I’m Giving Up

As of today, I am giving up! Nope, not giving up on art, just giving up on ever having an organized, uncluttered art studio.

I’m only sharing one photo of the mess. It would be too embarrassing to share more, but believe me, the rest of the studio is just as messy and cluttered as this area.

The big bag you see — STAY ZESTY — is a new bargain I found. It’s vinyl-covered, and it’s huge! Just perfect for carrying my art supplies around like I did last Thursday when my husband visited his retinologist. It’s nice to have one bag that can hold everything I want to take with me, but it’s just one more way of losing track of what’s where.

The trashbin you see is filled with old painting shirts and rags. You can see some of my “art station bins” where I keep materials for different media, and you can get a glimpse of my drying racks. It’s all a mess. Everywhere I look there’s a mess, and I can’t keep up with it.

We have guests coming for Memorial Day and their first comment was “Oh, we can’t wait to see your art studio!” So, I’ve been thinking about cleaning it up. But how? As I’ve said before, where do I even begin? I wasย chipping away at the dots for a while, but once the studio looked presentable again, I stoppedย chipping and soon the mess was everywhere around me once more.

I finally just shrugged and said “I give up.” Visitors to the studio will just have to see a messy studio. There’s no way to clean it up and keep it clean.

Art is messy. I’m learning to accept that my studio will never be well-organized with everything always in its place. The best I can do, I think, is to stay with some basic “rules” for the studio.

  • All canvases go in the supply closet on the shelves so I always know what’s there.
  • All sketchbooks, drawing pads, and packs of paper go in the supply closet too.
  • As much as possible, I’ll try to keep things close to their “assigned” stations. That means all my watercolor materials go in one place — more or less — and all my drawing supplies go in another place — more or less — and the same for other media.

There are always things, however, that need to be out within easy reach as I work on different projects. I keep a set of pencils on my desk. I have scissors, a glue stick, an Exacto knife, a white gel pen. I’m always reaching for those.

I’m also keeping a tin filled with watercolor brushes on my desk. I’m using them a lot more now than before. I use them not only for watercolor, but sometimes with acrylics, and sometimes even with a bit of oil or alcohol as I work on my oil pastels. Having them close at hand is helpful.

The biggest problem, perhaps, is the “art clutter”. While I hate to think of my artwork as mere “clutter”, that’s what a lot of it is. I don’t throw art away — except for an occasional disaster that I have to trash. I have old watercolors going back to 2016 when I first tried learning to paint. Of course I still have all my graphite sketchbooks, and I’ve got a nice collection now of “mixed media” sketchbooks, too. And I always keep my oil paintings, even the awful ones. Those canvases can be painted over and re-used.

But what do I do with this mess? Do I sort through it and start throwing things out? Do I find better ways to organize it all? Do I pick out the old artworks I like, frame them, and get them on the walls? That’s one thing I’d like to do, but it all takes time.

I have to live with the fact that I will always have a messy studio, but as long as I can make it anย efficient mess, I guess that’s all right. For me, that means keeping art supplies “sorted out” as best I can. It means always knowing where to find my canvases or drawing pads. It means knowing where those fun little tools are — like that corner punch that rounds off corners, or those white charcoal pencils I lose so easily. It means knowing where to look for watercolors, or for acrylics, or for pastels. And it also means unpacking all those art supplies I carry around after I come back home.

Having our cat, Flower Child, also adds another layer of necessity to studio organization. I have to be sure paints or other toxic substances are put away. I have to be sure she can’t damage a work in progress by jumping on a table or knocking something off. So, yes, I do still have work to do.

I want to give up and say “It is what it is,” and for the most part that is what I’m doing. But not completely. I will make sure that “what it is” is safe, that “what it is” is efficient enough to work in, and that “what it is” is comfortable for me. Beyond that, I’m throwing up my hands and giving up, because mostly “what it is” — and what it will always be — is one big mess.


  1. I see some Rubbermaid storage containers which is one step more organized than what I have (loose, messy piles and beat up dusty cardboard boxes from the move four years ago. Ahem.) But I know where everything is in them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Here’s a tip I learned… the containers are great, but I needed to identify them, too. I’ve used a Sharpie or adhesive labels to MARK EVERYTHING! It’s not fun to rummage through a box wondering what I might find. The labels really help.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand exactly what you’re dealing with. It’s so hard to keep a tidy space when you’re trying to be creative. Probably the messiest I’ve ever seen is the Francis Bacon studio that was relocated and is exhibited at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. It’s truly amazing that this man managed to be so creative in such clutter. Can be seen online. Keep up the creativity

    Liked by 3 people

    1. LOL… yes, I’ve seen his studio. Oh, my goodness. I hold that image in my mind at times, so I can think, “Well, at least my studio isn’t THAT bad!” The worst part of it, though, is when people come to the studio. I know they expect it to be a bit messy, but when it’s really bad, it does embarrass me.

      Since I’ll be having visitors to the studio next week, I’m going to try to at least get things somewhat in order!

      Wish me luck. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes – indeed I do wish you lots of luck Judith. Of course you feel the need to create a good impression, but your visitors will be much more interested in what you create in there, than in how untidy it is. Maybe throw a beautiful table cloth over some of the clutter ๐Ÿ˜„

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hahahaha….. I know the feeling! It happened to me when I had to organise a book club meet and all the members wanted to see my little library – book collection. Happy De-cluttering and organising, Judith. I know you’ll do a fab job!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You might just need a visit to your local resale or used furniture store (NOT antique store) I found a really cool ‘coat rack’ that holds my aprons and paint shirts… no more bucket! it can bedifficult to find just the right items to hold your supplies, but dont give up… One area at a time IS the way to go. my studio has been rearranged and reorganized about 6 times in 3 years.. LOL trust me… Sit back and design a PLAN. On paper… Where you want things to be… accesible to YOU for how you use them. Start Vague. THEN… decide what could “hold” those said items… and look in garage sales, resale shops and the like… you will be amazed… repurpse things you have elsewhere… ? I wish you luck and i want to see PICTURES!!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ … Ruth

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the tips. You’re right. I really need to start with a plan. I did that at first, then had to re-think everything, and after we adopted Flower Child last year, I had to change things all over again to “cat-proof” the area.

      My first step is to pick up all the clutter and get it where it belongs… as well as putting away various things that I’ve gotten out. Once I have that done, I can think more about what I really need and start setting it all up more efficiently. I do have an old coat rack I’ve been planning to move to the studio area to hold my paint shirts. And thank goodness I do have 2 large closets. I just need to sort them out again.

      There are so many things that I like keeping out within easy reach — a couple sketchbooks, my little Cotman watercolor set, a can filled with watercolor brushes, painter’s tape, a set of drawing pencils, a glue stick, scissors… and on and on. I try to keep my desk clean, but that doesn’t last more than a day.

      It’s a never-ending struggle, isn’t it!


  5. I wanted to address a couple of your questions:

    From above: “I have old watercolors going back to 2016 when I first tried learning to paint. ”
    SO DO I!! and I found these black books with page protectors in them, to organize watercolors. Pick out the ones you want to frame… put them in plastic sleeves and hang by clips until you can frame them. I strung a wire from one corner of my room to the other (near the top) and used clothespins to hang watercolors until i got platic sleeves. they are HUNG! in sight, artistically!

    “…canvases can be painted over and re-used. ” — YES so give them ONE shelf in that closet where you have blank canvases.

    “…But what do I do with this mess? Do I sort through it and start throwing things out?” – NO!!

    “…Do I pick out the old artworks I like, frame them, and get them on the walls? ” – YES!! and until you can get the frames you WANT, go to resale stores and buy cheap frames and mount your artwork on the BACK of the frames!… Email me for more details ๐Ÿ˜‰

    You have a good start! Keep going!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The notebooks and page protectors sound like an awesome idea! I’ll start going through those stacks, and maybe I’ll have my husband hang a wire where I can “clip” a few paintings. Mostly I have them sitting all over the studio.

      One thing we’ve talked about doing but haven’t gotten around to is covering at least part of one wall with cork so that I can pin things on it like a bulletin board. I’ll mention that to my husband again. I think that would be very helpful.

      Thanks again for sharing all your ideas!


  6. Cheers to a happy mess and finding your own organization methods that makes you feel zen and able to do your best work. I learned long ago I like to see a lot of my tools, so open shelves and file folders feel good.

    Liked by 1 person

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