Get It Done: Finishing Projects

Later when you see my new drapes and I casually mention, “Oh these? I made them myself,” I want you to remember that I had to redo them three times, and they took forever. I will keep these drapes hanging for the next twenty years because I am set in my ways, and it is too much work to change them.

Somehow sewing brings out a bit of craziness in me, and what should be good enough turns into perfectionism. I thought sewing curtains would be easy, after all, it’s just rectangles, right? But sewing miles of fabric and making a houseful of drapes isn’t easy after all, and that’s why I waited eight months before cutting into the fabric in the first place.

Renovating and redoing a house is a lot of work, and I feel like I am surrounded by unfinished projects. It seems easier sometimes to buy supplies for a new project than to finish the old ones. And that’s where I am today.

Last week I was all excited about the arrival of my new baby niece that I didn’t get around to doing a summary of the fourth week of our No Spend Month. It ties in nicely with what I want to share today though, so I’m going to combine “No Spend Month” with this “Clear the Clutter” Monday post.

But to back up, July is No Spend Month for my family. It’s a month to take a break from spending money and make the most of what we have. We gave ourselves a limit of $400 to spend this month on anything we would buy for ourselves, and last week we spent $74.25 for groceries and a little bit of gas in the car. We have $21 left for the final two days.

As our family has changed over the years I can look back and see how past No Spend Months have brought various challenges. The year that we had just one baby, it was a challenge not to go out to eat and go out for coffee. We learned to spend less money by eating at home. I used to think fixing every meal at home would be terrible, but now that’s what we do all the time.

Another year that we lived next to nice shops, it was hard not to window shop for new housewares. It took me three weeks to break that habit.

This year has been full of hard work, and I find myself most wanting to spend money on what I think will hurry up the work so I can be done with it. When I’m stuck on my writing, maybe there’s an app for that. When the renovations are progressing too slowly, maybe I can buy a new light fixture or supplies for the next project.

The real solution is that work takes time, projects take time, and I need to concentrate on finishing the projects I have instead of spending more money as a substitute for work.

If I can finish some of these projects, and not buy supplies for new ones yet, that will take care of a lot of the clutter in the house that is mine. (And I do call it clutter because in its unfinished state it nags at me and makes it harder to enjoy my home.)

I had good intentions for summer, and I feel like it’s almost done because school starts so soon. I’m going to get more work done with reasonable expectations and a time frame that lets me stay sane.

Do you feel that temptation too to buy more supplies when you haven’t finished other projects?

clear the clutter

About Rachel

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


  1. Yes! I have many unfinished projects around the house! Temptations arise all the time for pretty new fabrics and trims, or fresh new paints, colored pencils, or fancy papers. Also crafts for my girls… it is a bit out of control. It, too, is a source of clutter that usually gravitates to my bedroom to be forgotten.

    I’m working on it. Slowly. :)
    Olivia´s last post…Summer Chronicles Part Two

  2. Oh my goodness, yes. I have a terrible unfinished-project problem. Right now there is a pile of half-refurbished cloth diapers sitting on my sewing machine b/c I need to actually wind a bobbin and I don’t want to. It’s ridiculous. But, I have a rule: no more new crafty projects until this one is finished! I always want to cheat, though.
    Lauren´s last post…The Sandwich: A personal history

  3. You are right, those drapes will be there a good long while. When we moved into our house I made curtains for the downstairs bathroom thinking I would change them out someday soon. Well, 15 plus years later, they still hang there! I sometimes think about making new ones. Maybe, maybe not. I like them! And now my kids grew up with them. I can’t wait to see your finished product hanging in your lovely home! I’m sure you will enjoy them very much!

    • You have every reason to keep them up if you like them. I have curtains in the master bath that I never really liked and still don’t, but we were working on some major renovations when we moved in, and I needed something to cover the window. Three years later they’re still rather low on my list of priorities because there’s so much else I want to do.
      Bridget´s last post…Paint Day #2: In Which I’m Vulnerable

  4. Joyfulmomof6 says:

    “It seems easier sometimes to buy supplies for a new project than to finish the old ones.”
    I love that quote. So true.

    I have spent the last 2 weeks going through my whole house re-organizing and re-purposing and simplifying. Although I wasn’t doing a no spend month, I found that we spent alot less because I was so occupied with working with what we had (and finding lots of very useful items that I forgot I had!) that I didn’t even want to buy anything.

    I feel so much more peaceful and joyful since my surroundings are neat and organized.
    I even got my much-dreaded sewing repairs done…that was awesome….thanks for the push to do that. It’s not that anything I did was hard in itself, it’s just something about lugging out the sewing machine that makes it feel like such a chore. Yet it always feels great when it’s done.

  5. It DOES seem like summer is so close to being over, in a dreadfully sad way. Sigh.

    I wish it were a month longer.
    Kristen | The Frugal Girl´s last post…Monday Q&A | Homeschooling Budgets, Cleaning while Homeschooling, and Budget Weight Loss

  6. I’m spending August with my little to do list. I’ll be happy if I can complete the six things on my list in August :) If you need a cute list, check out my post for a free ‘done’ to do list.
    xo, Becky
    Becky – Clean Mama´s last post…Done – zero to done in one month

  7. Patricia says:

    I’m a quilter…need I say more. I have tons of fabric and complete quilt kits. I have a whole room dedicated to all this stuff, but I have quit buying, unless it’s something to finish a project I’m working on, and I do enjoy my hobby.

    You are an inspiration to me, and I love reading your blog. I have made changes in regard to buying stuff (much less) and I’m really liking it.

  8. I am going through the exact same thing. I have been curbing that extra spending (of money and time while shopping for new supplies) by going through the house with a list everytime I get the urge. An sometimes the nagging jobs are small and can be done in between work or chores.

  9. I have really enjoyed reading about your no-spend month over the last few posts. You are absolutely correct that it’s much easier to acquire new stuff for a new project than it is to finish an older project. Sometimes, I think it’s because starting a new project is fairly concrete: acquire new materials and you can check the first step off the list.

    I’m single and don’t have a family, but I’ve been trying an informal no-spend summer. I’m eating the stuff that’s been in the back of the cabinet and pantry. Because I’m not going to the grocery store/other stores I’m not as tempted to buy other things.

    I love your blog and think your curtains are beautiful!
    Kary´s last post…The Great American Debate: Let’s Take a Seat, Drink, Breathe, Debate, Relax

  10. YES! I have a terrible habit of buying things for other projects despite having a long list of other things to get done. I hate doing stuff twice, and I’d rather leave something unfinished than poorly done. Perfectionism stinks. Plus, I feel like the summer heat saps any and all motivation I might have.
    Ms. Amy´s last post…Washington DC

    • I’m exactly the same way. I rarely get things done in the summer. I’m much more productive in the autumn and the spring. Winter makes me want to snuggle down with a good book, and summer makes me want to lie under a fan.
      Jennie´s last post…Decluttering Books: Before & After

  11. Belinda says:

    I really hear you on this one. Also – glad Im not the only one who finds sewing kind of stressful. Thanks Rachel!

  12. Sewing drapes for a whole house — that’s pretty ambitious. My hat’s off to you. I bought drapes for my whole house and that was a lengthy and involved process. I’m embarrassed to say how many things I tried before I finally found what I wanted — at a price I was willing to pay.
    Bridget´s last post…Paint Day #2: In Which I’m Vulnerable

  13. I guess I’ve never through about it this way, but finishing projects is a great way to save money! You’ve already spent it, so why not finish it, feel productive, and not spend any more money in the process?
    Jennie´s last post…Decluttering Books: Before & After

    • I love this! I have decided that for 2012, I am not buying any new yarn of knitting. I am nowhere near (at all!) making a dent in my yarn pile – I could knit for five years without having to buy more! and it helps/doesn’t help that my family gives it to me as gifts. I’ve found it very liberating to limit my choices in knitting – if I don’t own it, I can’t knit it. I need to apply this philosophy to other things in my life as well. Perhaps, if I don’t own it, I can’t cook it? That would be a good place to start.
      Bronwen´s last post…Booker prize 2012 long list (with wine gums)

      • OMG, yes! Yarn! I will join you in not buying more, if that will help.

        I may decide to un-subscribe from a newsletter I get from a yarn brand because the many beautiful new patterns and yarns are such temptations! They are a primary reason I have the stash I do!

  14. I don’t think we spend our way out of doing/finishing projects, but it just seems to take much longer to complete many of our projects than I think it should. I haven’t found the cure for that except changing my expectations!
    Lori @ In My Kitchen, In My Life´s last post…Cerebral Homemaking Part 4: Blast Physics! We Have to Aim Just a Little Higher

  15. Oh my, yes. Why is it that buying new supplies for new projects ever seems like a good idea? Not only is it procrastinating but adding more! It is interesting how you mention that finishing things is work. I always have several projects going on at once. It seems productive at the moment. But the real productive thing to do would be finish one thing at a time! Great challenge and inspiration to look at how I deal with my creative energy!

  16. Oh yes. It’s always easier and more fun to think about the new and exciting project than to finish the right-there-in-front-of-you-but-requires-so-much-energy-to-finish project. *Sigh*
    Steph´s last post…On Not Wanting to Owe Anyone

  17. I don’t have the temptation to buy supplies as much as I have the temptation to simply move on to something else. I do have a terrible time with finishing things: cleaning/decluttering projects, books, craft projects with the kids, blog posts…

    I’ve been thinking I should have a month dedicated to unfinished projects sometime…yes, sometime… ;-)
    Elizabeth@ReadySetSimplify´s last post…The Big Toy Purge | Part 1

  18. Yes Yes Yes

    I too have this problem…it manifests itself with house projects, scrapbooking and memory keeping projects, sewing projects and pretty much everything else. I have been buckling down and finishing some things but the temptation to pick up project B while the coat of paint is drying on project A is too too overwhelming!!

    Congrats on the curtains!! I completely understand!
    SueTR´s last post…{this moment}

  19. Marjorie says:

    I have project ADD too (tehe). I also noticed that sometimes when I’m crunched for time (which is every day, all day) that I’ll jump around from room to room trying to clean without clear direction. I think it’s out of anxious nerves mostly. Now I force myself to completely finish the bedroom before I move to the dining room for example. It really helps keep me focused and gives me a good feeling of accomplishment. I have 3 years of photos that need to tackled that the perfectionist in me can’t seem to finish…or start. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law wants photos of the kids and I can skim and print out 200 photos like it’s nothing. Weird. Maybe I need to pretend the projects are for someone else!!

    I do have to say that there’s nothing like throwing a party or having company come over to light a fire under your butt. I’ve gotten a lot of house projects done that way. :)

  20. Yes, I struggle with this. Over the past two years or so I’ve been diligently working at getting unfinished sewing and knitting projects under control. I’ve outlawed myself from buying new yarn and fabric until I have significantly depleted my stashes. Fortunately my budget has shrunk significantly, and this helps! Also, I try and make it a practice to take on projects only if they are going to be of use/practical, not just because they’re trendy or cute.
    Wendy´s last post…laundry on the line: a clothespin apron

  21. This is what I love about the internet at times. So nice to find so many other people with the same issues! I am not such a freak after all… lol. Soooo many projects and, yep, just keep buying stuff to do new ones. I think I will nominate August and September as ‘get it done’ months. Well, to make a decent dent in them anyway…
    Catherine´s last post…Fabric samples from Spoonflower

  22. This really makes sense to me. I have so many projects on the go, and so many that I want to do (I partially blame browsing Pinterest while holding a grizzling baby). But I also have so many unfinished projects. I never realised that yes, they are actually clutter. They clutter up my sewing room, they clutter up my mind and make me feel bad about starting new projects that I want to do.
    I’m currently making an effort not to buy craft stuff unless it is to finish an existing project. Yes, I buy other bits sometimes, but no way near what I used to.

  23. Kimberley says:

    Rachel, One thing that this wise old sage knows for sure, is that as you age, you will begin to go back to “one project at a time”. You will work on it until it is completed before beginning anew. There are enough distractions and time grabbers in our lives. We don’t need to create them for ourselves. Hang in there. It will all get done. If not, it wasn’t that important in the big scheme of things, anyway.

  24. Suze G. says:

    Oh, I so relate! Love the “projects take time.” I’ve been caught up in the “when’s.” As in when-this-is-done, then will do that.” Have recently come to realize that “going-through” boxes-of-whatever, or buying supplies for the next one, for me, is a project all in itself – and I can choose to allow the time for that and just accept it. Or – make another choice. ‘Later’ needs to be now. Always inspired, here, thanks!

  25. So guilty of buying new supplies when unfinished projects loom large. That might help to explain my ridiculous yarn and fabric stash! For me, it has to do with inspiration. Finishing a long-lingering unfinished project is hard because the inspiration has gone. A new project beckons. So inspiring to find a new goal, gather supplies, enjoy the new-ness of it all, until…

    I’m working on more consciously using the supplies I have. I was doing very well with not buying any more yarn or fabric until a recent trip to San Francisco found me freezing and wanting wool around my neck. I bought some yarn and needles (both against my master plan–alas) and committed myself to a cowl, which I forced myself to finish no matter what. I’m happy that it got me knitting again– when I finished the cowl, I immediately turned to an unfinished cardigan that I started months ago–but I do wish I hadn’t bought more supplies.

    Back on the wagon…
    Jennifer´s last post…Tomato pie

  26. I find it’s easier and faster to shop than it is to actually do the projects. But you’re right – it adds to the clutter and the feeling of being overwhelmed. Congratulations on getting your drapes started. “Well begun is half done”, to quote Mary Poppins :)

  27. Suzanne says:

    I could have written this post. It resonates that much! Thank you for reminding me that finishing will feel good. It’s an esteemable act in my mind and once “it” is done, I will have all that energy I have used to avoid and delay to dedicate to something else. With finishing comes levity.

  28. This post really resonates. With my youngest entering elementary school this year, I will have one day a week to myself and already the list of things I want to do with that day is growing beyond all reason (not just house projects but yoga classes, museum visits, starting a blog, etc…). But before building shelves or other home improvements I want to try to purge one shelf at a time, because i think there is actually a lot of space and storage waiting to happen if we can declutter it… but the number of shelves and closets to clean is a bit overwhelming (and will send me running out of the house to the yoga studio) so perhaps picking just one shelf a week is the way to go, a half hour at a time and i will still end up making progress.

  29. Annette Lessmann says:

    Well, your post smacked me in the face. I have a summer wall quilt to finish and today is free. I will finish it! Thanks for the reminder.

  30. Thank you for this post! It was very convicting for me. We’re not doing a no spend month but we are in the beginning stages of a radical pay-off-the-car plan. I never thought I had an issue with overspending but I’m finding that isn’t true. And one of my biggest weaknesses is starting home projects. I do try to finish them but there are quite a few I have not. And I ‘justify’ why I needed to keep spending because it was good for the family, right? haha. Again, thanks for sharing this!
    Amanda´s last post…An Update on the Past Six Months

  31. I am guilty of buying things for new projects when I have 3 or 4 unfinished projects at any one time around the house. Uncompleted projects at this moment include: hang a small wall gallery; finish the paint touch-ups in the powder room; finish the 2nd coat of stain on the fence; make a book out of my wedding cards. I have all the pieces to complete all of these projects but they just won’t finish themselves for some reason. :) Instead, I am tempted to buy the sewing machine I’ve been wanting – and for what? To have more unfinished projects lying around to taunt me? (I still want that sewing machine, though. Darn it.)
    Kristin´s last post…20 days in – 2/3 of the way through Essentials Only Month

  32. Hah, I’m in the exact same place in our house. I just bought two canvas frames and painted them instead of finishing the quilt for my baby that I started a year and a half ago. It probably would have taken less time to just finish that quilt! And I have drapes I need to just cut and finish for our bay windows…but have been waiting since April for my husband to remember where he put all the hardware. A house is a constant to-do hobby :-)
    Kait Palmer´s last post…52 Weeks of Tatum

  33. I can relate to many things you discuss in this post. I, too, find it easy to run out and grab the necessary items for some great new project, when really what I’m doing is escaping from finishing up a project that is taking too long or not working out like I thought it would.
    I do like the way you’ve stepped back to ponder what you’ve learned from your past no-spend months. Great way to see the big picture and celebrate the good, while overcoming the not-so-easy.

  34. Oh brother do I! And sometimes even succumb to the temptation.
    Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm´s last post…Sabbath Keeping

  35. I struggle with this all the time. I sew/quilt and LOVE pretty fabrics. All the new fabrics that come out weekly are such a temptation. But I am trying to buy only what I need to finish a project. Sometimes it works. And sometimes not. It feels great to go to a craft store to buy two items and leave with just those two items. I have unsubscribed to several fabric sites. I can’t buy what I don’t see.
    Donna´s last post…Is It Time To Throw In The Towel?

  36. Cynthia Jo says:

    We are getting ready to sew some new curtains for our bedroom. I say “we” because it’s my idea and my husband will be doing the sewing! LOL! He hemmed up my living room curtains a few years ago. I took his picture but he told me that if I ever put it on Facebook he would divorce me. :)

  37. I saw your blog on another blogger’s site about cleaning up your reading list; and thought it was fantastic. Now, I’m not the biggest clutter-bug, but I’ve met a few, and it’s not a good thing to start being one. I have a massive collection of books, a good collection of vinyls, dvds and sheet music and I’m a collector of handbags and coin purses…and the great thing about my collections is that they are all useful.

    However, my townhouse isn’t big and sometimes my life and home and little bits of clutter does get on top of me… and usually it’s because I’m on my computer a lot or reading a great book (I mean, I love Stephen King to bits right now; especially his Dark Tower Series!). So, while I’ve got a painting I’m working on, I’ve also got a family photo album I’m also working on. It’s one of those classic ones that climb a stair case with all the family in frames – and I’m doing this so that I don’t have to be online to see my family I can just look at them on the wall instead. The funny thing is that I’ve always wanted one of these albums along the wall, but I just haven’t been bothered to go to the trouble of picking out frames and getting in and sorting through the massive amount of photos I’ve got on the computer I and put them onto a usb stick to get them developed at K-Mart.
    I have been working with a professional organiser online over the last few years on how to organise my life, diary and work in my arty world and writing arena. Now, I think your blog will help me work on the personal side of things.
    Mozette´s last post…July’s Something Different!

  38. I haven’t touched my sewing machine in about 2 months because last time I used it I was far too tired and sewed a cushion cover up right side to wrong side, and I don’t want to sit and unpick so I’ve just left it! I really should do it so I can move on.

  39. This past week I’ve been cleaning out my “project/craft/misc” closet to make room for our new addition (a baby boy) and I came to the same revelation. I had so many supplies – some of which I couldn’t even remember what project they were for. I LOVE to start a project. Finishing it? Not so much. I get impatient because I want it to turn out just right and look good and that takes time and can sometimes be tedious. So I guess I get bored and then go purchase items for the next project. My husband’s mantra to me is “one project at a time.” I realized that I really need to stick to that. Great article. :)

  40. Too funny – I just wrote a post about our unfinished projects and moving on to something else and ending up with a bunch of unfinished stuff around the house. I’ve written a to-do list for the month of August and hope to get it complete! It’s only the 1st and I am already thinking about a few new sewing projects and fabric – I don’t need anymore fabric!!
    AngieC´s last post…Happy Birthday Jerry

  41. Yes, unfinished projects are definitely clutter! One way I like to relax is by buying home magazines, then tearing out the pages of houses I really like and putting them into a folder to browse. The folder is now quite full, and a few times I’ve picked up a magazine in the newsagency, but then thought of the hours I would have to set aside to read it, tear out the pages, trim them up, then add them to my folder! And I realised that I can relax with my folder as it is, by flipping through and browsing the many articles I’ve already collected.

  42. Right in the heart you’ve hit me! In my studio, are the unfinished projects (UFOs) that are not only mine,but also some of my Mom’s, and my Grandmother’s. They solved their UFOs – give them to Lisa! And for some reason I keep them, just like I keep their hobbies, as if it’s tradition to sew clothes and quilts. But now that I live with a 4 year old, my time in the studio is so limited. Plus I’d rather write, journal, draw, scrapbook, tell stories, and make art with her.

    My studio is so the gallery of UFOs. Why do I let it get the best of me? Really!?! I don’t get to the fun stuff I could be doing because I spend all my time sorting thru the bulk piled up in the way (but to quote my Grandma, “you may need it someday”) Augh!

    Thank you for your sentence about “the clutter in the house that is mine.” I don’t enjoy my studio right now, and I don’t want to hide away this stash just to put off what I need to do, let it go. You’ve given me good thoughts to ruminate.