Cleanliness and Creativity: Nourishing Your Future Creative Flame


This is a concrete tube that I sit in during my lunch break. I love it. It’s the perfect shape to let my feet and back rest while I listen to music and eat my lunch.

At my new job, one of the things I’m learning to do is to keep the register area meticulously clean. At first it was almost impossible to be paying attention to the customers and merchandise, while also hand-writing receipts and using the confusing cash register and credit card machine and also keeping that area neat.

Now, even with a half a moment between customers, the stapler is in the right spot and the wrapping paper is tucked away. As it turns out, this has some pretty cool implications for enjoying life and creativity.

It began with my kitchen. Anyone with a kitchen knows that it is a haven for projection and sublimation. It is a place full of tools and sustenance and bliss. Or chaos, confusion, and chores. Often times, all of the above. It has bravely stepped up to be the object of arguments between lovers, and has selfishly taken up more than half of many communal house meetings.

I began to be diligent in my kitchen. I noticed that to be able to clean dishes right away, I had to have space on the dish rack. Every time I noticed dry dishes, I put them away. It seems simple enough; but if you are like me and do not yet have a solid grasp on this one slice of adulthood, you understand that I was basically achieving superhero rank.

But there’s more. I noticed that I began to naturally apply this to other areas of the house. I put clothes directly in the hamper instead of letting some collect behind the closet door first. I removed anything from the coffee table that didn’t live there, promptly and effectively. I called people right when I thought about doing it, and checked my email and bank balance without putting it off for ten minutes to check Facebook.

Life is pretty cool this way, I gotta say. And I think that it’s more than just having a clean house and effective systems.

Cleanliness and Creativity

I read a quote recently about how when you feel the fire and the urge to write, you should do it while the flame is hot. A lot of us know that to be true. The problem is, you never quite see it coming.

Maybe you have a week of uninspired days, and then you suddenly are filled to the brim with ideas. You want to write them, draw them, sing them, whatever them. But there are dishes to be done before you can make a pot of almighty coffee and the area in which you want to work is not workable, you have to clean it. That gets in the way. By the time the space is possible to work in, the flame might be out.

But by being diligent with the day to day, you are taking care of that future self, that future chance. Unless you have your environment made into a welcoming atmosphere for whatever arises, you are basically leaving today’s trash for tomorrow’s self. That’s not generally useful, and it’s also not respectful. If you have a guest coming over, you clean. But you are going to be a person tomorrow that you don’t even know yet today, perhaps a person with a huge creative burst. Don’t you want to have things wonderfully ideal for that version of you?

Living Now Instead of Playing Catch Up

I’m wondering if one way for me to enjoy life more is to stop playing as much catch up. To be fully able to be present where I am without having to take care of yesterday’s issues beforehand. Being able to just exist in a home is a blessing, being able to cook effectively and sit and enjoy the space is a great gift. In the past, some of us were given that gift by guardians who payed rent or a mortgage, or older siblings who cleaned up the kitchen. But now it’s not going to happen without our own awareness and attentiveness to our space and what makes us thrive.

Maybe your ideal art studio is a full blown mess. But it’s a certain type of mess, I would imagine. A mess of art supplies that can be worked with. A mess that lets you be your creative self, rather than a mess that gets in the way of that.

Just imagine that your favorite musician, artist, writer, or researcher called and told you they were coming over tomorrow and really hoped they could get some work done at your place. How would you set up your space for them? Don’t you deserve at least that?

Preciousness of Time

Another factor in this for me is the preciousness of time. Suddenly, free time to enjoy my space is much smaller than it used to be. It makes me extra motivated to keep it as wonderful as I can so that when I wake up on my day off, after a quick vacuum and a pot of coffee, I am ready to enjoy myself and the day without having to spend an hour cleaning up what I mindlessly left behind.

Plus, if I do feel creative or an urge to just relax, I can do so. I don’t have to let those gosh darn dishes get in the way of that.

How about you, do you set up your space so that your creativity has a space to thrive when it arises?

Do you think there are things you could do that would make your space more welcoming to your creative bursts?

Do you think keeping a clean kitchen is super easy? What are your methods for doing so?

14 thoughts on “Cleanliness and Creativity: Nourishing Your Future Creative Flame

  1. I think the trick to cleanliness is an orderly and present mind. If we are easily distracted we also are easily absorbed into things that help us avoid what needs to be done. It’s about choices — and starting. Keeping things organized is about making a lot of decisions over and over again. I think this is why some people live as minimalists — they realize that having less means less decisions on how to clean up and less stuff to clean up.

    • I love that! I am so not a minimalist, and probably never will be when I have a place to live, but all those little choices feel smaller when you make them one at a time rather than all at once 🙂 But still, they are choices, and it always feels good to find good homes for loveable yet unuseful clutter 🙂

      • I’m not a minimalist either. We just cleaned our the kids rooms and had BAGS of toys and recycling and junk to deal with. The rooms felt so much better and I simply had them decide what they wanted to keep. I dealt with everything else. It was decision after decision after decision, but once we got going it felt so good. Hopefully we can keep things going this way.

  2. I had never thought of taking care of matters at hand (like clearing the dish rack) as a kindness to my “future self” – but it surely is! The challenge for me is that as I contemplate that,I fear my present self being kind to my future self will only morph into my yet more future self doing yet more to be kind to my still more future self and so on and so on and so on – leaving me endlessly unable to presently get to what I really want to do. It’s essentially a collision between the proverb “Never put off til tomorrow what you can do today” and the theory that “there’s always one more thing to do.” My yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows end up filled with all the kind “to dos” for my “future self” finished but my wishlist of what I really want to get to (like reading and writing) keeps languishing. It’s a balance, I suppose, isn’t it? Perhaps it’s tending to that dish rack or that bank balance when you see or think of it – or having the wisdom to wait and take ten minutes to capture even briefly that thought that just wandered into your mind before it flits off…and then put up the dishes that don’t seem in a hurry to go anywhere. Perhaps that’s the key to being present in the moment and enjoying life just a bit more – don’t keep putting off all the necessary tasks presenting themselves to you (especially if they’re screaming) but also don’t keep deferring the heart of what you really want to do either. A healthy balance of both, yes? And just so you know, there are a few tasks remaining on my practical to do list tonight, but after an hour of those, reading this post was my want to moment of reward. And for the first time today, you gave me an excuse to write something. Encore, Jennifer. Encore. 🙂

    • That is awesome 🙂 I think I’m finding that doing tasks as they come up is always a several minute, at most, process. I think that’s what’s so addicting about it. Rarely do I ever put off writing in order to do dishes, but the little moments of noticing dirty ones and thinking “I should really get to those” seem to add up and maybe get in the way of possible ideas that would come if I walked into a clean room every time. And yes- I would hate for this to become an endless thing where I’m constantly doing things for tomorrow’s sake- that would be no fun! There are plenty of little messes to keep me sure that I’m not fully there at this time 🙂 thank you as always for your words! I’m glad this post was your treat- that makes my morning 🙂

  3. Hmm good food for thought. I really like a clean and orderly space. I go in cycles, sometimes keeping it picked up and put away, and other times letting it fall into minor chaos. It certainly does inspire creativity in myself when things are clean however. What I really don’t like to do is cleaning, dealing with the dirt, sweeping, dusting and scrubbing yuck~ I do it but I don’t like to. I used to make enough money to have someone do it for me every couple of weeks. Those were the days. 😀

    I am a pretty good wife to myself though. Hehehe~


  4. I’ve been wanting to spin alpaca fiber lately but it has been in a heap in the corner of my room, with many other things piled on top of it. IT’s fascinating to me how many aspects of life are universal. The paragraph about a certain slice of adulthood and achieving superhero rank is brilliant!

    I always love when you post because it helps me refocus and stop for a moment.

    • Aww 🙂 I’m the same way with my beads- when they get covered in other things on the table, I’m way less likely to sit and create. When I clean and organize them, I get so many ideas and can just instantly start on them without having to spend a half hour searching for the pliers and wire and all that…I’m excited to see what you do with that stuff!!

  5. As always Ms. Stuart, a very interesting and lively post! 😀
    In answer to your first question, yes, I do have a place for my creativity to thrive, whether it be using my desk, or simply lying around on the floor. With respect to your second question, I think the best way to improve my creative space would be to mess it up a bit more. Every project of mine is set up into stacks of piles so I can keep a tight lid on everything – so everything is in its own place – so that nothing can ever be terribly lost.
    However, I often find myself searching randomly through the piles of work, and when everything is just strewn across my desk, I often find it far easier to shift through the work when it is no longer in such a carefully stacked state, for even though it is a mess, it is an organised one, which I believe is reminiscent of what you noted in the section ‘Living now Instead of Playing Catch-up.’
    As for the Kitchen question, I wouldn’t exactly call it super-easy, but it’s not high maintenance either – it’s just annoyingly time consuming, but I guess that is the cost of cleanliness. However, I believe there is only so much you can do before your efforts begin to be lost on the kitchen. I’m not suggesting someone stops cleaning at any given point, but, for instance, my sink and all that it is connected to is supposed to be ‘rust-proof’ – I can assure you though, it rusts! Basically, no matter how well you clean something, is there not always a repercussion?

    • 🙂 thank you as always for your such well put comments. I love my jewelry stuff to be in that type of mess- not too carefully organized, just enough so that I can find things and not move bills out of the way to do so. My kitchen has since succumbed to much more of a mess than I had it when writing this post. I think there is always a repercussion like you say 🙂

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