Creative Cleaning


A shelf in my favorite bookcase, clear and waiting for me. My grandfather made this bookcase for my mother around the time I was born, and it has always been my space for my special and favorite books and things.

Cleaning has never been my forte. I avoid it. I ignore the need until things are so awful that I have to clean just to find my stuff. I may be changing my mind.

This past week, I participated in a Get Back to Creating challenge led by Jen Louden. Each of us picked a project to focus on for the week. Before we began, I thought I would work on my revisions or perhaps on a short story I have hanging around. Day One came along, and I found myself writing that I was going to work on organizing my studio. That wasn’t even what I meant to say! But I guess it was. The clutter and boxes still unpacked after two years and general chaos have been bringing me down more and more.

I wanted to back out after the first day, change my mind, quit the challenge. But Jen said to work on the same project. And it was for such a short amount of time! I was only doing one little section of the space each day. So I did it again. And again. And at the end of Day Five, Friday, there was a noticeable clear space. And yesterday and today I found myself doing a little bit more. And today, there’s even more noticeable clear space.

So what does this have to do with creativity and writing? Everything. By Thursday I was flooded with new ideas for my novel. On Friday, sitting in a 7th grade band class, I dreamed up an entire embroidery series in my head, and it was vivid and complete enough that I was able to write it down after class, and I’ve started working on the design. Today while I was emptying a box, an entire scene that really belongs in my novel popped into my head.

Does this mean clean space is required for creating? No. My space is far from clean. But it is getting cleaner and more organized. I think having spaces you’re comfortable in while working are important. But I think doing something physical also stirs the mind, especially in this instance where I was surrounded by my creative toys and supplies and touching them and moving them around. I also think that taking the next small step you can see and doing your best not to try to see what might come later lets things unfold and open up whereas trying to force yourself to figure out what’s going to happen further out closes things off. It’s too much pressure. The slow, small steps? No pressure.

I still don’t like cleaning. I haven’t changed my mind about that. But I’ve changed my mind about wanting to do it. I hope I can keep this going and move through my house and my novel creating things just how I want them. But for right now, at least I have one completely clean shelf waiting to be exactly what I want it to be.

5 thoughts on “Creative Cleaning

  1. I love cleaning the house and have such a good feeling when I have finished the whole house and it is clean, if only for a few minutes, before the hubby and the pets descend and you can’t even tell that I spent the whole weekend on it! My office, though, is another story. I cannot keep it clean and organized and it makes me a little crazy. Just today, I cleaned out a corner of the spare bedroom, and what did I do with the extra night stand from that room? I brought it in my office. Argh! As if I have room for it!
    Anyway, I think that a clean workspace, no matter what your work is, helps you to get your stuff done. Good luck with yours!

    • Chris, if only there were some way to keep them out of our freshly cleaned spaces! LOL.

      I hope you find a way to get your office space where you want it. Good luck!

  2. As i may have mentioned a time or a few billion, Jim was many, many wonderful things – but tidy wasn’t remotely on that list. I’m dealing with a mountain range of clutter. When younger, both kids took after him – and I’m not a neatnik by a long shot despite being a couple of orders of magnitude tidier than the rest of the family.

    There’s a LOT of unfinished business here right now. Part of our healing/coping/moving forward is reshaping our home not for a family of four but for one of three.

    For me, while I love seeing the cleaner underneath of our clutter, it’s really the process of cleaning that gives me the inspiration and perspective for the big creativity. It’s really about the doing for me – the opening up to possibilities, and the process of making space. It reminds me of playing Frisbee with Jim in Oregon when we were first married. Sometimes we lost the Frisbee in the thickets, and had to go in after it with a machete. The hacking away cleared room to move forward.

    I love this energy, and it makes me both even happier about what I’ve done so far today, and the nudge I need to keep going. Sharing this one! =D

    • Shan, I love this vision of cleaning hacking away at the stuff that holds back creative thoughts. This is something I’m going to have to keep reminding myself of. I am not a natural cleaner, but I really love the energy that opens up from it, so I need to keep returning to it.

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