Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Swamped By Sentimental Email Clutter

My name is Amy and I have a problem.

I am a collector of sentimental emails and I am swamped by sentimental email clutter.

And you?

This realization hit me yesterday when I looked at the number of emails in my inboxes (yes, I have multiple inboxes.) As I started to whack away at some of the email clutter and moved some things to one of many folders, I asked myself, “Self, are you REALLY EVER going to go back and look for that email?”

For a moment all I heard were crickets. The silence of guilt.

Then I snapped back, “No, probably not, but I MIGHT listen to that audio recording again.”

Yeah, right.

It seems in our digital age, we moved our clutter from the desk top to the, um, desktop, if you know what I mean. Where we used to collect newspaper articles and shove them into scrapbooks or binders, now we’re right or left clicking and moving electronic stuff into folders.

I’ve set up “rules” for certain emails to direct them into specific folders. Then I rarely go back and check that folder and stuff simply accumulates.

I’ve unsubscribed from some newsletters, only to join others in their place.

Buy something, get put on their mailing list, unless you un-check that request. (Tricky aren’t they. You’re automatically signed up unless YOU tell us otherwise.)

Mark an email as “unread” so you can go back and read it later. Only later turns out to be weeks or months, instead of hours or days, because that email has slipped down the queue.

Go on vacation and the email insanity multiplies exponentially it seems.

Where does the madness end?

Seriously. How do you manage your email clutter?


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A Year of Mindfulness: Empty Space

How did you do last week becoming mindful of the bottoms of your feet? This practice is an important one for me for health reasons. I have sciatic nerve pain & herniated discs. Last year I had to become mindful of my walking and placing my weight on the big toe side of my foot (versus the little toe side which was my “normal.”) Since last summer I have become very aware of the bottoms of my feet. I have to remind myself several times a day to ground my feet. My feet are essential for providing me with good posture and improved core strength.

This Week’s Practice: Become Aware of Empty Space

When I saw the title of this week’s practice I thought it literally had to do with empty spaces-empty rooms, empty boxes, empty spots inside of us. But that isn’t quite the case. In this week’s practice we are asked to shift our focus from the objects in front of us to the space around the objects.

Why would we want to focus on the empty space around an object? One reason is to break us of our “tunnel vision” where we typically focus on the object in front of us. That might be a building, a tree, animals, furniture. Instead, by being mindful of the empty space around the object, we shift our focus and invite the mind to rest.

As humans we are often identified by our objects-our books, our CDs, our collection of whatevers and whatnots. Yet when you’re in a room with your “stuff”, how often do you step back and see the background of the room? Are you even aware of the space around the stuff?

(It just popped into my head that this lack of space must be why I can’t deal with extremely cluttered rooms. I literally feel closed in, want to start tossing stuff out, and open up the space. Hmm….)

This observance of empty space can also be applied to our minds. When we let go of thoughts and the yammering in our heads, we find a sense of relief. So too when we release objects, we find a sense of relief and opening. Become aware of the empty space around objects. Begin to quiet the mind. In both you will find a sense of relief and peace.

Reflection: It is only in the world of objects that we have time and space and selves. -T. S. Eliot

Space, the wonderful something in nothing. -William Carmen Soyak III


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An Empty Studio Is Like An Empty Canvas

Last week the cleaning company was here to inspect my studio carpet and to remove the water stains left by this winter’s ice dam damage. The thought of a cleaning company coming into the studio caused a bit of anxiety in me. This meant I’d have to pick up, pack up, and clean out the studio.

Arrrgggghhhh!

Here is a picture of my studio’s current layout:

Now you understand part of my dilemma. Like any good artist, I have a LOT of stuff. The thought of packing and moving artwork, books, tools, etc is enough to send shivers down my spine. Where are those fairy godmothers when you need them?

Well, I’ll save the fancy carriage and all for later….

Anyways, with a little “Bibbidi, Bobbidi, Boo” over a few days, the books were packed, artwork stored, and tables moved.

Soon the studio looked like this:

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My studio was transformed into a nearly empty space. An empty space that now felt a little intimidating, like staring at a blank canvas and not knowing what to do with it.

Clearing out the studio has had its benefits. As I packed each box, I was forced to decide if I want to keep all this stuff. Sometimes, I would set aside some items before the box was packed. If not, I told myself I’d have to go through the box when it is unpacked and thin the art herd.

Since the studio is scheduled to be painted in the coming weeks. I can’t move everything back into it. Only essential items are allowed (and other things I’ll have to go digging to find them.) This too has been a good practice because I’m getting used to having fewer items out and around me. It opens more space physically and creatively. I know from past experience that the more cluttered my studio, the more cluttered my head, and the harder it is for me to be creative.

Here is my current, temporary layout:

This period between carpeting cleaning and studio painting is a good time to try some different layouts. It is a little too early to say whether I like this layout or not. I do like having my primary work table facing into the studio. Not sure about the L formed with the other tables. And of course I haven’t thought too much about the other floor lamps and stacks of storage drawers that are still hidden away and how they’d fit into this layout. (Or maybe they don’t and I’ll condense the materials.)

So here I am with a half finished canvas. I’m open to hearing your thoughts. Seen any studios that inspire you? If so, post a link in the comments section. Silly me packed my artist studio books & magazines.


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Studio Re-do

The last few months I’ve been thinking about re-doing my studio. Some of this was prompted when Libby Mills started her blog series on artist studios. My studio was featured on her blog in June, 2008 and her questions put a little bug in my head about changing my studio. Then the artist studio magazines started to appear in the bookstores. Oh my. I could spend quite a bit of time flipping through those magazines soaking in all the awesome studios.

However, I don’t want another artist’s studio. I want my studio. And what I’ve learned in looking through those magazines is each artist has done something in his or her studio that makes it unique. It might be the color of paint on the walls, a favorite chair, or the decor on the walls.

I want to repaint the walls in my studio this year and I’m thinking about doing just that this summer. Until then, I’ve started rearranging the tables and pulling more stuff out of the closet. As crazy as that might sound, yes, I’m actually pulling stuff out of the closet and putting it into the studio. Part of this has to do with clearing out old stuff that I haven’t used in years or perhaps never used at all. Part of this is reorganizing stuff so I can see it. I’m a great model of “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to a lot of the supplies I’ve collected.

Here is the previous table layout in the studio which had two tables off the rear wall and one table in the middle of the room.

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And a view of the closet:

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In the new configuration, I moved the table from the middle of the room and placed it short end to short end with one of the tables on the rear wall which expands my work space from 6ft to 12ft. The small 4ft table was placed perpendicular to the 6ft table. This table folds in half and is easily removed to create more floor space.

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The other change is the wire shelving you see between the two windows and the new, larger clock.

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One of these units was in the studio closet. I bought two more last fall from Target and finally put them together. Now the three shelving units are in the studio which gives me better access to my mixed media supplies. All the container drawers are labeled so I know what is in each one (more or less.) Odd as it may be, I like having all these containers in the open. It feels more like a studio by having easier access to everything. I’ve also put some of the larger items I’ve collected from various antique stores and consignment shops (such as wood candle sticks, a turquoise blue wood spool, and a wood utensil drawer organizer) on the shelves as well. (Can you tell I love perusing antique and consignment stores?)

This rearrangement has also opened up some floor space which wants to be filled with a nice reading chair and perhaps a complimentary pillow. I found a chair at a local consignment shop. I hope to get back to the store in the coming week and make a final decision on whether or not the chair is a good fit.

I’ll post pictures of the goodies that I bought at the antique and consignment shops and if I buy that chair, I’ll share that with you too.


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Flylady

Ah March, when thoughts turn to daffodils and tulips; when the herons return to the rookery and raise their babies; when you look at the pile of magazines you’ve collected over the winter, the dust bunnies breeding under the furniture, and the stack of winter clothes ready for donation and you think:

TIME FOR SPRING CLEANING!

Okay, maybe it doesn’t happen quite that way but you must admit that with the approach of spring we tend to start thinking about cleaning, refreshing, and renewing.

And that is where Flylady comes in.

Flylady was brought to my attention by Waverly Fitzgerald in her Living in Season e-newsletter.  Flylady was created by Marla Cilley.  A member of Marla’s mentoring group came up with the acroynym Finally Loving Yourself (FLY).  Prior to creating Flylady, Marla was (and still is) a Sidetracked Home Executive (SHE).  Both Flylady and SHE offer advice and ideas for housecleaning and keeping organized.

I’ve discussed in previous entries the topics of single-tasking and clearing.  Flylady applies similar principles to cleaning and organizing.  Flylady divides the home into zones.  Each week a specific zone is targeted.  Each day you spend 15 minutes (yep, just 15 minutes) cleaning or organizing a specific area in that zone.

How ingenius is that?

Flylady combines easy tips and humor that help you get through those daily chores (or weekly, or monthly, or yearly, as the case may be.)  By taking a task and limiting it to a 15 minute block of time, Flylady demonstrates that cleaning can be fun (well, okay, maybe not fun but at least tolerable) and that you will be left with a sense of accomplishment.

To keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed, Waverly suggested checking in with Flylady at the beginning of each week, checking the tasks for that week (see the Sneak Peak at the Week link), and then plugging them into your weekly schedule.  This is also smart because if you are already feeling pressed for time, you will have everything listed on the calendar or in your planner and you eliminate taking more time each morning to check the web site.

The Flylady website can be a little overwhelming as it is filled to the brim with information.  Start with the home page which highlights several sections of the website.  Admittedly it is easy to get consumed in the website following links all over the place.  I’d apply Flylady’s cleaning advice to searching her site: Set your timer for 15 minutes and take it in baby steps.


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The Unfinished Business Bucket

As I continue to work on clearing the clutter, I noticed that I had a number of unfinished projects laying about my studio.  I’m sure I’m not the first artist to develop this notorious habit.

There are pieces of art that I started in a workshop and never finished.  A project that cracked during the curing process that I thought I could fix.  An idea that seemed good when I started it but it didn’t quite turn out the way I imagined.

I don’t know why I hang-on to these pieces but I do.  I hang onto them thinking I’ll finish them someday.  In reality they take up valuable table space and I find myself simply moving them from one place to another in my studio.

I suppose I could toss them out.  For some reason that isn’t an option I’m able to accept.

Until now.

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As part of my effort to get clear and get through the clutter, I created the Unfinished Business Bucket or UBBIn this bucket I have placed these numerous projects.  The bits and pieces and scrum that have laid unfinished, undesired, unwanted.

And to myself I have given a challenge.  Once a week, or thereabouts, I will pull a piece from the Unfinished Business Bucket and make a determination: To Finish It, To Re-invent It, or To Dump It.

I don’t expect this to be easy.  There must be some pack-rat, can’t waste, I’ll find a use for it someday spirit in my past who causes this to happen.

Whatever it is I want to confront it and use it to my benefit.  I look at this as another exercise in creativity.  Perhaps by clearing out the old, I can make way for new ideas and inspiration.

Or perhaps I’ll just end up with a really clear, clean studio.

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