How satisfied are you with your studio’s tidiness? No, really. Do you even have a dedicated art space at all? Are your art supplies scattered willy-nilly all over your home? Have you filled your drawers and shelves to the brim with stationery, journals, brushes, paints, and just about every art material imaginable? Are you a creative or artist who’s just fed up with your own mess?
Then it's about time you tried the KonMari method in your own art space!
That is, the groundbreaking decluttering method popularized in The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. On a personal note, I'm so obsessed with this book that I consider it my personal bible. Using the KonMari method taught me never to invite clutter back into my space again. Granted you'll need a bit of a mindset shift before you get into it.
First, recognize what's blocking you from setting up a clutter-free studio. Here are some common pitfalls:
- I'm too disorganized or messy to ever be tidy
- I have way too much stuff
- I don't have enough space
- I don't have the time for this
- Decluttering has never worked for me so why will it work now?
Well here's how to counter those thoughts. Reframe how you think about decluttering.
It's not a chore, it's a self-care ritual. You deserve an orderly and energized space conducive to creativity. Tidying up your art materials means inviting joy and creative energy back into your studio. It means letting go, not just of your stuff, but of beliefs that hold you back.
When decluttering your studio, you must ask yourself: Does this spark joy and creativity?
So here's a guide plus my personal tips on organizing your studio like a pro!
What is the KonMari method anyway?
The KonMari method was developed by tidying guru and clutter queen Marie Kondo. I highly recommend you read her book—there’s an illustrated version, too. If not, you can watch her Netflix special, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. It’s more than a self-help fad, more than a feel-good reality show, more than a list of organizational how-tos. It's a lifestyle change, a shift in perspective.
The KonMari method enables you to live a more joyful meaningful and creative life.
Marie Kondo’s trick? Keep only what sparks joy. Choose what to keep instead of what to get rid of.
Hailing from japan—the land that turned minimalism into an art form—Marie Kondo spent a few years as a priestess in a Shinto shrine. That's where she gets her philosophy on tidying up: that everything, even inanimate objects, has energy.
Tidying up, according to Marie Kondo, is a ritual done in two stages. First, discard your things all at once. Second, tidy up in the right order.
Ideally, you do this to your entire home. In this case, let’s tackle your art materials step by step.
Start your tidy-up ritual early in the morning
Treat your tidying up ritual like a special event. It will take a day at most, so get an early start. Get the overwhelm over with. If you organize properly and give everything its own home within your home, you'll never have to tidy up again.
Greet your studio with a friendly hello. Sounds woowoo, but again, it’s a self-care ritual. Do it right. Invite joy into your space by being joyful and friendly yourself.
Marie Kondo says there’s two types of tidying: daily tidying and special event tidying. Daily tidying means putting things back in their proper place. Special event tidying is that one-time, big-time act of putting your space in order.
Marie Kondo pro-tip: “People can’t change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.”
Visualize your dream space
A dream without a plan is just a wish. Vividly and concretely imagine your perfect, clutter-free art-making environment. Picture your dream artist life. Down to your daily routine. How does that flow into your space?
Now think about your lifestyle and aesthetic preferences. The colors you want to dominate your studio. Where would you place your favorite things? What vessel will contain your tools like brushes and pens? How about decor?
My dream studio is full of natural light and books. In turn, I wound up setting up my desk in line with my window. And my shelf houses both my books and my art stuff for easy access. Visually, I’m instantly inspired to create whenever I see my space.
KonMari Pro-Tip: Figure out your why. Why do you want to organize your art supplies? What kind of creative life do you want to lead and what does it look like?
Get everything out and on the floor. See how much you really have.
Again: Discard all at once. You’ll realize how much of a hoarder you truly are by putting everything out in plain sight. That’s not necessarily a bad thing!
Don’t get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of art supplies you have. This action helps you learn to use what you have instead of buying new. You might even find something you thought you lost!
Worry about placement and storage later (we’ll get to that soon). Storage should be intuitive, but you won’t know how to store things until you finalize what you’re keeping. Don’t even put things away before you’ve finished discarding!
KonMari Pro-Tip: Take time to hold each item in your hands. Every pen, paint tube, pencil, and marker. It will take a while. But you’re starting to understand the true meaning of having belongings. What has a rightful place in your studio and what doesn’t?
Rule of thumb: Ask yourself if it sparks joy and creativity
It’s easy to answer yes to everything. So start by discarding things that have outlived their purpose. Pens that skip and write awfully, no matter how cute or pretty. A frayed, balding paintbrush. Dry or expired paint you have no intention of reviving.
If you won’t use it now or in the near future, it might serve its purpose in someone else’s hands.
Tidying up is a dialogue with one’s self. You might feel stuck choosing whether something must go or stay. Deep down, this might be an unhealthy attachment, whether to what kind of artist you were in the past or who you’re pressured to be in the future. So be present. Hold on to what you can and will create with.
KonMari Pro-tip: Appreciate your belongings, even the ones you’re letting go of. Say, “Thank you for being part of my creative journey.” Or, “I’m looking forward to making more beautiful things with you.”
Tidy up by category, and in the proper order
Now that you know how to declutter and organize, learn the order of doing so. Marie Kondo has her own order for tidying up your whole home, but we’re minimizing this process to your art studio.
The logic: sort by category, not by location. And start with common objects to avoid decision fatigue. If you organize by category and in this prescribed order, you’ll avoid getting lost in the decluttering.
Here’s a good order when organizing your art supplies:
- Drawing media: Pens, pencils, markers, pastels, crayons
- Paints: Palettes and sets first, then individual paint tubes or containers
- Reading material: Books, magazines, papers
- Unused notebooks, sketchbooks, journals
- Komono or miscellaneous art supplies and spares/extras
- Ephemera: Stickers and stationery, papers for collaging, found items, things you keep for no reason, the junk drawer
- Mementos: Used notebooks, sketchbooks, journals; finished art pieces; postcards and letters
Do what works for you. But do not start with mementos or things of emotional value. For example, when you find something you haven’t seen in a while and put your whole decluttering task on hold just to use it again (guilty).
KonMari Pro-Tip: Starting with emotionally valuable items spells certain failure. Instead, start with the most common items first then gradually work toward harder categories. This helps you hone your decision-making skills in decluttering.
Eliminate excess visual information: Unbox, unpack, untag
The Japanese practically invented minimalism. Their product labels are neat, simple, and uniform—if there’s any at all. Remove stickers and price tags from your art materials to reduce visual clutter.
Also, this might be difficult to hear, but you really don’t need to keep the packaging your art supplies come in. Unless it’s a box you can use for storage and organization.
Case in point: Your phone’s packaging. You probably don’t need to keep the box it came in. But if it’s a sturdy box that can be repurposed as a drawer organizer, then that’s fine. And if you won’t use it now, you probably won’t use it ever.
Another example. I had a pack of fineliners that came in an acrylic box I couldn’t let go of. These pens sat in storage for years. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say. But once I removed them from their packaging and placed the pens in my designated pen holder, I began using them more often.
It’s better to store paper stocks in clear binders or file boxes. That way, you won’t need to keep it in its flimsy plastic packaging. To keep everything separated, use folders or even binder clips. Since you’re keeping only what you like and use, you won’t need to worry about these things gathering dust.
KonMari Pro-Tip: Pursue ultimate simplicity. Also, vertical storage for the win. Arrange things by height if you can. As for colors, go light to dark—or in a gradient.
Figure out your storage situation
Only start storing things in order when you’re done decluttering and discarding. Be economical and minimal. If it truly can’t be helped and you need to head to the container store, only get what you need and have space for.
If you have a set of paints in a box, discard the box. Instead, lay out those tubes or containers of paint so you can see them all at a glance.
For pens, markers, and brushes, use containers that give off a feeling of uniformity. Jam jars are my favorite vessel for these things. I’m also a scented candle hoarder. When I finish a candle, I recycle the glass jar it came in and use it for holding pens!
I have a metal shoebox I use for my paper ephemera and collage materials. I also use paper organizers for holding my notebooks and papers upright. For sticker and stationery hoarders, a binder with clear plastic sleeves will be your new best friend.
KonMari Pro-Tip: You can probably solve your storage problems with what you already have. Don’t get sucked into the Pinterest black hole. Yes, it’s possible to hoard storage stuff, too.
Give everything a home—organize by item type, color, and height
Discover the organization tip that changed my life. Every item has a home, you just need to find out where. If you organize your art supplies intuitively and with your best creative self in mind, this will come easily to you.
Go with the flow. Put your most-used art supplies in easy-to-reach places. And keep them in the same area. Group items of similar categories together, whether that’s in a basket or displayed on your shelf.
Keep your currently-in-use notebooks, sketchbooks, and journals together. Have all your unused paper stock and notebooks in one area so you avoid hoarding again.
Turn your top shelf into a shrine. Make a personal altar to celebrate your creative spirit in your studio. Display your best pieces, show off your art books, add a houseplant, and place your favorite candle or room diffuser.
KonMari Pro-Tip: Store your paints and coloring materials by color family. I usually default to a ROYGBIV gradient. Make your space less visually cluttered by arranging palettes and papers by height.
Get rid of unwanted clutter sustainably by selling or donating
By now you probably have bags just full of art supplies that no longer spark joy. If some of them are truly unusable, take them to your nearest recycling facility or junk shop. Dispose properly!
When I cleared out my studio, I had stacks upon stacks of reference books that I ended up donating to charity. At one of my in-person art workshops, I brought out a whole buffet of stickers, washi tapes, and colored pens for my students to take home.
You can make a quick buck selling pre-loved art materials. Facebook is a great place to start. During the pandemic, I joined a bunch of “dumpster diving” groups on Facebook where you just post anything for anyone to take for free!
That’s when I realized what Marie Kondo meant when she said tidying up makes you feel lighter.
I truly felt like a huge load was taken off me when my discarded items finally left the threshold of my home. Think about it like spreading the joy around. These items you’ve thanked and said goodbye to can spark joy for someone else out there.
What can you learn from tidying up and organizing your art supplies?
For one, I’m much more at ease in my studio. A clean space is a clear mind. And knowing what you want to own helps you figure out how you want to live and create!
The long and arduous process of tidying up, discarding, and organizing helps you make better choices. I’ve definitely become more mindful as a consumer. And I’m much more content with what I have. The day after I decluttered my space, I also decluttered my online shopping wishlist!
Suffice to say, I no longer over-buy art supplies anymore. I’m a graduated art journal hoarder!
Knowing how much I actually had helped me overcome perfectionism when making art. It’s okay to make a mistake. It’s not a waste of my art supplies and paper stock—gosh, I have so much of it anyway, I can’t wait to use them all up! When I put my studio in order, all I wanted to do was to use up all my paint in ways that felt joyful to me. I saw how much acrylic paint I had and realized I wanted to do a pink series—like Picasso’s blue period, but rosy.
KonMari Pro-Tip: Your real life begins after putting your [space] in order.
How about you? What art materials spark the most joy for you? How are you planning to tackle organizing your art supplies? Need more tips of this sort from us? Let us know in the comments below!
- MEET THE AUTHOR-
Belle O. Mapa is a writer and artist based in Manila, Philippines. She believes that everyone is born with an inner creative spirit—we just need to nurture and discover it on the blank page. Currently, she lives out her passion: writing stories, hosting journaling workshops, and advocating for mental health awareness.
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