Are potential and possibilities cluttering your life?

tre3March 24, 2007

I'm procrastinating but also curious. Sometimes I have too much potential. THe chair I accepted from my mom that needs reupholstering. The chair I picked up on the side of the road, in the rain, after I took my upholstery class(still haven't upholstery either one of THOSE chairs!) The parts I bought to make my own vanity stool. The empty frames waiting for pictures. The numerous article with receipes I've clipped. The spring bulbs I never planted in the fall. The seed packets that call my name from across the store. The cool odd metal piece that could be something. THe fabric that is so gorgeous and could be.... At my house the list is ENDLESS.

THis is a part of my personality (sickness?) that I both love and HATE. I'm trying to put a moritorium on "potential" right now.

How about you?

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I relate. Everytime I seem to be getting to the point of actually doing a project or even finishing one, I find another one that takes my attention. Once I finish my decluttering list, maybe I should make a list of projects that need to be done.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 12:19PM
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Boy, can I relate. I'm getting a lot better, but am by no means past this stage. I think this ability to see potential is a good thing, but needs to be balanced with the need to make things actually happen. I have 2 books for my nieces written by local authors. My plan was to take the books for inscriptions by the authors, and them send them... for last Christmas. I hoped they would think the inscriptions a neat thing. I also hoped the inscriptions would reinforce the idea that a real person wrote the books, and maybe encourage their writing or other endeavors. But right now, none of that is happening, much less simple enjoyment of the stories.

An important thing to remember here is that the perfect is often the enemy of the good, and that the imperfect can be very good indeed.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 3:26PM
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Same, here. It took some frank discussions with myself to admit that, if I haven't expressed interest in this project or that project, it's not likely I'll have more interest anytime soon. That's the cue to sell/pass on whatever it is. It hurts a little to realize life isn't quite like I hoped it would be, but reality is pretty firm ground.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 5:01PM
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I have a chair like the first one you mentioned - but at least you took an upholstery class! I gave up on projects a long time ago. It was an epiphany of sorts and I gave up on handicrafts and the like and rediscovered I loved gardening. Yes, that's a project, but it has its own cycle according to the seasons and I didn't have to put it somewhere or do something with it when I was finished.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 1:57AM
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I guess I'll probably always be looking for "potential" because I am a project oriented person. I did turn down the offer of some large granite boulders. No one in my family could believe it. THey kept asking me over and over if I was going to take them!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 4:35PM
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This used to be a big problem for me--for other people, I can believe that this sort of thing might NOT be a problem--it's not automatically a problem, but it was for me.

It was a problem because 1) I just don't have the space to keep things until i get around to it; and 2) I felt bad about myself bcs projects would linger half finished.

That's when I gave myself permission to *have* ideas without being *required* to follow up on them.

I once saw these fabric swatches being tossed out--a place that made (or resold) uniform shirts for workers got new sample boards and tossed out their old ones--big slabs of cardboard w/ stacks of fabric samples fastened to the tops--probably hundreds of 2.5" squares of blue and white cotton or poly/cotton broadcloth. I saw them and thought "QUILT!" I stood there for 5 minutes trying to decide whether I was going to take them. but I would never quilt, and I didn't know anyone who does, so I left them.

I think wistfully of them now and then, and imagine the soft and charming blue-and-white quilt they would have made. And I've decided that it's OK to have that quilt exist only in my imagination.

But it was a big redefinition of myself, from a doer to a dreamer! I work at a company that likes to brag about "turning dreamers into doers," and here I've gone the opposite direction.

But life is simpler now!

I also added the other ) word--"probability"--into that list. And the probability that I would get those books autographed is pretty much nil.

In the old days, I'd have had them hanging around until the kid outgrew that level of reading. Nowadays, I'd either never buy them in the first place, or I'd send them off NOW, with a note from me that said, "this guy is my neighbor--isn't that cool?"

I have to sometimes exert a great amount of willpower to stop myself from acquiring something with potential, but I can do it! I regard this as a major step forward in my life.

Good luck w/ your puzzle on this--I'm not sure that shutting off ALL possibilities is the way to go, not necessarily for everyone. But if it's starting to bother you, then it's time to, at the least, slow it down.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 11:35AM
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I like the idea of permission to have the idea but not act on it. I've always known that I love the "idea" but don't always like to execute. I am trying harder to delegate or give up control. Baby steps.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 4:08PM
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This was my mom. Always going to, going to, going to...and never got it done. I found myself going down the same path a few years ago. It took some insight into why I felt the need to have these "projects" on the back burner. I decided it was because I liked the idea of being creative. But the unfinished projects didn't give me warm fuzzies, they were just one more thing hanging over my head.

Like the others, I've given myself permission to just get rid of most of the project items, or take them somewhere to be completed. I don't need to refinish the coffee table myself, it just needs to get done so we can enjoy the table. I don't have to make slipcovers for those chairs, I just need to get them redone so my living room doesn't look like a junk store. By hiring out these type of jobs, my "project" actually gets completed. I don't always have to be the one who does the job. So, I'm not so creative, but I still have a good eye for the coffee table which will look great refinished.

I still collect project stuff to a certain extent. No way I could have passed up on those fabric samples Talley was talking about. They would have come home with me, I'd have moved them around my sewing room for a year and then I would have found a new home for them. I limit myself on space and the projects can't take up space needed for other things. I won't get a storage shed, so that means I have very little extra space in the garage. I no longer bring home much in the way of yard or gardening project materials. I often find after I've shuffled some of this stuff around for a bit, I can let it go. And since I'm no longer in project overload, I actually get something completed once in a while.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 4:30PM
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I can relate. Talley Sue, I don't know if I could have resisted those fabric swatches. I don't quilt but I'd love to one day. Along with a whole bunch of other things. I'm slowly getting better.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 4:28AM
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Quiltglo where you are now is where I need to get to. I do like the idea of being "creative" plus I don't think I counld turn off my brain without losing who I am. Delegation must be the key...along with saying no once and awhile.
I think part of the problem is that my circumstances over many, many years has evloved. Where once if I wanted that coffee table I would HAVE HAD to refinish it, if I shop around on price, I can have someone do it. My circumstances may have changed but my outlook has not. I'm still stuck in feeling like we do not have two pennies to rub together. I think my DH is alternately proud that I can do so much and maybe slightly snubbed sometimes that I might not perceive him as successful enough. And maybe I don't trust that it won't change again. We have experienced (who hasn't) "economic downshifts"! :)
Wow! Is anybody else's actions so fraught with personal insight?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 8:09AM
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Wow! Is anybody else's actions so fraught with personal insight?

That's what makes this whole organizing topic so fascinating to me. I've been posting here for years and years, and this is still my favorite forum.

We learn so much about ourselves--our values, our dreams, our secret images of ourselves, our weaknesses and strengths--when we start to THINK about our stuff.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 10:17AM
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Yes -- I can relate too!

In my family -- any "left-over" project was fodder for future "You SEE -- I TOLD YOU that YOU'D NEVER DO IT!" I still wince just thinking about that needle-sharp holier-than-thou voice!

So letting myself make a few mistakes -- and have "left-over" projects has been very enlightening. Also I've finally given myself permission to let some of the "never-do" projects go -- sometimes simply out to the garbage.

And I just feel lighter in spirit when I do let them go ..... and just chuckle about the whole thing!

And I can now say "NO" in the first place to another project that may sound or look good -- I guess it is a simple case of learning to pick-and-choose projects.

But I can still dream about possible projects! Always!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 1:16PM
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Oh, definately, tre. I sometimes still have a very "poor" mindset. When I first started teaching in Missouri I didn't make enough, even with a second job, to keep my utilities on. I think one of the reasons I still like thrift stores is knowing that my oldest child really would have gone naked if I hadn't had a Salvation Army close. I have to admit it's a lot more fun to shop there because I want to rather than having no other choice.

Now, I'm having to re-evaluate again. This is the first time I haven't been working. I'm strongly resisting the urge to do "projects." There are other ways I can use my free time, but I still find it difficult to go "do" something, rather than "work" on something. I think the ongoing projects also represent visable use of time. Curtains made say "I was doing something useful with my time." where doing my crosswalk duty at the school is just over and done with each week with no visable results to show for my time.

For 25 years, I mostly taught emotionally disturbed/behavior disordered kids. It was working in isolation and when gains were made, there was often no one to share the sense of elation. I ran into a former student five years after he was in my class. He was talking about some of the simple chemistry experiments we had done. It not only made my day that something lasting happened, it made my week, my month! With some of my projects I can get immediate positive feedback, when so much of my life has no visable results. I can take a quilt to my quilt group and get feedback. My neighbor can appreciate the fountain I made for my garden. The positive reinforcement from others is quite a motivator.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 1:36PM
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I think the visible accomplishement and use of time are definately another factor for me. Knowing that I made a "contribution" is so much easier when I (and others) can see it. When the kids were little, and still, as a stay at home, the mind numbingly boring repetion of laundry and toilets and floors also plays a factor. I've always loved to mow the yard because it is a chore that you can "see" completed and it lasts for more than an hour! Gardening is both creative, meditative and visible not to mention good exercise.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 2:11PM
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I am HOME! You all are all of me in little pieces.

I am that mother who's kids are going to remember she was always "going to, going to, going to" and I'm the person who stands over the fabric board full of swatches and decides NOT to bring it home. I used to bring home every little thing that had a whiff of potential, but I'm trying very hard to get over it. I have realized that once it makes it into the house, it's very hard to kick it out.

Just recently I got a storage area. I can't believe I'm PAYING for a storage place! I'm trying to view it as a place that gives me breathing room to visit my stuff and decide what gets to come home again and what will never again see the inside of my house. I'm actually AFRAID that I will, against my will, allow my house to become overrun with thrift store finds and soon-to-be-but-never-will-be finished projects.

Anyway, I appreciate finding you kindred souls. Mary

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 6:02PM
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Welcome home Mary! We always need more in our little support group. I'm personally scared of storage units and the increase for "potential". That said I have a room in our finished basement that might be the about the same size and it is in dire need of purging. Taken with all the other "stashes" in our house and including the garage and I have more STUFF than you can fit in a small unit.
They say confession is good for the soul. My husband, son and I just lugged home street pavers. Not enough yet to really do anything substantial (read large patio) just enough to create more clutter and remind me of yet another project. I am hopeless! On the other hand I have had my eyes peeled for pavers for the last several years. HMMM. Is this a good thing or bad? Oh well something to think about tomorrow.
Again, welcome Mary!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 7:26PM
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I thought about getting a storage space the other day. But I realised that the garage used to serve that function and I haven't stayed on top of things, it became too easy to toss stuff out there and say I'll get back to you and then I never do. So I'll be working on turning the garage back into my "breathing room". Then again maybe paying for space provides incentive to get that stuff sorted quicker.

I love this forum. I'm sure you'll find it valuable Mary.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 2:18AM
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Thanks all. My husband has our garage filled up with stuff, although I must admit that I have some stuff out THERE, too. And, the pavers...I think I am inspired by all those magazine stories where the people did their whole addition or remodel with salvaged stuff. It took me a long time to realize that as you collect that stuff, it looks like H*** sitting around the back yard! but it seems like such a good idea (she whines). ugh.
My storage place makes me nervous, as stated before. Has anyone ever gotten rid of stuff that they later REGRETED (sp?) getting rid off? that's only happened to me maybe once. I've gotten rid of a lot of stuff, so that shouldn't be the problem. what IS it?? I guess just the dream of the potential? Too many craft/diy books? If I could do all I THINK I could do, I would have a showcase of a home. sigh. And dare I mention the martha name? I got a lot of my "turn it into something useful" ideas from HER.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 6:32PM
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Well, mary, my mom was doing this project stuff while Martha was still in training pants.

It sounds like you are ripe to decide your true relationship with/to all of this stuff. How much mental and physical energy you want to give it.

A decade ago, I really did not understand how little time it takes to keep a clutter-free home clean. How wonderful it is to just be able to say, "Sure, we can have the meeting at my house." To see my home and yard as a pleasing place. To be mentally organized and be able to use my time effectively. How, I'm so much more available to my friends and family. Stuff just sucks the energy out of you.

After having this life changing experience, I know I will never again let stuff be that important in my life. I'm always going to be able to play a game with my kids rather than spend time cleaning and rearranging stuff. Even something as simple has using the garage for the cars instead of storage has increased the quality of my life.

I won't allow myself regrets over stuff. I may have wished I hung onto that little sewing rocker, but I still have plenty of places to sit. I'll save my regrets for more important things in my life.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 6:49PM
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too much imagination, not enough time, and not enough fun.

Imagining those projects is fun. Actually doing them isn't really all that fun--it takes longer, there are more little fiddly steps, etc.

That's why I gave myself permission to indulge in the pipe dream as a cheap form of entertainment.

A friend once told me she hated the brick-look vinyl flooring in her rental kitchen. She couldn't change it, and she hated it. I told her I thought she might find it good to work WITH those floors, instead of fighting them; where would you find a brick floor? On the back patio, w/ cafe chairs, and ivy on trellises.

She and I decorated her kitchen mentally for YEARS. She moved, and we both still do it (whether we're together or apart). We laugh at ourselves, bcs we see something in a store, or a latticework being tossed, or a wicker table in the dumpster, and we say to ourselves, that would look great in that back-porch kitchen w/ the brick-look floors! We "painted" ivy across the soffits in our minds, and "sewed" gauzy mosquito-netting-look curtains, mentally.

It was fun! And we never actually did any of it.

That was one of the things that made me realize, I can have "recreation" just in my mind, and in fact, it's more fun when it's only mental.

Indulge your imagination; don't harness it to the plow!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 6:53PM
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Talley Sue, I feel like a failure if I don't finish a project and the worst part is that I'll not finish the next project either (almost as punishment to myself).

I'd love to be able to use my imagination like you do and be able to "just" dream. How freeing it must feel!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 10:19PM
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I've regretted getting rid of stuff and I suppose I live in fear of feeling that way again. But I feel like I'm drowning in stuff. At least I can say the cars still fit in the garage. Yes Gloria, it sucks the energy out of you.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 5:02AM
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This is such an amazing question. I am usually over in the garden forums, but this one caught my eye.

I read it yesterday and have thought about it since. It's resonating with me right now because I have spent the last 7 years helping my mother downsize. She passed away this January, and we still had 2 storage units full of stuff. One had water damage and everything was ruined; the insurance didn't cover it and you know what --- after all this time, neither myself nor my siblings wanted any of it.

It's just stuff. It needs to be cared for and organized and paid for. Up until now, stuff was really important to me. I've worked as a photo stylist and prop person in commercial photography for years, relying on thrift stores and treelawns for my professional and personal lives. I don't do that as much any more, but I have a lot of things and am trained to be on the lookout for potentials and possibilities. I'm tired of having to think about it any longer.

I love the idea of imagining a project --- how liberating and cost and time effective! And I am reminded of two phrases to live by. My dad always said: The more you have, the more you have to maintain. Just recently, my sister passed this one on to me, from one of her professors:
Done is better than perfect.

Thanks again for this great conversation.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 3:54PM
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I am adding "done is better than perfect" to my mantras.

A couple of years ago (after a long DIY (is there any other way?) redo my mantra was "Just because you can doesn't mean you should". Perhaps it is time to resurrect that one too.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 5:23PM
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STuff DOES suck the life out of you! I think projects can still happen and still bring pleasure IF a person decides to do one, goes out and gets the stuff needed and then DOES IT. No buying stuff and thinking, "that will be a great project...after all the other great projects I have lined up."
It is such a pleasure to walk through the house and not bounce a hip off of a piece of furniture (another bruise) because it's all so crowded. However, there is still the stuff in storage. There are things I'm going to go visit and bring back (I imagine all of it lined up like puppies, hoping THEY will be the one choosen to come back home)but I think once I have the house decorated the way I want it, I'll disolve the rest and stop paying for the storage place. I can use that money to save up for something I really really want, like a brand new sofa (the first I'll have ever owned brand new).

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 6:20PM
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I can relate. I purged a lot of my "potentials" when we moved last year. I finally had to admit that I just had too many "someday" projects. At first, I felt like a bit of a failure because I was getting rid of all this stuff for these unfinished (or not even started) projects. Then I realized that I actually felt better because these things weren't sitting around constantly reminding me of all that was left undone.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 7:53PM
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The mantra which helped me change my thinking with this is, "I need a place to live my life, not store my life." Somehow, all of those projects were just storage.


    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 4:29PM
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