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December 18, 2005

Team Decluttering

We tried out a new way of getting rid of stuff this weekend: Team Decluttering.

Get two people together. Lay down some ground rules, like no personal attacks or mean-spirited comments. You're decluttering stuff, not each other. As you go through stuff, switch off acting as a questioner: "Why do you want to keep that? When was the last time you used it? Can we just rent one when needed?" Be aggressive, but be nice. Sometimes the decluttering person will want to get rid of something the questioner wants to keep; then you switch roles, basically.

Some people find it easier to be the questioner, some people prefer to be the declutterer. Others like both roles. Switch them back and forth.

We filled six grocery bags with stuff to give away in a few hours doing this. And we're hardly at the stage of decluttering where that's routine. The best part is that it's a shared activity, rather than a solitary thing.

December 04, 2005

Rethink Your Systems

When you've been working with a system for a while, it can get bogged down on itself. You'll notice it when you try to use the system: things will be in your way, you'll notice something that you haven't used in forever that's just sitting around in a prime location. Maybe you've changed some way you do things and you use certain tools more often than you did; maybe you've been working on a project that requires different tools than you usually use. It's not that you don't need the stuff around you, per se, but more that you need it to be in a different order.

Find a time when you can sacrifice efficiency and reorganize. For me, that meant that today, after I brought all my studio supplies home, I took them all out of their boxes and drawers and so forth and figured out what I had.

Massive declutter

The first thing I did, as I emptied the containers, was to sort things by type. In the foreground, you can see a pile of cutting tools. There's also a pile I was thinking of as "assorted" running along the back (I was sitting in that clear spot in the middle left). I put some gilding supplies, a pair of scallop scissors, twine, a slide viewer, and the carbon paper there. Most of that stuff will end up being stored somewhere; some of it will be thrown away (I'm considering it for the fake-copper foil from a project last year).

With everything sorted out and in front of me, I threw some stuff out. But not much -- these are working supplies and they've already been decluttered. I'm not concentrating on getting rid of things, just streamlining how I access them.

I chose one set of storage drawers -- I have three, but two are very heavy and I'd rather not haul them into studio every twelve weeks -- and put the most critical and frequently used items from the piles in there. You can see the bottom of the drawers in the top of the picture: they're garden-variety plastic storage drawers from a household goods store. Lightweight, relatively durable, and on casters to make them easier to move. My studio next quarter is on the third floor.

The bottom drawer is entirely devoted to glue -- I use glue a lot and have lots of different kinds, and I need it at hand pretty much all the time. I used the bottom drawer because it was the tallest and could hold the most bottles of glue upright, which is generally a good way to store glue bottles. It ended up half empty, but half empty is easier to deal with than crammed full.

The next drawer was for papers. They lie flat in there and are easy to leaf through. Actually, I didn't even move the stack that I'd stored in there earlier.

Then a drawer for scraps of wood -- I save these for projects where I need small bits -- and rolls of tape. I spent most of my time this evening sorting out the scraps of wood and throwing away from of the smaller, less obviously useful ones. I am not likely to use those, and I have plenty of others. I can't wait to graduate and throw all of them away. Or give them to an underclassman.

The next drawer was filled with those cutting tools (except the large electric foam cutter, which I don't need very often). I was surprised at how many I had.

Then the top drawer took a pile of hand tools from the center of the photo, plus my safety goggles for the workshop, some twine, and my stash of bandages and ibuprofen.

So, you ask, what of the rest of that stuff?

I've found, over the last couple of quarters, that I need things in batches, and I usually have a day or more of notice for needing them. So my collection of wood, rolls of paper, and other oddments can stay at the house, to be brought in as needed. So can the drawing pencils, coloured pencils, pastels, charcoals, most of the paint, and markers. I'm going to get some easily portable boxes for these, like I have for some other categories of supplies (mold making and wire, for example) and when I need those things, I can just grab the box and bring it in with me. Until then, it can stay in storage at the apartment, out of the way of the heavy work.

There are some things I'm going to need to bring in that didn't fit into the drawers. My drafting tools, for example, and some watercolours and drawing pens. I'll probably put those in their own boxes or containers and just bring them in with everything else at the beginning of the quarter.

Right now, I'm very happy with my streamlined tools. I've been wanting to pare down what I bring to studio, so I have more room to work and the things I need are all together and where I want them. Having this stuff in order makes me feel more productive. If I get started on next quarter and this whole system fails me, I can always gather up my boxes of supplies and haul them into the studio. Then at the end of the quarter I can reassess the system again.