Spring Cleaning for your Art Studio (and mind)


I had every intention of sitting down this morning for a marathon session at my computer. Lesson plans, editorial calendars, blog navigation and a few pesky website glitches were on my to-do list.  As soon as I sat down, I knew my head wasn’t in the right space.

On my right a very impressive spider web was forming in the corner of my window and on the left,  a stack of books threatened to tumble. My desk was littered with coffee stains, scissors, papers, art lessons and stacks of receipts (tax season was a bit of a nightmare).  Video equipment strewn across the floor made navigating my studio space more difficult than it needed to be.


I had enough of my messy studio.


Although I love color and textures, my studio space must remain neutral and organized in order for my brain to switch into production mode. Whether I’m editing photos or creating graphics for my lesson plans, my attention needs to remain focused on the computer. A stack of paper, too many post-it notes or even a stray pen is enough to make me lose focus.

Sometimes you need to take a step back and look at your workspace with fresh eyes to know whether or not it is working for you.  

Ask your self the following questions:

– Do I feel calm in my space?

– Do I feel the need to jump up every ten minutes to grab a coffee, go to the bathroom, put a dish a way, anything that actually prevents you from a sustained period of work?

– When I’m creating art or working on my blog, do I start out with enthusiasm but then quit in a short amount of time?

– Am I anxious?

Your workspace–whether it is a home office/studio like mine or an art-making space in your garage–must rise up and greet you (as Oprah says) and welcome you to a place where you are the most creative and energized. I love sitting down in my comfy chair and sipping coffee or a Chai tea and planning what my blog posts will be for the next month. Or looking through art inspiration files to plan my second grade art class lessons. I immediately sink into my creative zone.

For me that looks like this:

– A sense of calm and focus.

– Ideas that flow from paper to screen then back again.

– Creative energy that seems to flow without any effort.

That is hard to achieve in a messy space. It had been over a year since my last major clean-up so I put my Saturday morning to-do list aside, turned on some jazz music and went to work.



I still have a few boxes of art lesson samples on the floor but I can’t do anything about that right now. The studio feels so clean and fresh and most importantly, uncluttered!

This is what I did:

– Remove everything from my desk and placed either in the recycling bin or in a stack to be filed.

– Organized my book shelves and discarded any books that no longer interested me.

– Edit all standing file folders (and threw more than half the contents away).

– Organized paints, brushes, pens, pastels, markers and placed on one shelf.

– Created a clean, uncluttered place to put my camera and lenses.

– Cleaned out bins that contained old batteries and ink cartridges.

– Threw away old magazines.

– Edited my lesson plan sample folders (a nightmare!)

– Tossed half of my ceramic project samples and kept only the good stuff.

– Created an uncluttered paper storage for my printer and binder.

– Cleaned my table top and dusted all empty shelves and spider webs.

– Made it a goal to keep all table and desk tops almost free of clutter.

– Swept floor and cleaned windows.

My art lessons are my biggest storage problems, but I have a few ways that I deal with them. You can read the post about organizing artwork here.


See the white plastic bins behind the glass doors? These are the best storage solutions for art supplies. I have one for chalk/pastels, palettes, glue and mod-Podge and watercolors. So neat and tidy. I love these as I just slide off the cover, extract what I need and slide the cover back on. I use Martha Stewart chalkboard labels from Staples to identify the contents.

What does your studio look like? Are you a pack-rat like me who has to do a major purge every once in a while? Do you like to infuse your workspace with color? Go ahead…share your spring-cleaning stories right here.

What do you think?

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  • Stephanie Needham

    Hi Patty, Although I teach K-12 Art this year I also have two sections of Home and Careers. Today is the first day of the last semester and over Easter break I tried to tidy my room up and make it cheerful for spring. While stuck on a direction to take with my students in H/C I decided to do the same project I had assigned myself. Each student is required to organize one of three things….their locker, their backpack or part of the classroom as they see fit. I am available to help them and we will be sitting pretty soon. I think organizing is a healthy activity in many areas and although sometimes challenging for right brainers like myself it is freeing once completed. The kids loved it and I am pretty happy too.

    • Patty Palmer

      I agree. Creating and environment that is clean, organized and inspiring can do wonders for your efficiency and production. Good for you for getting your students to do it! Wonderful. And every mother will thank you for it!

  • Kathwell

    Thanks, I really needed this reminder that the year is coming to an end and I need to organize for the next year! I’ve already begun ordering specialty supplies that I will need for next year. I will need space for those as well as the basics!
    I have a graph of the floor plan of my classrooms, plus “furniture.” This makes it so easy to rearrange the space. I have to leave a floor plan for the custodians in any case.

    • Patty Palmer

      Wow. A floor plan. That’s a great idea for the art room!

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