I have a lot of work to do, so I’m sorting colored paper clips.
A week or so ago I pulled a box down from a shelf in my studio, which in turn knocked down a stack of containers of gum bands, binder clips and paper clips. Once again they tumbled onto the table, but this time the plastic container of sorted small and large and colored paper clips popped its lid and paper clips spread across my work table and everything on it, and off the edge into the vertically sorted cardboard, matboard and foam core next to my table in a fantastic rainbow shower.
Exasperated with myself as this happened nearly each time I took down the box of envelopes and I should have known better, I picked up the items, scooped up the paperclips from the table and tossed cardboard around to get to the clips that had fallen in between. I tossed them back into the container and decided I’d just leave them mixed up. What did it matter? I could dig for the one I wanted. I reached to put it back on the stack on the shelf, then thought I really would rather have them sorted, at least for large and small because I knew I’d find a point of annoyance each time I wanted to use one and had to dig for the right size. I permit myself a few silly routines in daily life, like choosing the color paper clip to match what I am clipping in some way, or match my mood or the season perhaps. I could never use the wrong color paper clip, this was my studio and it is all about color and creative in here. It gives me a little feeling of control, and a silly simple decision to make in the middle of many other more important ones.
So the container sat mounded with loose paper clips and the lid laid atop for a week or so. Until I was sorting paperwork and I needed to use several paper clips. The papers were orders for merchandise and had thumbnails of the items on them, so I had to use small paper clips and I looked at the container on the table, unsorted, and felt a little flash of anger at myself for being careless. Just get a clip. No. The orders had items I needed to pull from boxes in various places here, a few things I had to make, a few things I had to shop for materials to make and also to order materials. As I’d sorted the papers, two copies of each plus packing slips, I’d put all the items in order for what needed to be done and mentally made a list of what order I’d do things and all that needed to be purchased, then began to write it down and realized there was so much overlap I’d have to think about it.
I looked at the paper clips again. In the middle of a busy day I shouldn’t take the time to sort those paper clips, right? Just the opposite. I should drop what I was doing and sort those paper clips right now.
Sometimes trying to think about too many things at once is unproductive. I could feel myself going in little circles, trying to fit all the activities into each other like puzzle pieces, and it really didn’t need to be that hard. Making simple little decisions, like choosing just the right paper clip, can redirect a wild array of thoughts to one place and give a break in considerations. Taking a few minutes to methodically sort paper clips can be very calming. And in the end you have something that’s completed, and will make at least one thing that needs to be done easier the next time it needs to be done. Running a business, creating things and showing, merchandising and selling them is a non-stop activity, processes overlap, and while things do get done, it often doesn’t feel that way.
Fifteen minutes of sorting paper clips, the simple action of focusing on size first and then color, enjoying the visual stimulation of the mix and blend of changing color combinations and shapes is the perfect way to take a break and let my thoughts reorganize as I drop clusters of sorted clips into their appointed spots. Then back to my paperwork, clipping the papers with my choice of colors, making my lists of purchases and projects and feeling as if everything is, for the moment, under control.
Oh, and I slightly rearranged things on that shelf as I’d been planning so that when I pulled down the box of envelopes it didn’t crowed the stack of containers. I feel good.
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