A huge thank you to Jeff Wasserstrom of JAW Dropping Promotions for his support and collaboration to create this beautiful gift book of 100 tips. This gift book is dedicated to Jeff Young, the LinkedIn Guru, who encouraged us to post weekly on Linkedin and inspired me to write these, to Ken Lazar of Ability Professionals, who allowed me to share many of these tips each week at Tuesday Tune-up, and to all my friends from Tuesday Tune-up. who appreciated them. I am forever grateful to all of you. You kept me going forward and strong-more than you'll ever know- through the most difficult time period of my adult life. With heartfelt gratitude and joy, I present my second book. ... See MoreSee Less
Clear All Types of Clutter Often physical, emotional, or mental clutter blocks quality life experiences. Being vulnerable and courageous in releasing even one of these types of clutter allows for growth and sometimes the emergence of inspiration. Bravely begin to take steps to clear a pathway, and see what emerges. ... See MoreSee Less
Artifacts of Unfinished Business Part One in a Five-Part Series on the Types of Clutter
In my consultations, talks, workshops, and conversations, our discussions often turn toward clutter, and with good reason: Clutter collects in almost every home and workspace, and it has tremendous negative impacts on the people who are surrounded by it.
But when we talk about clutter, we are often talking about very different things. Clutter comes in different types, each fueled by different thoughts, impulses, and habits. The types of clutter also affect us differently, and they require different clean-up strategies. Clutter tends to fit into the following types:
• Artifacts of Unfinished Business: This clutter consists of ignored items connected to projects that you haven’t started or haven’t finished. These might include supplies for home improvement projects or boxes you need to unpack or sort through. • The Unloved Ones: This clutter consists of belongings that were once used, needed, or loved (or all of these), but now they gather dust and have for months or even years. • The Needed but Jumbled Items: This clutter is made up of belongings that you need and use regularly, but they are in disarray. These items require some organization to be sensibly placed and easy to access when they’re needed. • Just Too Much: With this clutter, you have too much of a particular type of item (such as books or collectibles) or too many items of various types. Sometimes these items fill a room and you cannot move freely through it. This type of clutter is common in junk rooms, attics, basements, and drawers. Hoarding is the extreme expression of this type of clutter. • The Wandering Nomads: These are items that have been placed in a room or another space whose purpose they don’t serve, as with library books piled on the kitchen table. The items are easy to find—but they don’t belong where they are, causing incongruity in the space where they now “live.”
In this essay, we will explore artifacts of unfinished business: clutter associated with projects we intended to begin or began and then stopped. This clutter includes the art supplies from a neglected hobby that lie shoved in a corner, the half-finished deck at the back of the house that sighs as we walk by, the broken furniture in the basement that awaits restoration work, and the piles of unread books that hold worlds we once wanted to explore. Sometimes these items silently nag at us, reminding us of all the things we wanted to do—or thought we should do. In other cases, the items have languished for so long that we don’t even notice them; they become the suppressed scenery in the backdrop of our spaces.
At a recent talk I attended, the presenter spoke about the “creative avoidance” involved in procrastination. Rather than tackle things that are difficult but important, such as unfinished projects in our homes, we spend time on other activities instead. These distracting activities might feel good in the short term, but they do not deliver the results we actually want. Procrastination can have real consequences for us even beyond the results we don’t achieve. Unfinished tasks can fill us with self-doubt, fear, and shame as time goes by; we know what we aren’t doing and sometimes why we aren’t doing these things. This can dampen our sense of accomplishment and creativity.
Why do we have these artifacts of unfinished business? Sometimes we genuinely lack the time to do the projects. At other times, we struggle with unfocused enthusiasm or lack of intention. Some people like starting projects but not following through. And sometimes life challenges force us to put projects on the back burner.
At its core, most clutter is about fear. We may fear not being good enough or not having enough in the future. We might be worried about having too little time and money. With unfinished business, we may fear that the finished product will be disappointing, causing us to wish we hadn’t spent time and money on it. Maybe we fear that we don’t know enough or that we can’t get the needed support to complete the project.
Others in our homes often know what our unfinished projects are, and they may be visibly annoyed. Sometimes our loved ones remind us of the projects we haven’t tended to. This can add another layer to the feelings of shame, inadequacy, or resignation, if these feelings are in play.
When we resist completing unfinished business despite pushback by our loved ones, this can point to other interpersonal issues. We may be ignoring these projects, our self-care needs, and even the important people in our lives as we distract ourselves. Or we may be engaged in a power struggle with another person in the home. The unfinished-business clutter can represent our resistance to being controlled.
In other situations, we think thoughts that are not true about the unfinished business; these thoughts seem true because they are stories we have repeated. We tell ourselves that the task will take too long, cannot be solved, or “I don’t know where to take these things”—to name just a few of our unproductive stories.
Oprah Winfrey says, “Life whispers to you all the time. Your life is speaking to you all around, from the time you wake up in the morning, in every single experience that’s coming into your personal space. All of those experiences are speaking to you. They’re telling you something about your life and about your circumstances. It whispers, and if you don’t get the whisper, the whisper gets louder.” In feng shui, the incomplete tasks in our physical spaces whisper to us even when we try to ignore them, and sometimes that whisper becomes a shout. A shocking or urgent event can be the “shout” to break us out of our patterns of resistance. A serious health challenge, the passing of a loved one, or a calamity can wake us up, and we act with focus and urgency. A friend of mine shared that she had been asking her husband to clear out a section of the garage for years so the family’s cars could fit inside, and he had many excuses for why he couldn’t do it, such as “There’s nowhere to put all this stuff” and “We can never fit another car in the garage.” His daughter’s vehicle remained parked outside of the garage, getting covered with snow in the winter and becoming uncomfortably hot in the summer. Then one day, a severe thunderstorm warning with the strong possibility of hail spurred him into action. He envisioned the hail damaging his daughter’s car, which she had not yet finished paying off.
Thirty minutes later, he had cleared an entire section of the garage and parked his daughter’s vehicle there. The sandbox of their children’s early years left the property. (The youngest child was 14 and the eldest was 24; no one had used that sandbox in years.) His daughter’s vehicle escaped damage when the hail did indeed pelt their neighborhood soon after he pulled her car into the garage. All his previous excuses evaporated when he realized this greater cost, and he worked swiftly with intention and purpose.
What creates urgency when there isn’t a thunderstorm rolling into our lives?
You can often jump-start this sense of urgency by imagining what your home and life can look and feel like free of unfinished clutter. What will it feel like seeing people you love laughing together on that finished deck? How about when you no longer walk by dusty art supplies that told a story of how you don’t finish things you start, or when a piece of furniture is fully restored and the rest of the broken furniture is gone? Let yourself imagine the joy, freedom, and other positive feelings you will have when these projects are completed. (Keep in mind that completion can be you removing the objects associated with projects that no longer fit who you are and what you want to do.)
The “thunderstorm” within you can be as simple as the desire for a pleasant and welcoming home that inspires your creativity, rest, and play. In addition, you may yearn to be free of unfinished business and unburdened by reminders of things undone. When you have this vision of your better life, you can take action to complete these projects or free yourself of the artifacts of unfinished projects.
Actions, even imperfect ones, create results. There’s something powerful about taking a step and then another. This can apply to unfinished business as well: As you take those first steps to address the first project, you can trust that you are making important progress, even when you don’t know how you will complete the other projects (or perhaps even this one). The momentum you create will make each successive step easier.
Here are some suggestions to support your shift from creative avoidance to action dealing with unfinished projects: • Create a list of your unfinished projects. It may be a bit overwhelming, but it also might light a fire and help you spot tasks that you could accomplish in an hour. You can also prioritize the projects and work with other members of your household to identify which ones will give you the greatest sense of accomplishment and freedom. • For unfinished-business clutter that is related to things you once wanted to do, ask yourself these questions: What do I really want for myself and my life right now? Can I free myself from this project because it no longer inspires me? Can I give these items to someone else who would love them? • Choose one unfinished project, and schedule a block of time to complete it. If needed, ask others in your household not to disturb you until it’s done. Alternatively, you can ask for their help in getting it complete. • Take that first step—any small action. Actually touch the unfinished project or open the closet and take some of the items down and look at them. What do they feel like in your hands? Put the timer on for five minutes and take action until the timer beeps. Then if you feel motivated to continue, set the timer for a longer period—maybe 15 or 60 minutes, depending on your schedule and energy—and keep the momentum going. • As you make progress, however small, stop to appreciate the boxes that are leaving the house, the overstuffed trash cans, the shredded papers, and the now-repaired household items. You can see yourself as a person who can take actions and get things done in place of those old stories about yourself. • Ask yourself whether the patterns with your unfinished-business clutter are taking place in other areas of your life as well. Are you neglecting needed medical appointments and other forms of self-care? Are you ignoring issues with loved ones? If so, schedule time to take these self-care actions and take steps to explore and address your loved ones’ needs. • If it is feasible, consider hiring people to complete the projects that you are least qualified to do or least interested in doing. For instance, you can make a list of several small projects that you have found vexing, and hire a handyman or woman to complete those projects quickly and proficiently. In some cases, the trade-off for time and results makes great sense. ... See MoreSee Less
Thrive Massage and Wellness 4955 N. Hamilton Road Columbus, Ohio 43230
Are you intrigued by the possibilities of creating a home you love that inspires your life? Join Laura Staley, certified feng shui consultant and founder of Cherish Your World, for an inspiring and interactive presentation in which you will gain an understanding of the principles and practices of feng shui. Laura will invite you to see your home and life from a fresh perspective. You will leave with clear ideas of what you want to let go of, rearrange, and why, knowing that these steps will enhance the quality of your life. ... See MoreSee Less
Lock and Key—Cherish Your World Tip of the Week If you are having difficulty inserting a key into a lock, use some WD-40 inside the lock to smooth a path for the key. You may not need to call a locksmith. Similarly, you might need to smooth the path to unlock what is inside of your heart. What might you be keeping locked away? You can unblock and unlock what you love and care passionately about in your life. ... See MoreSee Less