When I look at the clutter that I create it is so often unfinished projects – things that I do a little bit here today and I’ll get back to do a little bit tomorrow; things like paper work in the office, an ironing pile, or a craft project.  Though I know this isn’t the best way to be, over the years I let myself do this because it was easy.  I’d cast an eye over my house and there would be unfinished tasks all over.  Not unfinished because I didn’t get to them but unfinished because they were long term projects.  I justified it by considering it a reflection of productivity.  But I’m not so sure these days!

One of the things that happens as children get older is that their projects become very similar to your projects and suddenly what was acceptable (well, I let it be acceptable for myself) suddenly was multiplied by every teenager in the home and it quickly became unacceptable.  For example, I may be able to leave my embroidery out on the coffee table to pick up tomorrow evening, but if two others do it as well, the coffee table begins to look a mess.  Replicate that with nearly every activity that happens throughout the day – reading a book, writing in a journal, paperwork, scrapbooking, ironing etc ….  And you get clutter!

Recognising this has been a process and lots of retraining has had to happen – we are still retraining ourselves. Here are some of the systems we have set up to help with the unfinished business around our house:

  1. Working folders on my office desk – I must admit this is still a system I am getting used to but the idea is that any paper work that I want on my desk needs to be in these files not piling up around my keyboard.
  2. Project boxes – we found ourselves an empty shelf in a cupboard that fits four boxes across, 2 boxes high – just enough for 2 boxes for each of my 4 children.  These boxes have become their unfinished project boxes.  If projects don’t fit in those boxes – chances are the kids have too many projects on the go.  These are used for model soldiers, model planes, sewing, clay, etc…. I haven’t set my box up yet but I’d like one for my sewing and fabric type projects.
  3. Reading Shelf – we have a small bookcase in our lounge room and this is for the books we are currently reading or books we have on our ready to read list.  Though it needs sorting out regularly it does give us a place to put the books we find lying around.

My unfinished project basket - well, it will be after I sort it out!

The real problem though is habits.  We can have all the best of systems but if we don’t change our habits we will just ignore a great organisational idea out of habit.  So the habits we are working on are:

  • to put it away – finished or not
  • leave a space ready for the next person to use

My advice to anyone with little children – find a place for unfinished projects while they are young and teach them that it only takes a little bit of time to put it away, and a little bit of time to get it out again tomorrow and in the mean time you are not creating clutter.

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 Every week I'll email an encouragement to stay intentional and relational in all your family life.  But for now, download your set of reminder posters - posters which I've used over the years to remind me to keep my eyes and heart on what is important.

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