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Spring Clean, or Spring Cling?

Spring is upon us...and if your climate is accommodating, you've already opened your curtains and windows wide welcoming new light, fresher air, and a brighter perspective. Brighter light also serves to give you a new, fresh perspective on the environment in which you work. Is yours a workspace filled with desperation - old dusty ideas you're clinging to? Or does your space sow inspiration? Creating order in your studio and office not only reduces clutter in your surroundings—it also reduces the mental clutter that stymies your art.

The Art of Business

What serves as the focal point of your art or photography business? While some artists have a studio, darkroom and/or office, many work from a small home-based studio that serves every function--or even does dual duty as a kitchen or bedroom. Regardless of size, a clean, organized and uncluttered workspace will help you move your art more quickly from concept to product.

If your desk, a kitchen table or workbench is a functional part of your workspace, it should function as part of your creative space, too...even if it's buried in a corner of your 'studio.' Is it littered with receipts, invoices, catalogues, or yikes - your tax returns? Files and galleys? Film cans? Just as your art begins with an idea or image in your lens, your desk or work areas can be pictured in the same way. Now, how do you create it?

Time at your Fingertips

First, clear the space using time management rule number one: Handle each object only once. Determine if you need it, then ask yourself again if you really need it. Then take action: file it, pay it, mail it, store it, hang it, shelve it or delete it. Receipts are always a hazard and moving through the pile now means you won't have to rearrange it again later. File business-related receipts separate from personal ones. If you find yourself contemplating the fate of a particular piece of clutter for more than 10 minutes, move it to a resolution box or folder, to deal with sooner rather than later.

Storage and the Tools of the Trade

Lots of thematic and decorative organizational items are on the market to help you efficiently categorize your business functions and minimize the space needed to manage them. Proper storage helps you create organization, separate the art from the business and helps you maintain functionality, too. Essentials might include:

--Portable files or a filing cabinet --papered photo boxes or shoe boxes for business receipts --a bookcase or shelves --pegboards with hooks for arranging and hanging mats.

Consider purchasing storage systems for your art, photography and darkroom supplies. As you work, keep a running inventory list: eliminating clutter will reduce time and effort when ordering supplies. Keep a thinking pad and serendipitous box ready, too. You'll want to note the ideas rejuvenated by your spring-cleaning - so make sure you have a way to harness and capture the reason you placed that photo, postcard or rock on your desk in the first place. But save it as an action item for later!

Cogs and Wheels

Now that your workspace is free of clutter, take a look at your electronic systems and desktop or tabletop arrangement. What are your traditional computer hours - does the position compliment your schedule? Do you have adequate lighting? Is the keyboard placement comfortable? Are telephone, scanner, printer or other electronics you use within easy reach, but placed to limit noise generated from interfering currents? As you rearrange any motorized tools, experiment with a range of setups to find the one that best fits your way of working as well as the way the machines work together. It's prime time to remove dust, too. Once you settle on the setup, be sure to wrap and store cords. Out of sight and out of mind clears your vision for the images you want to nurture there.

The Business of Art or the Artist Unfettered

Now that you've tamed the beast of business and busywork, you'll be energized to devote an attentive, unfettered effort to your creative space. Visualize a creative system reflective of how you work, then create a circular flow that facilitates the way your art moves from idea to offspring. As you remove distractions - when one task daunts another - creative space will emerge.