The Art Biz ep. 38: 5 Simple Steps to an Organized Studio with Fiona Valentine

When I was little, my mother used to get me to clean up my room by telling me that the queen was coming. The room had to look nice because, for some lord-knows-why reason, Her Royal Highness was crossing the pond to visit our humble home on 69th Street in Oklahoma City.

Funny thing. She never came.

I'm not sure when I caught onto Mom’s charade, but the clean rooms didn't last. I loved to pull things out, try them on, and make messes. I still do. And I don't like to clean up.

Artist and organizing expert Fiona Valentine
This episode's guest Fiona Valentine in her studio. ©Lecinda Ward Photography

But I do love a tidy workspace. I can breathe better. I can think better when I know where things are and when I have space.

My guest for the latest episode of the Art Biz Podcast is Fiona Valentine, who shares 5 simple steps to organize your studio and save time, money, and materials while increasing your productivity.

Organizing your studio might not sound like much fun and, honestly, I don’t care what your office or studio looks like. But here’s what I know: Most of my clients are overwhelmed and stressed out. At the same time, most would probably tell you that they aren’t very good at the whole organizing thing.

I’m pretty sure that you’ll alleviate a lot of stress when you take the time to 1) get organized and 2) stay organized by keeping a tidy workspace.

Fiona has adapted a proven 5-step technique — 5S in lean methodology — to her art studio and her outline makes it easy for you to follow. If you listen closely you’ll hear that we added a 6th step (and it’s a fun one). Then you'll be ready if, indeed, her majesty drops in unexpectedly.

Fiona Valentine's studio before organizing
Fiona's studio before she applied the 5 Simple Steps.
Fiona Valentine's studio after
Fiona's studio after she applied the 5 Simple Steps. Notice the pictures posted to the right of her desktop that help her Sustain the System (Step 5).


Music by Wildermiss.


  • How Fiona schemed and put a plan on paper to quit her job and devote herself to an art business. (7:34)
  • A messy studio costs you time, money, and productivity. (11:20)
  • It's not important to worry about the mess while you're in flow. (13:00)
  • A bigger studio won't solve your problems. (13:25)
  • Fiona's 5 Simple Steps (5S) that evolved from the lean methodology that her husband was an expert in. (15:00)
  • Fiona and her husband sip wine while figuring out how to apply 5S to her studio. (20:00)
  • An outline of the 5 Simple Steps (22:45)

1. SORT :: Remove everything from the studio that isn't essential to your current process. (24:09)
– Identify a “white tag area” for those things. (24:42 and 26:12)
2. SET :: Identify a home for every item. (27:05)
– Our mutual devotion to our label makers. (28:12)
3. SHINE :: Establish regular cleaning and repairs. (30:00)
4. STANDARDIZE :: Use labels and photographs to maintain order. (31:34)
5. SUSTAIN :: Make a chart to log weekly maintenance of your space and ask someone you trust to audit your space monthly. (34:43)
– Accountability is key (35:58)


Artist and organizer Fiona Valentine uses 5 simple steps to organize her studio.
Fiona's Standardize (Step 4) photo of her desk drawer. This picture is posted to the right of her desktop–see above photo–to help her Sustain the System (Step 5).

Lean Methodology
My Label Maker


A Year of Cleaning with Daryl Johnson

About My Guest

Fiona Valentine is always on the lookout for wonderful landscapes, objects that tell stories and everyday moments just waiting to be shared.

She divides her time between painting in her home studio in Melbourne and teaching. In 2019 she released her first online course explaining color theory. Her Team Building Drawing Workshops help companies improve customer serve by increasing their team's innovation and creativity.

Fiona works in multiple mediums and is currently a guest writer for Australian Artist magazine. Her facebook group, The Confident Artist, supports aspiring artists to build a creative habit and conquer the basics of painting, so they can make beautiful art.

Follow Fiona on Instagram


Music by Wildermiss.

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21 thoughts on “The Art Biz ep. 38: 5 Simple Steps to an Organized Studio with Fiona Valentine”

  1. OMG one of the best how to organize my studio I’ve heard in a very long time! THANK YOU!!!!

    The white tag area is brilliant.

    I have a label maker and it’s saving my life, often!

    This episode and post is NOT about adding organization tools! It’s about knowing WHAT you have and USING what you have. I’ve been working on this for a very long time…slowly I discover and discard items.

    My future studio will be about the same size as Fiona’s. I will be following her steps for my current studio, that is frankly out of hand.

    I love the 6th step! It will help! This entire thing is a SYSTEM that makes sense to me!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Angeline-Marie: Yay! So happy this spoke to you. Can’t wait to hear how the system works for you.

  2. Having taught materials management, it makes sense to follow this plan. But I feel like the shoemaker whose kids needs shoes – my studio is full of art, supplies and yes, antiques! My label maker is used frequently for art supplies.

    Fiona’s 10 x 10 organized studio is focused on her teaching needs. While I have spaces designated for separate processes( painting, sealing, heating and air, matting, and framing) I also have art in the studio for sale and frames/mats that take up space.

    Many of us have multipurpose art studios. Mine is also a guesthouse on the property, with couch and day bed. Should these be tossed? The bed is convenient for preparing art to be shown. My hubby and the dog love visiting. Once every season, I sort and arrange. My work of 450+ pieces (including sold) is inventoried on an ongoing basis.

    It was heartwarming to hear Fiona’s spiritual comment about connecting and fellowship with God through her painting.

    1. Ree, I love that your husband and dog can get comfortable visiting in your studio. I’d say that might qualify as essential to your process 🙂

      The connection and fellowship idea was such a break through for me. Friends hang out and do fun stuff, right? Glad it resonated with you, too.

  3. Oh my! But I might need it! I bought a label maker some years ago. It even hooks to the computer and I’ve never used it. I may have to try again. Finding a good place for everything is the hardest part for me.

    1. Debbie, you might need to recruit a patient, organizer friend to make suggestions. (Patient because I know, like me, you’ll probably push back on some suggestions because you know how you work and need solutions that will be practical.)

  4. Wonderful podcast; thank you! I, too, work in several mediums and my studio is 10×10 making this feel as if it is directed right at me! Can’t wait to implement the “white tag” clear out as well as hanging tube storage. Photos should help eliminate backsliding.

  5. Pingback: Clearing The Decks | Elizabeth Fram

  6. I am so grateful for this podcast. My sister died last year and after a year of nursing and the subsequent grief my studio had morphed into an ugly zone and a very unuseable space. I did a quick tidy up a few weeks ago when a rat went through my studio but I knew it still wasn’t set up right for me but I wasn’t sure how to fix it. This podcast has given me the tools to start sorting the space for me to create again. Thank you.

  7. Pingback: Creating your work space – Art Supply House & Custom Framing

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