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Don't Start - FINISH!

01 Jul 2016 2:12 PM | Deleted user

Overwhelm – it’s the number one reason for why my phone rings. Potential and current clients call, telling me that they don't know where to start. They have so much going on in their lives and all of the gear that goes with it. My answer? Don’t start – finish!  Let me explain…

Two of my clients, Jane and Angela, have daughters who are in the elementary and high school plays, both of which occur in the spring.  The moms, artistic and theatrical by nature, volunteer to help each and every year.  They have craft rooms in their homes and love the creative process.

The elementary school play goes first, so the ladies and their children get wrapped up with costume and set design, learning lines, and, keeping up with the usual onslaught of homework, other children’s activities, their own jobs, and life as they know it. It’s crazy in the beginning, but doable.  By the time the elementary play is over, though, both women and their families are well under-way with the high school play, going through the same preparations.  There is no visible breathing room between the plays, so once they’re in the thick of it, time is mostly spent putting out fires and getting immediate needs, costumes, sets, and activities taken care of.  It’s at this point that they start to yearn for the final curtain call.

With the last bows finally taken, my clients, their children, and the rest of the family are resting peacefully with the satisfaction of an excellent job done, right? Nope - by the time the high school play is over, each of their craft rooms look like a Michael’s store exploded! There are sewing machines, fabric scraps, thread, paint, cardboard cutouts, beads, sequins, paper, glue, and any other crafting supply you can imagine on the floors, surfaces and walls, much of it spilling out into the dining room and any other surface that happened to be empty at the time. 

Months later, around October, is when I get the first call.  “Ugh - the plays were finished months ago and my craft room looks like they haven’t even started!” says Jane.  Upon visiting, I see that she is, indeed, right.  There are supplies everywhere from both plays, along with other creative whims from the past decade or so.  We sit down, discuss how it got to this point, and determine – light bulb moment - they have so much crammed into each day and they don’t take the time to actually finish one thing before moving onto another.

What I suggest to each of these ladies is to schedule a half hour within a day or two of the end of the elementary school play to clean up everything related to that specific play.  Ideally, they’ll involve the kids as a way of showing them the commitment they’ve signed up for and to teach them first-hand what an entire project looks like from true start to true finish. Once every scrap is put away and dealt with, they can officially call the first play over.  The room and all of their efforts are now officially dedicated to the second play.  Once the high school play is over, they need to schedule another half hour segment with the child involved, give that play the ‘done’ stamp, and the craft room can be used for new projects.

The key in doing all of this is to define what ‘finished’ looks like to each of us.  If you’re a visual person, then close your eyes and get a good image going.  If you’re more of a tactile person, then draw it out.  If you’re a verbal learner, then describe it out loud to yourself and/or those involved.  Whichever style works best for you, remember it and strive for it.

My kids, for example, know that we cannot eat dinner until they’ve ‘finished’ their homework, which means that books, pencils, and backpacks must be put away and the kitchen table cleared off.  Otherwise, we’re looking at double work - tossing things out of the way so we can eat and then going through it all again in the precious hour or so between dinner and bedtime.

Because overwhelm is universal, this shift in thinking can be used in any situation, big or small. Write out your grocery list – put the pen away!  Get a bill in the mail – write the check and put it in the mailbox!  Finish writing a blog – put the laptop away!  One of my favorite bloggers, Glennon Doyle Melton, says that when you’re not sure what to do, ‘just do the next right thing.’  When you’re done with that ‘next right thing,’ then remind yourself that you just finished one WHOLE to-do – congratulate yourself!  This feeling of accomplishment will catapult you to the next right thing and the next and the next…

Happy organizing everyone! 


  • 02 Oct 2016 5:39 PM | Olive Wagar (Administrator)
    Focus + Finish = Organizing Success!!
    I also like to designate Friday as "Finish it Friday" to take care of a few random chores & errands--iron all at once the shirts & pants I washed earlier in the week, write thank you notes & get well cards, and return library books & movies. Then my weekend is free for fun stuff!
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