Entries Tagged as: dis/organization

Finding a balance between push and release
Guest Post by Jennifer Hofmann, Inspired Home Office

September 2nd, 2009, Comments (14)

In order to drive a nail into a board, there's the obvious downswing that pushes in the nail. Equally important is the back swing in which you prepare for the next push.

If you're driving a car, pressing the accelerator is only half of the "getting there" equation. You also have to decelerate at the appropriate time, or your car will be in a world of hurt.

To accomplish just about anything, what's needed is a balance between push and release.

Like most of the creative people I know, I have a frustrating tendency to focus on the push. In fact, as I write this, I'm in the process of trying to convince myself that I don't want release at all (even though I need it). Instead, I should actually be pushing harder. Frustrating.

Push is not a resting state

When you're in a period of intense creating, you lose the ability to contrast it with your resting state. The creative state begins to feel like normal, the baseline, when it isn't.

The trouble is, that pushing harder and forcing work out of ourselves turns off the creative flow. Inspiration goes from a gushing torrent - to a trickle - to a dry river bed.

Pausing is vital to the creative process. Taking a break, releasing the pressure, is what fills us back up again. Once we're replenished, you can create again without struggle.

But it's hard.

If you live in the States, you're probably unaware of how much drive is a part of our culture. Productivity. Proving our worth. It's a silent message, but ingrained and ever-present.

Because of this, slowing down to replenish is counter-culture. Pausing is like swimming against a powerful stream. I often find myself feeling guilty and apologizing for taking time to nourish my spirit. Sometimes I just ignore my need to stop because it's so hard to claim it.

Lately, I've been on an earnest search to discover what replenishes me. Recently, I was surprised to find that I was trying to concoct an "inspiration pill" which would allow me to quickly find my center and begin working again.

It's laughable, isn't it? Hurry up and slow down! In truth, pausing takes as long as it needs to and, by nature, can't be hurried.

What I do to find inspiration

Interestingly, the word "inspire" means to breathe in. So oxygen is a good start. I also like to breathe in quiet - whether that comes from actual silence or my noise-canceling headphones. Removing sound helps me hear the important messages that come from inside.

In my heart of hearts, the thing that nourishes me most is singing old hymns from my days as a music minister. It's been years since I sang at Mass on Sundays, but I get out my guitar and a big binder of sheet music and play until my fingertips are throbbing.

Something about the lyrics reminds me that I'm just a tiny star in the human constellation... and this is a good thing. These hymns remind me that it's God/Universe who's making the stars turn, not me. That it's safe to let go and trust. I don't have to control everything (even though my ego wants to).

After a session like this, I have happy tears and a deep feeling of release. Suddenly there's room in my life again for all the things I love. Things come back into balance again.

It took me a long time to figure out that this is what works for me. And it will probably take the rest of my life to find ways to not resist doing it. I'm okay with that. Like everything in life, it's a process, not a destination.

What works for you? How do you pause and replenish?

Bio: Jennifer Hofmann was not born organized. In fact, her creativity and ADD meant she started projects she never finished, was surrounded by clutter, and struggled to keep up with everyday tasks. Today, Jennifer still isn't the poster child for House Beautiful, but she understands people who struggle with clutter and overwhelm and offers unique solutions that help small businesses grow and thrive.

If you've tried to get organized in the past and failed, you're not alone. Jennifer's approach helps small business owners discover their natural strengths and how to integrate them so that organizing becomes easy and enjoyable. Based in Salem, Oregon, Jennifer teaches teleclasses and coaches entrepreneurs – please visit her at www.inspiredhomeoffice.com.

Creating Space for Creativity

May 7th, 2009, Comments (10)

Yesterday I took an Office Spa Day class with the super sweet, Jennifer Hofmann. This year I've done a lot of clutter clearing in my office/studio space and it's felt fabulous to unload so much. It's amazing to me how much clearing my physical space clears my mental space as well.


A few months ago, I spent a couple weeks doing a half-hour of clutter clearing every day. That worked well for awhile, but after I'd reached my goal of doing it for 2 weeks, I was ready for a break. The major advantage of doing clutter clearing at a regular time every day is that it takes the planning out of it. I just knew that at 11 am every day, I was going to spend 30 minutes doing this clutter clearing business and then it would be over. Small chunks of time is good. Planning a specific time is also good. But did I want to be doing that forever? No. So, I went back to occasional clutter clearing and maintenance and that was working fine for me, until I noticed that there were a couple areas I was avoiding. Sticky spots.

One of those spots was behind my office door. I keep my office/studio door open most of the time, so it provided this not-so-secret clutter hiding spot. And it was growing. The dust bunnies, an old Reebok step, two yoga mats, some old picture frames, a bunch of free cloth bags I got at various events, a dress....Oh, and did I mention the dust bunnies? Yeah, they were multiplying like crazy. Doesn't seem like a big deal perhaps, after all it was out of sight 90% of the time, but it was weighing on me. I knew it was there and it was also expanding to the point where I couldn't open the door all the way. At the rate it was going, there was soon going to be enough stuff "hidden" back there that I wasn't going to be able to open the door at all. Ack!

So, I'm learning when to ask for help and I knew that scheduling the time for an Office Spa Day (a fun, gentle way to clear some clutter in your space) would do the trick. Jennifer asks some excellent questions when it comes to clearing clutter including, "Does this (fill in your clutter item here) support who I am and where I'm going?" Asking this sort of question helps make it so much more clear and easy to get rid of the stuff that I've been unsure about what to do with.

I spent an hour cleaning out the space behind my door, getting rid of some crap behind my bookcase, and clearing off my inspiration board. And lo and behold, I can now open my office door. I immediately felt a sense of openness, both literally (the door can open all the way, yay!) and emotionally.

So, what does this have to do with creativity? Well, clearing space on occassion helps make room for new things to bloom, whether in your business, in your mind, or in your art. Physical space relates so much to our mental space. I find this happens with selling my art too. Even though I sometimes get a little sad when I sell a piece of art, I simultaneously love helping to brighten someone else's space with art and when I move art of my space, it helps make room for new art to be created. It has something to do with flow, keeping things moving, feeling expansiveness, openness, and room for possibility.

When you look around your creative space, do you see things that do not support you in you and your creativity? Try removing (tossing, storing, giving away) just a few things and see how it makes you feel. What might it open up for you?

More clutter-clearing resources:

Wow, looking over this list I'm realizing that I must have a thing for de-cluttering specialists! Ha! I think it's because all these ladies have a super sweet, gentle way of approaching something that's especially sticky for me. Go check out what they have to offer and make some room for the creativity that's waiting to bloom.

De-Cluttering to Find Your Flow

March 20th, 2009, Comments (19)


Today is the first day of Spring. Aaaaaah! (That was me singing angelically.) Just writing that puts in a little skip in my step. Longer days, warmer weather, and soon things will start sprouting green everywhere. Hooray! One thing I can say about winter in New England, it makes you really, really appreciate when Spring comes around. Granted, it is New England, so we could get whopped with a snow storm tomorrow, but still, Spring is here.

Spring and cleaning seem to go together. It's a time to shed the winter skin, the many layers, and all the accumulated dust and clutter that built up over the colder months.

I have to admit that I'm not a fan of cleaning. Neither is the hubster. We're both messy. Years ago, instead of continuing to argue about how he never took his turn cleaning the bathroom, we decided to hire someone to come twice a month to do the hardcore cleaning for us. Best decision we ever made. O.k., that may be exaggerating a tad, but seriously, it was a great decision. I knew the woman who does the cleaning for us already because she cleaned the house of the family I used to nanny for. I knew she was trustworthy, kind, and did a great job. I also knew that she sent most of her money to her mom in Columbia. So, it works out great for all parties.

Sometimes, even though you CAN do something (of course, I'm fully capable of cleaning), that doesn't mean you shouldn't hire someone to do it for you. It's all about setting priorities and knowing how you want to spend your time and money. 

So, while I'm not about cleaning right now, I am all about de-cluttering...a different sort of cleaning that may seem like a boring task, but is actually all about creating space for the things you want in your life: your business, your projects, your art, your creativity, etc...

It's perfect timing (again) that this week's chapter in The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, which I'm reading with Jamie Ridler's fabulous book group, is all about the Power of Subtraction. I loved this quote at the beginning of the chapter:

The first step in starting an enterprise is to clear the space for it, or till the ground. This clearing process is a must....We like to think just forging ahead is going to be enough to start, but when you run into gnarled old roots where your new plants need to grow, you've got problems. - Barrie Dolnick, Simple Spells for Success

Author Gail McMeekin talks about the Power of Subtraction in this way:

Here I encourage you to get rid of everything you neither need nor want in your life. This includes anything from old sneakers to outmoded dreams. To create a life of positive choices, you must let go of whatever blocks your creative zest.

This is a great continuation of the idea of positive priorities that I wrote about last week. And I think it also relates to allowing a sense of flow in your life. What blocks your creative flow? How can you remove those blocks in a way that is managable for you?

If clutter is a block for you, what one small step can you take? What teeny tiny step will give you a increased sense of ease in your life?


I like to imagine my clutter clearing is like this fence and I'm slowly opening more and more bars to uncover the river underneath.

I seem to be all about water lately. Wednesday I took a long walk and did some journaling by a river. Water seems to be such a great source of calm and inspiration for me. And today, my piece Lady of the Lake (below) is up at artist, Cathy Nichol's blog for her Found Art Friday project! I just added prints of this piece to my shop, which you can read more about and purchase here.



- Be sure to check out Jamie's latest interview with professional organizer, author, and mentor, Sunny Schlenger.

- You can also sign up for the free book group celebration call that's happening, Friday, April 3rd, here.

Creating Your Dream Team

March 1st, 2009, Comments (3)

This week's chapter in The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, which I'm reading with Jamie's book group, talks about creative alliances and partnerships. I liked how A Feminist Wife called it her "dream team." It fits perfectly with the (totally optional) dream theme this month for the Creative Every Day Challenge.

I have used the idea of an imagined dream team before (people living and dead that I could consider personal allies), but it's been awhile since I thought about who I would put on my team. Among those I don't know, I'd love to have SARK as an ally as well as Martha Beck. Both of these women are intelligent, funny, creative, down-to-earth go-getters, and totally inspiring. I admire their honesty and integrity in the telling of their stories, their energy, and their wild success!

Fortunately, I'm lucky to have some wonderful creative alliances with people I already know. I have an awesome coach, a sort of Mastermind group that I meet with regularly, and I enjoy taking classes where I meet other like-minded, creative souls. One of my greatest alliances is with the hubster who is a wonderful champion for me and my bff has always been incredibly supportive.

I've made many creative alliances online (one of the wonderful things about blogging!) and I'm extremely grateful for that. It's been so helpful for a super introverted person like myself, as I can feel connected and respond in a way that feels good to me, without feeling the energy drain that happens for me in crowds of people.

I've been working on asking for help lately and it's definitely been interesting. The act of asking makes me feel a bit vulnerable, but it also gives others the opportunity to help (and people generally love to help others, particularly when it's something they're passionate about.)

Along those lines, I've approached some people I admire about doing interviews for Creative Every Day this year and the response has been wonderful. I'll be posting one of these interviews this week! In the meantime, check out this fabulous interview that Jamie Ridler did with the lovely Goddess Leonie.

Playing with Words in Art

February 3rd, 2009, Comments (13)

sketchbook swap blah I decided to play with words in art last night as I watched some of the Super Bowl with the hubster.

I used a moleskine that I'm drawing in as part of a sketchbook swap and drew in a few pages just to see what might come up if I drew. The first drawing was inspired by the slouchy pose my husband was making at one point in the evening. I imagined the buzz of thoughts running through his head, all leaking out and landing neatly in a nearby fishbowl.

I sometimes enjoy writing what I imagine the figures are thinking about in my art, like I did in my "Subway Stories" paintings, in which I collaged Subway maps and train schedules, painted a subway scene over that in acrylic and then within the figures I drew what I imagined they were thinking about. "Subway Stories: Green Line" is below. (The original is sold, but you can buy prints of it here.) I'm doing a commissioned Subway Stories painting for someone who met their soon to be husband on the train. So sweet. I usually think of art as a way to express what I can't say verbally. I suppose words in art are just another way to tell the story.

subway stories green line

Another page from my sketchbook swap moleskine. More words, this time just the action itself, "jump!" I seem to have a thing for striped tights at the moment.

sketchbook swap jump

Looking for more word inspiration? Well, I've got loads of it!

  • Ms. Dawn Doran from The Knitting Gnome blog emailed to let me know about this cool art and writing collaboration called Spark, art from writing: writing from art. Here are the details from organizer, Amy Souza: The next artistic/literary exchange starts on Feb 13th; ends Feb 22nd. Again, pick 2 days (48 hours) in which to work. They don’t have to be contiguous. You send your inspiration piece to your partner (and Amy) by the 13th; send me finished work by the 22nd/23rd. The theme this time is “hope.” Not sure how it’ll work out, but if you have an inspiration piece that says “hope” to you, send that to your partner. If not, just send her whatever you want. But I’m asking everyone to look at their partner’s work through the lens of “hope.” Again, it’s so vague, you can define it how you want, and if nothing comes to you through that lens then forget it and just let the piece inspire you. You need to let Amy know if you're interested in participating by this Friday, February 6th, by contacting her at or get more info on her site here.
  • Blogger, Writer, and Massage Therapist, Heidi Fischbach is offering A Month of Living Curiously, a month of inspiration and guidance via email sure to spark your creativity through the wonder of words. Check out all the details here!
  • I loved reading the written responses to my painting at Pictures, Poetry, and Prose yesterday! Laura mentioned this in the comments, but I wanted to be sure that everyone knows that she is always accepting submissions from artists. What a wonderful way to collaborate and join the creative energies of visual art and the written word!

Honoring Your Inspiration

January 16th, 2009, Comments (38)

The second chapter of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, which I'm reading with a book group here, is all about honoring your inspiration. This is so important and part of the reason why I keep sketchbooks within arm's reach at all times. It may drive the hubster a little nuts because of the excess of paper I have around me, but if I'm having lots of ideas, it's so helpful for me to get them down. For one, I feel better after releasing the ideas from my head and I also capture lots of bits and pieces that I might have forgotten had I not taken the time to sketch, write, or scribble some stuff out.

There's a lot packed into this particular chapter, it ranges from carving out a sacred space, to creative ritual, to play! Yes, according to author, Gail McMeekin, play is an important factor for us creative people! So for you Creative Every Day Challenge participants who have been resisting getting playful, now's the time to give it a go! I'm planning some posts for next week about how to get playful if you're feeling really stuck around it.

At the end of the chapter, there's a challenge about taking a "Creative Style Inventory." I'll share my answers with you here:

  1. When did your creative awakening or reawakening occur? I've always felt like I was a creative person, but there was a period, right after I graduated from art school where I felt a bit dead creatively, like my fire had been put out. It can be hard, especially for us sensitive folks, to go through something like art school and come out the other side feeling good about what we create. I left with the feeling that everything had to be a certain way, a "right" way and as a result, I felt little to no desire to create. Nothing felt good enough. It took me awhile to break free of the art teacher voices I heard in my head when creating. I had to get back to being playful (part of the reason I think play is so important) and I also got back to creating from my intuition (something I'd been discouraged from doing.) I literally got away from the easel and started creating while on the floor, I took classes in intuitive art making, and began to really enjoy the process again. I had to find my way back to the joy in creating, but in a way I'm glad I went through that process as I feel much more in touch with my creative side now than I did before. 
  2. What talents do you have naturally? I think I'm a natural peacemaker, I tend to put people at ease. I'm an artist. I'm good at encouraging others. And I'm naturally silly. :-)
  3. What elements (fire, water, wood, air) draw you toward them? I'm drawn to all of the elements at different times, but I'm drawn most strongly to water. It soothes me.
  4. Where and when do you create? Where and when do you wish to create? I create mostly in my home studio space, but I can create just about anywhere. I create usually in the afternoon and evening and I'm fine with that.
  5. What activates your creative energy, and what drains it? My creative energy is activated by inspiring reading, movement (like taking a walk or yoga), playing, journaling, and taking classes. What drains it is too much time in front of the computer or television, sleeping too long, and overwhelming messes (some mess is o.k., but it can get to a point where I can't handle it anymore.)
  6. Do you use creative rituals? Sometimes. I usually begin creating by closing my eyes, taking a breath, and giving myself permission to make "bad" art. :-)
  7. Does nature influence your creativity? Absolutely! I'm constantly inspired by the forms of nature, the color combinations I see in the world, the cyclic patterns of life. It shows up in my work constantly.
  8. What has been your greatest creative hurdle so far? Probably the one I mentioned in answer to question number 1.
  9. What time of day are you most receptive to inspiration? I don't know that there's a particular time of day...A lot of my ideas seem to come in the evening when I'm feeling a little tired or in the hypnogogic state just before sleep. I think it's because my mind is tired enough to let subconscious imagery slip through which creates some fabulous images for me.

After looking over what I've written, I think what I most need to do is do a little cleaning and clearing in my studio space. I've been slowly tackling it throughout the week, but a more concentrated effort would be a good thing. Makes me want to do one of Jennifer Hofmann's office spa days!

Happy New Year and The Creativity Log!

January 1st, 2009, Comments (28)

Happy New Year, you Creative Wonders! I've been working on a series of pages for a "Creativity Log," a way to keep track of your daily creativity. You can fill in the dates, so you can start anywhere and write something like, "1/1/09: Got creative in the kitchen, tried some new spices in a chicken dish" or "1/3/09: doodled in my sketchbook" or "3/5/09: Finished tree painting." There may be days that what we've worked on isn't something that can be captured in a picture and sometimes you may not have time to blog about it. But it is fun to look back and remember all the ways in which you were creative.


As my New Year's gift to you, you can save the image above, which is a .jpg, or click on the download link below to download the image as a pdf. You can then print it out and use it as you wish! I've got it divided up for 7 days, so you could theoretically print out one for each week to record a year's worth of creativity! Or you could use this as a model to create your own creativity log. I started out last year keeping track of my daily creativity and then let it slide as the year went on. Well, I do believe that what you focus on expands, so I think a log is a great way to further focus my attention and intention on daily creativity. Feel free to use or ignore on your own creative journey!
Download Creativitylog

De-clutter and Dance

November 7th, 2008, Comments (15)

I finished up "Walking in Circles" today. It's about 9"x11" with acrylic paint, ink, gel medium, and a bit of collage on watercolor paper.

It was rather gray out today, but I didn't mind one bit as I spent the day doing some more de-cluttering. Boy oh boy, was I overdo for some clutter clearing! I'm not going to beat myself up about it because, well, I'm making progress, bit by bit. I focused on my desk today, filing my to-be-filed pile and sweeping away the build up of dust around my desk chair. One little corner at a time. Progress feels slow, but excellent. Soul Coaching focused a bit more on de-cluttering today along with a look at how you relax and have fun. I often feel lazy, but I have a lot of trouble doing nothing. Something to look at. I put another ipod session to good use while folding laundry today. Good, loud music can make chores so much more enjoyable! What do you like to listen to when you're cleaning? Do you listen to anything while you create?

I sometimes do and sometimes don't. In the last few months, I've thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audio versions of the Harry Potter series read by Jim Dale (who is simply awesome.) I loved the books and never really thought about listening to books until recently. I was introduced to the wonders of audio books when a post at Christine Kane's blog convinced me to check out the audio version of Martha Beck's Steering by Starlight (Beck reads her books for the audio versions and she's so funny!) and then branched into the Harry Potter series on the recommendation of Jim Doran, which has been great fun. I find these audio books great company when doing my least favorite chores (like dishes), when I need some convincing to go on a walk, and sometimes when I'm painting and want to shut out the world. I laugh out loud while I listen. :-)

As for music... well, for cleaning purposes I generally want music that's upbeat and fun, sometimes funny and always great to dance to (dancing while you clean is highly recommended.) Today's listening included Weird Al's "Trash Day" (very appropriate), George Michael's "Freedom 90," Supertramp's "Dreamer," Beck's "E-Pro," Destiny's Child's "Lose My Breath," Scissor Sisters' "Music is the Victim," and Prince's "Kiss." Other good ones for shakin' your tush: Missy Elliot's "Work It," Liz Phair's "Whip Smart," Cake's "The Distance," and Stevie Wonder's "Superstition." Well, that gave me an idea...here's a little treat for you. I put together a mix-tape of the songs I just mentioned. Feel free to use while you make art, clean up the house, or dance around in your underwear. Enjoy!

MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes

Celebrate Every Advance!

November 6th, 2008, Comments (18)

Ah, my migraine left and today felt productive. I did some serious de-cluttering as part of my work with Soul Coaching, choosing a corner of my bedroom that has been bugging me for ages. I put my favorite cleaning mix on my ipod, blasted it loud and got to work, sweeping up the cobwebs and dust, separating out the trash, putting things away, and cleaning the surfaces. It kind of amazed me how much time and energy it took to do this one corner and it was overwhelming if I thought about doing the whole room. But I didn't think about the whole room. Baby steps, baby steps!!! As author Denise Linn suggests, "Celebrate every advance!" Woohoo! I'm celebrating my clean bedroom corner! While cleaning, there were a few funny little synchronicities in the things I came upon, including a list of values I'd written out over a year ago. I need to check that list against the one I wrote this week and see how they match up!

I had fun with some art-making time this evening. I did a small piece on a 4"x4" canvas in acrylics based on a sketch from my sketchbook. I don't always bring my sketches to fruition, so it's nice when a little push gets them done. I'm calling it, "By the Light of the Silvery Moon."

This piece was all play and experimentation. It's not quite done, but I'm liking it. I put two leaves on the image at the end, but they're not attached. I really love the way it's come together. I'm calling it, "Walking in Circles."

In need of some inspiration? Check out Design for Mankind's latest zine! This month, the theme is the handmade market. You can view it for free online or purchase a print copy. If you're looking for something to listen to while you create, check out the latest Craftcast podcast which features an interview with Daniel Vosovic (from season 2 of Project Runway!) who has a new book out called, Fashion Inside Out: Daniel V's Guide to How Style Happens from Inspiration to Runway and Beyond. It sounds like a great read with lots of discussion about the creative process. And I'm sure it's visually inspiring too!

p.s. I love Ugly Betty!

Cat Tales

October 30th, 2008, Comments (6)

Today was a good day. I felt so bright and cheery. I got a bunch of errands done (sigh of relief), had some nice chats on the phone, did some organizing (!!), and painting. Ahhh...

I've got pictures to share tomorrow of some fun drawings I've been working on, but I had to share these cute kitty stories before then. I'm watching my cat Tabbers make a nest on the couch as I type this while Sadie is snoring away behind me. I may be a crazy cat lady, but I truly love all animals. When I was a nanny, the family I worked for had two dogs and I loved spending time with them during the day and then coming home to my kitties at night. I was definitely covered in pet hair 24/7!

O.k., I'm a total goofball, but when I saw this last night on CNN, I cracked up. It's a video of a shelter where, along with a radio station, they're holding a "Kitty Caucus" where litter boxes are being used to tally votes for McCain and Obama. The kitties are too cute. I hope some of them get seen and adopted!

And then today, I saw this video of a sweet Australian dog named Leo, who helps firemen save a litter of kittens from a fire. Oh, so sweet! At the end of the video he gives the kittens a good lick. :-)

I hope these videos brighten your day a bit!