Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Secret to Finishing Your Studio

There are THREE SECRETS to finishing your studio.
1.  Have company come....soon.
My son called four days ago to tell me he was coming Friday night and was bringing friends and they were staying overnight as they are enroute to southern Iowa.  Oh yeah...."could you make food, Mom?  I think about 12 of us will be staying.   We can sleep anywhere--don't worry."   (We had 14 of the most gracious, appreciative house guests I have ever enjoyed.)
Then Darling Husband asks if I could clear the pool table because he will surely want to take some of these people on in a game of pool.  The pool table infringes on my studio taking up the better portion of the center of the room.   However, this has always been the case and generally the vantage point has educated me greatly with the continuing education I get as I am privileged with a silent spot in the room as I listen to the goings on that are typical of a pool hall.  Besides, in its off-season, a pool table serves as a very fine horizontal design wall for laying out a quilt top or studying a large array of fabrics.  Very easy clean up with an upholstery vacuum tool.   Tragically my own billard skills don't advance past those  I acquired as a five-year-old rolling the balls to the pockets without a pool cue (we weren't allowed to play with them!)

With the mountain of fabric and notions under, on top of and in every walkable space of the room, I was doomed.  My last cabinets had arrived but I wasn't planning to open them until Henry returned from a trip to Minnesota on Friday (at the earliest).

While panic should set in, a familiar calm engulfed me.  Once again, a deadline would serve as my motivator.  If you are not familiar with this emotional status because you are an orderly person who always holds a tightly planned schedule, you might be missing the grand rush of adrenaline against the impossible.  Mountains aren't so challenging to climb once you realize there is much to be seen from the vantage point of the top.  However, pushing oneself out of the recliner and into hiking boots is often the most difficult step to climbing any mountain.  The wisdom of aging has brought less anxiety to these challenges because there are secrets I have learned along the way.  The first secret is ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE OF "COMPANY IS COMING."

I have even had houseguests visit when I was in the middle of painting a whole level of the house.  You know you have real friends when you can push aside paint cans and drop cloths and serve a meal.  Either that, or those people you had over for dinner while painting the house will have a doozy of a story to tell THEIR other friends.

When the deadline of guests coming or an event happening is upon us, we tend to get realistic about what we can accomplish and what might need to put aside for another time.  In this scenario, at the very least, I had to get the pool table cleared off.   Worst case scenario, I would clear a path around the pool table, vacuum it and shove everything else against the walls of the perimeter.  Had I had only a few hours, THAT is the exact path I'd have taken.

I had all the tools to get this job done, I had just been procrastinating and needed a good reason to get moving.  Didn't really want to dig through all that stuff.  But once I got rolling, it got easier and easier to decide what to keep, what to toss and what to shelf.  I also am not real torn up that it isn't all sorted.  I am not a real alphabetizing sorta girl when it comes to my toys.   Actually, I think I just try to keep organized enough to find things and not seem totally out of sorts in my days.

2.  Once your attitude is adjusted on the reality of the challenge ahead, recruit some help or relinquish some of the tasks.  Living with a man who believes that saving everything for someday is sacred, I have learned that Henry is not the person to recruit on my sorting forays.  He is not interested in tossing or giving away stuff.  Generally, I take these journeys on my own and then wave my hands at the miracle while he looks around for what treasures I might have taken to the curb.

When our kids were younger, I would pick up and box all the things to donated.  Then I would tape the boxes shut for about six weeks.  If anyone in the house could tell me something that was in the box that they are sure they couldn't live without, I would retrieve it and they could keep it forever.  Years of doing this and no one knew what was in those boxes.  I sorted through all the kids' toys and books when Katrina hit New Orleans, taping up six boxes of treasure and setting them in the family room through the holidays.  The kids relinquished quickly after making sure I'd saved favorite books, Legos and precious toys and the secured boxes happily went to an elementary school that lost everything in the hurricane.

Our daughters pitched in and helped me with generous abandon.  They've helped me before and quickly realized that taking Mom's stuff home to add to their own stacks is fraught with disaster as they have enough sewing stuff as well to manage.  Consequently, they are eager and able recruits for such a journey.  They managed to help me vision the rest of the studio, setting up the last of the shelves and sorting through mounds of inspiration. 
 Secret so important....

Then there comes that moment in time when you just have to pick up the last of the stuff and stuff it away for later decision making.  It seems this is the "stuff" that defies definition or structure.   At this point, you realize, you are looking at hours of painful decisions...  "Why did I keep this?"  "What do I do with it now?"  "Oh, I SHOULD start this again..."  If you let it, this could be paralyzing and exhausting.  So, I suggest you look for the nearest closet or deserted room.  Grab laundry baskets or boxes and use your grocery packing skills to put sturdy stuff in the bottom and fragile stuff in the top and stash and stow away all of it.  Like a good stew, these things need some simmering time.

When I go to "rescue" these orphans later, I will plan to do it one box at a time.  Each time I go into my studio, I will pull one out.  If I still feel anxious when I look at it, I will shove it back in the storage for a while.  If I have an idea of what to do with it, I will sort it and find it easier to deal with than the panic of "I have no idea." 

Perhaps the best part of setting things aside for "decisions later" is that giving yourself some time affords good perspective.  You realize that you may never macrame again in your lifetime and readily give those supplies to a school art program.  Or you realize that you can re-purpose that macrame cord for use with a double piping foot and make a rug out of it.

I recently found a massive chenille throw that I was going to make and had about 40 rows sewn.  I grew tired of it and it travelled from box to box.  Recently a new technique piqued my interest and I have figured out a fabulous use for it to sit atop a great throw or a child's garments.....All the Best to You....jill


Nancy said...

Well done! I'm impressed.

sue dove said...

Jill I have been doing some rearranging in my "studio" also and the magazines you have in the store have been an interesting inspiration for me. I also have added some more shelving for fabric and to make room in another antique bookcase for all the books I buy. It has been quite a journey to make room for the long arm table and add a new phase to my quilting. My back porch has been transformed from a TV room into the sewing room and where my machine used to be now works as a cutting table. We now have moved back into the living room for TV watching which had not been used much for several years. I have been able to double the size of my sewing room so I now have over 350 Sq ft of usable space. I am almost done and I am enjoying the space a great deal.

Keep up with your blogging. It is interesting and your life lessons are good food for thought. Sue