condensing my shipping supplies since I’m not regularly shipping crocheted products anymore. As our hobbies and businesses expand, contract, and evolve, our creative spaces can reflect that as well, and I need to keep that in mind.
I also tackled the inventory of my finished crochet projects from the last 15 years of creating for Etsy, craft fairs, and art shows. I had more than I thought! I separated these into “finished and ready for sale,” “need to be finished and posted for sale,” and “finished but keeping these for my archive.” After seeing how many bins the first two categories took, I really wanted to just donate all of it. Honestly, I have little desire to photograph and list them on Etsy. I’m keeping them for now for my to-do list, perhaps for a holiday sale, but I didn’t expect the result of this clean-up to be MORE work!
I’m happy with how everything is right now, even though I recognize that this is still a big yikes for some people. This is my stuff. It all has a purpose; there’s just a lot of it, and I know I ride a very thin line. I was actually hoping for a more exciting reveal and for a space that felt truly different, but maybe I’m not quite ready for that yet. My fold-up table is not cute at all, but it’s useful for side projects as well as filming Zoom classes, and it’s light and easy to take out of the room. Plus I’m a little more motivated now to find a new table for aesthetic reasons. I still have ugly bags and boxes of yarn, but I know exactly what projects they are for, and they will soon be gone. I ordered big cute baskets for them in the meantime.
That I was able to get my long worktable on the opposite side of the room this clear feels like an absolute miracle to myself. Good job, self! Maybe I should take a closer look at my glue and glue gun area…. If there’s a part of your creative space that makes you want to spin around and run away, that’s probably where you need to dig in.
Some people spend more time organizing than creating, and that brings them joy. I’m a bit envious of that natural tendency. I spend all my time creating and making messes. But the clutter can take over without you noticing , and it might negatively affect your creativity or even your mental health. If you keep spreading out onto different tables and in different rooms, you’re going to run out of empty tables and rooms. I’m so excited now that my spare table has space for my cute new sewing machine on it. That small win inspires me endlessly.
This space isn’t perfect by interior-design-magazine standards, but it feels like the grumbly monster that is my craft room just took a deep breath, and we can smile at each other as I walk by. Our yarn and pom pom fights will continue in the future, but I’m so happy I spent some time giving it a haircut and a good dusting. There is a lot of shame around messiness, and while clearing the clutter does feel really good, you never have to live up to anyone else’s idea of perfection or what your space should look like. You’re the one who has to work in it, and you should love every square inch. You and your art deserve it.