5 ways for artists to stop hoarding stuff

Sheila Chandra - Monday, May 22, 2017

Is your workspace full of materials spilling out of every shelf, drawer or corner? Do you find yourself having to clear up before you can even start work? Do you feel you need a bigger studio simply so that you can accommodate it all? Then you likely have a hoarding problem with artist materials. Here’s how to solve it.


Stop hoarding stuff by making sure it’s not an emotional issue

Hoarding stuff can be a way to feel as though you can control your life. Or you may find yourself hoarding stuff because you get overly attached to every single item. Believing that everything has sentimental value – or that you can effectively recycle it into another artwork. The trouble with this sort of thinking is that it means you end up saving everything ‘just in case’. On the other hand you don’t want to throw out something that’s useful. This is especially important if your art materials can be expensive or you don’t know when you’ll be able to afford any more.


Stop hoarding stuff by letting go

The first thing to do is to practice letting go. And to do that you have to have a ‘criteria’ for sorting things. Remember that your artist workspace or studio costs you a lot to heat and light and rent. That means it’s far too precious to use as storage. Storage of items should be kept to a minimum and to items you’re definitely going to need – or else you’re wasting that money because you’re not getting full use of the space. If you’re a sentimental hoarder, stop attaching stories to everything. Let them go where they’re needed. That may not be with you, so pass them on.


What should my criteria for letting go of stuff be?

I suggest you keep anything that falls into the following categories:

  1. Any materials or equipment that you’ll definitely use in the next year.
  2. Any equipment you suspect you’ll need again which will be expensive to replace.
  3. Anything you need for legal or financial reasons – contracts, invoices etc.

If you allow yourself to keep things that fall outside these categories you’ll be putting pressure on yourself to use materials that it will probably take several lifetimes to go through and use. That’s too much pressure! Keep your studio ‘lean’ so that it’s a fighting fit space for you to work in comfortably. Yes, occasionally you’ll need to replace an odd item. But that’s nothing to the amount you’d have spent on storing it in your expensive artist workspace.


Stop hoarding by streamlining what you buy

Many artists resist being categorized. That’s understandable but it’s actually very useful to become known for working in a certain colour palette or in particular materials such as metal or wood. That’s because it allows you to be instantly recognizable. But also because it means you can bulk buy with confidence. You know what you’re likely to need and what you won’t. It also means you can throw away or recycle materials you’re unlikely to need again (from one off projects or commissions) with confidence. If you have no idea what your brand is, or what you want to be working on in the future, now’s the time to do a little digging and a little planning so that you can streamline your artist materials.

If you want to know more about how to work efficiently and effectively as a professional artist, read more in ‘Organizing for Creative People’.

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