Dear Peter Walsh,

My husband and I are both artists. We live in a 1,400-square-foot condo that serves as our home and part-time studio. I lived here by myself for 12 years. For three of those years I had to leave because of the earthquake damage. During that time, I moved four times (with friends, family and finally an apartment). I'd packed everything and put it into storage because I thought I'd be back within six months. My closet doubled, I got more furniture and stuff.

Terry, my husband, was building my kitchen so that I could move back in when we fell in love. We got married 10 years ago. There was no room for his stuff, and he didn't have all that much. Then, four years ago, he began working on his first documentary film. You can see some of the equipment in the photos I've included. I purge and the house just swells to fill the empty space. I feel overwhelmed.

— Sharon

Sharon, the word "organized" and the word "organic" come from the same root—to be whole, complete, natural, human, one.

You only have the space you have, and so you have to limit what you own to fit reasonably into your space. That's why it's imperative that you and your husband establish clear "zones" in your home for the different items that you own, then store like items in those zones and, most importantly of all, limit what you own to that space and routinely put things where they belong.

The photos of your apartment suggest that you have no systems in your home for storing things or obvious space for where items belong. Things are strewn all over the place, and it looks like you simply leave items where you last used them. As artists, it's imperative that your space feed your creativity, not hamper
it. Without organization, your space is working against you.

Own your space. Establish zones for like items. Limit what you own to reasonably fit into those zones. Put things away when you're finished with them.

— Peter


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