Friday, January 11, 2013

What Makes You Unhappy? Part 1

Now that we've explored what makes you happy about papercrafting, let's take a look at what makes you unhappy. I found this list particularly interesting because it falls essentially into four categories: feeling overwhelmed, the business of stamping, life, and the stamping process. The first two are pretty big topics, so I'll deal with each in separate posts, then a third post will cover the last two.

Today's Topic: Feeling Overwhelmed
  1. messy craft area
  2. too much product, too many tools
  3. too many techniques and ideas
  4. pressure to produce (Christmas, birthdays, design team)

1 and 2. Oh, yeah. I don't know ANYTHING about messy craft areas. *snort* This hobby has a way of overwhelming even the most even-keeled and placid personalities. There's just so much stuff, especially if you're frequently trying new techniques, just getting started and trying lots of different things, keeping up with trends, or varying your style a lot.

It's hard to organize all that stuff, and it's even harder to organize in such a way that you don't forget what you have. Once you get it organized, you have to keep it organized. That's called cleaning, and who wants to do that?

When mess equals stress, there are things you can do to lessen it. I'm a tiny bit AR/OC...not enough to require medicine and therapy, but just enough to enjoy (well, mostly) the process of organizing and "setting right" my stuff. But even I was overwhelmed by the task early on simply because the sheer quantity of papercrafting supplies made organizing and reorganizing a serious time-sink. After several huge purges of stuff over a period of two years, I feel much lighter, and my latest reorganization took only an hour or two.

Sometimes, less is more.

I've found purging in stages to feel more comfortable than trying to get rid of everything all at once. Start by filling boxes with tools or product you haven't used in a while and suspect you might not use again. Pick a future date to write on the box...say, six months or a year in the future. Store the box away from your craft area. After the date, if you haven't retrieved anything, you don't need it anyway. Sell or donate the stuff.

The only times I have EVER regretted getting rid of something were when I was doing challenges. The oddest random things come in handy when you're doing lots of challenges. But I ALWAYS found a way around the missing craft item.

If you love having more, more, more, then just bless that mess and do your best not to fret about it.

I know, I know. Useless advice is worse than no advice.

If you're dealing with a room full o' chaos, it might take days or weeks to dig out from under it, and days or weeks a year later, and days a year after that, and hours every year after that. Don't fall into the trap of believing that if you organize right, you'll only have to do it once. It's helpful to accept that organization is an ongoing, never-ending process.

There are huge advantages to regular organization: 1) it's easier to remember what you have, 2) it's a great way to get inspired when you're in a slump...there's so much cool stuff hiding in our stashes, 3) it's a break after a huge project (like making 200 Christmas cards or decorating a baby shower), 4) you can readily identify stuff in your stash that you're no longer in love with and can donate or sell, thus clearing space for new stuff, 5) the satisfaction of finishing the organizing and sitting down to a clean desk to work.

Those are all good reasons to embrace the never-ending process of organization.

If you can reach a point of mostly organized, cleaning up after big projects is easier. I make giant messes when I work, but when I finish making a few cards or a whole project, I tidy my work area completely. Since my purges, that tidying takes a minute or two and isn't at all intimidating or's just time well spent.

There are lots of websites and television shows about organizing, so I won't spend time here telling you what you can learn from other places. There's also a special edition from Creating Keepsakes on newsstands showing people's craft spaces...lots of great ideas in there!

I will say that the most sensible organizational change I ever made was to sort my embellishments by color. Best. Idea. Ever.

3 and 4. When you're feeling overwhelmed by techniques or ideas, it can be helpful to ask why you're trying the techniques or how you can organize your ideas. Sometimes, we try things just because we can. Nothing wrong with that.

But if you're trying a product or technique because So-and-So used it on her video clip on YouTube or What's-His-Name put a tutorial on his blog, is that good enough? Do you really like the results? Does it fit your style? If it's overwhelming you, why are you even trying it?

I don't do many techniques at all, so you might think I never have. How wrong you would be! The first five years or so of papercrafting, I tried every technique under the sun EXCEPT heat-embossing with sweetened condensed milk. That was my line in the sand. I made paste paper, pounded flowers onto paper with a hammer, brayered, resisted, made salt paper and bubble paper, pressure embossed, heat-embossed brads to change their color, yadda, yadda, yadda.


I just didn't enjoy doing any of that...and amassed a huge stash of crap in the process. Slow learner that I am, after years of eh results, I gave up most techniques in favor of clean-and-simple stamping. Yay, me!

I'm happier without the techniques, but you may love experimenting, especially if you're new to the hobby or are more artistically inclined than I am. Try stuff if it looks like fun to you, but never, never, never let techniques become a burden or bother.

Give yourself permission to not try something or to quit if it isn't working for you.

Keeping track of ideas can be challenging. For years, I kept Idea Journals...pretty blank books filled with sketches, ideas, taped-in articles or photos cut from magazines. Eventually, I gained enough confidence in papercrafting to let go of these journals and just play, but many experienced artists and papercrafters keep their journals going.

Whenever you're feeling overwhelmed by ideas, a news blackout can help. Quit looking at magazines, blogs (except mine, of course), and SCS. Pick one appealing idea and do it. Just. Do. It. Then pick another. And another. Gradually, as your heart-rate goes down to normal levels, pick up a magazine. Check out a blog. Surf a gallery on SCS. Monitor your heart rate, and don't let it get so high panic sets in.

You cannot do every cool idea you see. This does not make you weak or untalented or stupid. It makes you human.   

As for feeling pressured to produce, this is something we very much do to ourselves. No one will shoot you if you send them a *gasp* store-bought Christmas or birthday card. I know crafters--talented, wonderful women who are so kind and generous--who beat themselves up trying to get onto design teams or get their work published. I wish I could crawl through the internet and hug them and squeeze them and tell them they are beautiful. I understand wanting to be popular, to be able to measure your success in worldly form. Oh, do I understand it.

But when it comes to crafting, I'm all about having fun. I do this on my own terms in my own way, and no one is more surprised than I that lots of people seem to like what I do. Rarely, I get an email from a reader ordering me to change something about the blog (don't use so much of this company's product, do more collage, post links to the products you use, use more designer paper, etc.). Um. No. I do seriously and respectfully consider polite requests, but often say no to those, too.

I tried the design team gig when one fell in my lap, and did not enjoy producing on demand, even though I was given great lead times and total creative license. I tried blog hops and learned that I don't enjoy them. I tried challenges and half the time ended up banging my head on my table like Dobby the House Elf.  I tried getting cards published, and they were, but it was a special circumstance (I was annoyed and wanted to prove a point) and not something I feel compelled to do again any time soon.

My point here is that I tried all these things to see if they would be fun, paid careful attention to how they made me feel and work, and decided they weren't for me. As a result, they've all been positive, wonderful experiences I don't regret in the least. Each one helped me grow as a crafter and person. I am grateful for that.

If you want to try any of these things for yourself, I suggest you know good and well WHY you want to do them. Seeing your work in PaperCrafts Magazine or Take Ten is awesome, but will you need medication if your work is rejected? Julie Ebersole once said that for every card of hers published she submits plenty that aren't. If Julie gets rejected, well, you shouldn't feel so bad, eh? Design teams can be fraught with pressure, quick turn-around, and high time commitments. Does that sound exciting to you, or does it raise your blood pressure?

Your feelings are real and pay attention to them. Take care of your creative self, nurture her/him, treat her/him with respect and care. A little pressure or a little push can be good for us, but when we're overwhelmed and stressed, we need to take a step back and re-evaluate. Do what's right for you and the rest will fall into place.

Cross my heart.

Wow, if you made it this far, I'm seriously impressed and thank you! The second post of the What Makes You Unhappy? series will cover my reflections on the business of stamping (which raises a lot of people's hackles). The third post will cover life issues as they relate to papercrafting, which will come back to this idea of putting too much pressure on ourselves, and also frustrations in stamping.


  1. Susan, I made it to the end. I have to say that I love you. I agree with your thoughts completely. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for this thoughtful post. I made it to the end! I always save your blog until I have the time to sit down with a cup of coffee, read your post and enjoy. ;-)

  3. I'm sure that you are talking ONLY to me, Susan. Thanks for another great post!

  4. Thanks for the perspective! Enjoyed every word of it!

  5. Made it to the end! And will ponder on these things!

  6. I love reading your posts. You are a breath of fresh air, and sanity, too. Have a great day.

  7. Best. Blog post. Ever. Seriously! I love to craft. I love to scrapbook, make cards, and try techniques. Since I gave up the idea of trying to make money doing this (direct sales), I have never been happier! Thanks for the affirmation that we don't have to do it all!

  8. Thank you! I am about to embark on yet another "cleaning and reorganizing" adventure in my craft room, and it gets so overwhelming sometimes. I have a hard time letting go of crafting supplies I am sure I will *someday* need again, so I love your idea of putting them in a box and dating them to see if I use them before that date. Brilliant! I also feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of products crowding my workspace, and after trying several methods of organizing them I'm back to banging my head on the table, so I'm glad to know I'm not the only one dealing with that. Thanks for your honesty and your wisdom!

  9. Wow, this is a whole bunch of great ideas. You know, I keep getting more and more "organizing" stuff, and I finally realize that I spend more time fetching and putting back than I do making stuff sometimes! Plus, with it all out of sight, I forget what I have!
    Can't wait for the next two installments! Oh yeah, I liked the one about what people LOVE, too! Cheers!

  10. I really enjoyed that post! Having just gone through a tidy (purge) of my crafting stock - I can attest to the amount of stuff we collect! I feel so much better that some of the stuff that I HAD to have has now gone to a good home - Kathryn's art class. I'm far to lazy to sell my old stuff :)))

    I really must think about organising my embellishments by colour - but that may have to wait until we go back to the UK.

    Looking forward to the next post!

  11. I made it to the end and enjoyed the post. looking forward to the next one. lots to ponder

  12. Well said, Susan! Of course I read it till the end! Looking forward to the next chapters...

  13. Great post, now some things to think about...

  14. Great post! Love the part about giving yourself permission not to try everything, not to DO every technique you see out here in craft world. Been working on that the past year and will continue this year. Makes my crafty time so much more fun.

  15. I love your posts. Hope to start cleaning/organizing my craft area soon (PCSing this summer). Need to remember that less is more. I buy all types of accessories and embellishments but I think I'm a stamp, paper, ink kind of gal.

  16. I, too, made it to the end of your great summarization and your accompanying thoughts . In fact, I read all of your posts to the end (whether it's a bitter end or not--tee hee). I don't submit anything or try out for DT positions (I have neither the skill, the desire, the time or need that kind of pressure) and pick only a few blogs to follow. Yours makes it through my occasional blog purge every time. I don't own Copics and don't feel the need to do that, either. I do, however, have a passion for paper and tools (whether for stamping or in the garage), so those are the areas I need to watch carefully for "over exuberant" behavior. In one of my craft purges, I found some paper that I dearly loved and responded to on an emotional, gut level. I couldn't think of anything I want to make with it so I framed it instead. It makes me happy, which is the only reason I also maintain a craft area, small and disorganized as it may be.

  17. wow - isn't it interesting that there are multiple posts for the what makes us unhappy about paper crafting but only one for what makes us happy about it? Will have to go back and read the posts again!

  18. Of course I read your post to the end - trouble is, it wasn't long enough. It was like one of those novels that you can't put down - you MUST keep reading! I love your perspective Susan - a breath of fresh air. One of the hardest things I have learned throughout my cardmaking journey, is that it is OK to just be me with my own style. And that I don't have to get as excited as others about new releases of products; I can give myself permission to just ignore them if I wish and go and make a card using my "old things" and be perfectly happy and content. Can't wait for your next chapter Susan!

  19. Great post Susan! Made it to the end too :) I feel so much better after reading it especially the part about not having to try every technique or follow the trends. I feel so much pressure sometimes when making cards so this has been a breathe of fresh air! Can't wait for the next chapters!! Xx

  20. Beautifully said! I appreciate your honest sharing of your own experience with crafting. The great thing about the creative process is the diversity Your post is a reminder and encouragement to feel free in finding our own way!

  21. Thanks, Susan. It's always so good to know that we're not alone when something makes us unhappy and it's good to be reminded that this is supposed to be fun, so let go and let it be.

  22. Thanks, Susan, for a post that brings such clarity to some crafting issues that have troubled me. I read your entire post and loved it. I have a disorderly craft room, probably have too much stuff, and sometimes think my cards and layouts are too plain. But I do have to be me. While I may never be totally organized, I find it relatively easy to resist a lot of high prices products. I hope to try some new techniques in 2013, but if I don't, I'm sure I'll still enjoy making what I make. I am on one design team, and know that I couldn't be on more than one at any given time. I'm finding my way in the craft world. The light of your blog helps me greatly along my way.

  23. Great post indeed. I do know what I like to do and what I don't like to do......never want to be on a Design Team even if I had the ability. I do make cards to order and I find that pressurising enough at times...such as two or three for the same occasion...I know I hate that situation but my customers do want this sometimes. Yes, I am trying to get my little amount of stuff (compared to you folks) organised big time....thanks for making us think.

  24. Thanks so much for the time and heart you have put into these posts on what makes us happy and unhappy. These are things that have been on my heart lately and your posts couldn't have come at a better time : ) God is really incredible - isn't He?

  25. thanks for a great post - I do enjoy reading your thoughts and your cards. The idea of throwing away some of my stash(even though I may not have used it in a while) bothers me - I am a hoarder, but, sometimes I think I could get there. I like your idea of putting it in a box with a date - and as I will soon have a "real" craft room, when I move, I may try that idea - notice the word "may". thanks again for helping me stay sane.

  26. *clap clap clap* Brilliant post, Susan and sprinkled with chuckle inducing humour!! Thank you, " I can see clearly now" and waiting for part 2 with baited breath :D

  27. Thank you so much, I really needed this. I am now set to embark on the great clearout...wish me luck. You are an inspiration, as always. x

  28. I've enjoyed reading this post! I had similar thoughts about a year ago and now I will only design for companies that inspire me and - most importantly - just for myself. I don't join in the numerous challenges that I used to - only those that actually inspire me!

    I look forward to your next posts in this area!

  29. Susan, I finally found the latest issue of Take Ten on the newstand, saw your cards,and appreciate the point you were trying to make. I no longer buy this magazine because I think its name should be changed to "Take an Hour or Two."

    Sad to say I DID try embossing with sweetened condensed milk, and just ended up with a burnt, sugary, sticky mess. Couldn't imagine sending anyone a card using this technique because I COULD imagine the ants marching in...

    Great post!

  30. I read right to the end and found your post fabulous - so good in fact, that I will read it again to inspire to finish my reorganization process.

    I also love what you said about not feeling the need to produce for challenges, etc. I used to try and do a lot of challenges, try tutorials and new techniques, but I now only do those that appeal to me and suit my style (which took me forever to figure out!!). For example, I've accepted that one layer cards aren't my strength or my preference so I've stopped doing your OLW challenges - but I love your posts and your cards and learn a lot from you about basic design so will always read your blog. And I love it that you accept that in people.

    Can't wait for the next two posts on what makes us unhappy!

  31. Susan, this is the total break I needed, to read to the end and savor every bit of it. You are the inspiration and "breath" of fresh air we all needed. I've done the Design Team thing and, while it was fun, it also created stress. I am having fun now, playing when I'm ready.
    I do need to do a lot of purging, but only in small amounts as my health allows it. Doesn't bother me to do it this way, either. Love the dated box method, too...great idea.
    Can't wait until that wonderful next post, and yes, I absolutely love one layer cards and don't mind doing challenges for them because they make me comfortable and are no-brainers for me. My style of creating.
    Thank you so very much for sharing your insightful thoughts!

  32. Thank you for taking the time to respond to your reader comments. I find much value in your opinion.

    Toni Storie

  33. Ahhh...your post spoke to my current mindset. For the past several weeks I've been doing the purge-and-distill process with my life, beginning with my crafting (do I really need all those ideas I've saved?). I used to love learning the most extravagantly (but laborious) 'new' technique but found that I prefer CAS, graphic/retro design, and most often one layer cards. Can't wait for part two. And for the record...I've got a few sweetened condensed milk cards in my stash!

  34. Very well written post and it totally resonates with what I have been thinking of late. Looking forward to the next post in the series. Thanks

  35. Looking forward to reading the rest of the posts - you've certainly nailed it with the feeling overwhelmed bit.... yes, yes, yes and yes to everything!

  36. Love to read your ponderings...they give me more to ponder....

  37. Love your post on What Makes You Unhappy. (BTW, appreciate your whole blog & apologize for not saying so before...just don't have the time.)

    As for me, I also hate pressure to produce, therefore Christmas cards are always commercial or purchased from worthy organizations, religious communities, etc.

    Also, therefore, although I LOVE card swaps, I never sign up for one until I actually have the cards made. Relieves ALL the pressure.

    Thanks again,

    Pax et bonum,


  38. That makes a whole heap of common sense. Thanks for the beautifully written and thoughtful post. I'm so glad that you have found your own style and are comfortable with it. Your cards are fabulous. It can be very easy to link one's "success" from measurable things rather than just from how much you enjoy what you are doing. Thanks.

  39. This is so smart. Rather than using the supplies I have, I have a tendency to think i "need" the set I see in use on a blog, Pinterest, etc. It's only recently that I have realized I don't. I am getting my head around doing a big purge. Love the idea of boxing it up with a future date and then getting rid of what I didn't go back to.

    Your blog really resonates with me and this post confirms why I follow you. Thank you!

  40. THIS is your best posting ever. I think there is a writer in you screaming to get cool to see that writer helping the crafter on the outside. You are amazing! Thank you, hugs Audrie

  41. Not only did I read it Susan, but I flagged it. Then I went to my stack of (gasp) 30 papercrafting mags from 2007, gathered them in my arms and raced to the recycling bin. OK, I did go through two of them before realizing that tossing them all at once was OK. Now I need to unfave 500 of the 550 video tutorials I will never get to use. GROAN. Tell me there is hope for me!

  42. Thankyou for this, I totally agree. It has taken me a long time to organise my crafting (I am a naturally organised person, though) and to make decisions late last year about where my crafting was going, and that I am going to be doing a lot more of it for me this year and just create and play and not necessarily have to 'make something' by the end of it.

  43. PERFECT timing and words to think about as I drastically downsize and reorganize from an entire craft room to a corner in my bedroom (one of life's curve balls!!).
    You know, I have stuff that I have "saved" for the box to give away it goes...seriously, if I haven't found a use for it by now, what are the odds? And if I find I do "need" it (as my creating seems to be drifting onto other paths), I'll have to be creative and use my noggin' to come up with something else.
    Overwhelming, but I'm off to tackle the mess for an hour or so while thinking on your words

  44. Dear Susan, thanks for this post, deep from my heart. It again, comes at the right timing and is very enlightening. And I must say, again, that I'm so glad I came across your blog 2 years ago!

  45. I HATE doing cards on demand. Hate it! HATE IT! I know this about me and yet sometimes I still get myself into that situation. Then I resent everything about the situation,but mostly myself.

    I've also learned that I like patterned paper not homemade backgrounds. I had to laugh at all the techniques you've tried because I heard about them all and tried most of them. How many would I make today? Almost none of them (embossed via a folder is the exception).

    I find myself these days buying kits and enjoying the heck out of them. I buy these kits with papers, stamps, and embellishments even though my home is already over-flowing with all this stuff. But with a kit it is all there together in one place, it all matches, and I don't have to hunt for anything. That tells me a lot about my craft room--it needs help.

    I found this post to be very eye opening, even if it was stuff I've heard before because validation helps!!!!! Thanks for that!

  46. Just found your blog by accident... happy one! and finished reading this post. You would not believe how my head kept bobbing up and down agreeing with everything you were saying. I also had a smile on my face the entire time because I'm not alone! There is someone else going through the same thing. I get so overwhelmed on my organizing because once I'm organized I forget where I put an item I am needing at the time. I wish I had an 'undo' so I could go back to a previous organized state! My only thought is what is going to happen to all my papercraft stuff once I can't do any more because of age and I get sad at that thought! Tks again for writing so eloquently what I was thinking!


Thank you so much for taking time to comment!