If It Should Have Been, It Would Have Been: Getting Rid of Half-Finished Projects

Uncategorized Jan 20, 2019

In the process of downsizing, you’re going to come face to face with half-finished projects and reminders of hopes that never came to pass.

This is especially difficult for creative people with hobbies like sewing, gardening, woodworking, electronic tinkering, and even reading, etc.

I don’t care how much appreciation you have in your enlightened heart, or how many times you thank objects that don’t spark joy. The downsizing process challenges you to peel the memory from the object.

When you hold in your hands a half-finished quilt top or a video game you haven’t beaten yet; or a component of robotic hardware that hasn’t been programmed; it’s hard to uncurl those fingers and let go.

Last year I found a simple syrup recipe of hatch green chilis and spices. After testing it, friends and family certified it “Awesome” and I saved it to my files.

Thinking I’d make up some gifts, I bought 12 bottles and seals from an eBay shop for the project. The seals didn’t fit so I stashed the bottles in my office, figuring I’d eventually find the correct seals without having to purchase 300 at a time.

Well, gee, that never happened…

Curbing the Creative Impulse to “Collect”

Creative people are cursed with the ability to see everything as somehow usable. We also tend to have a mean streak of frugality.

For example, the crystal candy dish whose lid shattered still holds candy. The blender whose glass pitcher broke seven summers ago still has a perfectly good motor. Duh.

Most people put those things in the goodwill pile. Those of us with apocalyptic storage spaces simply put them in the corner cabinet behind the lazy susan.

Have you ever kept a single sock, separated from its other, thinking you could sew a dinosaur out of it; taken a paint-chipped old window frame before the demo crew tore down the one-room house your ancestors built; refused to toss a box of maps because you thought they might make cute drawer liners; stored cords, wires, light fixtures, and random Radio Shack detritus from the 1980s… just in case?

My ex and I both had our share of incomplete projects. Downsizing is a study in the human brain’s potential for possibility, or why people save the crap they do. It’s fascinating, really.

(For the record, I’m less fascinated with the reason Himself saved the unhinged, locked door to the man cave, which had a sheet metal-covered hole because I had to jigsaw through it that one time while the kids all stood around in their pajamas at 3:00 am… another story for another time.)

Exercising the Purging Muscle

Thankfully, your purging instincts increase as you go. My sensitivity to “sparks of joy” is developing since I started packing a few weeks ago.

Take the craft room. We called it the mini Michaels. We never had to make a last-minute run to the store for any school project. That should give you some idea the extent of the surplus of craft supplies under this roof.

When I packed up my craft room, I saved pretty much everything except some storage pieces. Now, after a month of slight, ever present nausea due to living among boxes and discarded stuff, I’m pretty sure I could go through those boxes again and whittle the haul down by half.

When I feel seasick at the oceanic mess, I make little deals with God. “Please let me get out of this with my sanity and without debt. If I can make it out alive, I promise I will Never Do this. Again.” And there’s always, “Dear God, if it’s your will to start a fire...”

The syrup bottles held things ups for a minute.

This box of bottles is hard to look at, let alone discard. That’s probably why it’s hidden in the corner.

Yes, I can still make the syrup someday. I could store the empty bottles in my storage unit, rented for overflow stuff I’m not ready to part with, but I really don’t want to cart them over there.

Instead, I’ll put them in the “Donate” pile.

The box of syrup bottles is just a small example of the crafty things I want to “do someday”. The reality is that I also want to read Little Fires Everywhere (it’s been on my Kindle for a year and I still haven’t gotten around to it) and hike more.

As I gather strength to wade through all the tasks on my list before listing the house by March, it occurs to me that neither of those activities — making syrup and reading a novel — seem likely. I have a thousand other things to do and discretionary free time is at a premium.

The ultimate goal of downsizing is to evolve. To move away from who I used to be, toward who I want to be. To find the freedom to play.

Too many projects, too little time.

The reality is that some things are just never going to happen. They haven’t yet, and they won’t anymore. Let it go, Elsa.

As a replacement for the syrup gifts, and a raft of collected household items waiting to be gifted, sold, donated or tossed, there’s always another option…

Digital Hoarding

Snapping a picture with the phone works to soothe the angst of letting go. You can be a little obsessive, and no one has to know. External storage devices take up less space than a deck of cards, and hold more memories than you’ll ever want to retrieve.

That’s my go-to problem solver when I’m torn about some physical object I can’t keep. I just take a picture.

By the way, if you’re going to donate the piles to a charity, your digital storehouse serves as a backup to your receipts. You can claim a write-off and prove you’ve made a donation with your pictures.

I’m saying goodbye, then. To celebrate my release of the syrup bottles, I’m sharing the recipe, thanks to Kaleigh at Lively Table… It’s a good one!

This Hatch Green Chili Elixir

This syrup transformed my taste for adult drinks after I quit drinking alcohol a few years ago — another activity I had to let go. Can you see a pattern here?

Instead of wine or hard liquor, I wanted a drink that tasted a little naughty, but is still alcohol-free. This is it.

The recipe follows. You can play with the proportions like I did. You can try different chilies, too. Hatch Chilies come up from Mexico in late summer, but I’m not sure if you can get them in parts north of Texas. I hope so; they are legendary.

I like things spicy, so I went heavy on the black pepper, the star anise, and the cardamom. I also added some essential oil.

Use the basic Hatch Chili Margarita recipe. Then doctor it up as you choose. (Young Living’s Vitality line of essential oils are approved by the FDA and meant to be ingested, so don’t skimp or use a store-bought oil. Get the good stuff.)

Et voila! Something to keep, pin, or save in your Google drive forever more. After you’ve consumed it, the recipe won’t take up a sliver of space anywhere.

The gifts of bottled syrup were never meant to be, but the recipe’s a keeper.


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