Cleanliness and Creativity: Nourishing Your Future Creative Flame

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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?

The Box of a Retail Job

Recently I started a new job in the world of retail on a busy street in Austin. It’s at a store that sells handmade gifts from around the world, and I’m happy that I finally found one.

That being said, most of my readers will know that my story-driven and sometimes overly sensitive brain will easily have a heyday with this type of situation.

For one thing, this is the first time in several years that I’ve had a job that demanded I be at a certain place at certain times all throughout the week. Even my last job that payed great and put me in a leadership role only demanded me to be in a specific spot two days out of the week- the rest was just over the phone, which made getting a few hours off impossible to count on.

One of the things I am most struck by is how nice it is to have a job that I can actually leave at the job. When I come home, I get to spend my time however the heck I want to without having to give a second thought to what happened at work. It’s the first time in many many years that that is the case for me- usually my work comes home with me or is home-based.

But I must say that delving back into the world of retail has my head spinning with critiques and questions about the way we run things in this world.

Right now, when I think of heading to work, it feels like I am heading into a box. A box where they can tell me how long I have to stand and when I get to stop and eat. A box where they tell me what to do and how to do it, and where I have to smile and be a blank slate of joy and service for whoever chooses to walk through the doors to buy things they don’t need in a city where they are trying to pack as much joy and excitement and consumerism into as short of a time as possible. If I didn’t know better, I would assume that all tourists choose Saturday for these endeavors.

I want to make that box into more of a home. Not really a home, but a small room in a home. A room that has a certain purpose that does not have to affect the rest of it. Like a utility closet, or my dad’s wood room in the basement. He would go there to load up wood into the stove and heat the house. It is hard work to do that, but the house stays warm in winter and wood doesn’t have to be burned all over the place.

I can go to this job and put on a smile and make money while also getting to talk to people and find genuine joy inside of me because that is much easier than faking it. I can learn the systems and the cash register and the stories about all of the merchandise. But I have to remember and remind myself that the box of that job does not define me as a person and does not need to impact my opinion of myself even if I do a less than decent job some days.

This new situation also reminds me how little I am able to actually empathize with the people I encounter each day. All throughout the day we are interacting with people who are currently at work. Whether we have to call the telephone company or go to the gas station, we are talking to folks who are at their jobs doing what they do in that small room of their mental house. Sometimes as obvious as it is, I forget this. I forget there are things I can’t empathize with because I have never worked at a telephone company call center or at a gas station. I know what it means to go “to work” but the specific demands on each person in those roles is going to be unique. I don’t know how long they have been standing or sitting or how badly they want to go get a snack.

That’s all I’ve got for now, folks. There are stories and blog posts brewing in my brain but those will have to just wait. Right now, I just want to share my process about this box and how I want to choose to relate to it so that it doesn’t feel too overwhelming.

Do you like your job? Do you remember the last time you changed into a new type of job from the one you previously had and how that affected your mental state?