Can you live a creative life without clutter?

Amethyst Guest Room 2.jpg

This is the question I’ve been forced to ask as I drastically scale back my possessions. My most recent project has been decluttering the room that has been, in the two and a half years we’ve lived in our townhouse, a study, a library, and now, a guest room. It has housed, at various points, a desk, a chair and ottoman, and four bookshelves. Today it now contains a simple shelf that houses my collection of gemstones, now stored in a beautiful purple jewelry box my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas, images of the goddess and god, and a few treasured mementos. In addition, we’ve moved in the futon from my husband’s office. I pared my book collection down from four bookcases to two, and those are now in theoffice.

The room feels simple, light, and airy, with warm amethyst walls and lots of natural light. It has a feeling of magic, and my creativity shines through in the thoughtfully decorated shelf and artwork hanging on the wall. A box containing my tarot cards sits in one corner, and two small drums wait to be played in meditation.

Amethyst Guest Room 1.jpg

The room has been transformed from a crammed storage space for stuff, a room rarely used, to a space for relaxation and contemplation.

I used to think being creative meant always having a messy desk. Today, I no longer own a desk, preferring to curl up on the sofa, in a comfy chair, or on the patio with my laptop and a cup of coffee while I work. I used to be afraid to let go of a single scrap of paper with a story idea or line written on it. Today I thank these ideas for coming into my life, and release them. I used to save binders full of articles and story critiques; today I keep only what’s necessary and gratefully release the rest.

I’ve let go of crafting supplies for false starts and failed hobbies—the jewelry-making kits from fifteen years ago, the art easel from a decade ago. And what I’ve gained is space—not just physical space, but, more importantly, mental space. The shelf I mentioned earlier also contains two scrapbooks that I’m working on, a book of shadows and a wedding scrapbook. Scrapbooking is my latest creative endeavor (aside from writing, of course), and by letting go of the false starts and the old ideas, I’ve made all this space to focus on the beauty and bounty of the present and the creative potential of the future.

We now have a room for our guests to rest their heads, and a place away from distraction to sit, write, journal, meditate, read, create, contemplate. And I’ve found that clutter and creativity don’t have to go hand in hand.

I’m finding that by making space, I’m creating room for creativity to blossom, bloom, and flourish.

And that’s priceless.

I’d like to end with giving you a writing update, but this was a week of rest, as some health woes kept me from really digging in to revisions of Oak-Bound. Hopefully next week is more favorable. The decluttering process will also continue in the weeks ahead.

Looking forward to the week ahead, I’d like to dig in to those revisions and continue the process of simplifying, decluttering, and cozying up our home. And as I move forward, realize that by doing so, I’m freeing up space and time for the creative projects that are closest to my heart.

What about you? How do you grapple with creative clutter?

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Fantasy & paranormal romance author. Witch. Tarot reader. Possibly a woodland sprite. Debut release TANGLED ROOTS now available. Magic awaits at

22 thoughts on “Can you live a creative life without clutter?

  1. Two months ago, I too cleaned out our spare room which had become the place to just put everything. I totally decluttered it, bought a new bed for it, and now have a relaxing guest bedroom, which doubles as a place for me to sleep when the Hubby’s snoring is out of control. Yes, it is so vital, I think, to let things go, keeping only what you need and use.

    1. Chris, I think it’s nice to have a place to get away and relax/rest in the quietude. Letting things go helps us create that space we so desperately need. I’m glad you’ve found such a place. Enjoy!

  2. Normally, when a headline asks a question, the answer is “no.” But as soon as I saw your title, I thought, “Yes!” Clutter inhibits my creativity. Unfortunately, between being too busy with other stuff when I had the energy, and having no energy now, things have grown pretty cluttered in my house, so time to attend to that. Hope you feel better soon!

    1. Clutter inhibits my creativity as well, partly because it’s stressful, but also because it creates this chaotic, overwhelming mental energy that I find draining. With each box/bag of stuff I part with, I feel lighter and more creative. I hope your energy returns and you’re able to do some decluttering of your own. Thanks, Jennette!

  3. Getting rid of clutter feels sooooo good! I took some time away from writing and painting this past week to do just that, and it felt like a weight was taken off my chest! (while at the same time feeling a wee bit guilty because in a way I was procrastinating writing and painting…something I enjoy once I start but have a hard time getting started!)

    Jo-Ann at Inspiration Pie

    1. Jo-Ann, I also have problems with procrastinating with my writing. I enjoy the actual process, but showing up at the page can be daunting. Once I’m in the flow, though, I’m good.

      Decluttering does make us feel as though a weight has been lifted. I feel energized and refreshed afterwards, and I feel like I have more mental space/energy to devote toward the things I’m passionate about.

      1. So true, Denise!

        I’ve been beating myself up because I’ve gotten so little done this week…maybe an hour of painting, a little bit of writing, and no yoga.

        It happens. I have no excuses. There’s always next week, though.

      2. I used to beat myself up when I didn’t get a lot done, then I realized that it’s better to focus on what we did accomplish rather than what we didn’t. You painted for an hour this week. You wrote. That’s awesome!

  4. Moving houses 5 times in 7 years is a great way to declutter! XD
    Seriously though, I know I tend to keep and store too much stuff. The worst is paper; I keep it for creative purpose or to make crafts with the kids later and I can almost hear my husband thinking how useless this is… So now we’re set on buying a house of our own, I’m afraid it might get even worse… Wait and see. ^^
    Also I feel the more space we have, the more we tend to accumulate. Maybe I should consider living and working in a bunker of some sort (that might also keep me off the internet :D)

    1. Yes, there’s nothing like a move to make you realize how much stuff you own and to get you clearing away the excess. I think we all have our problems areas, and paperwork tends to one of mine. I’m getting better at it. I’ve found decluttering works best as a gradual process. I go through and each time I’m clearing away a layer of excess to find the “enough” that’s hiding underneath. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there. You’re right that the more space we have, the more we accumulate. We think how nice it would be to have a garage or basement, but those areas tend to accumulate lots of clutter, so having such a space doesn’t necessarily make us more organized or less cluttered.

  5. I needed to read this, Denise. The sense that something was awry has pervaded so much of my life of late, and the clutter in my house has made it hard to feel peaceful and”connected” there. I know I should give up more of the things I’ve started but set by the wayside, but that nagging little voice keeps saying “How dare you waste money/ time like that?”

    I need to remind myself that it’s as much of a waste if I never finish and I could have donated it to someone who would use it instead.

    1. Eden, I think many of us struggle with this. It’s hard to part with something you’ve spent hard-earned money on. But I believe that everything was made with a purpose in mind, and keeping an object without using it is a different type of waste, if that makes sense. For example, I believe books were meant to be read, so if there’s a book on my bookshelf I’m not reading, why not donate it to a library so other people can read it? That’s why it was created, after all. I’ve approached many objects with this mentality, and it does help to ease the guilt. Good luck!

      1. It is a great philosophy. One that I have used from time to time, but haven’t embraced as fully as I feel I might. Baby steps though…

  6. It’s good to de-clutter. I like freeing up space and leaving it that way. I think it’s relaxing to clear out a room or closet. My husband and I have gotten to where we give things away instead of a yard sale anymore. And hopefully if we keep the clutter down, there won’t be a need to unload a bunch of stuff at once.
    Sounds like you’re staying busy.
    Does the desk-free lifestyle work for you? I’m thinking of going that way.

    1. Decluttering feels amazing–I’m lighter, there’s more space, less to maintain/store/organize, and I know it will make moving easier if/when that time comes. As for being desk-free, I haven’t missed my desk at all. As long as I have a comfy place to sit and a place to set my coffee or tea, I can work anywhere. It all depends on how you work. If you use your desk every day and sitting there flips a switch in your brain that tells you it’s time to work, you might miss it. But I wasn’t using mine and I’ve found the more horizontal surfaces I have in my house, the more places there are for clutter to accumulate–and more spots I have to dust. Being desk-free has worked out for me. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

  7. Yes, it is possible to be creative without clutter! Actually, I cannot create with clutter. It somehow inhibits my brain. lol. So keep on decluttering Denise. It’s a lifelong, never ending project. 🙂

    1. I’m the same way. If the space around me is in chaos, I’m thinking about the chaos rather than what I’m creating. A tidy, simplified space works best for me when it comes to creativity. Decluttering is definitely a lifelong process–something I’m learning as I go! 🙂

  8. As I move through the process of transitioning from life as half of a married couple to a widowed woman making all the adult decisions for my family and home on my own, I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. Jim was a great many wonderful things, but tidy was definitely not one of them.

    For most of the years of our marriage, I made the choice to do what I could to accept it. It seemed like there were three points – a peaceful family life, an uncluttered house, and relative sanity – and I could have any two of them. The house lost out, and, while I don’t exactly regret it, I’m now realizing how oppressive the mess has been. I’ve spent a good deal of time this week in decluttering – mostly in the bedroom that is now mine alone. As I go through my belongings and those that belonged to my husband until a week and a half ago, I’m finding great liberation and healing in the process of paring down.

    Creativity is abounding. I’m seeing possibilities I never thought of before. That stand in the corner of the garage, piled with random items? It will be a perfect island for our kitchen. The cabinet that’s overflowing with tools, planting supplies, spent light bulbs, and the detritus of many projects and outgrown toys? That’s going to be emptied, fixed up, repainted a crisp white, and moved into the house proper to be our pantry, since the repurposed cabinet currently filling that role isn’t really up to the task.

    Decluttering shifts my thinking, and opens me to the potential of some things – and the need to pass others along to those who can better use and appreciate them.

    I’ve set myself a goal for 2018 – by year’s end, I want there to be not one item in my bedroom that I don’t know about, and/or that doesn’t have a home.

    I’m not sure if this will directly impact my writing, but it will certainly do wonders for my soul to sleep, wake, and inhabit a space that is just as I want it to be, with no clutter.

    1. Yes, my husband is not the least bit of a minimalist, and I’ve had to accept that our home will never be something on a minimalist blog. I’m calling it the “not-quite-minimalist house” in my mind. I figure, maybe I can’t get rid of as much stuff as I’d like, but at least I can keep it manageable, organized, and (hopefully, most of the time) tidy.

      Ryan has been fairly accommodating, but I’m accepting that his packrat ways will always be there, and that’s okay.

      Decluttering can be a healing process, although it’s strange the emotions that bubble up as we sort through our possessions. Shame, at having wasted money on an item we never or rarely use. Laughter, when a newly rediscovered letter or photograph triggers a memory. Joy, that the object we’re parting with can bring joy to someone else. And a sense of peace and accomplishment when a freshly decluttered room reveals its true potential.

      Good luck with your decluttering adventures, Shan!

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