Unfinished Projects are Clutter. Here’s How to Fix It

quilt with sewing lines

I’ve been working on cleaning my office/studio again (always) and I realized something I already knew: I have a lot of unfinished projects hanging around.

That quilt I made my husband (of 20 years) when we were dating that I never actually quilted.

The half-knit blanket I’ve been “working on” for years.

The sweater that’s done other than weaving in ends. The stack of mending. The dress I sewed over the summer with the wonky neckline that needs fixing.

You get the idea. You could probably rattle off your own list of projects you were once so enthusiastic about but now they’re just cluttering up your space.

Thinking about Unfinished Objects as Clutter

Does it feel different to you to consider your unfinished projects clutter? Does it make you feel defensive or protective of them, or do you agree that they are just taking up space?

The thing about unfinished projects — whether a craft projects, a home improvement idea, a book you always wanted to write — is that they take up mental space as well as physical space.

They weigh you down and deplete your energy. They may even contribute to feelings of imposter syndrome (because of course I can’t be that good at whatever thing if I can’t even finish this project, right?).

The Why Behind Unfinished Projects

Unfinished projects can happen for a lot of reasons, such as:

  • boredom
  • fear of trying a new technique
  • you made a mistake and don’t know how to fix it
  • you’ve built up fixing a problem or finishing into such a huge ordeal in your mind you have no concept of how much time/effort it would really take (probably a lot less than you think)
  • fear that finishing means you’ll have to show it to someone and they might not react the way you’d hoped

These are all reasons I have put off finishing things; I’m sure you have your own list.

Considering my unfinished projects, the quilt stayed undone because I didn’t think I could sew it on my machine, but I had never tried to do so. The blanket is boring, and weaving in ends and mending aren’t that fun, either. (Though both can be satisfying.) I’m not sure how to fix the dress, and it’s the wrong season to wear it anyway.

All of these are just excuses, of course, but knowing the why behind each thing that remains undone gives you an idea of how to tackle them.

How to Deal with Unfinished Projects

Just start quilting and see if it works (it did). Add the blanket to my rotation of projects to work on once a week, or it could be a project to work on while watching movies (which is rare enough I might even get excited to work on it).

Declare a finishing/mending hour, or set a timer and see how much I can get done in 30 minutes or an hour and repeat weekly until it’s done. For the dress I can actually try it on again and see what the problem is and possible re-cut the neckline and try again.

Your project list is going to be different from mine, but you get the idea. Gather up your unfinished objects and let’s evaluate.

For each project you need to consider

  • what still needs to be done?
  • why did I stop working on it in the first place?
  • how long will it take (realistically, not the immense amount of time you’ve built up in your head) to finish?
  • do you really want to finish it?
  • what is your plan to finish it (or not)?

If you decide there’s something you don’t want to or can’t finish, is there a way to reuse or repurpose the project? Can you, for example, unravel the yarn, remelt the wax, tear the drawing up to use in a collage?

It can feel really good to take back the materials from a project you didn’t love and turn them into something else.

For the projects you do want to complete, it’s important to get started right away. I’m making progress on the quilt, with a goal to have it finished by the end of the month. I plan a deeper dive into mending and weaving in ends when I finish my current knitting project. I can pull the blanket out to work on once this project is done, too.

Commit to doing those things you say you want to. If there’s something that can be done immediately, do it. It feels so good to tick something off your list, no matter how small. (You may even want to make a physical list so you can mark things off if you’re into that.)

Do you have a lot of unfinished projects? I hope this inspires you to get to work on them, and I’d love to hear all about it!

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