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Organized Chaos - Moving to a new Studio in a new town.

I recently moved after living 36 years in the same home, and painting and teaching in my basement studio. To say that it was crowded and every nook and cranny was stuffed is an understatement. I had organized my stuff in every corner and cupboard before I packed it all up. I have painted in just about every medium and had some collection of every kind of art supply known to man. I knew I wanted to move - and I did start weeding out unnecessary items way in advance. But until you have a real deadline, it’s hard to be motivated enough to do the downsizing that is necessary before the big moving day.

It takes real planning to organize this kind of chaos - Mel Odom

The last time I moved there were two of us to share the work. But after my husband’s death three years ago, all the household chores fell on my shoulders as well as the moving chores. It has made me super busy. Instead of two of us packing to move, there was just me and a small handful of very loyal, and loving friends to stuff boxes with. But there is a limit to how many people can really be of help when it comes to your studio, or your other business or hobby collections. It’s really up to you to sort before you pack and again AS you pack.

The first problem that arose once I started emptying cupboards as I got a bunch of boxes packed, was where would I put them? My house was small - the studio was cramped and I still needed to be able to move around in the room. The rest of the basement was crammed to capacity as well even though my son had weeded out a ton of extra junk the year before. I rented a storage container and a few strong bodies and repeatedly moved out boxes as soon as they were full. We did count them - there were a LOT of boxes. I bought sturdy boxes - all the same size. It made for nice uniform piles and no boxes were extremely heavy for strong men to carry. Pretty soon the container was full. We staged the home with just the things left there that were needed for the month between the sale and the move. Still, there was more left in that studio than I realized!! On moving day we had doubled what was in the storage container and it took 3 medium sized trucks to cart everything from one place to the other.

Tips for packing:

Decide if you need all of your collections. Yes, it cost you money to buy all that, but it will cost you more dollars to move it. I had a lot of books - I gave away half to the thrift stores around town. And some young artist will enjoy the art supplies I had doubles of. Here are some places to “get rid of” the extra stuff you’ve accumulated and do not use.

  • Elementary schools - do you know any teachers who need it?

  • Churches - for Sunday schools or VBS

  • Kids groups - scouts, guides, brownies etc.

  • Art therapy programs in your town

  • Homeschool groups

  • Thrift shops

  • Senior’s homes that might have a craft program

  • Friends who do art

  • Art groups

  • Grandkids

I have done Painting Parties in town. I had a lot of canvases I purchased before I knew I was moving. I’ve decided that in the future I don’t really need to stockpile that much when I can order what I need and have it delivered in a day or two.

I had a studio set of paints for my use, and paints to sell to students. That takes up a lot of boxes because paint is so heavy! You can’t pack every box until it is full. I think I’ll be simplifying the number of paint lines I keep in the future - even for my own use. When you are packing and you have a deadline you end up stuffing into boxes as fast as possible without really looking to see if the paint is fresh or all dried up. I did spend two nights pulling out discontinued colours and putting them all in order. Hopefully it helps when I go to put them back on the rack in a week or two.

I had collected a lot of magazines over the years for reference photos, to read for tips and techniques, and so on. Most of them got thrown out for recycling. I had read them when I got them, but I kept them to read again. Did I? Not so much. I kept the three most valuable collections and the rest went to recycling. I’m determined from now on to read with a pen in hand and a notebook or computer open to write down the tips so I can regularly toss the magazines I’ve read. The same with books I buy. And I see a lot of Kindle books in my future instead of hard covers!!

If I had had enough time, it would have been a plan to take a photo of each of my finished art pieces and offer them for sale online for a very low price to my friends on Facebook. Some artists are doing live online sales auctions and people seem to love to look - and get a deal. Give them away for a song, don’t try to pack them - they don’t fit any of the boxes well! Really be ruthless. Start over with a fresh slate. The new town I moved to has lots of craft shows. I hope to sign up as a vendor to see what I can release this Christmas. And I still may try that Facebook auction idea. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see my paintings in a live auction sometime.

I also have a lot of paintings that are unfinished. When I taught classes regularly, I didn’t always finish the sample. I intended to, but either my back hurt, or there was a deadline, or there was always something new and more exciting to work on. Take a good long hard look at your UFO’s (unfinished objects) and see if you should move them or burn them. It only hurts a little. I did loose some of my UFO’s but not enough. I will definitely be purging those again and finding a friend with a firepit. And I think from now on I will take a look yearly and see what will never get finished. There’s no harm in admitting you have lost interest. Painting over old paintings is another good option!

My new studio has more room than my old studio did. Do not let that influence you if that is your case. Do not keep things because you will have more space. You have to pack every single box and some poor moving employee will have to carry those boxes - often up and down stairs - more than once. Then you have to unpack them at the other end and find a new more organized place for those items. Give yourself the cleanest slate possible! And try not to be stuffing boxes just to meet the moving deadline.

Take some time before your move to your new space to envision what it will look like. Where will you put all the things. Especially the placement of furniture in the room. Will you need new furniture pieces in the new space? Try to line up some muscles to help you the week after the move. You will need to move things and maybe build things on the other end. There are a lot of things to learn about in a new house or a new studio space. (new appliances, new water hoses that leak) It all takes time.

Make sure you save the most important things until last when you pack. If you need it first, mark the box with a bright colour and consider moving it yourself. Once the movers start on delivering the boxes in the new place you lose all track of what is going to which room. And there may be stacks of boxes 4 or 5 deep to move to find the most important things after they leave. Think ahead. You need tools, you need cleaning supplies, you need the things that must be worked on during the month after you move. You need checkbooks and financial files. You need to keep a book with running lists of To Do’s and people that need to be contacted for change of address, turning things off and on, and a list of things you need to purchase at the other end.

Insist that the furniture gets placed along the wall where it is needed and the boxes don’t get all piled directly in front of it so you can’t unpack them without moving the whole stack into a hallway first! A person at the door to direct traffic is great. People who know where things will be going in the rooms with the most boxes going into them is also a wise move. Get other friends to unpack the main kitchen boxes, the main bathroom boxes and to set up the beds. You need to be available to check up on what’s going on in all the rooms and to answer questions that might come up - like where did the 4th leg of the loveseat disappear to?? Grab a cold drink, try to keep the stress at bay and roll your eyes a lot whenever necessary. Try very hard to be nice to everybody.

Soon you will be in your new space, emptying boxes and setting up for a new chapter in your life one box at a time! It didn’t get packed in one day. It won’t get unpacked in one day. Do you need to paint first to freshen up your rooms or your furniture? Try to enlist help for those steps too. Take time off and enjoy setting up and organizing your new space. Take breaks. Have a nap. Play with the dog. Go for a walk. Visit a friend outside of your house. Take an afternoon off to go shopping. You have worked hard for more than a month. Breathe deep. It will all get done…sometime. My friends have a bet that there will still be unopened, unpacked boxes six months from now. If so, maybe those boxes will go to the thrift store without even looking in them. Moral of this story...start early, be consistent about weeding out things you don't need, use or want in your art life any more. Make lists, dream and be as organized as possible. Come back next month to see photos of what it looks like…

Enjoy your new space!!

Hugs and happy painting!


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