Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Simplify Your Life - Severely Edit Your Projects

Back in 1996 I ran across the book "Simplify Your Life, 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things that Really Matter." by Elaine St. James. It's a brilliant book and it started me on a journey toward simplifying my life.

I use the term "journey" loosely, it's more of a ramble. The kind where I get lost occasionally, and end up in the part of the city with bars on the shop windows and lots of graffiti. The scary part of the city, where you know you need to turn around and go back... Yes, I see that my allegory is rambling too.... Anyway, simplicity has been an underlying theme and goal of my life for the past sixteen-ish years.

Because of this, I thought I'd start a monthly column about how to simplify your life, since I happen to know something about this topic and can actually speak to it. The first simplification topic that I'm going to tackle is "PROJECTS."

This is probably one of the most difficult areas for me. I fancy myself a DIYer and a crafter and those fancies are not entirely wrong. I can knit and sew, I do fix up my house (I have to fix up my house, there really is no choice on that one), I decorate and work on projects etc... What I am not is a prolific DIYer and crafter. Metaphorically speaking, my eyes are bigger than my stomach, where projects are concerned.

Here's what ends up happening to me: The partially-finished projects start to pile up, the parts to future projects start to pile up, the Pinterest projects keep getting pinned and pile up, I start having the projects rattling around in my head pile up. Before to long I'm experiencing full-on real, virtual and mental Project Back-Log.

For me, Project Back-Log = Pressure.

♫ ♪ Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure - that burns a building down
Splits a family in two ♫ ♪

(Oh yes I did just sing at you)

And (for me) the pressure of unfinished projects is very stressful.

Other irritating habits come along with project pile-up. The worst of these is "Random Project Shopping" where I'm wandering through Michaels and I see the whosie-whatsit that I NEED to finish the thinga-ma-bob that I saw on AwesomeProject.com. The only problem is that the AwesomeProject.com project is not something I ever need to do, I probably didn't even download the instructions yet. Worse still, even if I did finish the project, I wouldn't have anywhere to put it. Worst of all, I already own the pieces to lots of projects that I actually should be working on...

Were you hoping for helpful suggestions about how to actually simplify your projects? Silly you.

Juuuust kidding.

Here we go.

1. - Do a brain dump.

Write all of those unfinished, half-finished, mental, and Pinterest projects down. Include the projects you haven't started yet but have supplies for and maybe even the supplies that you don't have projects for. WRITE IT ALL DOWN!!!!

Warning: this could be a painful and mind-boggling process. That's OK, that will just illustrate how unrealistic the list actually is.

2. Write down how much time you have to devote to projects. BE HONEST about how much time you actually have to devote to your projects. One hour per day? One hour per week? You never work on projects? Again, be brutally honest.

At this point in time the number of projects to available time discrepancy might be becoming apparent. This is a good thing.

3. Cross off every obvious project that can come off. There should be quite a few of them, if you're being honest about it. Remember: no one likes plastic-canvas tissue-box covers, especially with the fluorescent, acrylic yarn. Every time that you think "why did I want to do that?" that project should go.

Cross them off EVEN IF YOU HAVE ALL OF THE SUPPLIES! Yes, even then. Your time is precious. Every bit as precious as your money. Just because you have the supplies does not mean that you need to complete the project. Especially if you've been engaging in "Random Project Shopping"

4. Walk around your house with your list and determine where every item for your home will go. You may find that you have three different throws for you couch planned/in progress/pinned. You may find that you don't need another sweater, more throw pillows, another picture etc...

4a. If your projects are gifts, think about whether you're giving a gift or an obligation. Will the recipient actually like it? Does it go with their house? Or will they feel like they have to keep this item for your sake and take it out when you visit? (Ouch, right?) Still, it's an important consideration.

4b. Look at you closet or your kid's closets and decide if you (or they) will actually wear the projects. Do they go with the current wardrobe? Will they fit by the time you actually get them done? Will your kids actually wear them? Are your closets already full to the brim?

Do this assessment for every category of project.

5. Cross off anything that you know you don't have space for, you know your recipient won't love, you won't wear etc.. EVEN IF YOU HAVE ALL OF THE SUPPLIES! Yes, even then. Your time is precious. Every bit as precious as your money. Just because you have the supplies does not mean that you need to complete the project. Especially if you've been engaging in "Random Project Shopping" (I repeated that so it must be important)

6. Now that you've eliminated some of your list, it's time to pick a number. Five? Ten? Twenty? This is the number of projects that you think you can actually complete, in one year, given the amount of time you have to devote to your projects. Again, BE HONEST! If it takes you forty hours to knit a sweater and you devote one hour per week to projects, then you will have time for one sweater per year. That's all!

7. Here's where it gets hard. Assign your remaining projects a number. Start with your favorite and work down. Once you get to the number you picked, be it five, ten or twenty, you're done. Get rid of the rest of the projects. Yes I mean it. You are never going to get to them, your tastes will change, your children will grow etc... They're just a mental burden so get rid of them.


I don't mean that you should get rid of all of your craft supplies and tools which are not assigned to a project. Needle-nose pliers and glitter can come in handy. I mean that you should get rid of the supplies that are specific to that project. The yarn for the sweater that you're never going to knit? Out it goes! The fabric for the dress you're never going to make? Buh bye!

**I also don't mean that you should throw the supplies in the garbage! Heavens NO! Generally speaking, if you mention that you're getting rid of craft supplies to crafty friends, they'll be right over! Give them away, give them to Goodwill, don't add perfectly good supplies to a landfill.**

9.  Delete all references to the deleted projects. Yes, I even mean that you should delete them from Pinterest! Reminders = pressure. If you're not going to complete the project then move on entirely.

10. Follow the "One off / one on" rule. Only add a new project to your list if you have a. completed one or b. deleted one.


I'm going to be going through this process this month and I'll tell you how I do. I'd love to know if this is helpful to you too! Maybe we can check back in a month?

See you tomorrow,

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