On the Mindfulness of Puttering

Many people believe that making art or creating artful spaces is “hard work” for “serious artists.”

I think that if it seems like “hard work” you are missing the point entirely.

Here’s my radical idea: creating and curating beauty should be FUN. It should be delightfully, deliriously liberating. It should be obsessive, though not necessarily singularly focused.

The truth is, I have the most productive, fulfilling and creatively interesting outcomes when I putter.

Let me define “putter”:

The art of moving fluidly, often in an imperturbable trance-like state, from one endeavor or object to another without particular regard for itinerary or outcome.

To the outsider, it looks darn ADD-like and mindless. Heaven forbid, but some may even see this as “a waste of time.”

HOWEVER: To regard puttering in such a light is to miss the inherent joy of creatively playing, dreaming, scheming, enhancing, upgrading, and solving problems you didn’t even consciously know you had. To putter is to unabashedly channel the restless muse and nourish the creative hunger of the soul to be free and aimlessly marvel at the wonder of everything around you.

For me, it is a practice of mindful, in-the-moment joy-seeking. Think of it like the slow-flow yoga of creativity.

I putter around the formal rooms of my house, moving decorations and furniture around, playing with height, texture, proportion, rediscovering overlooked lovelies in one room and giving them new life and purpose in another.

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I putter in the garage, basement, craft room, and in long-overlooked corners of my cupboards. I rediscover tiny or large bits of things that work their way into my next fabulous craft project or unexpectedly solve some creative conundrum I’ve been wrestling with (like the glass shelves in my new kitchen sideboard).

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I putter on Pintrest, letting one exciting idea lead me down the rabbit hole to more and more inspiration. I file the ideas away and yearn for the moment when I can make them into reality.

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I putter in stores that range from tiny antique to big box, basking in the glory of the prettiness of things I may never buy. Sometimes in this shop-puttering I accidentally discover some little inexpensive gem that sparks my imagination. Sometimes I dream up new uses for things already in my house.

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I putter when I clean, starting in one place, moving to get a supply from another part of the house, and then unexpectedly cleaning in the place where the supply I was after happens to live. Despite setting off to clean say, toilets, I may randomly end up reorganizing the spice cabinet instead (true story).

I putter in the garden, pulling weeds, pruning bushes, decorating and redecorating the porch and garden beds, moving flower boxes and stones and bits of upcycled yard art from one place to another.

Sometimes I do all of these things at once, wandering from one part of the property to another, indoors to outdoors and back (often without shoes). The glue gun is smoking away at the craft desk, something spray-painted is drying in the garage, I have lost my cell phone 5 times, cats and/or children are complaining loudly about delays in their meal schedules, and I am obliviously elbow deep in the front garden, pulling weeds with my bare hands and proudly wearing paint, glue, dirt and sweat on every visible surface of my body.

These are the very best days.

I am often astonished at all that I accomplish in these trance-like states, and how satisfied I am with the outcomes of projects conceived and birthed in this way.

Here’s the warning label: puttering may lead to multi-room, house-leveling messes, and is not a friend to the accomplishing of non-creative, check-list driven tasks. It is also highly addictive and may confuse your spouse/partner/roommate, children, pets and neighbors.

But it may also lead to fulfillment and creativity beyond your wildest dreams.

Putter proudly, friends!

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