Holy Cow! Look at all this Clutter!

Several years ago, I read a good book about decluttering. I can’t remember the name or author as I recycled it in the name of decluttering. But it made a lot of sense to me, even getting me into some good routines for a while. I remember separating stuff into (1) Trash (2) Give Away / Donate (3) File / Keep. For a time, everything was put away, or on a path to where it needed to go.

I am a bit of a pack rat – certainly not a candidate for the TV reality show Hoarders, but I am sentimental.  I have a hard time parting with things, especially those linked to a memory.  I have drawers filled with concert ticket stubs, old Christmas cards,  lyrics written on napkins, etc.  Here is an example:


Here we have a broken watch, a tiny bag of buttons, a glue stick, a couple of dried-out calligraphy pens, an old cough drop, some twisted earbuds, a credit card that expired in 1992, a commemorative 9/11 firefighter stamp, a newspaper clipping from one of my sister Melissa’s performances, and Bob-O-Magic’s business card.  Bob used to be the open mic host at  The Hotel Utah, many moons ago.  If I ever need to get a hold of him, I’m sure I can, either through Facebook, LinkedIn, or through one of our many mutual friends – not by digging through drawers searching for a business card containing obsolete information that I’m not going to be able to locate when I need it anyway. Even a sentimental person doesn’t need to keep something like that (although it does remind me of some fun nights at the Utah …… hmm,  maybe I’ll hold on to it for some kind of music collage).

One  of the things I remembered from the decluttering book was that if something is sentimental, bringing up nice or poignant feelings when you come across it, it might be worth holding on to. But if it’s crumpled up in a drawer next to a dusty old cough drop, a couple of paper clips and some old toothpicks, its meaning is not being honored. It should be kept in a special book or folder with similar items, or else be tossed.

I disposed of that decluttering book, thinking I had absorbed everything in it. I had updated my filing systems, put together some scrapbooks, added to my photos albums etc.  Not surprisingly,  a lot of old habits have returned and I have new clutter to deal with.

Recently, I learned of a book called Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. I liked this idea as I had once applied some Feng Shui principles to my surroundings with the help of my friend Kari. Feng shui  is a Chinese system of arranging things in your environment to support a healthy flow of energy. I had forgotten most of the principles I had learned.  (What I did remember was to never leave your bathroom door open, nor leave your purse on the floor, otherwise  your wealth –  current or future – will go right down the drain).


Karen Kingston’s book is starting to get me back on track, and I have recently purged a lot of items. The book also talks about the Feng Shui bagua,  a grid that identifies eight areas of one’s living space and how they correlate to specific parts of one’s life.  I applied this grid to my home, and found that my dining area is the “Knowledge, Wisdom, Self-Improvement”  gua. This revelation delighted me, as it’s from my dining room table that I especially enjoy looking out of the windows on to the bay writing, drawing and collaging.  Since I have been in a very creative place lately,  I wanted to make sure to get the energy flowing properly in this room. I needed it not only decluttered, but also very clean. Apparently,  bad energy accumulates around dirt, so I had to make sure the surfaces and floors were spotless. I admit, it’s not too often that I give the place a really deep cleaning. Over time, it’s even possible to believe that dirt and grime are actually shabby chic stains.

filthyfloor holycow

I’m a little embarassed by this  now, but I didn’t realize that the squares on the left were dirty until I applied a little elbow grease.  Elbow grease and some Holy Cow cleaner! My friend Christine turned me on to Holy Cow. As you can see, it works great.  My husband even used it on the floor mats of the car, and that worked well, too.  Holy Cow also gets points for being non-toxic and cruelty free. No need to wear a mask and lock your pet in the bedroom while using this stuff.

I like to go into Spring with organized,  clean surroundings. If cleanliness is really next to Godliness, and if I arrange things so that energy flows freely, perhaps God’s spirit will  flow through me in a way that continues to be creative and productive.


Second Collage


I am NOT a morning person, but recently I’ve been getting up early, prompted to do something productive:  write, meditate, draw,  exercise …  Highly unusual, but good, I suppose. Who knows,  perhaps I’m finally  developing some healthy new habits!

This morning I woke up before dawn,  thinking I wanted to blog about a recent workshop (on the use of digital film making  as a healing tool, particularly for people in the hospital). But when I looked out the window at the grey morning, I was motivated to start the second collage for my  Rectangles on the Bay series.

I enjoy taking pictures. They’re not the best quality as they’re just snapped from my iphone.  It’s easy to do, though, and suffices for my purposes,  at least for  now. (Getting a nice camera and using it is on my bucket list). Anyway, I like the reflections and angles in the above photo. It’s several hours after I made the collage, so the light is a lot different, and I took it from a closer vantage point.

Things went pretty smoothly during this collage-making session. No gunky glue sticks. Nothing burst into flames. The only misstep was accidentally dipping one of my  watercolor pencils into my coffee (hey, it was before 7 AM!) And yes, I continued to drink the coffee.

easy mistake

Easy mistake.

I wasn’t planning to use anything but paper and glue for this collage, but a majestic pine tree begged to be included. It was fun using aforementioned watercolor pencils, first to sketch the tree, then wetting them to add painterly effects.  I enjoy working with these pencils as they are much easier to control than paint brushes.

Here is the result, which is nearly finished. As with the first collage, I am planning to include some metal and string to fashion the blind cords and cleat hooks.  I figured that would be a nice way to tie them together.

collage 2

Shapes of Things


I had just returned from an exhilarating Sunday morning walk and was excited about starting the first collage for a series I had in mind.  I am lucky to live right on the San Francisco Bay, and never get tired of the ever-changing views:

Recently, I’ve become just as interested in the angles of the windows that frame these spectacular views, and I am planning a collage series called Rectangles on the Bay.  I was inspired, in part, by Georgia O’Keeffe‘s  door images and by Giorgio De Chirico.

Patio Door by Georgia O'Keeffechirico9a

I admit, I’m familiar with O’Keeffe’s doors through “Breaking Bad“.  The lovable meth cook Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) is discussing a Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit he has just seen with doomed girlfriend Jane Margolis (Krysten Ritter). Overall, he is not impressed with the exhibit, but is particularly disenchanted with her paintings of doors:


I love Jesse Pinkman.  I do not think he would appreciate my window collages, though. Jane might have liked them. She understood repetitive expression and the healing power of the artistic process: “That door was her home and she loved it. To me, that’s about making that feeling last.” Poor Jane …

Night before last, I did a sketch for my collage.


It looks as if someone is lurking outside, peering into my living room. Maybe I was so engrossed in my drawing, I didn’t notice him looking at me …

Anyway, I grabbed my box of paper, my scissors, my glue sticks and my sketch. I moved aside everything on the dining room table,  put down my full coffee carafe,  and started cutting and pasting away. My first glue stick was a gunky mess. If you use glue sticks a lot during  warm weather, I read that  you should keep a few in the fridge. You should also take the time to clear the table and put uncovered beverages elsewhere.  Of course I spilled the coffee.  But I tried to embrace the mistake, so I picked up the dripping collage, and hung it up to dry. Eager to accelerate the process,  I located the old craft dryer  I used to use to emboss cards. It hadn’t been used in quite awhile, so I thought the weird electrical smell and smoke  just meant it was waking up. Nope. It shorted and caught fire. At least I unplugged it before dousing it with water. Live and learn.


I actually liked the effect of the coffee on the previously white background. I got back to cutting, measuring and layering down squares, rectangles and strips of paper. I was trying to creative perspective – something I am not particularly good at in drawing and painting. This was the first time trying it with paper, and it wasn’t easy. Nonetheless, I was having a good time. I even like the result, although it’s not quite finished. Fortunately, like the windows in my home, I can always return to it.

Collaging Post-Schwitters

Collaging Badger

After the Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage exhibit at UC Berkeley Art Museum, Fall of 2011. Matt Gonzalez hosted a collage making session after commenting on a few of his favorite Schwitter pieces. This picture was taken by new collaging friend, Lupita Peimbert.

Here’s an article on the exhibit:  http://dailyserving.com/2011/08/kurt-schwitters-color-and-collage-at-the-berkeley-art-museum/

And on  the collage-making series:  http://events.sfgate.com/berkeley_ca/events/show/201670065-kurt-schwitters-make-art-with-matt-gonzalez