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How to Declutter Your Projects

Updated on June 21, 2013

How to Deal With "Unfinished Project" Clutter

It's an unfortunate fact that many of us start more projects than we finish. The unfinished ones hang around, sometimes for years, taking up space in our homes and also in our minds. Here you'll find some ways to get rid of the projects that are truly dead, and finish the ones that are worth finishing.

Dump the Dead Ones, Finish the Live Ones

First, decide whether the project needs to be finished, or ever will be finished . . .

Signs you may be able to abandon it

  • Has it been unfinished for months or even years, and no-one has noticed?
  • Does it feel like a burden?
  • Have your interests changed?
  • Has the person you were doing it for, moved on?
  • Has the deadline passed?

Simply get rid of as many of the unfinished projects as you can.

Signs you may need to knuckle down and finish it . . .

  • Will it cost you money (not money already invested) if you don't finish it?
  • Is it legally required?
  • Is it required for safety?
  • Has someone already paid you for it?
  • Do you hate the unfinished-ness every time you see it?

Next, ideas to get finished, so you can clear the project away for good!

How many unfinished projects do you have?

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Finishing up the worthwhile projects

Here are some ways to get projects finished and off your list as efficiently and effectively as possible:

  • If your projects tend to remain unfinished because of your perfectionism, try lowering your standards to make it easier to finish. Maybe you'll find you're already finished!
  • Work on the project with a friend, and keep each other motivated to finish.
  • Decide clearly what "finished" looks like before you start (or at the point you are now): that helps to prevent "scope creep" where the project expands as you work on it so that you never reach the finish line.
  • Schedule an event that requires the project to be finished.
  • Post a list of the last few tasks on the bathroom mirror, so you see them every time you use the bathroom.

Decluttering books - Books chock full of practical information and motivation too!

Handling "Work in Progress" Projects

For those projects which need to continue but you can't finish immediately, here are some ways to keep them organized . . .

  • Make a list of the projects you're keeping, so you don't lose track of them.
  • Declutter the projects - organise and store the parts and materials neatly (getting rid of any junk), and make a list of the next required steps for each.

Then, consider how to store them. Obviously you can't store a huge project like a half-built deck in a closet, but you can make it tidier by decluttering it. Smaller craft projects may be storable in bins or on shelves, either open or in cupboards. If you have a lot of a particular type of project, like quilts or paintings, for example, special storage might be useful. Research materials for writing projects can often be filed, either in file folders or in magazine files. Label everything!

Once you have your projects neatly stored, the ideal is to only have one out to work on at a time, but that's often not possible. Consider instead having only one of each type of project on the go at once: one renovation project, one writing project, one craft project. When you stop working on a project for a while, put it away.

More Resources

Declutter First is dedicated to the idea that decluttering before you try to organize your space will make everything faster (less stuff to move around), easier (ditto) and cheaper (less stuff means fewer "organizers" to put it in).

Visit Declutter First! for decluttering help

Get Organized and Stay Organized

Garage Organization


Home Organization Tools

New Years Resolutions

Declutter First blog postings

Robin’s organizing and decluttering safari

Decluttering Before Organizing

Zen Habits – How to Declutter


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