What to do about unfinished projects

Gdansk, Poland // own photo

 

I have quite a few unfinished projects. You know, the ones that you start and never quite complete. These include a half-finished crochet bag, a partly-knitted cardigan for my daughter, a drafted article for a magazine, and many others. Every time I come across any of these projects, or even begin to think about them, I start to feel guilty. I feel guilty about not being able to find the time and the energy to complete them. I feel guilty about the time I have already invested and the resources I have already used. And the fact that I start to perceive myself as unaccountable doesn’t make the situation any better.

Every time I am confronted with my unfinished assignment I promise to myself that I will find some time in the nearest future to complete it. This helps for a while. This helps until the next time I come across my unfinished work, and then end up in the same loop: the guilt – the promise – the temporary relief – the oblivion.

I have decided that I need to do something about all these uncompleted assignments. Not only do they take up space in my house but they also clutter my mind. And so my new quest has began: to find a way to deal with them once and for all.

What to do about unfinished projects

The most important thing is to identify them. I did two things: I made a list of the ones I could remember, and I decided that if I came across any other uncompleted work, I would deal with it straight away.

The list is a living document that I often refer to. The first time I made it, I went through every item, considered it and either kept it or removed it. I am dealing with the items on my list on everyday basis and tick them off once they are completed (and what a good feeling that is!). The list is kept in the notes on my phone for easy access.

I decided not to think about the projects that I remove from the list, and, in this way, to unclutter my mind. If they are tangible projects, I physically get rid of them, nevertheless the stage of completion.

How not to feel guilty about getting rid of unfinished work

Sometimes it is still difficult for me to throw away a partly-done project. I think about all the hours I spent working on it, about the money I invested, and about what it could have become. I don’t like waste, and getting rid of something that could be of any use seems like a crime. On the other hand, if I wasn’t able to complete a particular job in, let’s say, the past two years, there is hardly any chance I still will.

What helps me not to feel bad about getting rid of a partly-completed project is considering what I will gain by doing so. And what is my gain? A peace of mind and a cleared space; a space that could be used for moving forward with a new idea.

Why are we so attached to our unfinished projects?

Have you ever felt that you should not give up even though all signs say that your project is not going to be a successful one? You might be a victim of ‘sunk cost fallacy’. This is when an investment, a financial or an emotional one, becomes the only reason to carry on. You might have invested a lot of money, energy or effort into something, and you just want to be consistent. My advice? Take time to reconsider, evaluate pros and cons of continuing, and make a well thought-through decision. You might get an injection of energy or you might decide to discontinue. But don’t carry on just for the sake of consistency.

How to set up a reasonable framework for completing unfinished project

If you decide to keep your project on you ‘to-do’ or ‘to-be-completed’ list I suggest that you start working on it as soon as possible. What works best for me is assigning a time slot every day to finish off my project. It could be any amount of time, really. I think that 5 minutes of a regular daily effort is much more than nothing. And this is how I completed my crocheted rug project; a project that I did in 1/3 and left untouched for about 1 year. Surprisingly, even to me, I completed it in 3 days.

I am not a huge fan of deadlines so I collected all my unfinished jobs and started to work on them, one by one. If you, however, like deadlines, you might want to give yourself a specific time frame. If the project is still unfinished after that day, just remove it from your life without any remorses.

 

Your challenge: do it now or forget about it without feeling guilty and move on.

 

To read more about ‘sunk cost fallacy’ refer to chapter 5 of ‘The Art of Thinking Clearly’ by Rolf Dobelli.

 

Summer minimalism – a rough guide

A beach on the Costa Blanca // own photo

 

I am super excited today because it is officially the first day of my summer holidays. We have no specific plans at this point but I already know how I want to spend the summer, no matter where I should find myself. So here it is, my rough guide to enjoying the summer time while staying true to a minimalistic way of living. All the tips come from my experience.

Summer sales

Yay, summer sales! Well, I am already done with sales shopping this year so no more time wasted (yes, wasted) in the shops for me. A few years ago this time of a year would mean spending hours walking around the stores in search for nothing in particular. I would end up buying things that I didn’t need, didn’t really like, and, as a result, didn’t wear or use much. Wrong size, wrong colour, or wrong shape didn’t matter as long as they were justified by a lowered price.

For the past few years I have been wiser, and this year I am particularly proud of myself. I purchased a few items that I had had my eyes on for a while, including a woollen spring/autumn coat (60% off), a suede skirt (also 60% off), and a black leather wallet (66% off). At the point of writing this I am not planning to hunt for more bargains.

Shopping while on vacation

… and spending time in shopping centres buying a lot of stuff we don’t really need. I am not saying shopping is essentially bad, but what is the point of going to a different place and locking yourself in a shopping gallery instead of being out and relaxing? Also, all these stalls on the way to the beach – ahh, these can tempting and not easy to avoid. My advice – don’t even stop there unless you want to end up purchasing tones of plastic toys for your child, another pair of cheap sunglasses, or the ‘latest-trend’ bikini for yourself. You don’t need those, nor does your child need that third plastic spade.

If I want to stay true to my values and not to come home with a moral hangover I don’t use holidays as permission to spend recklessly. Yes, I do spend more money in the summer but I would rather get nice memories or small tokens to remind me of the wonderful time I had. This is what I exchange my money for:

  • Going to a nicer restaurant and trying a new dish.
  • Going on an excursion.
  • Buying some local food that I can bring home, preserve and enjoy at a later time (i.e. Italian ham, Spanish cheese, olive oil, vinegar, coffee, local wine).
  • Buying locally made craft (i.e. a ceramic salad bowl, a vinegar bottle).

Sometimes, I also bring back recipes and I try to recreate the dishes we especially liked.

Spending money in a smarter way

I try to find a balance between not spending too much money and yet not missing out on what a place I visit has to offer. I don’t want to come home broke after a two-week holiday and I don’t want to feel there was more I should have done, seen or experienced. So how to find this balance?

First of all, I realised that we don’t need to eat out every night. The deal is: one night out and one night in. And since I enjoy cooking, there are usually fresh local foods to use, and the apartments we stay at often have a balcony or a terrace, we can still have a great meal in wonderful surroundings.

The other tip is to resign from breakfasts that the hotels offer (the holiday deals often include breakfasts and other meals for extra price). Instead, we either prepare breakfasts ourselves, which costs the fraction of the hotel price, or we find local places to eat out (and this is also a rather inexpensive option). Last time we went to Mallorca, we would take a 30-minute walk by the beach every morning to go to a local cafeteria that offered amazing tomato toasts (2 euro) and delicious coffee (1,5 euro). We would do that nearly every day and we still talk about these walks, the quiet beach, the cool breeze and the toasts, of course.

Travelling light

Every time when I visit my sister and she looks into my suitcase, she is surprised that I pack so little. The thing is that I can pack mine and my daughter’s belongings into one average-sized suitcase. I have learned one thing: not to take too many clothes and not to take anything ‘just in case’ (well, this does not apply to some medicines, especially when you are travelling with a small child). My stand is that there are always shops so should I desperately need something, I can always buy it. I don’t think this has ever happened, though.

I don’t pack 3 smart dresses ‘in case’ I am invited to a party. I don’t take 3 pairs of long trousers ‘in case’ the weather changes for the worse. There is no recipe what to take and what to leave but it should be fairly easy to figure out for yourself based on your experience. Really, have you ever used all the things that you packed? So no, don’t take things ‘in case’ and enjoy the pleasure of travelling light.

Summer relaxation

… is what the summer is for. The holidays wouldn’t be great without proper relaxation and rest. It is a summer post and maybe relaxation should be mentioned as first. But then the focus of this post is how to be minimalistic so it comes here.

I am a person who needs to learn how to relax better. I have tried several ways and methods, and here are the ones that help me switch off best:

  • Dot-to-dot books for adults are my fairly recent discovery. Having tried colouring books for adults last summer and realising it is not for me, I kept on exploring. And then I found dot-to-dot books by Thomas Pavite. What I especially like about his books is that unless you check the inside of the book cover, you don’t know what you are drawing. What a great way of spending hours with a pencil in your hand! And I warn you: dot-to-dotting can be addictive.
  • Reading is absolutely the best way for me to relax. And what could be best then reading a great book in the sunshine? Right now I am into biographies and autobiographies. A couple of weeks ago I finished John Cleese’s autobiography (‘So, Anyway…’) and can recommend it – what a great style of writing and a great sense of humour.
  • I also like lighter summer reads. My favourite author is Jane Fallon (i.e. ‘Getting Rid of Matthew’, ‘Got You Back’). I have just read her latest novel (‘Strictly Between Us’) and am in search for a good easy summer read. Do you have any recommendations?
  • Playing with my child used to be one of the chores until I rediscovered the joy of behaving like a child (well, sometimes!). So now we have a bunch of activities that we both enjoy. We do drawing and painting, we cut paper, we dance and sing, and we try gardening. I also started to make clothes for her dolls. This is something I used to do for mine when I was about 8-10 years old.
  • Cooking is not new to me but finding out that I really really like it, is. A few times a month I try a new recipe with more or less success. Some of the dishes make it to our regular menu while others are never tried again. I just like being in the kitchen, chopping and mixing, and waiting for the final result.

Summer decluttering

The other way I use my time off is to do extra decluttering at home. Amazingly, I always find things to get rid off – and this is another reminder to not buy more things when on vacation and to carefully consider every potential purchase.

My plan for this summer is to reorganise our walk-in closet and my daughter’s wardrobe. I want to try on every piece of clothing I own and to let go as many as possible. The same goes for my daughter’s clothes. She grows so fast now that I need to do regular reviews of her garments.

It may sound strange but decluttering is my way of relaxing. I really like cleaning, organising and decluttering – it just calms me down.

 

What summer tips do you have? How do you relax best?

 

The art of letting go – how to accept changes?

letting go
Smögen // own photo

 

Letting go should come naturally as is an integral part of life, isn’t it? Life goes on, we move places, people come, people go, we change jobs, we evolve. Yet, we often desperately try to hold on to the past. Somehow we find it difficult to just let go – of people we met, of objects we own, of events that already happened. Why is this? Wouldn’t it be easier to accept the fact that the past is the past and to move on? How to learn to let go? How to overcome the fear of missing someone or something you decide to leave behind? I believe that a slight shift in attitude could help with letting go and not feeling regretful.

I have met many fantastic people in my life and have experienced countless wonderful moments together with them. I have met and lost a few really close friends in the course of my life. I am not in touch with most of these people and I haven’t got the slightest idea about where they are and what they do. Do I miss them? In a way. I think about the fun times we shared and the great talks we had. Do I regret that that we lost contact? Not really. I still keep those great memories and am thankful for having met all these people. Of course, it would be interesting to meet them again at some point, but then, on the other hand, I do meet a lot of people who bring so much value into my life that I don’t really miss these connections any more. What is the key for me here is changing how I view the past: I focus on the past experiences and how they have enriched me rather than on the friendships I have lost. Learning to let go starts with accepting that changes are, indeed, an inevitable part of everyone’s life.

The other crucial factor in learning to let go is, in my opinion, patience. Changes take time and we cannot rush them through. It is a process and it takes the time it takes. I am still learning how to let go of missing my ‘old life’, that is the time before my daughter was born. Becoming a mother has been a gigantic change and I feel I was very little prepared to this. To be honest, I am still going through the process of changing how I see myself and how I view my role as a mother. Obviously, it is difficult just to shift my attitude after thirty-something years of not having to be responsible for another being. But I understand it is a process, however frustrating it might be, and it is not going to happen overnight. And yes, I do miss the independance and the spontaneity but in the monents like these I remind myself how much value my daugher has brought into my life, and if I were to choose, I would choose having her again, without a doubt. Acknowledging the change and accepting it are the first steps. Being patient with yourself and allowing yourself sufficient time to deal with the change is another one. No one says it is easy, but I am saying it is possible, just be patient.

Now think about your possessions. Do you have too many unnecessary items at your home? Too many clothes you don’t wear? More kitchen utensils that you need? Storage boxes full of books/DVD’s/childhood toys/unused Christmas decorations lying somewhere in the attic? Do you have difficulties parting with these items? Why is this? Do you keep them out of guilt, or maybe you think you might use them one day? Do you keep a lot of objects for sentimental reasons?

I don’t have any problems with letting go of physical objects and I rarely ever regret getting rid of things. I know that I can always find a replacement should there be a need (it hasn’t been the case, though). I also realise that I don’t need to be surrounded by an extensive number of items to bring back my memories. Shifting the focus have enabled me to get rid of things.

To summarise: let’s remember about the good times, let’s accept and welcome changes, let’s deal with the changes by shifting our focus, and let’s try to be more patient. I believe by following these steps we will learn to deal with letting go.

 

What can you let go as of now? Let me know in the comments.

 

Inspiration #2

Sunset // own photo
Sunset over Göteborg // own photo

 

A handful of inspirational articles:

Do not forget to check my previous post with inspiration:

 

What inspires you? Feel free to share in the comments.

 

How coaching can help you build an ideal wardrobe

coaching
Mariestad // own photo

 

There are a lot of books and articles out there offering a variety of methods on how to limit your wardrobe or change your shopping habits. I don’t think there is one perfect method that would suit everyone; we are all different and what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for the other. I find a great value in coaching, especially in the GROW model. This model can be applied in a lot of areas, so why not use it in decluttering one’s closet?

The GROW model in coaching

The GROW model was introduced by Sir John Whitmore* in 1980’s. It is a simple four-step method for finding solutions and setting-up goals. This method is widely used in both business and life coaching, and can be successfully applied to a lot of fields.

Each letter in the word GROW corresponds to one step:

G – goal

R – reality

O – options

W – will

The GROW model in achieving the perfect wardrobe

When using the word ‘perfect’ when referring to a wardrobe, I mean, of course a wardrobe ideal for you. I don’t think there is a recipe of how to build a wardrobe that would be perfect for everyone.

If you would like to use the GROW model in helping you to edit your wardrobe, take some time and answer the following questions:

Goal

  • How could you describe your ideal wardrobe?
  • What specific items of clothing should you have in your ideal closet?
  • Do you know someone who, in your opinion, has an ideal wardrobe? How do you describe it?
  • How would it make you feel to have an ideal wardrobe?
  • What does it mean to you to have a closet full of clothes ideal for you?
  • What benefits of having a perfect wardrobe can you list?
  • Once you have an ideal wardrobe, how will your perfect shopping day look like?
  • How would your life be different if you had a perfect wardrobe?

Reality

  • What words do you use to describe your wardrobe?
  • What clothes do you have in your closet?
  • What clothes are missing from your closet?
  • Which clothes do you never wear?
  • What do you do with the items that you never wear?
  • How do you feel everyday when you open your closet and choose clothes to wear?
  • How do you decide on what to wear?
  • How do you shop?
  • How long have you been thinking of editing your wardrobe?

Options

  • How do you edit your wardrobe?
  • What methods have you tried to edit your wardrobe?
  • Which of these methods were successful? Why?
  • Which of these methods were unsuccessful? Why?
  • What could you do differently?
  • What is stopping you from having an ideal wardrobe?
  • What else could you do?

Will

  • Which options work best for you?
  • What is the first step you need to take in order to achieve an ideal wardrobe?
  • What are the next steps that you should take?
  • What deadline would you set for each of the steps?
  • When are you going to start working on your ideal wardrobe?
  • How will you know that you are successful?
  • How motivated are you?

The above questions are examples and can be answered in any order. It is important to be honest with yourself and to set aside enough time to go through them. I highly recommend taking notes and writing the answers down; this helps not only to see the whole picture but also makes you feel more accountable for your actions.

 

I hope that you feel motivated to get started. Let me know in the comments how coaching helped you achieve your ideal wardrobe. Good luck!

 

*John Whitmore is apparently not the only name that appears when it comes to the authorship of the GROW model. 

 

How my shopping habits have changed

habits
Second-hand store in Olso // own photo

 

I have always been interested in fashion and I have always liked clothes. However, my relationship with shopping has been a complicated one. I could go through periods of not buying anything for weeks or months, or I would buy a lot of unnecessary items that I would never use or wear.

I have been striving to become a more aware consumer and it seems that I have already become a better shopper. I make better choices, I buy only clothes or accessories that I truly like, and I avoid buying things on impulse. Of course, I make mistakes and have my moments of weakness, but overall I am pleased with my wardrobe.

Here are my own shopping rules (in no particular order):

  • I avoid going to the shops during the sale season. I don’t want to be tempted and manipulated into buying something because of a lowered price.
  • I always check the composition label before making my final decision. I only buy clothing made of cotton, wool and viscose. I also check the washing instructions and I don’t buy anything that would require too much care (i.e. dry cleaning – I know I don’t have time for this).
  • I only buy items that go with the clothes I already have. If consider an item but realise that I would need to buy another piece of clothing or an accessory to go with it, I put back on the shelf.
  • If I hesitate, I don’t buy. I only buy an item if I am 100% sure.
  • When I buy anything, I try it at home and make sure that this is something I really want. I usually don’t cut off the tags for a while and keep the receipt for another few days, just in case I change my mind.
  • I know my ‘uniform’, i.e. clothing I like and that I feel good wearing. I know my colour palette, and the patterns and shapes that I like. I don’t even look at anything else (unless it is exceptional, then I can give it a try).
  • I have decided to limit my clothing choices to five brands (yes, just five). It saves my time and energy to only check the clothes that these brands offer, and I can be sure to usually find something that ticks all of my criteria.

 

Do you have strict rules when shopping? What are your criteria?

 

Don’t give to others what you don’t want others to give to you

give
Window display at a random second-hand store in Oslo // own photo

 

How much do you enjoy receiving items which you don’t like or have no use for? How much more do you enjoy receiving used items you don’t like, from a member of your family or a close friend?

Yes, I know how it feels. You get something and then you feel obliged to keep it because it was given to you by a closest friend. You think he or she might be sorry to find out that you got rid of it.

But don’t you do it yourself?

I was there before. A nice sweater that I didn’t wear any more but felt I should not throw it or donate it because it cost me quite a sum. How about giving it to my sister? And so I would. It made me feel good, and it made my sister’s closet full of garments given by me. She would’t wear them (her style is very different from mine), but she wouldn’t throw them away, either – they were gifts!

Now my sister and I have these two rules when it comes to exchanging things: one – we only accept the items that we really like and intend to keep, two – none of us should feel guilty about getting rid of the items we no longer have use for. These two simple rules help both of us have more control over our closets.

 

Let’s not give others things they don’t want.

 

Why we always look forward instead of just enjoying the moment

moment
Train journey somewhere in Poland // own photo

 

We are nearing the middle of winter and it is still about six weeks till the first day of calendar spring. My impression is that most of us have already started to think about spring instead of enjoying the moment we are living in.

Instead of focusing the here and the now, we have already started to check spring clothes collections and to plan summer holidays. As much as I understand the longing for the sunnier days, especially in a Nordic country, I wonder why we are so impatient and why we cannot live in the moment and appreciate what we have.

I remember that when I was a kid we would chuck our Christmas tree in mid-February. I remember how lovely it was to come back from school and just lie there, under the tree, and admire the lights and the decorations. These are one of the happiest moments from my childhood. I actually feel a bit disappointed with myself that I started to follow the trend of throwing away all Christmas decorations early, a few days after the New Year comes.

 

It all makes me think about why we often look forward to something newer. Why do we tend to live in the future while the most important moment is NOW?

 

My journey towards simplicity

simplicity
Sunset // own photo

 

My conscious journey towards simplicity started about two years ago when two major events took place in my life: I moved house and then my child was born.

Seeing all my life belongings packed in boxes wasn’t as bad as unpacking them and considering whether I would really need all those items in my new home. My attitude towards all the things changed even more after the birth of my child. I realised that the fewer things I owned, the less time I would spend on keeping them in order and the more time I would have for my child.

I think I had always been inclined towards simplicity but I would never call myself a minimalist. In the past months I have really started to enjoy the feeling of lightness that comes with having a less cluttered home. And, what comes with it, a less cluttered mind.

 

What steps towards simplifying your life have you taken?

 

Feeling no guilt

things
Favourite forest animals // own photo

 

Feel no guilt when you want to get rid of something you don’t like. Would it be an item of clothing you bought, a birthday gift you don’t like, a book you started to read and don’t enjoy. Free your space to welcome things that you do like and do enjoy.

I have no problems with re-gifting or donating the unlucky gifts to charity shops.

 

What are the unwanted gifts that clutter the shelves at your home? Have a proper look and get rid of them as soon as possible.