There’s so much out there these days about minimalism, maximalism and so many other isms that we will not even breach in our lifetime. These labels and classifications can sometimes feel ableist and exclusive of the ND/Disabled community.
Realizing you cannot adequately affect change in your environment is disheartening on the best days and downright infuriating on the worst.
Add to that being an ND/Disabled person who is also creative; it is all a recipe for creative blocks.
From “my workspace is too cluttered,” to “the house is too messy for me to feel that I have earned the right to access my creative escape.” Intrusive thoughts erode the creative mind to the point of avoiding the creativity that brings you so much joy.
Just being in the presence of clutter inhibits creativity and encourages obsessive thoughts.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines clutter as “to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness.” While the Oxford dictionary defines clutter as “a collection of things in an untidy mess.”
Mess, disorderly, and reduced effectiveness. It’s not hard to see, based on these definitions, how we can judge ourselves based on these finite assessments of the word. Often our workspaces and surroundings, according to this definition, are “cluttered.” The difference is, this clutter is how we are most effective and productive in our environment.
We are more than the sum of our “clutter.” I suggest we redefine clutter.
I watched a video from The Minimal Mom on YouTube, and she asked, “What is your stuff saying to you?” And I thought about it. What is it saying to me?
I look around my desk and see some half-finished projects, craft supplies, tchotchkes, school projects, pens, meds that need refilling, and so much more.
Many of these things surrounding my creative space are saying negative things to me. For example, craft supplies say, “look at me, you spent money on me, and here I sit gathering dust. You don’t deserve to do anything else until you justify your purchase of me.”
Or the tchotchkes say, “Remember building me? It was such a wonderful, well spent moment with your kiddo.” I smile, remembering building my Lego blockheads of Grogu and the Mandalorian.
A business card from an agent I pitched to at a conference who didn’t take my book, but she said my book sounded amazing and that she wanted a copy.
Suppose I remove the things that are saying negative things to me. In that case, my workspace becomes efficient even with the “clutter” of memories and tchotchkes because my space is emitting positive energy.
How our environment feels affects the ND/Disabled person exponentially. I live on this tight wire of needing things out in the open to avoid forgetting them due to object permanence. AND the perfectly organized OCD stereotypical order.
“Wow, Bex, that sounds like a perfect storm; how do you get any work done?”
And the answer is, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I sit in my living room chair watching the dust form because task paralysis and obsessive intrusive thoughts shackle me. The idea of moving feels as though I am walking through quicksand in cement shoes. Sometimes, I let the ND win. I am not perfect, and no one should strive to be. We are all going to have difficulties. What is important is how we use our time on the good days.
First, we must declutter our mental space. Here are a few steps to take:
NEVER base your success on your best days.
On those good days when we are hyper-focused and productive to the nth degree, it’s easy to assume that will be the status quo. This assumption can easily lead us into a self-deprecating trap. After all, we did it once; we can certainly do it again, right?
Wrong. We will have ups, and we will have downs; likely, we will have more downs than ups. It’s vital that we set a baseline for our productivity.
Set that bar to your worst days. Those days when you couldn’t get out of bed, but you fed yourself Or a day where you watched YouTube videos about how to use Scrivener for 7 hours. Even if you were a couch blob the rest of the day, even if you only did writing adjacent things, you still did a thing that is worth celebrating. If you redefine success, you see small wins all over the place.
Many people engage in affirmations every day and don’t even realize it. Affirmations happen inside your mind, almost on autopilot. The issue people fall into with affirmations is that you can’t tell yourself you are a star if you are not, in fact, a star; your brain knows better and will rebel against it.
Instead, choose affirmations that are believable and true. Things that your mind will accept. Start small and simple. Something so essential as “I am breathing,” your mind goes, yeah, we are. You can even play with these. “I am worthy of the time I devote to my craft” “I am creative.” “I take care of myself even when self-care is hard.”
As you repeat these smaller and more believable affirmations, your brain becomes in harmony with the beautiful things you say about yourself.
If you have been following us, you know we thrive with structure and routines, even though our brains rebel. But there is a reason; we need this structure and ritual to feel safe and deserving of our creative outlet. Not to mention, creating a routine that your body does on autopilot is an excellent way to tap into your creativity. Your mind will wander, but you find that next story you are dying to write.
Take comfort in the mundane tasks of life. Create routines for your good days and bad days. On a difficult day, I might only get up and brush my teeth, and that’s ok. I am still completing a routine, even if it is not all of them. Then celebrate that win. Your mind will always talk down to you and tell you how horrible you are for not doing all of it. Remind yourself that you did something, and it is deserving of recognition.
Having a set of tasks you do each morning prepares your mind for the day. Have a routine that supports your creative mind. Meditate, drink coffee, whatever sparks your creativity, use that, and create a routine around it.
Set boundaries with yourself.
Setting boundaries with yourself and not pushing those boundaries is crucial for mental and physical health. I sabotage future creativity and productivity if I go beyond my limits.
It’s about permitting yourself to work in the space in which your brain thrives. To manipulate the environment to serve you the best. Sometimes, asking for help is necessary, a boundary buddy if you will.
What about physical clutter in my creative space?
First, define clutter for yourself. For me, anything that feels negative is clutter. Like it or not, the creative spaces in our homes are a dumping ground for things that come into the house: mail, school assignments, things we buy, and so much more. Those “to do” items bog down the creative mind.
Make tidying your creative space part of your writing routine.
Use a timer and spend 15 minutes clearing your creative space. Consider it a clean slate. Don’t go crazy and start organizing all your files and drawers. Just clear the desktop and put things in neat, tidy piles that are manageable. If you can, put some items away and get to writing when the timer goes off.
Set up a system for household items that enter your workspace.
Whether that is a filing system or a doom drawer you go through once a week, keep your space free of distractions and obligations outside your creative endeavor.
Decluttering your physical space.
There are a million and one strategies, tips, tricks, and programs that claim to have found the best way to declutter. We’re all different, and the method that works for me may not work for you.
But trying to sit down to write with a sink full of dishes is one way my brain will resist creative writing. After all, how can I possibly sit down to do something so unimportant as writing when my family needs clean dishes for dinner?
My method for these tasks is straightforward, and I probably sound like a broken record by now, but timers. Timers are the ADHD hack I wish I had used my entire life. The quote I live by is, “You can do anything for 15 minutes.” And that has held true even on my worst days.
To wrap things up, remember it’s easy to allow intrusive thoughts to stop us from doing what we love. However, we can use productivity tools to help quiet those voices while still engaging in the creative process. Use mindfulness and daily routines to clean up that mental clutter. Use timers and routines to clean up our physical space. Always remember, take from this what is useful and trash the rest. No two of us will be alike, and what works for me may not work for you, and that’s ok.