Mary Corbet

writer and founder


I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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The Disorganized Workroom Blues



Yesterday, I was supposed to make some extreme stitching progress.

In the morning, I psyched myself up for a grueling, record-breaking day of embroidery.

I wanted to accomplish two things: preparation of website content (I had a few tutorials in mind), and arriving at the next stage of the Mission Rose project, which has stalled somewhat due to website work.

But this is what greeted me when I went out to my workroom:

The Disorganized Workroom

After several months of working on the Floral Sampler Alphabet and the Mission Rose project, as well as a million other little things for Needle ‘n Thread and several other projects needlework-non-related, my workroom had morphed into The Very Large Mess.

Sometimes, I wonder if I use “Tidying Up” and “Organization” as an excuse – as a delay tactic? Deep down, I probably do.

But I know that if I tidy every day – if I take 15 minutes at the end of a work day and tackle the clutter-prone areas – then things will not get out of hand, and it won’t take a whole afternoon to re-organize and tidy up.

Yep! I know this! But… I don’t always practice it.

And after a couple months with little regard for those Nefarious Clutter-Prone Spots, when I sat down to stitch yesterday, I was visited by the Disorganized Workroom Blues.

I tried to ignore them.

First, I attempted stitching two Stitch Fun Tutorials and photographing them. 136 photos later, and two C-R-A-P-P-Y examples of embroidery later, I switched to the Mission Rose.

Big Mistake!

When even your basic embroidery stitches are not turning out, don’t switch to goldwork.

Finally, at lunch time, I realized there was nothing for it…

The Disorganized Workroom

…and yesterday afternoon, at 1:30, I snapped a photo of my cluttered workroom, and I started.

I took the photo, because I wanted to share this experience with you. After all, if you’re not sympathetic to this particular plight, who in the wide world would be?

At the end of the day….

The Disorganized Workroom

…several hours later….

…and many beads of sweat later…

…this is what my workroom looked like:

The Disorganized Workroom

I know!!

You were expecting a pristinely-organized, cleaned up space!!

So was I!!

It doesn’t look all that much different, does it? Well, I hauled some shelves out, cleared out boxes and bins, and hauled away a good amount of stuff to the local thrift shop. You can’t really see all that. I went through my tool and project bins that had gotten out of hand. All stray threads were put in their proper homes.

And at the end of it all, I felt the Blue Cloud of Disorganized Muddle-Headedness lifting slightly.

And the Bright Rays of Organizational Content were breaking through!

Today, I will finish that job. And then, I will stitch again in Peace and Happiness with a clear mind and a clean conscience.

Now, for some people, I realize that their “creativity flows better” if they are in a bit of a mess. For me, I can still manage creativity with a bit of a mess, but not with so much of a mess that I can’t find things I need, or that I have too many stacks without enough workspace.

But what about you? Are you a neat-nick in your workspace, or do you tend to clutter up quite a bit? Does clutter prevent you from moving forward with your projects? Do you religiously keep your space tidy, or do you let things slide and then play catch up? Do you have any tips for keeping your workspace tidy? Would love to hear your take on the subject! Have your say below!


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(107) Comments

  1. Funny you mention this today, I just spent labor day weekend reorganizing and de-cluttering mt stitching storage area. It shares space with my library and was getting to the point I couldn’t walk in the room due to piles of things waiting to be put in notebooks, proper places, etc. I also found I was buying duplicates of things due to the lack of organization. I still have just a little more to do but I must say I feel so much better about things now. It was well worth the effort. And, I can get to my sewing machines again which sit on a work table in the middle of the room. 🙂

  2. I’m so glad you said it first: “It doesn’t look all that much different, does it?” I was feeling bad that I couldn’t see much going on between pictures one and two. But you know what you did and what had to go. That’s what makes stitching easier.

    Yes, I’m a person that needs to have things fairly neat before I can work. Otherwise, all that stuff screams at me for attention. Even in the kitchen, I have to have all the dishes washed and put away before I start in on another mess.

  3. I loved this article, it seems we do not see our own clutter. For me it is when the threads make it into the bathroom and my husband asks how in ####
    does it get in here. I them go in search of the plastic keepers for new bed linens and start sorting these bags are great for storage and a quick clean up.

  4. What a perfect topic for today! That is exactly what I am avoiding! I love your cabinet with all of those little drawers (at the end of your worktable). Would you mind sharing where you got that little piece? Thanks!

    1. I usually try to start a new project with a neat work space, but as things progress my space seems to get smaller and smaller and the piles of stuff get higher and higher. Then it starts to encroach on other areas in the house. This keeps up until I am finished with the project and neaten the area or the house becomes a major health hasard and I have no choice but to clean.

    2. Hi, Nancy –

      Those cabinets are by Bisley, and in the US, you can find them through the Container Store. They have a sale in the spring once a year. That’s when I got mine. -MC

  5. You are so right with your “15 minutes at the end of the day to tidy up.” Know how I get around that??? “But I am going to be right back!” Soothes the soul right away but not the room. 🙂

  6. This is too funny! just as I was think, all those hours, and it doesn’t look much different, you come in to explain. Yes, I get it.

    And I can not work in total confusion. I do need some ability to lay my hands on what I need. A bit of confusion is fine,though, since juxtapositions of materials and ideas often act as triggers for new ideas. Just what we need, new ideas to add to the long string of other ones waiting for some attention!

    I send on a lot of your blogposts to my EGA guild members, who just love it, and in fact one of them was stitching away at our meeting last night on a kit she’d got from you. Yay.

  7. Could it be in the air? I am going through the exact same thing!!!! I absolutely cannot start one more new thing (or continue one more thing) until I get all the needles, thread, felt, acorns, projects which need to be archived, etc organized for the winter. Absolutely!!!!

  8. I am a messy person! I can easily pull out supplies for a project, but am not good about putting things away. I begrudge the time it takes to straighten and neaten. My husband recently put large shelves on all four walls of my studio, and this has helped considerably, but I still have stacks and “stuff” everywhere. It used to embarrass me, but I am working to focus on what I create out of chaos, instead of feeling guilty. I try to have a semi regular cleanup day so you did, but… I guess at’s just who I am!

    1. This is so me. My boyfriend put up lots of shelving and built me some storage. I still have piles that are future projects lying everywhere. It gets worse when I don’t put my ironing board away at the end of a sewing session as it becomes another surface for piles.

  9. You call your “beginning of the day” photo of your workroom a mess??? That is something I aspire to!!! I do “hear you”, however, about your ability to work and be creative. I think that is one reason why I like to attend classes — it is away from my workspace AND my only job is to concentrate on my embroidery for that time. One of my “when I grow up” goals has always been to be organized and provide myself with a good, un-cluttered workspace. I have no one to blame other than myself for my not having such a thing — and I am pretty sure I HAVE grown up!! haha And I am still working on that organization thing!

  10. “Sometimes, I wonder if I use “Tidying Up” and “Organization” as an excuse – as a delay tactic? Deep down, I probably do.”

    In the immortal words of Monty Python, “I know I have”.

    I try to keep tidy, but somehow I always end up with several projects in bits and pieces all over my little (8’x10′) studio, plus various supplies I can’t put away because I can’t reach that box, plus several other things I’m trying to decide what to do with… So it’s a never-ending struggle, and sometimes I give up and reorganize a drawer-full of beads or something, just to clear my head.

  11. Actually Mary your room after the clean up looks a bit more organized than before. I live in a 2 bedroom apartment soooo I have to be organized. I have for each project containers of all the threads I need for that project and colours are separated into individual containers that w