9 In life/ Sewing

Cleaning my Creative Space

As neat and organized as many people think I am, I often live in chaos.  Call it right-brained organization, creative clutter, or extreme multi-tasking, I always have several projects happening and bits and pieces of each one seem to find their way all over the house, from a book left in the living room, a recipe on the kitchen counter, an open journal and CD left next to the computer, you get the picture.  I like the idea of a simple, well-organized space, but have realized after many failed organizational attempts that I need organizational systems that provide parameters for my stuff, space to store current projects within sight, and storage solutions that accommodate my need to be surrounded by the materials of whatever projects I am currently working on.  So it is a goal of mine, as the renos are being completed and our house is looking more like a real house and less like a construction zone, to create spaces that are calm, simple and inviting.     

But in all the house, there was one space where I didn’t think this ideal was possible – my sewing room.  I am lucky to have that room, a space to think, plan, ponder and create.  A space where I can enjoy my hobby, where I can leave things out without worrying about anyone having to step over them.  But it is also a space that invites the most mess and chaos.  A dumping ground for all creative projects when I clear them out from the rest of the house.  A room with half-finished projects everywhere, plus drawers and organizers overflowing with materials – and this was before I inherited all of my grandmother’s sewing supplies.  I needed a kick in the pants to get this room organized, and that is exactly what came my way at the beginning of February in the form of orgjunkie’s Organizing Challenge.  A little healthy competition always kicks my Type A personality into high gear and keeps me motivated and moving even when getting halfway through, overwhelmed by the task and seemingly out of time (failure has never been an option).     

And so, this month my creative space has become the calm, inspiring place I always wanted it to be.  Here are the before and after shots:    

This is what you used to see immediately upon entering the room before:    

Here is what you see now:    

(Please ignore the unfinished trim – it is one of the last few things we are working on in the upstairs of the house)    

The view from the hallway was a really important consideration for me when putting this room back together.  In our small house that view can be seen from the kitchen and stairway and I wanted it to feel warm and inviting.      

Here is the closet before:    

And after:  I had to make some big decisions when cleaning the closet.  I decided that the sewing room was going to be the sewing room and not a storage room, so out of season clothes were not as important as fabric storage.  I purged half of my clothes in the bedroom closet in order to make room for all seasons of clothes in the bedroom.  In the end, my closet is full of the clothes that I really love, and what else would I want to wear anyway?  

The top tote is for works-in-progress.  No more half-finished projects on the floor.  And when it is full, projects must be completed before anything new can be started.    

The back wall before:    

The back wall after:    

I moved the furniture around to make the space feel more open.  Once again this provides a much nicer view from the doorway.  And that big empty wall is just crying out to be a design wall – or the home to a quilt I am currently making out of my grandmother’s unfinished quilt blocks.    

The window-wall before:    

And after:    You can’t see it in the photo (it’s a dark and rainy day so I’m afraid these photos aren’t the best) but the magazine files are all labelled by content.  And that’s my camera cover on the table – not a stray sewing project!

I did not buy any new organizers for this cleaning project, just used what I had in different ways.  

And finally, the last wall before:    


And after:    

And because a job is really not done unless it is done completely, I made sure to organize every last button, thread and piece of fabric, including all that I inherited from my grandmother.    

Buttons before:  (These were endless.  Just when I though I had sorted the last one I would find another bag.   There were two more bags found after I photographed this lot.)    

Buttons after:    

A few more organizing after shots:    

Fabrics organized by type and size

Quilting cottons organized by colour

Embroidery floss organized by colour

 I am proud of my new space and excited about keeping it a clean, organized and creative space to be!     

Because this is a challenge, there are specific questions that need to be answered.  Here are my responses:    

1. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and were you able to overcome it?    

The hardest part was definitely purging.  As a creative person I can always imagine a use for any random thing and have a habit of saving things because I might need them someday.  I also really had a hard time parting with anything that was my grandmothers, both because it was hers, and because of the effort put in by my Mom and Aunt and Uncle in packing it all up and sending it to me in the first place.  But I was really determined to fit everything neatly back into the space and to keep the space uncluttered and useable and it was this vision that kept me going and helped me make the tough decisions about what to keep and what I could part with.    

 2. Tell us what kind of changes/habits you have put into place in order for your area/room to maintain its new order?    

Throughout the space I used containers to set parameters.  For instance, the bin in the closet which holds unfinished projects.  It gives me a place to store these (other than on the floor or draped over the table or hope chest) and establishes a limit to the number of projects I can have going at once.  I purged some of my patterns because I only have one drawer for them.  I could only keep as many buttons as would fit in the containers I had.  The fabrics I kept had to fit in the drawers or in the cubes.  These limits are sustainable.  I also am enforcing a “no dumping” rule in the room – the sewing room is now for sewing and craft projects only and everything else was either purged or had to find a new home elsewhere.    

3. What did you do with the “stuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?    

The bulk of it is on its way to a local thrift store.  Some has been sold on eBay or given away to sewing enthusiasts.  The rest has been posted on freecycle.    

4. What creative storage solutions were you able to introduce in order to create additional space as well as establish some limits and boundaries?    

One of my goals with this room was to not purchase any more storage solutions but to make use of what I already owned.  The wire cubes were definitely one of the best storage options I had and by putting them all together I was able to maximize the storage space they offered.   The button organizer was a re-purposed item from my grandfather’s wood shop, which my grandmother at some point had taken over for storing threads.  I also had a number of baskets, boxes and tins which I put to good use in separating certain items – one plastic bin for non-sewing related craft supplies, one set of drawers for scrapbooking and paper crafts, one basket for sock-doll materials, another basket for completed projects awaiting homes.    It was tempting to add more storage units into the room in order to hold more things (I had another chest of drawers that would easily fit into the room), but this is a dual–purpose room that needs to accomodate a Queen-size camp bed from time to time so I had to keep this in mind at all times and utilize the storage that the room already offered in new ways.  Clearing off the top of the long chest of drawers allowed me to use the top for my sewing books (which used to be stored in the living room), allows me to have tunes while I’m working away without disturbing the rest of the house, and provided a safe, flat, place for ruler storage.    

5. Why do you think you should win this challenge?    

 Whether I win a prize or not, I feel I have already “won” in that I have a neat, organized and useable creative space in which to engage in the activities that I love the most.  I also persevered in a difficult challenge in the most challenging room in my house, and survived the emotional upheaval of going through my grandmother’s things and deciding that no matter how much I wanted to, I just couldn’t keep it all.   I organized right down to the last button, the last scrap of fabric and piece of lace.  My purge pile could fill another room all on it’s own, and the basement area where I was storing all of my grandmother’s things went from this:    

To this:    


With this project under my belt, I feel like I can take what I’ve learned from this and tackle the rest of the house with ease.  Clean, organized, simplicity, here I come!

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  • Reply
    March 1, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    You did a great job on your space. I know how you feel about getting the job completely done. I love your storage for your buttons. I have something similar for my scrapbook doodads and things. Congrats on your space.

  • Reply
    March 1, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Wow! Truly fantastic job! Impressive.

  • Reply
    March 1, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Congratulations–going through the “emotional stuff” is the hardest of all, if you ask me. It looks great and think of all the others who are benefiting from your generosity! You did a great job.

  • Reply
    Angie (Fumbling Toward Family)
    March 1, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Aaaah. Seeing your back wall “after” pic makes me feel at peace. Nice to be rid of that clutter, huh? Great work!

  • Reply
    March 2, 2010 at 12:54 am

    great job!

  • Reply
    March 2, 2010 at 3:10 am

    This is great! I enjoyed your project so much, maybe because of the emotional impact of your grandmother’s stuff. You did a great job!

  • Reply
    March 4, 2010 at 11:49 am

    you did a great job!! 🙂

  • Reply
    March 6, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    You did a great job! It looks like such a nice, creative space to work in now.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    My sister and I are very different when it comes to things… she is a pack rat and loves to store lots, even fabric she knows she would never use and things from others she just can’t part with. So, this summer when the baby was only weeks away Nicole asked me to come and clean her sewing room and make it functional. So, we did. And, with my help her room went from overflowing, unable to walk in the door to nicely cleaned up and nicely displayed. (She has a huge penguin collection – stuffed animals, statues, books… the list goes on… and her husband limits penguin paraphanelia to this room) It was a two day huge job but we went through plenty of childhood memories, spent time together, and she has a sewing table again, and quilting fabric separated from the um… well … other… not sure what you would call half of it! And, it stopped being her husband’s dumping ground for things he couldn’t find homes for 🙂 All in all it felt great – even if my own house was still cluttered up in Timmins, she was good to go 😉

    Congrats on getting it all organized – looks great 🙂

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