Sunday, February 8, 2015

300 Boxes Project

photo credit

January.  I think is the month of white fluffy towels, clean surfaces, organization labels and flax linen covered boxes.  I started off the New Year in Arizona working with my family.  My parents, older sister and I worked together to help my little sister with"stuff management".  She had been through some tough life events that took away from her time and energy, and her stuff had multiplied in just a little over a year's time.  The work turned into a mix of games:  Tetris, that memory matching game, and those counting bears from kindergarten you sort by color and size.  We became gamers in her 1495 square foot home.  I was playing the Domino game.  I started in the living room, then tore apart the bedroom, and then had to clean the garage.  Pretty soon, I was an addict:  An addict to the neatly, organized shelves and closets of Em's house.  They were inspiring and actually, quite beautiful, in the shelving unit sort of way.  I kept opening the doors of hall closets just to look at the organization of it all.  Em is a minimalist at heart.  Her style is clean, mid-century modern and she keeps a pretty streamlined home.  But with her recent timeline, it became a problem to manage all the stuff and boxes filled with so many emotions and things to sift through. 

Eventually the fun ended in Arizona and I came home, back to Utah.  Back home to my boxes.  After completing the grueling task of packing up 30 boxes of Christmas (no exaggeration) around the middle of January; I decided to tackle my storage room.  Could I make my basement studio better by minimizeing my stuff?  I’m pretty sure my husband projected this space to be the theatre room when we built in 2004.  “But wait, where do I store my stuff?” I debated, began stacking my boxes, all while promising it was “just for a few years until I could finish the projects”.  It’s been 11 years since that promise was pitched.  Now I find myself sitting on the concrete floor amidst a bunch of full boxes that grew up and had babies.  They have now spilled over into my creative workspace and even the family room.  And now, too many childhood memories of that one west wall of boxes covered with sheets in my parents bedroom, are coming back to haunt me.  The wall of shame.  I’m now repeating the cycle and building my own wall of boxes.  It’s got to end. I wish all my boxes were fabric covered and tied up with a cluster of ribbons, but some just aren’t that pretty.  And some just aren’t that easy to open and sort through. 

I started thinking about boxes:  The boxes in my life. The figurative boxes I put my emotions in and store for years and deal with or don’t deal with.  The boxes I use to package beautiful surprises, (now those are lovely).

Then there are the banana boxes of books I’ve had in a storage unit since we moved to the suburbs a dozen years ago.  They represent hope. Hope for my dream of building ceiling to floor bookshelves in our "library" before the internet takes over and books are deleted out of our lives altogether.  How about the boxes stuffed with photos and memorabilia for someday scrapbooks that will document the years that I’ve lived-we’ve lived?  There are the boxes I hold onto full of completely awesome crafting stuff and incomplete creative projects.  These are the ones I really need to focus on and make huge efforts to push their contents out into the world.  

I didn’t get a photo of this 300 Boxes Project from it's very start, yes believe it or not, the above photo was taken after 3 days of working.  It has not been a pretty project.  I wondered if good lighting could somehow make the images look better?  It's shameful to document the actual state of that area in my basement.  Perhaps because it might be considered a reflection of my state of mind, and perhaps it is.  There was once fabric draping out of three or more large plastic bins down one of the shelving aisles, wood shavings scattered on the concrete from my packaging area, crinkled scraps of tissue paper and a pile of shoe boxes filled with “random things to put away when I have the time” that were shoved on the floor in desperation a few minutes before a couple dinner parties and a craft show or two. Every shelf was lined with homeless items, items I just didn’t know where to put.  I’m a collector of tablecloths (among countless other collections, and I wish we were talking small coins or stamps).  I had many folded cloths piled at the doorway because I couldn’t get to their bin on the top shelf, they were really heavy and just too full, all twelve of them.  There were clusters of large handled shopping bags filled with newly purchased holiday clearance treasures that I didn't know where to stash, every bin was already at capacity.  I’m not a hoarder.  I’m not.  I’m a serious crafter and a project lover, and when I have a vision, I buy.  I take my projects very serious.  No really.  It’s an artist problem.  Maybe I should say, “It’s THIS artist’s problem.”  I have no project manager to direct me. No inventory system to take count.  No assistant to be my gopher.  No intern to boss around.  No accountant to advise me.  No financial advisor to run reports.  Nope, it’s only me.  Just me, running this whole crafting lifestyle gig.  

So I began shamelessly taking inventory.  

One. Box. At. A. Time. 

“Aimee’s Tea Party - 90 pale pink square folders from Paper Source, 96 mini straw purses, horsehair turquoise and cream millinery flowers from Tale of the Yak, 22 Anthropologie mushroom ornaments. Miniature Picnic Baskets - 60 baskets, one yard of red and white gingham fabric.” I pulled each and every box out to the family room, organized, counted contents and labeled.  I took two vanloads to the local thrift store. I threw away, I don’t know how many large garbage bags, and gave away boxes of books, craft supplies and clothes to those who I knew would have a use for my excess.  I have a small pile for online garage sales, but after ridding myself of all these loads, I hoped to have extra space in the storage room for many of the boxes that lined our family room wall.  Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.  That’s when I got honest about my boxes.  I once read in an organizing book on how to clear your clutter, that any given household should only be storing around 50 boxes of stuff.  “I wonder how many boxes I have?”  I asked myself.  I walked around the room and began to take count.  I winced with disbelief after reaching the 300 mark.  By the end of my count, I had well over 300 boxes, closer to 400, but I won’t be exact to protect my pride.  Don’t misunderstand my problem; I complete a ridiculous amount of projects every year.  I rid myself of thousands of items from my storage room every year, but the rate at which I take in projects obviously is at a faster rate than the amount of items I send out.  It’s an inflow/outflow dilemma.

This brings me to my objective.  

Eliminate boxes.  

Eliminate 300 boxes, to be specific.  That’s right, 300. Some people need to lose weight.  I need to lose three hundred boxes of unfinished projects:  Holiday crafts to sell, themed dinner parties to host, PaperClay to sculpt, books to bind, wood frames to paint, folds of fabric to stitch, a chair or two to upholster, photographs to organize (35 of those alone), and gifts to package. It’s going to take me some serious superhuman discipline to really utilize what I already have, and not seek out more supplies, which ultimately leads to more projects:  Again, the inventory inflow/outflow dilemma.  It’s an awesome challenge; awesome in size and idea.  If I need something to finish a project that I really don’t have, I can purchase it, but only if it is absolutely going to help me eliminate a box. 
I’ve pulled out the first 10 boxes for Valentine crafting, see photo below.  Immediate goal:  Rid my storage room of 10 boxes by February 14th.  Long-term goal:  Rid my storage room of 300 boxes by 2017.  It's happening folks.  See those boxes below?  3/4 of them... gone.

Am I the only one?  Does anyone else share this crafter/artist problem?  Watch me for the days to come tackle and eliminate 300 Boxes.  Starting now.

#300Boxes #ProjectBoxElimination #ArtistProblem #UseWhatIHave  Help @joanns_stores!  

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