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.

 

Inspiration #6

inspiration
Göteborg // own photo

 

A handful of inspirational articles:

  • Do you want to be more successful? Start working on you credibility using these five steps. Credibility can only be earned. The more credible and trustworthy you are, the more chances to be successful you have. To me, it is about wanting to become an expert and always willing to learn more.
  • If my previous post inspired you to start writing, here is some advice on how to write every day. My two favourite tips are: start small, i.e. assign 5 or 10 minutes for your first writing sessions, and embrace imperfection. You need to start somewhere!

Do not forget to check my previous posts with inspiration:

 

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

 

Minimalism with children – is this even possible?

Tjolöholm // own photo
Tjolöholm // own photo

 

Does having children mean an end to your minimalist lifestyle? Is it possible to continue as a minimalist and have children? Does bringing up a child always mean clutter and a flood of toys? Can you stay true to your values without depriving your kid of the joys of childhood?

If you have ever asked yourself such questions then I can relate to you. As someone who strives to be a minimalist I was concerned that having a child would mean an end to my organised lifestyle. I would imagine piles of toys scattered everywhere. Or I would see pink clothes with princesses and frills that I would not have the strength to say no to. My worst nightmare was accommodating clutter by inviting home a lot of unnecessary things. It would seem like an attack on my carefully curated and edited collections of beloved objects.

The good news is that the reality isn’t as bad as I had anticipated. Well, a lot has changed, including myself and my attitudes. I think I have become more relaxed and more tolerant about having some mess at home. And when this mess is creative it means that I have a happy child!

Of course, a lot of new objects have found their way to our home. Some of them were necessary and useful while some were just impractical and meant wasted money. However, I think that I somehow managed to successfully manoeuvre through the traps of buying too much stuff for my daughter.

Below are a few simple rules that I try to follow:

Smarter choices: children’s clothes

  • I have a few favourite colours for my daughter and try to buy clothes within that colour scheme. In such a way everything matches everything (well, mostly) so it is fairly easy to compose her outfits. Also, I buy just a few patterns for easier matching (usually stripes and dots).
  • I let my family and friends know my preferences so they have a better idea of what kind of clothes would be most welcome. But, most importantly, when I am asked ‘What could we buy for her?’, I politely say that she has enough and doesn’t need more.
  • I part with gifted clothes and accessories that don’t meet my criteria of quality, functionality and appearance. If possible, I return them to a store, I resell or donate them. I do it without feeling any guilt. In my opinion a gift serves its purpose when it is thought about, purchased/made and given. After I have received it, it is my choice what to do with it. And if I don’t like it or don’t need it, I let it go.

Smarter choices: children’s toys

  • I use similar criteria for toys that I use for clothing: a toy should be educational, purposeful and of a decent quality. To me, it is also important that a toy is visually pleasing. I believe that by choosing prettier objects I help my daughter develop a taste for nicer things and become a more aware consumer.
  • If my child doesn’t play with a certain toy, I give it some time. I encourage her and show ways to use it. If it still doesn’t catch on, I get rid of that toy. And I don’t have any regrets about it; the money has already been spent.
  • I don’t feel guilty about partying with the toys given by family and friends. In my opinion, it is my job as a parent to decide how and with what my child plays.
  • I came to a realisation that even the fanciest toy is nothing compared to the time spent with a parent who is willing to play. It is better to have three toys and a company than hundreds of toys and no one to play with.

Teaching children that it is ok to part with things

How about inviting children to assist you when decluttering and cleaning? In such a way they can learn how to make first decisions as consumers.

I often invite my daughter to assist me when organising her things. By helping me she learns where all her things belong and where to put them back. She is getting better and better at this. Already now, at the age of 3, she often surprises me by remembering where to put things away.

It is also important to me that my child learns that letting things go is natural. She knows, for example, that to get money for the trampoline, we decided to sell her pram and some toys. Sometimes she helps me choose the toys to get rid off, and she sees me packing them and putting them aside. I hope that she will always value the intangible more than any material possessions. I also hope that in the future she will become an intuitive consumer: someone who can make smart shopping choices.

Of course, I do make mistakes. There are some things I bought on the spur of the moment. They were a waste of my money and my time. But I keep on trying and, hopefully, I am getting better at becoming a minimalist parent.

 

What are you tips for keeping your children’s clutter at bay?

 

Inspiration #5

Stockholm // own photo
Stockholm // own photo

 

A handful of inspirational articles:

  • I really like the three pieces of advice shared by Rachel Thomas, the co-founder and president of Lean In Foundation. The best one: you have zero chances of being successful if you don’t try! By the way, check the LeanIn website for many more inspiring articles.
  • If you wonder how to become a high achiever, I recommend that you read ‘It Only Takes 6 Steps to Plan Your Success’ written by Jim Rohn. Jim Rohn was an American entrepreneur, mentor and speaker who influenced many motivational authors popular today. According to him, success is ‘a few simple disciplines practised every day’. I like this definition!
  • How to build a child’s self-confidence? One small change in how you talk to a kid can make a tremendous difference. It is called ‘a growth mindset’ and you can read more about it and the research behind it here.

Do not forget to check my previous posts with inspiration:

 

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

 

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?

 

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. 

 

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.

 

Inspiration #1

inspiration
Winter walk in Hovås // own photo

 

A handful of inspirational articles:

  • An interesting article on things we can live without. The author mentions eight categories of items which do not seem necessary. I could not agree with her more! And I can proudly say that so far I have got rid of all of my CD’s and a lot of my books, and I am inspired to keep on decluttering.

 

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