Questions To Ask Yourself When Trying To Nail Down Your Niche + Why You Need To Envision Your Success

Do you ever feel lost in what you’re doing?

Do you have trouble remembering the bigger picture?

As artists and creative people, it can be easy to forget why we began creating in the first place.

It can so easily feel like you’re talking into the vacuum of space, posting all your hard work into a black hole.

So how you do get noticed?

You need “a thing”, or a niche.

Something important to us as human beings is being good at something. We all like to feel like we have ‘our thing’. Not only does defining your niche make you more memorable as a creator, but it also makes your work feel more filling—your heart has to be in it for it to work.

For us to have ‘our thing’ we kind of have to make it up on our own. 

Whether that’s your middle school awards or that class in college that totally changed your life, you’ve found your thing.

When trying to compete in the rat-race of social media popularity, gaining commissions, and finding new clients—we often lose sight of ‘our thing’, and which work made us happy to begin with.

You work hard, but you don’t know where you want to go with your art or business.

Whenever I’m feeling this way (because we all do from time to time), I always go through the same exercise that I’m going to share with you right now!

  • What do you do and why? 
  • How do you do it? 
  • What’s your method and why do you do it that way? 

That’s it? Almost.

Envisioning your future can be the simplest exercise for self-discovery.

The importance of having a vision of your future:

  1. To keep you focused on a plan
  2. To keep you motivated towards your goals
  3. To master your skillset—narrowing down to one niche to build capitol to support your plan

What that might look like:

I wanted to share an expert of my Future Vision as an example of what measures you should focus on as a newbie, rather than looking at vanity metrics and low-ROI tasks.

So, here is part of my personal Future Vision from 2017—a pinnacle point in my life, when I was finishing school and planning to become self-employed:

At 28 I picture my life modern, but simple. With a dog and my own patch of grass, living in a smart home and tending a greenhouse. Where we live is only filled with what we need and love. I'm happy and healthy. 
My dreams of being a self-employed artist are a reality. I have a mildly successful blog I write and a podcast I do every month. I am finally thrilled to be living and have built better positive thinking techniques. I have healthy habits and meditate every day. I do yoga and jog to stay healthy and active. I eat the best foods for my body with lots of fresh greens and nuts. 
I feel great in the skin I'm in and only wear what is for me. I want to tread my own path in life and pursue my passions. I focus my energy on producing rather than consuming, being more conscious of whats going into my body, and making my body move more. To spend more time and effort on experiences than possessions- 
It has made me so humble and grateful to have kept this life.

14 Questions To Guide You Towards Your Niche + Vision

  1. What are my strengths? What am I good at?
  2. What do people come to me for advice or help with?
  3. What do I get excited or passionate about?
  4. Who are the most important people in my life and why?
  5. What do I need (to do) to feel my best?
  6. Where is the majority of my energy and attention been going lately?
  7. What lessons have I learned in the past 3 months? 6 months? Year?
  8. List my recent wins & failures.
  9. What would I do if I knew I could not fail?
  10. If I had all the money in the world, what would I do?
  11. How would I like to give back or help others?
  12. What drives me & what do I hunger for?
  13. What do I need more of in my life?
  14. What are my values & how do I live out those values in my own life?

I urge you to pull out your journal, day-planner, notes app, or whatever it is you use to record your ideas and get started on answering these questions! I promise you that this exercise will without a doubt help you refine your niche and overall vision for your life and art business.

If you need some extra reading, check out my other post on finding your niche, as well as advice on getting started as an online seller, and tips for marketing your creative business right now!

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

The Best Way To Spend Your Time As A Creative Business Owner

Before I started this project, I really had no clue what I did in a day.

If there’s no pictures, it didn’t happen as far as my memory is concerned

But when I recently had to write a piece on my experiences as a creative business owner and freelancer, I had to figure out what I actually did before I could start writing.


During this project I also came across a big problem…

It’s difficult to gauge your output in the early stages of being self-employed, and whether you’re working up to an industry standard. 

Am I doing enough, or am I slacking off?

It’s too easy to lose track of time, especially when working on one big project over the course of days or weeks. It can be even easier to fall behind on your progress, unnoticed.

When you first start out your milestones cannot be measured by the money you make—this can make tracking your progress a lot more difficult.

You won’t be making anything your first day working for yourself. Maybe not the first week, or even the first month, but that doesn’t mean you’re not working hard. 

I spent a lot of time feeling guilty whenever I wasn’t actively working on a paid project.

But a lot of what we do as self-employed people is unpaid labour—a lot of our time is devoted to unpaid tasks like social media marketing, promoting sales, applying to grants—leaving us with less time to look for more work, get commissions, and still finish passion projects…

There’s moments where it feels like all of your stress and hard work is for nothing. It gets hard, sometimes it will feel like it’s too hard. Comparing yourself too closely to others can leave you feeling shitty and dejected.

We get this way is because we often don’t have a clear overall vision of what we want to accomplish. 

You may have a vague idea of what you want your life to look like in 5 years, but could you write it out on paper; fill a page or two? 

This is an exercise I first started doing regularly because of Lavendaire, a successful content creator who focuses on minimalism and mindfulness. You write out your ‘Future Vision’, as she refers to it, which is basically everything you envision your life to be in a year; in 2 years; in 5 years. 

Envision every detail you can picture, smell, hear, and to totally immerse yourself in whatever you want your future to be.

It’s easy to put off doing the things that will give us the most returns—it’s a lot easier to paint a canvas than to sell it when you’re finished—but taking a look at my future needs and having an overall theme for my life has been a great way to be consistent in my efforts, both in my professional and my personal life. 


A huge part of creating compelling artwork is storytelling, or effectively content marketing.

It’s not enough to say “Buy my art!”, these days. It no longer speaks for itself; you need to breathe life into your work with refreshing words and flowing phrases.

You can have the most beautiful art in the world, but all people care about is a good story. If you’re not saying anything with your work, no one will resonate with it — and no one will buy it.

Social media is a content marketing goldmine, and now with shoppable posts it’s easier than ever to make money off Instagram and Facebook.

All you need is a clear vision of where you want to go with your creative business.

One of the many ways to clarify that looks like is with a social media marketing strategy.

For example, I use my content to show off my designs, get in touch with my audience, and promote my projects. In tandem with well-written captions, frequent posts are a great way to start a conversation or to get feedback on what your project while you’re still working on it!

What will you use your platform for?

I want you to download this FREE worksheet so you can get started with setting your goals to clearly see where you’re going with your creative business!

If you’re still feeling like you’re missing something, go read about how to build your confidence and business as well as advice on establishing your niche to gain some footing in your content marketing plan.


Until next time, look below for some of my other digital reading materials to keep you busy during quarantine!

Joey @ The A/J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

How You’re Using Your Day-Planner Wrong: Get Better At Working From Home (Part 2)

Do you struggle with time management?

If you often find yourself scrambling to get out the door in the morning, arriving late for almost everything, missing meals, forgetting important dates; you most likely are bad at time management.

Being bad at managing our time can not only hurt our productivity, but also our relationships and quality of life— it can even lead to us disappointing the people we care about most.

I don’t often miss my bus, but when I do it puts a damper on my day because the next one won’t come for 30 minutes, making me late.

What if this happened every day?

I would be miserable. I would dread catching the bus every day because I would always miss it. Rather than missing my bus, I just give myself way more time to catch it.

I don’t have a special routine. I don’t have to wake up at 5am (you can’t get me out of bed until at least 8am, if you’re lucky). 

So what’s my secret?

My day planner… That’s it!

Even though it’s one of the first things (and arguably the only things) we learn in elementary school, time management escapes us.

If you remember your school timetable—or maybe you still have one in the form of a calendar planner—it was or is the thing that rules your life. It tells you where to be and what you’re doing at every hour of the (school/work) day.


As adults of a planning-mindset, we usually adopt a day-planner to manage our lives.

But did you know you’re probably using it wrong?

What your daily planner IS NOT FOR:

  • To do lists of what to do each day—this isn’t useful because it doesn’t tell you WHEN and HOW LONG you’re doing those things on your list. 
  • Items without dedicated time intervals. If you don’t know how long something will take, set an amount of time (i.e. 2 hours) to work on it—try setting a timer and don’t break your concentration until it goes off.
  • Items that are not actionable: they have to be broken down into smaller tasks in order to be completed.

These things are what make us realize at the end of the day that we only got through half of what we planned to accomplish; we always plan too much in one day when we fall into these ‘productivity traps’.

Working At Home Like A Pro With The Help Of These Tips
The Importance Of Time-management Skills When Working From Home

‘Productivity traps’ are what make us feel busy all day, but leave us disappointed by what we finished (or didn’t) that day.

Things like chasing ‘vanity metrics’, we’re pouring our energy into things that don’t reward us the most when we don’t plan our days.


So what’s the big secret that’s transformed how I think about my time and productivity?

Two words my friend: time-blocking. Or is that two words? Whatever.

Learning about time-blocking is what started to totally change how I work. I never feel like I’m wasting my time. 

It’s given me the freedom as a freelancer to be more present; I don’t feel like I have to be glued to my phone because I know when I need to be… I scheduled it.


So how can you get better at time management right now?

If you haven’t already, you should really read my Part 1 of this post before going any further! If you haven’t done any time-tracking, time-blocking will be a failure.

Why?

Because you need to know what you do with your time first.

So go read that post right now if you need to learn what time-tracking is along with my tips and favourite apps to get started!

Now I’ve been raving for a while, but what’s the big deal?

You might be thinking “I’m self-employed and don’t need a schedule”, but that would be a huge mistake!

Our minds tend to segment things — to break them off into smaller chunks, so they’re easier for our brains to digest. This can naturally make it difficult to accurately track your time.

We sit down and draw for an hour, but it feels like it’s been minutes. Or, you’ll be at work for an hour and feel like you’ve been there all day. 

Our animal brains have no real concept of time.

That’s why I find time-blocking so important.


Time-blocking is the act of delegating set amounts of time for the tasks you need to complete, but in as much detail and specific as possible.

Whether, it’s my work life or the activities I do in my free time, I like to keep track of the time I’m doing anything because it forces me to be present.

Applying time-blocking to my entire life — rather than just my work life — is what really kicked my productivity into gear this year. Extending this philosophy past the common conception of a ‘work day’, I found is where I starting seeing the most returns.

I force myself to take a moment to asses (or reassess) what I’m doing, how long I’ve been doing it, and if it’s a thing I should be doing.

Spending 3 hours drafting a comic is great, but three hours of ‘drafting a comic’ with nothing to show but a queue of watched Youtube videos is not. 

How to increase engagement Live-streaming - Pin title card
Read about what live-streaming is and how it boosted my art at The Artist Journal.ca + download a FREE printable to get your goals ready for 2020!

Tracking your time alongside time-blocking will force to be in the present moment and will hold you accountable for how you use your time.

See how it all comes together?

I know this sounds totally neurotic and overkill, but I wouldn’t talk about it so much if it didn’t totally change my workflow.

Tracking all of my time has shown me a lot about how I work. It’s shown me:

  • What hours are my most productive
  • How long the regular tasks I do take
  • How much time I’m making for family and friends
  • What foods I like to eat and when

I’ve even figured out the best times of day to work on different projects.

I wouldn’t talk about it this much if it were no big deal.

I really want you try this too!

So, I’m going to break down how I effectively use my day planner so you can get better at time-management and get more time out of your day with time-blocking!

First off, I use colours to segment my day into the blocks I want. This is what my planner looks like before I even write in it:

I’ve been doing this for a while, so I know when I’m most productive and when I need to take breaks. I use the different colours to show that here! 

Having these blocks determined already really helps later in the week when I’m trying to remember when is the best times to pencil in clients, collaborate with others, and carve out time for intense ‘deep-work’ sessions.

When you time-block your entire day, make it look like a school time table, with clear hour blocks of time to write in. The acceptation here is it begins when you wake up, and stops when you go to sleep. This can even be done on plain notebook paper.

Things to include when doing this (including how long it takes to do it):

  • Wake up, get clean and dressed 
  • Make and eat Breakfast
  • Commute
  • Buying Groceries on your way home
  • Walking the dog after dinner
  • Binging YouTube tutorials, all of it

Everything you do doesn’t need to be productive, it shouldn’t be; it should just be what you want to accomplish. 

Whether you want to bake yourself cake and eat the whole thing, or go to the movies with an old friend — your time should be spent on things you’ve set out to do and not letting yourself go idle, losing hours to Netflix.

This is about what my day planner looks like after filling it out:

I give myself extra cushions of time to be sure I’m not late for things while still having time for regular tasks. When I have extra time I usually have a book on hand or an article I wanted to read online.

I leave some of my regular tasks out because I have notification reminders for them on my phone, or they’re already a part of my natural routine; things like watering my plants, doing dishes while I start dinner, and other household chores that take less than 30 minutes.

I suggest only planning 2-3 days in advance in this sort of detail, unless you have a regular job where you work a set amount of hours at the same time every day.

Now that I’m better at journalling and planning my days, I find myself planning in detail 4-5 days in advance. Any more than that is overwhelming for me — my queue can’t get too long or I get very stressed out.

I’m sure you can relate to that feeling of overwhelm, having so many things to do you can’t remember them all. That’s why writing it out is great.

You're Working From Home Totally Wrong
Quick Tips And What You Should Know About Working From Home

I do a brain dump at the end of every week of things I didn’t get done and things I need to finish the next week. I also think about new tasks I want to accomplish for the next week. 

I do this by referencing actionable items in my ‘brain dump’, allowing me to let go of my mental to-do list.

This allows me to concentrate on the task at hand, because I intentionally planned time to do it. Whether that’s enjoying playing video games or writing for my blog until my iPad dies, I no longer feel any guilt or weight on my shoulders because I know I’m doing what I set out to.


Planning my days this way has totally changed how I work and how I accomplish more of the things I want to do, faster.

I’m hoping this in-depth walk-through of my day planner has convinced you the impact of time-blocking to improve your productivity and quality of work, and life.

If you found this article helpful I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments! This is a much longer piece than I usually write and I would love to know what you think, or what you would like to see more of in the future.

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

Why Artists Need To Be Tracking Their Time To Work More Effectively

Make More Time For What You Love Most
Read how to Make More Time For What You Love Most by reading TheArtistJounral.ca and sharing this on Pinterest!

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.

What does an Artist actually do?

You might think that being an artist means sleeping in every day, sketching strangers in Starbucks while sipping over-priced lattes, leisuring around local galleries, and shopping in boutique art-supply stores.

You would be right! 

There’s a lot more to it than that, but these are all some of my favourite things to do that are technically considered a part of my job

But, I also get to do these things because I make time for them.

What you don’t see is somebody sucked into a project that has them up until 3am, spending hours on applications to get your work published, making content for social media, and so many more things go into being an artist and how we spend our time.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Kaboompics.

If you didn’t know, I used to be a scientist.

I worked in a lab, wrote and carried out reports, mixed solvents, tested pH levels, distillated liquids… the works. 

When I was in College and had to write up a term-paper, preform a lab, or begin a test, I would always know where to start.  I would glance around a few questions in, and a lot of the class was struggling — unable to find where to begin.

I also see this phenomenon bleeding over into my adult life during networking events, workshops, seminars, and problem solving situations in general.


So what make some of us more productive than others?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Kaboompics.

People who get more done, don’t have more time than you. Beyonce has 24 hours in her day, just like everyone else on this planet.

I wasn’t finishing my tests first and handing in my assignments early because I was smarter than anyone else, it’s because I was focusing my time on the right things; the material we were actually being marked on! 

That means I would spend most of my time ONLY working on the tasks that got me the most marks.

Only if there was extra time would I go answer every question and flesh out every answer, but in my experience the farther you get into education the more you have to complete in less allotted time.

This strategy got me Deans’ Honours every year I was in college, so it might work for you too.


Back then, I used to describe it as “being picky with my time”.

Now it looks more like declining events outside of my niche to cut losses, only working with people who value my work to the benefit of my mental health, and namely; no longer trying to please everyone who looks at my artwork, reads my writing, or otherwise has an opinion on what I make.

By “being picky with my time”, I was actually accidentally applying the 80/20 Principle by spending 80% of my study/prep time on the most impossible 20% of the material. 

There were times where I would not do tests and quizzes entirely and willingly, and severely stressing out my peers — to increase my efforts on something worth much more, and was lacking the resources for.

Saving time allowed me to put spend my extra time refining every detail for more marks, or to move onto the next thing sooner than anticipated.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Kaboompics.

Are you still unconvinced?

What if I told you that saving time allows me to make more merchandise, shop locally for my supplies, and now even have an office outside of my home — that my business can actually pay for?

All because I have the extra time to dedicate to marketing and diversifying my income. I even have the free time to make all of my own foods from scratch!


I’ve been talking about the 80/20 rule for a while now, but what’ is it and how can we use it to our advantage?

Originally known as The Pareto Principle, The 80/20 rule demonstrates that in most things you do, 20% of your results come from 80% of your efforts. But, that can also mean that 80% of your results can come from 20% of your efforts!

80% of the knowledge of a book is in the right 20% of the pages. Read the introduction, conclusion, and the jump back to any interesting bits. Never read cover-to-cover, unless for pleasure.

the 80/20 Principle: The secret of achieving more with less
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Kaboompics.

You might be wondering now, how to make this happen for you. How can you apply this to your own work-life?

It starts with knowing what you do with your time.

You will need to spend a week or two tracking everything you do with your time. Everything! Binging on YouTube, reading a magazine, riding the bus to the grocery store… all of it!

Here are some of the best free productivity time-tracking apps on the internet:

  • My absolute favourite is Toggl. I’ve been using it for a long time and works across all of my iOS devices — it’s great for individuals, but can also be used for teams as well! It send PDF reports to my inbox every Monday telling me what I accomplished (or didn’t) the past last week.
  • MyHours is another free app that provides free time-tracking for freelancers and teams as well as project tracking, time-editing for Admins, and generating reports that can be exported in PDF or CSV format (for Excel).
  • Harvest is a time-tracking app available for iOS, Android, and Mac and advertises to both individuals and large teams. Individuals are supported for free with a limit of up to two projects, and paid per person for employees. It seems like a limited free resource and expensive option, but if you’re a big enough company I’m sure the built-in invoicing, discounts for larger teams, and other interesting features are worth it.
  • Clockify claims it’s “The only truly free time tracker for teams” and is “free forever”. It appears to have all the usual features (a.k.a. a timer, organizing by project, and exportable reports), but also has a separate feature to mark you time as billable for invoicing purposes twitting the app. With the ability to invite an entire team, it gives you the ability to set your employees hourly rates, see their activity (which is probably how it’s free), and who worked on what (and where, also contributing to the nature of being a free app). It’s compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux; as well as iOS and Android.

Go download one of these apps right now!

Start using it to track you time for the next few days until part 2 of this article is published. Yes, there will be a part 2!


Today we talked about some of the big responsibilities as an art business owner, how the 80/20 rule can be used to your advantage when managing your time, and the importance of time-tracking with a list of the best apps I could gather — just for you!

5 Things You Need To Know About Time-Tracking
Learn about these critical 5 Things You Need To Know About Time-Tracking by reading TheArtistJounral.ca and sharing this on Pinterest!

My 5 Best Tips To Start Time-Tracking Better Now:

  • Your first week of time-tracking I suggest going about your daily life as you normally would and not being too self-aware of your time use.
  • Be as descriptive as possible with your entries.
  • Track what you’re doing as you’re doing it, not at the end of the day. You will vastly overestimate the amount of time you spent on working and assume less for your leisure time.
  • Your second week of time-tracking is when you should be mindful of what your doing by tracking in real-time.
  • Have your weekly reports sent to your email inbox and read them — print them out if necessary, but you have to read them.

Our minds tend to segment things — to break them off into smaller chunks, so they’re easier for our brains to digest. This can naturally make it difficult to accurately track your time. That’s why I stress tracking your time in-the-moment and not after you’re finished, or even worse, guessing at the end of the day.

Why?

Because we sit down and draw for thirty minutes and feels like it’s been an hour. Or in more extreme cases, you’ll be at work checking your emails for an hour and suddenly it’s almost time to go home.

Tracking my time gave me a feeling of more control over my life. It’s forced me to make more deliberate choices.

It’s shown me what I have the ability to accomplish and has pushed me to work harder and smarter.

Come back next week for Part 2 of this post where I talk about using time-tracking in tandem with time-blocking actions in your day planner to get the most out of your time — the method that made me more productive than ever!

Have More Time To Do The Things You Love
Have More Time To Do The Things You Love by reading TheArtistJounral.ca and sharing this on Pinterest!

Until then, I would love it if you checked out my Artist Lifestyle Instagram where I like to get personal and share my life in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I’ve started sharing my favourite vegan gluten-free recipes, thoughts on identity and gender, mental-health stories, artist productivity tips, book recommendations and more!

Until next time, 

-J


How Artists Can Use Their Art To Improve Their Self-Care Routine

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.

I have trouble making time for my art these days — I bet you can relate. 

Something about having to find the right lighting and drag out all my supplies has me constantly putting off my painting. The thought of sitting down for 3 hours to illustrate sometimes has me hiding my pens away.

We make excuses, sometimes without noticing they’re excuses at all.

An uninspired mind creates a lack of energy for the body, resulting in a lack of performance filled with excuses.

Farshad Asl, The “No Excuses” Mindset: A Life of Purpose, Passion, and Clarity

To bring back balance to my days, I’ve been making an effort to incorporate my creativity in my self-care routine.

femme punk inspirational graphic
“Lace up your Doc Martens, get out there, and kick some ass.”

Some things I love to do to destress:

  • Play video games – I’ve been live-streaming video games online for about a month now and have been enjoying getting back into my favourite games while connecting with my audience in a relaxed and personal environment, while still able to moderate content.
  • Journal my thoughts, goals, and brainstorm new ideas for art, design, writing and just life! Dotted journals are my absolute favourite. I haven’t found accessibly priced notebooks anywhere but Muji, and they only have one size — it’s very tiny, too. It can be handy, but limiting! My best solution has been with Notability on my iPad pro, it’s an amazing paid app that I’ve been using for almost 4 years now.
  • Try new cleaning and beauty DIYs on Pinterest – this can be a great instant confidence booster by making you feel handy by making yourself something and can be totally unrelated to your work if you’re feeling totally burnt out. 
  • Learn how to make my favourite foods for myself. This is also another one of my favourite non-work-related things to do — while listening to a podcast or my stereo.
  • Doodle – lately I’ve been doing doodles on sticker paper and been live-streaming on Instagram
  • Follow watercolour tutorials – I still feel my watercolour skills have a long easy to grow, so I push through artist block by practicing watercolour tutorials. Lately, I’ve been playing with different kinds of tea for different washes! I’ve found chai and green tea are especially my favourite and a nice subtle colour combo!

Having an air diffuser in my home has been amazing!

I love having one of my air diffusers going in the two main rooms of my home with my favourite essential oil blends.

I’ve collected many essential oils over the years, but my simple energizing go-to blend is geranium and grapefruit! I do 5-8 drops of each, depending on the size of the room (and who’s in it). Remember to check which essential oils are okay to use around pets and people with scent-sensitivities/allergies.

The best part about the diffuser in my bedroom studio is it goes for about 4 hours — a big chunk of time I could be working on something. When it shuts off, I know I can take a break!

Creative Ways To Beat Artist's Block in red
Creative Ways To Beat Artist’s Block Faster

Taking care of yourself during these cold and dark days will help you better enjoy this season!

Winter can be a difficult time of year for everyone — whether it be loneliness or stress — and some extra self-care during your daily life will help you enjoy more moments.

How are you feeling right now? I hope you’re feeling up to work through my journalling prompt sheet — you still have time to plan your best year yet, it’s never too late to start! If you’re feeling stuck, I urge you to go read my piece on working through burn-out.

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

How To Keep Working On Your Art When You’re Burnt-Out

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.

Let’s face it — we all get burnt out.

It can look like working over-time and living off take-out for a week, or for me it looks more like eating pizza in bed with my cats and not contacting another soul for days.

Winter is known to worsen our mental health (or “steal your spoons”, as I like to say) — between the pressure of holidays and the physical stress of the cold, it’s easy to lose track of ourselves. That’s why I want to talk about prioritizing self-care and self-compassion this time of year.


The most restorative thing I can do for myself is feed my body.

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.

I’m the worst for skipping meals, saying I’m “too busy” to tend to my physical self. So when I do, I fill my bod with soul food!

One of my go-to feel-good snacks is milk and cookies. When I was a kid it was 2% milk and chip-a-hoy — these days it’s unsweetened vanilla almond milk and homemade cookies of a much more nutritious and filling variety.


My second go-to for instant relief is a hot bath

Photo by Hanna Postova on Unsplash

Lush Bath Bombs are nice, but I make my own relaxing bath concoctions. I throw in a big dollop of coconut oil, my favourite essential oils, and epsom salt for days.

I’m always playing with different combinations of essential oils as well, but I have two favourites:

An unexpected duo I love is tea-tree and grapefruit essential oil! The tea-tree oil is an amazing natural anti-septic, which is great for when I feel like I need a deep-clean. The grapefruit oil is to overpower the scent of the tea-tree oil, as it‘s not the most pleasant.

aromatherapy, essential oils, diffusers

Thirdly, I recharge my soul by doing things for myself.

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.

― audre lorde
Photo by Analise Benevides on Unsplash

Here are 5 quick, restorative practices I’ve picked up that help manage burn-out:

  1. A short sun-salut yoga-routine forces me to focus on my breath and clear my head. This is usually when I get my best ideas (as well as the shower, of course). 
  2. A really intense work-out. If yoga isn’t your thing (and I totally get that, sometimes I can’t bear to be on the mat for more than 5 minutes), tire yourself out and take a nap. It’s another tool I use to clear my head. Be sure to eat properly before and after so you don’t end up feeling even worse!
  3. Spoil yourself with your favourite food — I told you food was my favourite! Bonus: order from Skip The Dishes to relieve yourself from any additional effort aside from putting on pants to open the front door. Although, I like to save a bit of money by getting pick up. It’s great to spoil yourself in moderation.
  4. Journal. Journalling my thoughts, goals, and roadblocks really helps me ease my cluttered mind. Maybe try doodling something to go with it. Even if you don’t think you can draw. You may be pleasantly surprised!
  5. Make something for yourself. I make things for a living, but I rarely make things for myself. If you’re in a similar position, taking the time to do a personal DIY can feel very rewarding.
5 minute journal

Working through burn-out is tough — if you’re truly having a hard time, take the day off. It’s the easiest and fastest way to relieve exhaustion. The world will keep turning.

How are you feeling? I hope you’re feeling equipped to work through my journalling prompt sheet for your best year yet! Feel free to let me know what you like to do to re-charge your soul in the comments.

Until next time,

-J

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Read about My Top 10 Free Apps I Actually Use For My Online Art Business

Journalling Ideas To Guide You Through 2020 + A Free Journal Prompt List

One of my favourite things to do at the end of each year is to reflect on the previous 12 months and make “goals that build” for the next year — relevant goals that align to an overall vision.

This time of year really forces me to reflect on the past year and determine how close I am to my future vision as the previous one. Here’s a bit more on developing your future vision.

Set effective goals for the new year - Pinterest Graphic
Download your 6 free journal prompts printable for dominating your New Years’ resolutions at TheArtistJournal.ca

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.

I don’t ordinarily journal my thoughts — especially if I’m trying to solve a problem — because I’m often frustrated by the delay from my brain to my shaky hands. I usually finish a multiple-sentence thought in less time than it takes me to write about 12 words by hand.

This time of year is when I make an exception to that rule, and actually find myself valuing what I’m frantically jotting down. What I’m writing is the type of thing I will look back on in the new year, when putting together my next goals that build — a topic I would love to cover more another time!

I’ll be referring to my goals every month when I plan out my milestones for the upcoming weeks, and again at the end of the next year! Because of this, I keep them as neat as possible.

I generally tend to use the iOS Notes.app for my basic drafts and brainstorming; but since I’m routinely adding, editing, revising, and referring to these reflective journal entries, I keep them all in one place: Notability. This app on my iPad Pro is essential, especially with the apple pencil. I’ve been using it since I got my iPad over 3 years ago and it’s gotten me through college lectures, work seminars, and years of project planning.

How I set new year goals - Pinterest Graphic
Download your 6 free journal prompts printable for dominating your New Years’ resolutions at TheArtistJournal.ca

The types of things I find myself reflecting on are always: work, finances, hobbies, and home. 

I worked hard this year, really hard. Constantly strung-out, flaking on plans, and sleeping for 12 hours every day kind-of-tired. I don’t regret any of it, though. I feel better than ever: I feel alive. I’ve also learned how to push my limits, set boundaries, and treat myself with compassion.

One of my goals for this year is to be more composed and diligent, and have been embodying that over the past few weeks. I’ve already crushed a couple milestones before the year even started! Talk about the power of intention…

Think about what kind of wins you want to make this year.

What have you accomplished this year that you would like to bring with you into 2020?

Journalling our best year yet for artist New Years' goal setting - Pinterest Graphic
Download your 6 free journal prompts printable for dominating your New Years’ resolutions at TheArtistJournal.ca

Obviously work and finances are deeply co-related, but when you have more than one source of income, things get complicated. Between licensing more of my artwork, finding distributors to work with in 2020, and selling my painting archives; I already have a slew of financial goals I want to meet this year with some new side-hustles planned as well! 

To accomplish my financial goals I’ve been working through the “Master Your Money” bundle by Ultimate bundles and boy, it’s a treat! Even if there wasn’t over a dozen video lessons, the workbooks, ebooks, and printable materials provided are more than worth it!

I’ve already gotten a leg-up on meal-planning (my ultimate weakness) and keeping better track of my monthly purchases; now would be a great time of year to get started mastering your money and a great way to start off a new decade right! (If you purchase your bundle through my link, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you!*)

 I’ve improved my confidence so much this year, in a way I would have never expected!

How?

By learning how to cook.

Not just food, either. I have some favourite recipes to share to make your household more self-sustainable. And because making things yourself is Punk AF.

I’ve not only perfected by bread-making skills, but learned a ton of bulk-cooking recipes (thanks to Cheap Lazy Vegan), and make ALL of my own household cleaners. I even DIY some of my own skincare products now and my skin looks better than ever! All of these recipes I use can also be found on my Pinterest boards, where I’m constantly active!

I would love to share some of my tips and recipes for saving over $50 a month in your home! If this is something you would be interested, please let me know in the comments or via email! I’d love to cover things such as the many money-saving uses of Castile soap, as well as safe and practical uses for essential oils in your home.

free journal prompts for dominating your New Years' resolutions - Pinterest Graphic
Download your 6 free journal prompts printable for dominating your New Years’ resolutions at TheArtistJournal.ca

I wanted to leave you with some of my favourite journal prompts to get you thinking about how you want 2020 to look for you:

  • Write down 10 things you need more of in your life — pick three to focus on for the next three months.
  • Write down three actions you can take to embody these things throughout the new year.
  • List 5 things you can do to make yourself happy — right now.
  • Make a list of 25 things you’re grateful for from the past year.
  • List 100 things — big or small — that you would like to accomplish in the 2020’s.
  • Envision and record your perfect day. Think about what it would contain and write it down in as much detail as possible.
  • Make a list of your passions. Next, make a list next to it (a table) and list your priorities: where your time goes. Are you satisfied with how they match up? Is there anything you want to change?

Tip: Keep a copy with your weekly planner to keep you on track throughout the year while planning your day-to-day. Download that freebie!

So what will you accomplish in the new decade?

Photo by Alex Nemo Hanse on Unsplash

Now that I’m 14 weeks post-surgery and have gotten the O-K from my surgeon, I plan on running again. Between chronic illness and gender dysphoria, it’s something I haven’t been able to do for myself in years. Once it’s above 40 degrees Fahrenheit I can hit the trail behind my house with my new trainers!

Leave me a comment responding to one of these prompts, or what you want to accomplish by the end of 2020! In the meantime, also check out my latest piece on making a bigger impact with your art in 2020!

Until next time,

-J

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How To Make People Care About Your Art

Connection = Caring

So I was perusing the Internet yesterday thinking up a new side-hustle, when I found someone else had already taken my idea!

This happens to me all the time, but this time was different.

The blog I came across was featuring an artist — the artist with my idea — and all they talked about was their childhood and how it’s affected their current work.

Easiest branding tips for artists | Best marketing tips | How to promote your art when you have no time | How to market your art on a budget | an artist's guide to marketing without being salesy | How to sell art online without selling your soul
How to make people care about your art – Instagram Post

They neglected to give any contact info, despite saying they’re open (and desperate) for commissions numerous times.

This artist even neglected to list their subject matter, themes, or any mediums they used.

To top it off, the few pictures included were poorly lit snapshots of some comic sketches and sloppily edited photos of a few paintings. You could tell they were all taken in their poorly-lit NYC apartment.

They didn’t have a Website, Twitter, Instagram… nothing. All they had was a Tumblr page they posted to every week or so making it basically impossible for clients to reach them. There wasn’t even an email address listed, what a PR disaster!

I can’t imagine being a showcased artist in an article — the opportunity to meet hundreds, if not thousands of new clients at almost no cost — and not providing any contact information!

It’s artists like this that get stuck in that “starving artist” mentality, thinking you need to beg everyone to look at your work. They advertise themselves as a walking mess because they don’t take themselves seriously enough to be credited as anything else.

Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.

Andy Warhol

Employers can smell this desperation, and will most often write you off as inexperienced, or try to talk down your rates.

Making art has never been about the money, money is merely what we use to obtain the things we need to survive (if you’re in the art world looking for money, let the rest of us know where you find any).

Making enough to survive as an artist is challenging, but not having a website is like shooting yourself in the foot with an arrow before your Olympic 100 m dash. You’re fucking yourself over.

Easiest branding tips for artists | Best marketing tips | How to promote your art when you have no time | How to market your art on a budget | an artist's guide to marketing without being salesy | How to sell art online without selling your soul
Top Tips For Free Marketing Online –
Pinterest Post

An artist website is incredibly important for gaining new clients. Someone who has never heard of you or what you do should be able to see all that on your site, preferably clicking through your about page, portfolio, and social media links. I’ve had almost all of my button-pressing inquiries via email, from my contact form on my site.

Most employers won’t spend the time clicking through your site; make sure to keep that in mind when setting up your home page.

Maybe you have a drop-down menu to access your archives? Perhaps you want everything on a single minimalist landing page?

Just as when making art, there’s more to consider than just “what looks good”.

What (or who) is your website for and what do you want out of it? It can be intimidating, but a little thing called Design Thinking can make answering these questions a bit easier.

This also opens up a dialogue to talk about your design process and how you make art! The more questions you ask, the more connections you can make between your work and your experiences.

Adding more real-world connections to your work makes for more opportunities to engage with your audience.

Our struggles define us as artists, but let’s face it nobody cares you were bullied in elementary school (who wasn’t) and are still bitter about it 20 years later. No one wants to read about your parents divorce or your father’s drinking problem.

I especially don’t care where you went to school, if at all. And you guessed it, neither does anyone else!

So what makes people care about art?

Easiest branding tips for artists | Best marketing tips | How to promote your art when you have no time | How to market your art on a budget | an artist's guide to marketing without being salesy | How to sell art online without selling your soul
5 Easy Marketing Tips for Artists – Pinterest Post

You need a kick-ass story.

Your story needs to be compelling, original, and have substance. You’re not writing an essay about your life or a bland biography for your grade 12 History class.

You don’t start at the beginning.

You start when you first became unique. When you finally started making different art — art that stands out, has a style — is when you’re worth people’s attention, or even worth mentioning. Before that, you are just like everyone else who says they’re an artist on the internet.

Your art is beautiful, but words will always take your work to the next level.

Craft a dialogue for your work of art.

People love stories. Words have effect, emotionally impactful effects that can generate inquiries, discussions, and (most importantly) sales. You’re literally adding a new dimension to your piece by giving it the soul it deserves through written language.

Another effective way to communicate what you and your art is all about is through branding.

The idea of branding, or becoming a brand, is seen as a bad thing by many artists I talk to… but guess what? It is the most important thing. Period. You, as an artist, are a brand. You represent your art business and your art represents you in return.

Shying away from branding yourself is holding you back. Embracing it will make you flourish!

A simple social media strategy could be the breakthrough marketing plan you need. With a bit of creative discipline and vision, your social media feeds could look calm and compelling. This creates a great energy, putting your work in the spot-light.

Developing interpersonal relationships on social media is also another great way to receive free exposure from authentically engaged audiences. Hyperlinking to other people’s work is a great way to make connections with people whose work you admire. Make sure your links are all clickable, meaning none of them are broken links!

Easiest branding tips for artists | Best marketing tips | How to promote your art when you have no time | How to market your art on a budget | an artist's guide to marketing without being salesy | How to sell art online without selling your soul
Stop hurting yourself, start embracing your brand.

Here’s 5 things you can do right now to improve your artist branding and online presence:

  1. Have a website. Make sure your website acts as a tool for your viewers. Make everything clearly identified and easy to find. Be sure to include EVERYTHING! Bonus: Get your own domain to look like a total pro.
  2. Have a custom colour pallet to use for everything. Subtleties like custom colour themes across all your platforms can create a cohesive feel for all your online work.
  3. Display the same logo/profile photo everywhere! You want people to recognize you and your work and the best way to do that is with a killer logo or clear headshot. Whichever you choose is based on your audience and niche.
  4. Bump up your social media profiles right now! Use every word to mention the coolest things about what you do. Take the chance to make an impression. Convert a stranger into a follower simply by writing yourself a killer bio!
  5. Most importantly, keep it consistent; post content every day! Keep your content consistent in quality. As in, use similar lighting, fonts, editing presets, and filters on your photos. Bonus: If you can make your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and website all visually similar and still compelling… I forgive you for all your previous discretions because this is some next-level shit!

In the meantime you can keep up with my creations on Patreon, follow my artist travels on Instagram, and see me live-stream video games on Twitch!

Until next time,

-J

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About the author title card: Joey Dean
About Joey.

A Gift Guide for Artists: Top 10 Gifts For You or The Crafter You Love

A gift guide for people who have no idea how to buy art supplies — what do they even want anyway? 

Because gifts aren’t about what they need, it’s about what will light up their face and make them feel special — like it was picked just for them!

In this guide I’ve included the following, so you can find what that person is looking for with ease!

  • Who the gift is best suited for
  • The gifts’ suggested uses
  • A simple price-point guide [$-$$$]

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.

For the avid illustrator:

KOBWA Professional 100% Log Anti-breaking Pen Charcoal Sketch Set is an excellent holiday gift for illustrators, students, and artists alike!
KOBWA Professional 100% Log Anti-breaking Pen Charcoal Sketch Set: Portable Multifunction 18 Pieces

Important for anyone who draws anything, keeping your tools safe is a must! Too many of my favourite pencils have been lost, stolen, snapped and broken — but ever since I got a “roll” for my pencils, it’s been great!

This set covers all the bases; including 18 sketch pencils, 3 charcoal pencils, 3 paper erasable pens, 1 pencil extender, 1 craft knife, 1 eraser & 1 rubber moldable eraser. With 18 sketch pencils ranging from 8B-2H, as well as the 3 charcoal pencils (Soft, Neutral, Hard) — this set of pencils has you covered, not needing to worry about what any of those numbers mean. [$]

The Togood 60 Sketch Twin Markers with Dual Tips (Broad/Fine) Professional Alcohol Marker Set is a great gift for calligraphy and manga artists this Christmas!
Togood 60 Sketch Twin Markers with Dual Tips (Broad/Fine) Professional Alcohol Marker Set

This impressive pack of markers is great for animation students, paper crafters (like scrapbooking and journalling), and professional artists alike. This gift will also be sure to make a large impression! These double-ended markers are ideal for character design, comic book drawing, fashion design, and for student and general use. [$$$]

There’s also a smaller 36-pack available if you were going for something more… subtle. [$$]

Prismacolor is where it’s at!

Every artist goes ga-ga when they see or hear “PRISMACOLOR”, and that’s because they’re worth that much attention. Prismacolor pencils are what I have used for years… But now they have these?! The Prismacolor Art Sticks pique my interest in particular because of how much time they would save me when I have to colour-in huge areas.

Art sticks have the quality of Prismacolor’s regular pencils — much like pastels, they work best on large areas, as foundations for layering, or quick turnaround projects. Because of their soft core, they can be used for superior blending and shading, endlessly.

As a pack of 48, this one is a steal! [$$]

For the portable painter:

Watercolor Brush Pen by Ohuhu are excellent for painting with water on the go and could be the perfect gift for the creative person in your life this holiday season.
Watercolor Brush Pens, Ohuhu 20 Colors Water Color Painting Markers With Water Coloring Brush

This gorgeous set of 20 watercolour brush pens is odourless, non-toxic, and washable! This set is great for adult colouring books, doodling in a journal, manga & comic illustration, and even calligraphy! [$]

I would recommend these for artists with only a limited workspace or for those who want a portable painting experience. 

Be sure to grab the right paper to go with it. If it’s a gift, you might as well make it beautiful. I personally love these watercolour paper Art Journals the most in the world (not exaggerating)! [$$]

Presents are made for the pleasure of who gives them, not the merits of who receives them.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

An adjustable aluminum painting easel is a staple for any painter, especially this one which is suitable for table-tops and floor display, making this perfect for travelling artists. The telescopic legs can be adjusted from 25 to 73 inches! Each leg can be adjusted individually to provide an even surface, even on uneven terrain. [$$]

A collection of brushes that offer a variety of sizes to choose from both Flat and Round. Whether you’re applying minor details or large strokes, our brushes are versatile enough to handle any task. Making these a perfect gift for painters this holiday season!
A lovely customer photo By Zoddo of Artify 38 Pcs Paint Brushes Art Set

This collection of brushes offer a variety of sizes to choose from both Flat and Round. Whether you’re applying minor details or large strokes, these brushes are versatile enough to handle any task. I haven’t used them personally (yet), but the reviews are very encouraging!

They come in a canvas wrap; you roll them out and you’re good to go! The wrap makes them easy to store in a bag or backpack, while also providing essential protection from unwanted damage. This design makes it ideal for students commuting to and from school, and hobbyists who regularly travel. [$$]

For the diligent designer:

Made from Hardened acrylic material, with ultra-thin design, and wear-resisting materials, it feels like a glass panel without chipping or cracking.
A4 Ultra-Thin LED Art Stencil Board Light Pad Tracing Drawing Pad Board Light Box for Artists, Drawing, Sketching, and Animation

This A4-size portable light box totally changes the game for stencilling, calligraphy, comics & animation, and design! You can now get these crazy things, light-pads for drawing anywhere you have a USB connection: using only 5 V, these babies can be run off of only a power bank! [$$]

A fresh Moleskin Art Pad is the accessory for any designer. Something simple and practical, yet beautiful. Even KonMari couldn’t turn this down. [$]

For the crazy crafter:

Ever art for “365 Days of Creativity” by Lorna Scobie

365 Days of Creativity is a thoughtful and inspiring book designed to help you carve out moments of self-expression and unlock your creative potential. Award-winning illustrator Lorna Scobie shows you that art does not have to be scary — it can be done with any materials, in any colour, in any style and, most importantly, it can be done anywhere! With themes that look at imagination, nature, memory, and pattern, this book is designed to encourage you to think outside the box and spark the artist within. Featuring a creative thought for every week, goal-setting, and mood-based activities, as well as plenty of supportive prompts and tips, this fun and inspiring book will make a perfect gift and keepsake as well as being a powerful tool for positive change. [$]

Item description of “365 Days of Creativity

For the babe busting their butt and rubbing elbows in the art scene, this ArtBin Express Tote is the best way to wheel around valuable creations, bulky displays, and hard-earned-dough from show — to show — to show… The priciest on my list, but still has huge savings and is a sure-fire way to become their “total life-saver”! [$$$$]

26 individual loops on inside cover for markers, brushes, etc, and large back pocket holds up to 12-Inch by 12-Inch books, papers, and projects! Perfect for your professional artist on the go, workshop leaders, and portaging your scrapbook club materials.

ArtBin is a great brand that I swear by and would honestly love one of these for myself… Like, really bad. To fan-boy a bit, this thing packs:

  • 26 individual loops on inside cover for markers, brushes, etc.
  • A large back pocket that holds up to 12-inch by 12-inch books, papers, and projects
  • A shoulder strap with shoulder pad to easily transport the top unit that is detachable
  • Double reinforced side handles for secure lifting
  • and sturdy double skate wheels!
3D Pen, Duoles 3D Doodler Drawing Printing Pen, Christmas Gifts/ Present and Toys for Boys & Girls - Modern Arts and Crafts Tool. CREATE IN 3D - Duoles 3D printing pen extrudes heated plastic which instantly hardens, allowing you to literally draw in 3 Dimensions, freehand or on paper.
This 3D Pen, Duoles 3D Doodler Drawing Printing Pen is perfect for wild imaginations!

3D drawing pens were a hot gift last year — and they still are! For kids and adults, it’s easy for a crafty mind to get their hands on this and make something it was very much not intended for… Give the gift of crafting in a new dimension!

Duoles claims their pen is light, slim, and easier to handle. It boots up in just 30 seconds to get you creating quickly. You can easily control extrusion speed for smoother operation and endless creation. The best part is it will auto-off if not used in over 5 minutes, making it safer than a hot glue gun! [$$]

That’s my Artist Gift Guide for 2019!

I’m always curious as to what you are curious about!

You can find me active on Facebook and Instagram as well as posting more blog content on my personal Patreon page. Reach out to me; I respond to all comments and questions!

Until next time,

-Joey @ The A/J

A Minimalist Tidying Up With Mari Kondo

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.

Despite reading similar or related information from many other sources, reading the life-changing magic of tidying up first hand was a whole new experience. 

The night before this project began, I had cracked open the life-changing magic of tidying up by Mari Kondo. 

After reading the first 55 pages that Friday night — like all the cool kids do — I knew I had to start then and there.

That, and I had gotten an email indicating the book was due back to the library on the Tuesday and I couldn’t renew it…

I decided to embark on the challenge: to apply the KonMari method of tidying to my entire space in a single weekend.

If you’re not familiar with the KonMari method, it is the Japanese style of tidying up. The idea is to tidy everything in your home, in totality, and your mess will never relapse. It’s become more widely read thanks to the popular Netflix show, Tidying Up With Mari Kondo.

Starting off as someone who already considered themselves a minimalist, I wasn’t sure there was much for me to take away from this book that I hadn’t read somewhere else already. Everyone in the community references Kondo and I figured I knew it all by proxy.

I have been down-sizing since 2015 and I was at first apprehensive about whether this idea was a good one. Was this project even worth my time?

Does the KonMari method actually work? Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash
Does the KonMari method actually work? Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

I was open to learning more about the lifestyle I had adopted, but I didn’t think there was anything left for me to get rid of… I was very much wrong.

Clothes are always first in the KonMari method, and the most fun in the tidying process.

30-day minimalist wardrobe challenges are the most popular minimalist content in mainstream media (other than this book). As fun as those are, they’re ineffective and contrary to the KonMari method.

I spend much of my time taking care of my house, entertaining friends weekly, and host clubs and workshops out of my home. After establishing this vision, I awoke that Saturday morning feeling far more excited than I anticipated.

My first goal was to fit all my off-season wardrobe into a single carry-on bag to free up my closet space to create more breathing room in my closets. I was sick of struggling to find properly-fitting linens and hanging guests’ coats on the armchair because the closet is overflowing with the households’ Canadian winter gear. My hats, scarves, flip-flops, swim trunks… Everything scattering amongst 2 closets, as well as a full-size suitcase and 2 carry-on bags. My partner seemed unconvinced when I first revealed my plan, but they were then bewildered when I met my first goal.

Transform your home in only one weekend using this method!
Learn the top tips I used to transform my home in a single weekend!

My second goal was to fit my entire wardrobe (underwear, socks, hats — everything) onto a rolling clothing rack. I’ve had this goal for more than 3 years.

During my first big clothing-cull in 2016 I got rid of over 6 113L [24 Gal.] garbage bags of clothes. In 2017 I let go of about three more. Each time, this task took me over 2 days and I never accomplished my goal to only have one clothing rack of items to choose from every day.

This year, following the KonMari method outlined in her book, I still filled an entire 113L [24 Gal.] garbage bag — I had clothes I loved that were three sizes too big for me, and a size I never wanted to be again! The amount of baggage that went with those clothes lifted a weight I didn’t know was there, thanks to following this book.

This time around, it only took me 5 hours to fully sort my entire wardrobe and I finally met my first minimalist goal ever!

Saturday night, I went through my books. 

The next day I didn’t get to start working on my KonMari project until about 3pm, which was a huge set back. How could I finish the rest of my project in only 7 hours?!

On top of that, I still had the most difficult categories left to organize: papers, komono, and sentimental items. Kondo defines komono as miscellaneous items Pg 106.

As someone who takes great pride in their home — especially my office-space — I gazed bewildered by my desk overflowing with papers. I watched as they spilled onto the floor in a comical fashion.

Papers spilling off my desk, onto the floor in a comical fashion.

My desk with all of my papers, before sorting (and my dog). I would of been too embarrassed if anyone knew how many more filing systems I thought I needed for all this meaningless “stuff”.

Where I determined to keep my papers.

It took all day Sunday to go through my papers. I ended up with another garbage bag in the hall, 4 vacant storage devices, and a half-dozen empty folders. I now finally have 3 portfolios filled with work I’m proud of rather than a pile of binders and folders of sketches and prints I “have to go through one day”.

My desk with all of my papers, after sorting. 4 full portfolios and an empty filing box sit under my desk (until sorting them away).

Despite my many successes and visual results with this project I’m disappointed I didn’t finish in the time-line I set, even if I felt I had completed it.

I asked ,“Does this spark joy?”, throughout the entirety of cleaning out my late-grandmother’s house in spring 2017. This question helped me only keep valuable essentials I would use throughout my life. It turned a burden into a process of closure and acceptance. The things I ended up keeping out of guilt left shortly after they arrived.

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After going through all my miscellaneous items in summer 2018, we ended up moving only about a third of our belongings to our new home.

I’m sure Kondo would think going through the same process again with the same items would be redundant — especially timeless, important things after already deciding they “spark joy”. I will consider it for the future, but I’m more than satisfied with the single Rubbermaid tote of photo albums, scrapbooks, and other komono that still bring me joy as I flip through them. I’m curious, do you think this counts? 

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10 Key things I took away from the life-changing magic of tidying up by Mari Kondo:

  1. We should be choosing what we wish to keep, not what we want to be rid of. Pg 41
  2. Vertical storage is key; stacking is a spell for clutter . Kondo mentions this throughout the book (folding shirts, storing papers, etc.)
  3. Do not over-categorize as this complicates things and results in keeping more than you need. Simplicity is key. Pg 84
  4. The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it. Pg 95
  5. Presents are not things, but convey someone’s feelings at the time the gift was given. If you don’t use or enjoy what they picked out for you, the gift-giver wouldn’t want to burden you with it and it has served its’ purpose (of being received and conveying one’s feelings).
  6. Have a defined location for everything you own. I’m already a master at this, but it’s information you must know!
  7. Pursue ultimate simplicity in storage and do not scatter storage spaces. I was guilty of this one, but it was an easy fix.
  8. Don’t underestimate the “noise” of written information, especially in your native language. It can feel like some is whispering cleaning instructions to you whenever you open a closet.
  9. Letting go is more important that adding healthy habits. Letting go, in itself, is a healthy habit of its’ own.
  10. At last, thank your belongings. They support you in some way, sometimes the entire day. Practicing gratitude for your possessions will help reinforce what is important to you. You might also see what is unessential to you.

Overjoyed Sunday evening, I was rid of the two dozen sketchbooks I had been standing knee-deep in. I was taken aback at my car trunk full of baggage I didn’t know I had.

The most important thing to me was shaking off my minimalist Imposter syndrome. I did what I set out to do in only a single weekend, accomplished many of my personal goals, and am eager to see the ongoing impact of tidying up. I’ve also just finished reading through and practicing Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, another fantastic book I plan on covering soon.

Finding Minimalism in one weekend
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If you’re interested in how I manage my artwork archives or even my wardrobe, let me know. I’m always curious about what you’re curious about!

Whether you’re new to minimalism or you think it’s a dumb trend, let me know that as well! I’m always open to interesting dialogue from different backgrounds. You can find me active on Facebook and posting more blog content on my personal Patreon page, I respond to all comments and questions!

Until next time,

-Joey @ The A/J

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joey Dean, painter & Designer
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