04 April 2008


A friend recently sent me this excerpt from a Singer Sewing Manual from 1949. People on her discussion list were making fun of it, but she thought it was both sensible and wise. I agree.
"Prepare yourself mentally for sewing. Think about what you are going to do. Never
approach sewing with a sigh or lackadaisically. Good results are difficult when indifference predominates. Never try to sew with a sink full of dirty dishes or beds unmade. When there are urgent housekeeping chores, do these first so your mind is free to enjoy your sewing. When you sew, make yourself as attractive as possible. Put on a clean dress. Have your hair in order, powder and lipstick put on. If you are constantly fearful that a visitor will drop in or your husband will come home and you will not look neatly put together, you will not enjoy your sewing as you should."
It's easy to laugh at this dated advice directed to housewives vacuuming in heels and pearls. But, once you look past the writing style and 1950's imagery, there is a lot of wisdom contained in this little snippet.

We lead hectic lives, trying to balance competing needs and demands for our attention. We multi-task, attached to our cell phones and laptops, while we shop online, cook dinner, monitor the laundry, and greet our spouses. The idea of waiting to sew until our houses are clean and we are neatly dressed (with powder and lipstick, no less!) seems archaic and impossible.

But, I'm finding the basic principles in this advice to be true. I'm more productive in my studio when I am relaxed. And, for me, a relaxed mind comes from having a clutter-free and relatively clean home.

Fortunately, this is a fairly common experience. My husband and I have worked hard to downsize our belongings so that our house is fairly minimalist. And my weekly cleaning schedule means I don't have to think about whether to vacuum or clean the bathrooms. Like the old saying goes, "I vacuum my house once a week whether it needs it or not."

It's taken a fair bit of work to get to this point, but now it feels comfortable and natural. I enjoy the mental freedom that comes from having systems in place and from having created a home that works for us.

Full disclaimer: although my house is minimalist and clutter-free, my studio is most decidedly not. But, one of my resolutions for this year is to take these cleaning and decluttering systems and apply them to my studio. It's slowly happening. And I feel an increased level of creative energy and freedom with each layer of cluttered accretion I remove, even if I'm not wearing lipstick and heels.

If you are still working on decluttering and developing systems for your own home, check out Leo at Zen Habits' great post A Guide to Creating a Minimalist Home. I only discovered Zen Habits a couple months ago, but it has quickly become one of my favorite blogs. It's worth reading his archives.

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