Long before Marie Kondo was a thing, I visited the home of an artist friend, a big brother type who was far more successful than myself, someone who was “living the dream.” His girlfriend and I wound up doing his laundry. We were folding T-shirts when my friend cruised through the laundry room, snatched the shirts out of our hands, and said, “No, no, no! Like this!”
With zero reverence, he showed us exactly how to fold his shirts: so that he could see what graphic was on front and so they’d fit three across in a suitcase— because he was a rockstar and not one second of rockstar-time was available to be looking for a shirt.
Judging by the silent friction in the air and his girlfriend’s shocked face, his shirt folding performance was a domestic debut. In the spotlight: His more exacting and commanding personality traits. I was also shocked. Not once before had my friend ever given the impression that he would snatch the shirts out two women’s hands and tell us to fold better:
A. This was my chill, love-loving friend. We were introduced to each other by a mutual friend, because we both had a smiling habit.
B. Just the week before, he’d asked me to paint whatever I want on the walls of his home, which I did— and when he offered me a peace pipe that I thought was a flute, I blew expensive peace dust everywhere. He laughed. We didn’t clean it up.
C. After I messed up his house with paint and peace dust, a can of paint spilled in the back of my truck— I painted a mile long strip of his driveway on my exit.
His girlfriend’s eyebrows were like little arrows pointing toward Heaven For Dead Boyfriends. I was praying not witness a murder when my friend started his applause-less encore. He pointed at me. “How do you fold your shirts?”
“That’s what I thought!”
Like a rockstar turned psychic, he then described all the things that were disorganized in my life: the shirts, the sketches, the paintings, the receipts, the random papers and napkins with potentially great ideas, the piles of everything. “You have piles of art. Piles.” he intuited, “You don’t even know what you have, do you?”
And I didn’t know. Much like a pile, I knew barely anything specific.
“If you want to be a successful artist,” he said, “Go home right now and get organized. Don’t make more art until you’re organized.”
So I did. Be it for fear, admiration, or the plain desire to one day live somewhere other than a warehouse behind the projects (with my young daughter), I folded. I became better organized. I organized my home and studio in such a way that I knew where everything was. In Marie Kondo terms I never scored higher than maybe a C minus, but in personal growth terms I soared. I spent my time making art instead of looking for it. I became better at what I did, because I did it. It wasn’t long before I moved to a place that felt more suitable to raise a child.
Folding. There are many times in my life and art practice that I’ve folded too much or too quickly. Aside from laundry, I no longer fold often. But with this memory as my Muse, I’m reminded that there is, in every dream, a time to fold. There’s even a time to listen to your wild friend who is quite fortunate his girlfriend married him instead of stabbed him with her eyebrows. As Marie Kondo said, “Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of the disorder.”
I am the order and the disorder.
There is a time to fold and a time to unfold.
Painting image: “Dream Child, 84×60 inches, Rachel Kice