Creativity and Messiness – On Visiting a Messy, Artistic Household

I would consider everyone in my family to be extremely creative, and we have creative friends that are also artists.  In my family, we all paint, build, write, draw, sew,  ect.  Sometimes we work as a family on projects.

We really NEED a workshop, but haven’t been able to afford that luxury up to this point. We do have one room that is dedicated to sewing. It’s a total mess.

A lot of art projects happen at the kitchen table. Every couple of weeks I clean it off. It will have piles 2 feet high of ‘stuff’ on it. No one likes for it to be touched if there is an active project going on.

It makes me think about messiness and creativity. You see, I don’t know a single creative, artistic person that is not messy, or that minds a mess. I’m sure they do exist, but I don’t know any personally. I noticed this in college too – the art room would be a total mess, and when my family discusses it, all our art teachers’ offices looked like they’d been hit with bombs.

We all agree that we never mind a mess. That in fact, we THRIVE in messiness. Not nastiness, mind you – we don’t like filth, though perhaps stand even that better than some.

Why does our society favor neat, tidy homes, with little clutter? I will admit, they do look nice. But I wonder what they produce. We value our productiveness. How much learning, experimentation, and art really go on in a neat, tidy house?

I wouldn’t know, because I never had one. At one time I hired a team of housekeepers, but we found ourselves feeling like foreigners in our own home, and we were leaving instructions to leave our messes in project areas alone. Every week we gave instructions for more and more areas to be left alone. We soon figured this was not working for us.

There’s actually been several studies that consistently confirm that messy environments foster creativity.

What does this mean? Well, perhaps if you have a very artistic child, it might be worth keeping in mind these tendencies. I know that I CRINGE when I see “CLEAN HOUSE” (the TV show) come in and organize some artists’ materials. Other than that, I love the show, but when I see a messy art room all neat and organized, I think “Why would you DO that to an artist?” To me it’s like cutting the wings off a butterfly. Perhaps you should explore the possibility of ‘clean zones’ and ‘messy zones.’

For instance, my husband’s friend wins awards left and right for sculpture. His wife has thrown him out of the house more or less. He has a workshop, where he tends to stay, working or not. When you visit, he has to clean you off a chair, and you step over things to get to it. It’s not hoarding. If you look closely, you realize the open books on the floor are turned to pages he’s referencing, there are project bases drying or ready for build, a radio he’s been listening to, boxes of paints, or even cleaning supplies that are causing the mess. There are empty shelves all around, but he prefers stuff on the floor and table so he can see them and get to them.

I enjoy being able to go into his workshop- when he complains about the mess, I ask to see his latest projects. I know what wonderful little works of cuteness come out of it. I feel honored –  to see his abode is to see into a very busy, inspired mind.

That’s the way I’d prefer to be treated. When visitors focus on what we’ve been doing, instead of not doing (cleaning) it helps put me at ease, and gives me a chance to shift my mindset from ‘worried about the mess because visitors are here’ to pride and joy in the visit. We’ve designed and built some beautiful large homes. Our home is adorned with original paintings and photographs. We’ve got paper sculptures, costumes, handmade clothes, and little fairy houses being painted and built. The books you see out probably have not been released yet; perhaps pick one up and ask about it.

I would SO rather visitors focus on what we’re making than the big pile of mess.  And please, whatever you do, don’t touch the oil painting on the table. It’s probably wet.


Chip Gilleland “Starry Night Dragon”

Chip Gilleland - Ice Wolves (Shown unfinished)

Chip Gilleland – Ice Wolves (Shown unfinished)


Sage Gilleland – The Gunner (CosPlay, handmade costume)

Connected- by Kristi A. Gilleland

Connected- by Kristi A. Gilleland

Comments are closed.