Today's Topic: Feeling Overwhelmed
- messy craft area
- too much product, too many tools
- too many techniques and ideas
- 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 overwhelming...it'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 important...so 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.