I am never, ever, ever, ever, ever putting this thing together

by Erin on April 9, 2013

I went through a couple of Giant Plastic Tubs of Doom before my recent move, and realized that there were some alterations projects, UFOs, and just plain WTFs that had been languishing, untended and uncompleted, for two moves now.

Looking through the bins, I realized that a lot of these projects felt like obligations, rather than opportunities. Time to LET GO.

If you’re having trouble letting go of some projects, here are some of the handy rules I used:

  • Did I think about this garment, even once, with anticipation, since it was put in the bin? If not, OUT.
  • Was this supposed to be a present for someone? Did they know about it? If not, OUT. If they did know about it, offer to take them out for ice cream in lieu of project. Win-Win. And … OUT.
  • Would fixing this garment involve taking it completely apart, and then figuring out if it could be saved? If so, OUT.
  • Am I saving this because I think that someday I will find a pattern that will use the fabric that I will carefully salvage from around the stained/ripped/worn parts? If so, cut it up for bias binding & pockets RIGHT NOW and be done with it. OUT.
  • Even if I finished this project, would I need to be a significantly different size than I am RIGHT NOW to wear it? If so, OUT.
  • Can you even find the instructions (where applicable)? If not, OUT.
  • Is this project “too good to toss,” yet just makes me yawn? OUT. Donate it asap, and think about how happy someone else will be to pull it from the racks of the thrift store.
  • Relatedly, if I did not already own this project/item/garment, would I buy it for $2 at a yard sale? No? OUT.
  • If this garment were magically finished by the brownies tonight, would I be super-excited to wear it tomorrow? If not, OUT.

I did save a few things from the pile — a few garments that need Pocket Upgrades, but mostly stuff that just needs buttons or a new zipper, since those are easy to bang out. (I’ve got a pleasant afternoon of button-shopping ahead of me some Saturday … )

Should we declare this Project Amnesty Week? Got a zombie project moaning at your brain? (Remember that there’s this thing called theĀ Zeigarnik effect “the nagging feeling that you’ve left a task incomplete” that will wear on you FOREVER until the task is done.) I hereby declare that you can donate it, break it down for parts, give it away, leave it on someone’s doorstep in the middle of the night with a note that says “please love this project” or even (where possible) compost it. Whatever you need to do to get it off your mental stack, you can do it. No judgment, no guilt. Go forth and tub no more!

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Mimi April 9, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Yes, this is Sewbriety. Sobering up from the occasional drunken creative stupor we all find ourselves in from time to time. Good call. It is so hard to accept that a project will never be completed. And that I invested time, money, and effort on planning it…

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Amy April 9, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I am so doing this. I spent the whole last weekend going through tubs and sorting stuff to keep/donate/fix, and I have piles of homemade or half-finished garments I felt bad getting rid of. I think I am going to go through the tubs again and be totally ruthless!

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Joni April 9, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Erin, you are a genius.

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susan clayton April 9, 2013 at 8:07 pm

applies to a lot of things I have in storage. Great guidelines. Love “would I buy it for $2 at a thrift store?”

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Ann V. April 9, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Last year, I pulled all the unfinished whats-its out of my tubs and put them in ziplocks with their patterns. That way, if they go the Goodwill, at least they’re finishable.

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LinB April 11, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Sadly, Goodwill’s new policy means that unfinished garments are thrown out or sold as rags. Your tactic of packaging your UFOs as craft kits is genius! DH and I go “junkin’” among the many thrift stores in our area about twice a month. I’ll look out for your or similar offerings on the shelves.

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Aisha Johnson April 9, 2013 at 10:29 pm

Such sage advice…just this morning as I drove to work, I was thinking about how I can redesign a dress I started…I don’t know…like 13 years ago! Maybe I need to employ your rules.

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Nadia Lewis April 10, 2013 at 12:06 am

In the Age of Abundance, survival goes to those who can…

…EDIT, EDIT, EDIT.

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Stephanie April 10, 2013 at 12:42 am

This is GREAT.

I don’t even do much sewing, and I still have a few projects sitting in a drawer.

But I love the advice about unfinished tasks generally. So true and just what I needed to hear today.

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Corrie Collins April 10, 2013 at 12:47 am

Ah, I so needed this post to hit my brain today. Going to the garment purgatory closet with a scissors right now biotches.

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Katie April 10, 2013 at 5:45 am

Thank you! You’ve just inspired me to pass on a couple of UFOs

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Catherine Daze April 10, 2013 at 6:28 am

This is so timely. I’m going to chuck out that dress I cut out a year ago and never started sewing.

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Hoosiermama April 10, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Oh, thank you Erin. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Susan April 10, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Love. LOVE! Brilliant post. Project Amnesty Week, I’m in.

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waterbear April 10, 2013 at 10:48 pm

I find this sooo hard to do, but need it badly. I went the other route the beginning of this year: I am “disposing” of at least one thing every day. Could be the dumpster, could be to someone who would give it a better home, could be thrift. But I own at least one less thing everyday. I figure at the end of the year I will be 365 things lighter and that will be a significant improvement!

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Sandy April 11, 2013 at 2:28 am

(nodding)
We used to move on average every 3 years (no, not military . . . DH just had wandering foot). It was VERY useful for de-stashing, as we never hired a moving company, so everything had to go in pickup trucks and a box trailer driven by us. We’re facing moving, now, after 13 years in this house; we did a halfway job of feeding the thrift store this spring, and need to do it again.
On the other hand, that’s minor. My mother is 88 and has lived in the same house (with full basement) for 52 years. I so need to introduce her to Waterbear.

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LinB April 11, 2013 at 2:36 pm

YCSE. You Can’t Save Everything. This is my new mantra. All that scrap fabric makes for really heavy garbage cans, though.

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Mary Fran April 11, 2013 at 3:05 pm

I needed this! I think it also goes for things you finished that have hung in the closet for YEARS and not been worn. My goal is to have a closet of items I actually wear. Big bags going to Goodwill this spring. Thanks for the permission!

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Doris April 12, 2013 at 4:01 am

LOL at the Taylor Swift reference!
I suffer terribly from not being able to let go of old projects. I have a half-finished dress that is almost 20 years old, but I can’t get rid of it. It’s going to be beautiful. Some day. Maybe in another 20 years. ;-)

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Winding Ways April 12, 2013 at 11:40 am

I’m helping my mother downsize and your advice is so timely. I’ll print it off for Mom since she can’t find her computer just now. Mimi- I’ll be giggling over “sewbriety” all day.

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Lynn April 12, 2013 at 3:34 pm

[sigh]
You have such courage! But I am getting a little better at letting go, I think. Earlier this year I got rid of a dress made of fabric I loved but in a style I didn’t love. I have been wearing it once a year just to justify keeping it. I also got rid of several other things that I still sort of liked but not quite as much as I used to. My motivation was to make room in my tiny closet for more new things. The Big Thing I need to work up the courage to do is to get rid of most of those little scraps of fabric that I “might use in a quilt someday.”

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Erin April 12, 2013 at 3:39 pm

I finally used all those up … by paying someone to make me a quilt. And I’d do it again, too!

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Virg June 9, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Oh, the “might use in a quilt” stash. Have you been looking through the boxes in the top of my closet? I thought it was just me.

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Jan April 15, 2013 at 5:16 am

I need this in poster form. For my studio. And several of them to share with my friends.

Thank you.

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Bonnie James April 15, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Lucky me finding your blog this morning. I’m pretty sure this great list could be modified and applied to lots of “stuff” I keep keeping, not just unfinished projects. Thanks for the great list.

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Marcia in Austin April 17, 2013 at 10:14 pm

I appreciate that this list of questions answers any and every rationalization that one comes up with to justify not letting go, and does it with a sense of humor.

But… the sorting and tossing will have to wait, because now I’m craving brownies.

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Jen O April 18, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Great ideas here, just a reminder: Stop to remove the pins before you pass on unfinished projects and fabric, you don’t want to stab the innocent!

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Gail April 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Thanks for the encouragement. I need to unburden myself of a few things that have been hanging around too long, so sewing can be fun again. Your guidelines are helpful.

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Retro Rosie April 24, 2013 at 1:03 am

Gah. I’d love to throw some projects out, but I get all wound up with guilt. “But I spent all that money on the fabric!!!” Nevermind the fact that huge amounts of my stash were leftovers and freebies. The old “waste not, want not” mantra is close to my heart. I think this is how hoarders start out. Could someone please stage an intervention for me? : D

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Chantelle April 25, 2013 at 2:47 am

We moved over two years ago and my fabric hoard is STILL sitting in their 29ish Rubbermaid Totes of Doom. I know I want to get rid of some (most?) of it but actually going through the fabric has been a little daunting.

After reading this post I want to go and purge myself of the weight of all of this fabric that I might use “someday”.

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