TRANSCRIPT Ep. 281: The Creative’s Conundrum: Overvaluing Ideation


Miriam Schulman: The idea of something ending up in a landfill can be distressing. Yeah, I get it. But you know what? If you keep it, you’re treating your own home or your own studio as a landfill.

Speaker 2: It’s The Inspiration Place podcast with artist Miriam Schulman. Welcome to The Inspiration Place Podcast, an art world inside a podcast, for artists, by an artist where each week we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art. And now your host, Miriam Schulman.

Miriam Schulman: Well, hello Artpreneur. Welcome to The Inspiration Place. This is Miriam Schulman, your curator of inspiration. You’re listening to episode number 281, and I’m so grateful that you’re here. So my husband and I have been binge-watching. I wouldn’t even say binge-watching. We’re kind of watch maybe one a day, but we’re, we’re watching episodes of Hoarders. Now, you might be wondering, Miriam, what the heck does a show about hoarding have to do with being an artist? So stick with me. I’ve been watching it and I’ve been noticing some things that these individuals have that have a parallel to what I see with artists. In a nutshell, the hoarders have, for the most part, a scarcity mindset. So either they’ve suffered a trauma, they suffered a loss which leads them to compensate by hoarding objects, even if the items don’t serve them, even if it creates unsanitary conditions. And a lot of these thought processes are dominated by cognitive distortion. So they have this loss, this feeling of scarcity, and they compensate by filling their space with stuff. So it’s a scarcity mindset. So of course there are parallels between the scarcity mindset that I noticed in the Hoarders and the scarcity mindset that you have to overcome to be a thriving artist, because a scarcity mindset is a starving artist mindset. So a cognitive distortion. For those of you who read my book, Artpreneur, I called them as thought distortions, and they’re basically a twisted pattern of thinking that leads us astray.

So these thought distortions, well, thoughts in general are going to generate your emotional experience and your thoughts and your emotions are going to drive actions. And these actions are either going to prevent us from achieving our desired outcome or sabotage us. Or if you have positive thoughts with positive emotion, it will motivate you to achieve your desired outcome. So everything we’re talking we’re going to talk about today is really important for you. So let me talk first about what this looks like for Hoarders. What we’re going to talk about in this episode are really three main concepts. We’re going to discuss the psychology of hoarding and how it relates to us creatives. And in particular, I’m going to discuss a concept called overvaluing ideation. Next, I’m going to share common rationalizations used by hoarders. These are the types of rationalizations I also share throughout Artpreneur. In Artpreneur, I made them very specific to artists. Those of you who have read my book, you know that throughout the book I peppered it with “starving artists think this” and “thriving Artpreneurs need to believe that”. So always when you recognize a thought error, a cognitive distortion, a thought distortion, it’s always going to be in your benefit to change it. And the first step is recognizing it. So I’m going to share these common rationalizations. I’m also going to share with you how I see this coming up in my own life as well as in lives of my clients.

So hoarding is caused by the psychology we’re going to discuss. And then decluttering will result in a better, more creative, more calm, more successful state for you. Let’s get into this episode. When I started percolating on this idea, I was watching Hoarders, I was noticing in the first three episodes that we watched together, me and my husband, how many of the hoarders identified themselves as artists. So it made it really easy, actually, to see the parallel. A lot of their hoarding involved stashes of fabric, things they planned on upcycling, art supplies, broken furniture. They wanted to refinish moldy things. They just wanted to wash and resave and the art supplies. There was one hoarder. Her name was Tiffany. She had literally every shade of Daniel Smith watercolor. It was unbelievable. She had this huge plastic tub full. She did save that, which I actually applaud, but I was for that episode. I was actually screaming at the at the TV because she decided to let go of her stash of Golden’s acrylics. And I was like, “No, those are really expensive. That’s high quality. I will take them, Tiffany. I will come over and get them”. So I can be a little guilty of this too.

And especially with the different color shades with the watercolors, I do have a palette that I stick to, so I have the colors that I want that I reuse. I don’t like to make decisions. I fill my palette. That’s what I have. But when it comes to like a brand new supply, for example, there was one supply by paper artsy, this type of paint. And I had to have every single color. And I’ve actually used most of it because they’re very small bottles and you go through them very quickly. But still, you know, it’s like a couple hundred dollars later. I had bought every single color I could not not have a color. The other thing that plagues a lot of hoarders is that they collect things that are broken or they save things that are broken. They want to save. They want to fix it. One episode with Tim. Tim actually had two houses to hold his hoards, and his hoards included broken bicycles, broken lawnmowers, computers, printers. And he planned on fixing them. And he wouldn’t let anybody get rid of his so-called tools and everything was considered a tool like anything that had extra parts, had a tool. But there was one thing that they shared during this episode that blew my mind, and this is when I was introduced to the concept called overvaluing ideation. I actually wrote it down because it really resonated with me.

So let me define for you what overvaluing ideation is. This is the allure of the ideation phase, the thrill of a new idea and the sanctuary it offers from potential critique. You have this idea that all your thoughts are going to be masterpieces. And that was the case with Tim. Like he just loved thinking about what he could do with all his stuff. So in this segment, we’re going to identify five signs that you may be overvaluing ideation, which you could have without being a true hoarder. So I want you to listen carefully. So number one idea inflation. This is the belief that every thought or concept is a potential masterpiece. But here’s the thing. When you put too much emphasis on the thought, the idea. And you think of it as this perfect future. This leads to you being stuck. And a lot of times this leads to number two, which is stagnation in the execution phase. So you’re stuck in the brainstorming phase that you never get to the execution phase. And I see that so much with creatives. Number three is fear of imperfection. So this is the paralyzing thought of your idea not bringing to fruition perfectly. So that makes you become stuck. Is any of this familiar to you? I know it’s not going to be familiar to everybody, but for some people, I know this is resonating because I’ve talked to you.

Number four, you avoid the critique so you remain in the ideation shade to shield yourself from real-world feedback. And this is even true for artists who they say their style is evolving so they can’t market their artwork yet. That’s actually avoidance of critique because you are still working on the idea of what your style is and you’re not putting it out into the world yet. Finally, number five is lack of completion. So basically, if your studio is a landscape of unfinished projects, half-done canvases, canvases that aren’t started yet, you have lots of supplies for things you don’t work on. These are consequences of not following through. And this is just one aspect of hoarding that I wanted to bring to light because I see this all the time, this overvaluing ideation, and it’s something to be aware of. When we come back, we’re going to talk a little bit deeper about the psychology of hoarding and draw parallels to the artist’s experience. But first, these words.

***Artpreneur Review***

One of the episodes I loved, Marjorie. So Margie was an Oklahoma hoarder and I mean, [00:10:20] she couldn’t even let go of clothing covered in mouse poop. She was like, “Oh, I’ll wash it.” And her son was like, “Well, if I pee on that, will you will you wear it after you wash it? Her entire home was hoarded out, except for what the therapist dubbed the Hoarders Cockpit, which was a three-foot space where the hoarder actually lives their life.

Now, I admit it, there’s been many times in my studio where my workspace and my studio looked unusable. In fact, they really were unusable because I would just push my last project off to the side. And even if I was filming an online class, I would just point the camera on the cleaned section of the table and film.

The psychology of hoarding is intricate, many layers, no pun intended, that can provide a lot of parallels to the artist’s experience. So let me share with you some further insights into the psychology of hoarding and how they may relate to your experience as an artist. And before we dive into this, I’m not suggesting that all artists are hoarders, that you have that pathology of hoarding. I just want you to draw the lessons from this. Okay? So number one, one of the most defining characteristics of hoarding is emotional attachment to objects. And as creators, we are very attached to our creations and our potential creations. So this intense, intense emotional value that can be linked to memories. So there could be forms of the past for artists. Ideas can sometimes be associated with specific periods in their life emotions, experiences.

This makes it very challenging to let go, which which means sometimes they may sabotage their own art sales. I know very often I’ve talked to artists who are holding back, selling their art. Even when a collector is saying they want to buy it, they say they’re, Oh, they’re saving it for a collection. So you do have to create your art with the idea of letting go with it. But just, you know, I do get why you want to hold on to it. So my daughter shared with me recently that she had saved all her art journals, and she’s like, Is that okay? And she happened to be visiting us in the country. So I went into what I’m using as a studio in the country, and I think I pulled out almost a dozen journals because I’ve been art journaling since 2013. And I had saved every journal, every journal, and sometimes I did multiple journals in a year. So there was like at least a dozen journals that I pulled out and I can’t let go of them. So I get it. But you can’t do it to the point of sabotaging your potential income if that’s what you want, or creating a lifestyle that you can’t enjoy. Okay. Number two. People who hoard often feel overwhelmed with the prospect of decluttering. So this leads to avoiding behavior similar to how artists might avoid. Now, here, here’s where it definitely relates to you, because I know when I’ve had a cluttered up art studio, I would avoid creating because I didn’t want to go in there and clean it.

And then it was so interesting once I did clean off my art table. I suddenly wanted to create again. Like it would just release that avoidance of the creation phase. So cleaning up, which we will get into in more detail, is a really important part of jump starting your creativity if you’re feeling stuck. Sometimes the simplest thing is just to declutter your workspace. Don’t even worry about the whole house. Just that table service. Number three. A need for control. So some psychologists believe hoarding provides a sense of control for the hoarder, and the act of accumulating can give them an illusion of abundance and security. So this is again where I see this push-pull that if an artist is having a starving artist mentality, they have to look for places where they actually are acting in a way that is a scarcity mindset. And holding on to things is not control. It’s a scarcity mindset. You’re holding on to it because you want this illusion of abundance around you. Number four. Indecisiveness. Okay. Decision-making is very tough. It’s tough for people who hoard. It’s tough for people who don’t hoard. Hoarder’s worry about making the wrong choice and regretting it later. This indecisiveness is mirrored in artists. A lot of them are indecisive about which ideas to pursue, what to leave behind.

Sometimes they hoard art supplies they’re not using anymore. What if they’re going to start using them again? Sometimes this decision-making shows up in maybe what website to choose. There’s lots of decisions. And they think if they don’t make a decision or if you you think if you don’t make a decision, you can avoid making the wrong choice. But no decision is also a decision. It’s a decision not to move forward. Number five. Hoo hoo hoo. Perfectionism. So this may sound surprising, but some hoarders also exhibit perfectionist tendencies and I when I learned this, it did not surprise me because the fear of not doing the decluttering process perfectly is what leads to their inaction. We just discussed that with the indecisiveness. They’re afraid of doing it wrong. Artists too. So many of you I know suffer from perfectionism. You’re paralyzed with the drive for being perfect, and that stalls your creative process, that stalls from you putting your art out into the world, letting it go out when it’s an adolescent, as you’re learning as your art. Maybe it’s in the adolescent phase, so it still has pimples and braces, but you have to let it go. Let go of the idea of perfect. I had that perfectionism could have really stymied me with the book until Dr. Eric Maizel told me it’s okay to write a shitty first book.

Now, the book isn’t shitty, but just that concept that it was safe for me to put out a book that wasn’t a Nobel Prize winner. That wasn’t a Pulitzer Prize winner, that wasn’t a New York Times best seller. It’s okay because it helps a lot of people. Now, 8000 sales of the book later and over 200 reviews on Amazon. That’s a lot of people I’ve helped. And if I was worried about being perfect. I never would have helped those people. Now I can go through the book and any one of those chapters I could rewrite now with new information because everything could always be improved and reiterated again. But at a certain point you have to let go. You have to let go. Number six. Identity and self-worth. Whoa. Okay. Objects in a hoard can be tied to a person’s identity and self-worth and discarding that may feel like discarding a piece of yourself. I totally relate to this. When I was moving from my house in the suburbs to the city, I let go of a lot of stuff that I really, really wanted to hold on to, and some of that was stuff I thought that I needed for my art. I let go of all my matting supplies because I decided from now on I was going to drop ship prints instead of matting them myself and that any commissioned work I wouldn’t mat that the customer would have to do it.


And there was lots of things like that where I was just letting go, letting go, letting go. I’m pretty sure I did let go of my pastels. I may regret that, but I did let them go. If I end up signing up for a life drawing class and I want those pastels again, well, I give myself permission to buy new ones. But every single time you let go of something, it feels like discarding a piece of yourself. In fact, when I was preparing to move from the suburbs to the city, because that was really our biggest change, we had bought the home in the in the Catskills, our farmhouse. I don’t know if you’ve heard me say this on the podcast or I don’t even know if I said this on the podcast, but the farmhouse does not have a single bit of room for storage. It’s actually it seems like it’s a large house. Like if you look at it from the outside, it has five small bedrooms, it has a living room, it has a dining room. I have a small studio, but there is not one, not one closet in the entire home. Not a single one, not a coat closet, not a clothing closet, not a pantry, nothing. So there is no place for clutter to hide in that home. Not only that, but we periodically have problems with bats in the attic.

So I don’t want to put anything up there because I’m afraid the bats are going to poop on it. And then the basement is a little damp. And again, we don’t have bats in the basement, but there’s mice, so there’s really nowhere to put anything. And then in the city, it’s a New York City apartment. I just don’t have a lot of space. So I had to get rid of so many things. One of the things I parted with, it really killed me to part with, but now I’m glad I did was I had two huge flat files that I used for storing all of my life drawings and all of my artwork. And this tip might actually help somebody here. I actually, now my studio, it doubles as my office, my studio and my guest room. So what I did was we got a trundle bed where the trundle portion of the trundle bed is only used for me to store my papers. Papers. Meaning like my drawing paper, watercolor paper, finished drawings, finished watercolor. And then we got a couple of different portfolios are in there to organize it somewhat. But yes, getting rid of things does feel like shedding past selves. Both my husband and I had to get rid of our college notebooks. We had both hoarded that because it was easy to hoard it because we had this big basement in the suburbs where we could just put things on shelves and it just sat there.

Final thing here.  The last one won’t surprise anyone at all. The last aspect of hoarding is fear of waste. So this is a fear of wastefulness. This is particularly true of children of the Depression, children who are who whose parents suffered through the Depression, people who were poor at one time. They worry that if they discard it now, they’ll need it later. But it’s really all a scarcity mindset that is mirrored in an artist as well. One of the most ridiculous ones that I saw where episode that I saw where somebody was worried about a fear of waste was with. You’ll cut out this extra pause here. Who was it with? I think her name was Peggy. So Peggy had like ten, It probably was more, I counted maybe ten cake boxes that she refused to part with. And not only that, she had like, you know, a ridiculous number of cake mixes, but buy cake boxes. I mean, cake mix boxes. Not only was it a ridiculous amount, but they were all expired. They were all expired. So. Yeah. So this is about holding on to something because you’re afraid you can’t have it later. Even something that’s no good anymore. And the irony is they hoard so much stuff and they have so much stuff that they can’t even use what they have.

So they end up squandering it. Next, we’re going to talk about starving artists, thoughts that you might be thinking. But first, these words.

***Artpreneur Review***

Now we’re going to talk about some common rationalizations that I’ve heard hoarders say. If you hear yourself thinking or saying any of these things, question it. “I might need it someday”, even if it’s something you haven’t used or touched for years. Go through your art supply stash. What are you holding on to? Maybe you can donate it to a homeless shelter. Sadly, there’s a lot of kids in the homeless shelter. They could use your art supplies. Number two, sentimental value. That is associating objects with memories or specific events and discarding them might feel like discarding a piece of your past. Number three. It was a gift. You might feel guilty about getting rid of something that was given to you, but what you’re really doing when you keep that gift is that you’re holding on to guilt. So if you let go of it, you’ll be letting go of guilt. Number four. I paid good money for this. The original cost of the item, even if it’s no longer of any real value, can be a real sticking point.

And this is because of that what’s called a sunk cost fallacy, where you put a lot of emphasis on how much you originally paid, even though what it’s worth now is not worth it anymore. This totally happened to me, by the way. I fell in love with this pink sweater. This is I’m talking 2023 in January 2023. And you probably have seen me actually wear it on my YouTube videos. I loved that sweater and I think I paid full price for it. It was a lot of money. It was like around $300. But I loved it and I wore it so much now. I had also worn it up to the country on a cold day, and then I left it there. And then the next time we were up, it was warm so I didn’t wear it. So we were up there in September and I pulled the sweater out because I thought, Oh, well, I’ll wear it today. It’s kind of chilly. And the whole front of the sweater was covered in holes from moths. And I really started thinking in a hoarder-ish way. So this pink sweater, it has a lot of embellishments on it. It has pearls as embroideries. I thought, Oh, okay, well, maybe, maybe I’ll buy doodads and I’ll sew it on them. But it’s like, no, I can’t put any more time or money into this sweater. I just have to say goodbye to it. So it would have cost me more time and more money to fix it.

It was much better because you can’t really see those moth eggs or whatever it is that eats them. So I don’t know. You know, I could fix it and it could happen again. So it was just better. I’m just going to let it go, even though I paid good money for it. And it makes me sad. Number five. I’ll fix it or I’ll use it for the parts. And here’s the thing. This is one another reason why I keep I think that this is such an important topic for us artists, because us artists, we can look at broken items not just with the intention of repairing them or using them in a future product project, but I’m like, Oh well, it’s a plate. And even though it’s chipped, I can break it up and then I can use it as a mosaic or a mirror. I can I can break it and, and use that as a mosaic or, oh, I could use this so we can be victims again. That’s why I brought up that whole idea of overvaluing ideation. We can be victims of our own ability to generate creative ideas, and we don’t always have an equal ability to follow through and execute on them. So you have to be really vigilant about what you’re holding on to. Number six. It’s still good, even if there’s no immediate use for the item.

So again, this was Peggy. She was arguing about the expired cake mixes still being good. And the therapist was saying, I don’t eat expired food. And she was like, Yes, but let’s look up on the website because the expiration date is not the actual date. The expiration date is just the date. They have to get it out of the stores. It’s not really when it’s bad. So. That idea that it’s still good. But here’s the thing. Let’s just say even if it was still good, she had so many cake mixes and she wasn’t going to be able to do anything with them. I mean, there’s she didn’t have room to make a cake in her kitchen. There was no place. Number seven. It’s rare or might be worth something. This is the belief that the item might be a collectible or have some future value, and this can be a strong deterrent against discarding it. One of the saddest and not really sad it was it was just sad for me. This hoarder, his name was Paul. He was a retired interior decorator. And as part of the episode, he decides that he will sell off his huge art collection and not all of his art was equally valuable. He had good taste, but a lot of it was prints, framed, prints, things he picked up at garage sales. It wasn’t like high-value art. But what they did was they laid out all the art on the side of the road and then posted on social media that they were having an art sale.

And at the end of the day, they had made $300 and they sold six things. And then Paul was not going to part with this hoard, so he had it carted off to a storage unit, which now he’s paying for. Now, surely the art may have been worth more? I don’t know, because I didn’t get a good look at what all the art was. But here’s a lesson for you. Nobody wants to buy art that has been laid on the road like trash. It’s kind of like nobody wants the shirt with the mouse poop on it and nobody wants art that has been laid out on the road like trash. Now, you may be thinking this has nothing to do with me. But that’s why I always encourage artists to invest properly in merchandizing their art. Whether you’re selling in person, you get a proper display booth or if you’re in the online world, you give your art a beautiful virtual display, a proper website with an e-commerce checkout. Act like a professional. Give your art the the world that it deserves and show the world how to value your art. Number eight. I don’t want it to go to waste. The idea of something ending up in a landfill can be distressing. Yeah, I get it. But you know what? If you keep it.

You’re treating your own home or your own studio as a landfill. That’s something I used to say to myself when I needed to get rid of stuff was like, My house is not a landfill, so I shouldn’t keep this. I need to get rid of it because I’m not using this. So I’ll store it in a landfill outside of my home. And let me just stop and say my house never looked like anything you ever saw on TV. I’m just talking about kind of the normal collection that a lot of us artists go through. Number nine. I’ll give it to someone or donate it later. Now, while this might seem like a proactive approach, often the act of actually donating it or passing on the item never happened. So that’s just a rationalization sometimes we say. But why are you holding on to it? Either you’re giving it and donating it or you’re not. There’s no later. Number ten. It reminds me of my mother. No, that’s not the exact thing. It’s actually the rationalization that reminds me of someone I just said of my mother, because that was a common theme. But objects can become proxies for memories or relationships, making it very hard to part with. And it’s not just, by the way, for the for the person. We were recently on the phone with, my son Seth, who is in Israel, and my son Seth was at one point a very, very good wrestler.

He made it to the finals and sectionals, and he was if anybody knows anything about wrestling, he was a National Fargo wrestler. And after the incident with the moths eating my sweater, I revisited with him the idea of letting go of his clothes. And he says, okay, no, you can give it all away. But my husband wanted to hold on to it. So he kept piping in with things like, Oh, but what about your Garden City tournament shirt? I’m like, Ron, it smells bad. But Ron didn’t want to let go of that part of my son’s childhood, so. These kinds of things that can pull us to things are very strong and nobody’s wearing this stuff. My son has been in Israel for two years and he’s not made any indication that he’s coming home. And He gave us permission to donate it, but my husband wants to hold on to it, so just be careful like how these things happen. See if you can recognize yourself in any of these things. And the final thing I want to share with you is number 11 is the idea that getting rid of things is wasteful. Now, this stems from a belief in being frugal or environmentally conscious. But the problem here is that if you’re treating your own home. As a landfill. There’s no difference between it being in your home or a landfill outside of the home.

And this is true even if your home is not a landfill, even if you just have a lot of stuff. All right. So those are the 11 aspects of hoarding I wanted to share with you just so you can see what the pathology looks like. It’s worth noting hoarding is a complex disorder. It’s intertwined with deep-seated emotional issues. These rationalizations, they aren’t just excuses, but they are deeply held beliefs, limiting beliefs that make it challenging for people to change their behaviors. And I thought it would be so interesting to show you this extreme of these limiting beliefs just to help you work on your own beliefs, your own thoughts, that you’re thinking that maybe you’re having challenges changing. Okay. When we come back, we’re going to talk about some more parallels between hoarders and artists. But first these words.

***Artpreneur Review***

So just as hoarder’s homes become cluttered and unlivable, our creative spaces, both our physical ones and our mental ones, can become crowded with the weight of what we refuse to let go. This scarcity mindset is the very root of starving artists mindset. We believe there’s not enough. Not enough opportunity, not enough audience, not enough success. So we hoard, we hoard ideas, we hoard supplies, we hoard time. And what’s more, by not using ideas, supplies and time in a meaningful way, we’re squandering them.

We hoard past artworks fearing we can’t replicate their success. Now, here’s the kicker. Just as a home filled with clutter does not equate abundance, a mind cluttered with hoarded thoughts doesn’t lead to a life of fulfillment. So if you see parallels between hoarding behaviors and your own creative journey, it’s time for introspection. Reflect on what you’re clinging to and ask yourself why? Are old sketches gathering dust because you’re attached to a version of yourself that no longer exists? Is the fear of scarcity holding back you from realizing your full potential? All right. So we’re pretty much out of time. But I do want to talk about what happens when you do clean up your studio. But I’m going to save that for next week. So come back next week. We’re going to talk about the psychological benefits of cleaning up. And we’re also going to have a guest interview with Denise Duffield Thomas, who’s going to share how decluttering can lead to manifesting greater abundance in your life. You’re not going to want to miss out on that episode, so make sure you hit, subscribe or plus or follow in your podcast app. And until next time, stay inspired.

Speaker 2: Thank you for listening to the Inspiration Place podcast. Connect with us on Facebook at, on Instagram @SchulmanArt, and of course, on


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