Finishing Things

The mandevilla in the balcony garden at the end of the day.

Lane walks in with her back arched and her stomach sticking out, announcing that she has a big tummy like mommy. Every strong kick and small flutter reminds me that I need to get my projects done.

I look around and see so many works in progress. Every couple of days Doug talks about putting up some more shelves, but I know that finishing up some of these projects will clear the shelf space that we need.

Some will hopefully only take an hour to finish, if I find the time to start. I need to put up the curtains in my bedroom. Put in a light fixture. List a few things on Craigslist that we want to sell instead of donate.

Some projects hang around on my to-do list endlessly, like finally finishing Lane’s baby book and sorting through photos.

Some need constant maintenance, like the stack of papers that wants to grow into the pile it used to be.

And some projects are happily abandoned, like one I had for Lane’s room. This weekend I returned the fabric to the store (did you know Joann’s accepts returns on fabric?), and doing so felt almost as fun as thinking of the idea in the first place.

I know not everything will be done, and that’s really OK. But I also realize that more new projects are coming up, more new ideas and inspiration, and I want a clean slate and a feeling of closure. I used to stay up late to finish things, but these days I go to bed earlier than I ever have. It’s a nice feeling to let it go and decide to be done with the day, getting good rest and letting it be enough.

So I work a little here and there, trying to fit the projects between my daily tasks. Trying to remember to have some fun too when it’s so easy to say “I can’t, I’m too busy.”

How do you work on projects during the week? Do you spend a little time each day or do you wait until you can focus a solid block of time on them? How often do you decide to let them stay unfinished?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Chickybeth says:

    Sadly, I always have many unfinished projects because I work full time and then have chores to do when I come home. I have so many things I need to do, and lots more that I want to do. Usually, if a project needs to get done, I wait until I have a big block of time and make an “appointment” in my schedule to do it.

  2. I am a champion of not doing. I find that, when I am quiet, the really necessary and/or really desirable tasks prioritize themselves. I am often amazed at how satisfied I can be without doing/producing much of anything! (other than 2 happy kids, a happy husband, a happy dog, a bit of writing here and there, 3 meals a day and a clean and comfortable house, that is!) I love to hear you going to that place, too!

    Juliet´s last blog post..A review of In Praise of Stay at Home Mom’s by Dr. Laura Schlessinger

  3. I struggle daily with my clutter. I do find that finishing a project, no matter how small, empowers me to move on to the next with a more “can do” attitude. I tend to try to work 30 minutes or an hour each day.
    This weekend we finally fixed our outside bench (all new wood slats) and yesterday we at dinner sitting on it, my daughter and I, marveling at how nice our side yard was.

  4. I am the worst finisher in the whole world. I am, on the other hand, the best brainstormer and project starter. But then I get the materials and get started… and my interest is pulled somewhere else. It drives my husband crazy.

    Tara @ Feels like home´s last blog post..Creamy Spinach Doodles

  5. I agree with the poster who said they always have unfinished projects, but I am a full time, SAHM! LOL!

    I try to work on projects in bigger blocks of time, like setting aside a Friday morning or something. I find if I do it in smaller blocks, I get very distracted and it just doesn’t get finished. The difficulty, of course, is that life with young kids just happens sometimes, and it’s difficult to get in those larger blocks of time to actually make it worth it to work on my projects.

    I confess… I have a few sitting in the garage, awaiting some “extra time”, and a few that I’ve dropped off of my “before baby” list as I recently realized that they just aren’t getting done anytime soon. Sigh… Oh well.

    I bet it really did feel good to return that fabric! I wish I had a store where I could do that! :)

    Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home´s last blog post..Big News! (and a request for your help!)

  6. Thanks for pointing out through your graceful example, that I don’t have to keep a project on my todo list forever and feel guilty about it. I can decide that it’s not the right project for me and let it go.

  7. Thanks for posting about this all to familiar feeling that I believe every mother has: the to-do list that will never get done. I have decided to make peace with the fact that my list of things to get done will never be complete. I try to prioritize my list and pick 3 or 4 things that must get done first and work on those and then if I get to the other things, I get to them. But if I don’t, that’s what tomorrow, next week, or next month is for! Just think how boring life would be if everything was already “all done” :)

    Amy´s last blog post..A New Way to Feed Your Newborn: Exclusively Pumping

  8. First of all, my whole life is one long list of unfinished projects. I don’t even know what I would do with myself if I ever caught up!

    But mostly I want to say, pretty mama, that you just be gentle with yourself in these days of life-growing. Offer yourself and Lane and Doug many extra measures of grace. Honor and treasure these days as a family of three, take lots of pictures, write much in your journal. Life is about to change in grand and glorious ways . . . the unfinished projects will always be there, but these special and unique days in the story of your family will not.

    Many blessings on you today, friend.

    Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post..Connecting with Nature: Challenge #1

  9. There is very few big blocks of time in my life. Homeschooling and homemaking don’t allow for lots of uninterrupted time. So I chip away slowly. I lower my expectations and love the feeling when I release a project I can’t complete. I also don’t stay up late. Compromising my health is not worth it.

    renee @ FIMBY´s last blog post..Breaking up with Flickr

  10. Francis says:

    What a relief to know that such a well-put-together person like you even has unfinished projects! ;-)
    I home school during the school year so I have been saving my projects for the summer. My husband thinks I’m trying to do too much though and I know he’s probably right. Having a good meal ready in the evening and the house still in order is more important than crossing all my ‘projects’ off the list.
    As to when I do them – I’m trying to pick a day or two during each week that I can dedicate a few hours to it. That way I still get the longer housework done (like laundry, mopping etc.) and I save a day to do fun stuff with the kids. I hate projects that I can’t finish in a day or two so I like to spend alot of time at once.

  11. Feliciity says:

    Just Monday night I was getting overwhelmed by allt eh things that needed to be done not allowing me time to do what i wanted to do (sewing, reading, canning). Then I realised only God gets everything on his to-do list done, and prayed he would help me achieve what I needed to do and what was realistic to do and to help me not stress about what I couldn’t do.

    I find if I wait for a block of time to do things, I never finish the projects, so since getting married (3 months ago) I have decided to dedicate 10-15 minutes a couple of evenings a week to doing something small. Like a previous post, I get excited and re-energized when i complete a project.

    It is great to hear you are valuing your health and sleep more than projects :-) All the best as you prepare for the arrival of your precious little boy.

  12. I am going through the same thing. I am having a c-section in 8 weeks, and am deciding that some of my to do list items don’t really need to be done after all.

  13. I love the idea of returning fabric – no need to feel guilty just pass it on… I had a ceramic bowl to paint in my garage for three years before I passed it on – oh the heady relief! I have discovered that I prefer to look at beautiful crafts “eye candy” is my thing – I don’t have to do it myself to gain pleasure – that took years off my life!

    Otherwise with a heap of kids underfoot I have found that chores take the time they are allocated… I can prepare dinner in 20 minutes (pasta and salad or something quick) and spend a whole afternoon cleaning out cupboards… It is so much easier than trying to do a little bit at a time and never ever finishing!

    That being said, just recently I did quite a huge clean-out in the time my kids took to clean their teeth in the morning, about a ten minute slot everyday… I just went through a bookshelf and picked out the non-favorites or through one toy box and picked out the non-favorites… I did it everyday for a month – fantastico! But I couldn’t sustain it – I think every couple of months I should do a a clean up like that!!!

  14. I find it best to do a bit each day otherwise I become frustrated and feel overwhelmed. Seems to take less time to keep up with things than to let it get out of hand.

    Like you I find it to be a wonderful feeling at the end of the day to go to bed and just be done with it!

    Nancy´s last blog post..Birthday | Add One More

  15. 1. Keep the projects few in number and manageable in terms of time. 30-60 minute increments a couple of times a week are about all I can handle right now.

    2. Do them while my toddler sleeps or when someone is there to help out, like my husband. But preferably, when my toddler sleeps.

  16. beth nc says:

    Does anyone else have difficulty with setting priorities? Keeping up with my 1 year old son and part-time job are about all I can manage, so when there is a surprise “free” 15 or 30 minutes, I don’t know what to do with myself.

    Should I catch up on cleaning, gardening, financial management? Should I plan meals, de-clutter? In getting rid of clutter, where should I start (my clothes, baby clothes, office supplies)?
    But – maybe this would be time to read a book. Or call a friend. Or organize photos. Or go for a walk.

    Does anyone else feel pulled in a million directions? How do you manage?

    • Oh, gosh, yeah, I can totally relate to that! Those short periods of time when I know I should do SOMETHING but there is so much I want to do and so much that I should do and, somehow, I end up just doing a bit of housework and tidying up a bit and then the time is over and it’s pre-schooler chaos again…
      I find it helps if I make up my mind the night before what I’d like to achieve the next day. Also, if I do the mindless “groundwork” when the kids are around, that helps. They love it when I’m emptying boxes/cupboards/drawers and putting stuff in piles etc. That way, when I have the spare time, the “stuff” is ready and waiting for me to do whatever requires the concentration.

      Having said that, I still haven’t done captions for the photo album of our trip to Canada… in 2003!

      To be honest, I’ve just accepted that for the next few years, a good day is: kids and myself clean, fed, clothed, and arrived anywhere we’re supposed to be on time. Anything else is a bonus!
      Karen (Scotland)

  17. My son is now 14 and I have to say, the whole world is starting to open up. I have time to think about what my goals are, what my values are. I am beginning the process of refining what I really value and cherish. I take 15 – 30 minutes chunks of time to do a task i.e. vacuum, dust, declutter, make a list, make a plan. Then, the 1 hour time frames I dedicate to bigger fish; drawing (I am an artist) planning a new studio, studying about business. Finally, my 2-3 hour time frames are for my ceramic production work. Hmmm, this is starting to feel like it needs to go on my blog. Thanks for everyone here. I love this blog.

    Mary Anne Davis´s last blog post..The Unconventional Guide to Art and Money

  18. This post feels like permission to release some of the things I know I’m never going to do. I love that you took back the fabric for the project you’ve abandoned. I’ve never even considered abandoning a project! THANK YOU for helping me to realize that it’s possible, and completely OK.

    Krys´s last blog post..Sleep Update

  19. I have been really frustrated at the projects that are *almost* done in my new house and since I’m a recovering perfectionist I don’t want to host a house warming party until everything is done.

    I motivated myself by posting a list of 99 things to do in the 99 days between June 1st and Labor Day. Most of the items take just minutes but it’s the act of getting up that is so challenging! Very few items can be crossed off as unimportant or something that I don’t need to do anymore.

    On the days I don’t accomplish something on my master list I know it’s okay because I’m resting for the next day or just keeping up with the usual housework.

  20. I am the ultimate list maker and bite sized piece taker. So bite sized that often I will have a filing folder with three hundred items in it andit’s ever increasing at that but,so long as I know that I filed one thing every day, I know that I am on track. That is how I stay on top of things and, when on some days I take a little bite of a project and I realise that I’m just not into it anymore, I move on. As to priorities, for me, that’s about people. I ask myself, which of these things on my list will “my people” remember me for doing and I make my decisions accordingly. They say people remember you for how you make them feel and not for what you do for them – I try and ensure that the people I love know that they come first every single time and that is how I keep my “projects” prioritised.

    Miechelle´s last blog post..THE DEFINITION OF SUCCESS

  21. Starting less and finishing more is a constant struggle. You can read more about ways to get things done here:

    Christine Simiriglia´s last post…Can’t Stop Starting?