Unfinished 'Dreams'

marie26October 4, 2011

I have cupboards full of papers and binders of my unfinished dreams (research for books I started, research for business ideas, etc.) which are taking up valuable space in my laundry room cabinets in my small condo which only has 3 closets and none are a walk-in closet. The papers have all been purged and I don't want to throw any more of it out. I feel that they identify me. I really need the space in those cabinets for other things because right now there are piles here and there as well as a few boxes that I don't have room to put the things away that are inside them.

I just don't know where these unfinished dreams should go. I wonder if they're bringing me down and are a reminder of how I let my life get to this point of not doing what I expected myself to do with it. Marriage (I'm now a widow) and kids got in the way, I guess.

Do you have any advice for me? Have you been in this spot? What did you do?

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Your identity is NOT binders full of unfinished dreams, is it?

You are what you have accomplished, tried, loved.
If those things are not part of your future, toss 'em.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 2:20PM
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Do you have a computer and scanner? Perhaps you can scan the binder contents and reduce the space it takes up down to a couple of disks or a jump drive.

I can see how you would be reluctant to toss out time-consuming research. Throwing it away means the end of that dream. However, you'll still want to have room for the new dreams!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 3:29PM
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I have been in that spot and I AM in the spot at intervals throughout my life. There are always projects or dreams that get replaced and often for the good as well as the bad. So one idea is to look at it not as an "end" thing but as just a part of life, year after year. I can tell you that for the most part I feel enormous relief when I give up a "failed" dream or project. Many times I am seeing that they were things I thought I OUGHT to do, or maybe, just dreams. I have delusions of craftiness ( my mom and dad were extremely creative and talented at stuff--sewing and woodworking and other things--and I have no real talent.) But, I put together this and that, arrange this and that, sometimes to relatively good effect, sometimes not. But it means that I often have a delusion that I am going to make something and finally realize, hmmm, it's not gonna happen, so I have to give up the whatsits and thingeys I saved or bought to do that. Or I save old towels so we will have them for.....camping! stray dog! leaking window!..who knows? And then I give them away because you know, there's always something you can use, including a not-old towel, and now I have a cabinet shelf back!

The more you can answer your own question, the better. Meaning, you do need to try to separate out "you" from the binders, and the more you can do that, the more you will make the right decisions. I can't make you not feel attached, not feel regret, but I can tell you that energy spent on what's gone is wasted energy. You already know that!

When you can approach it more objectively and not beat yourself up, then you can look at several issues.
For some things, the dream is still feasible but the stuff you have is outdated and won't be used, so you keep the plan but don't keep so much stuff. For example, I may have some plans for remodeling or redecorating, and I used to save a LOT of photos and magazine pictures and things, especially before the rise of the 'net. Then I realized that these become outdated so fast that even I didn't like all the same things 5 years later, and there is no point having a long lead time on anything related to style. Some things that are especially good standard references I keep because I like to look at paper and not always the computer. But most I realize I would get "updated" info on products and finishes. So that freed up lots of folders.

You might have similar "research" that is outdated. Now if you have audio recordings from your ancestors, that might be irreplaceable. But other things would outdate. So again, you can separate the dream from the binders as well, and see if you need more of an "idea list" instead of a host of binders.

Next, as noted above, maybe spend some time really looking forward. What are some things you would really like to do? It's okay if you don't get to all of these "dreams" either--but are you having new dreams? That's important. Also, it's an opportunity to set some goals that really are do-able even if modest. And not all organizing, either!
"Take time to talk with the visitors at church next Sunday". "Read all of the books written by so-and-so". "Take DD out for pizza and a movie" These are goals and dreams that require energy that you won't have if you're spending it looking back at things you probably won't do.

See if you identify a pattern of projects that you didn't do--I have found some patterns in which I am trying to be something I am not. I don't mean really crazy--just, it's easy for me to imagine lots of things being interesting and I wish I could be like this or that, but then I can see that some of them go against my natural bent in some way, hence I won't really do them. So I learn to ask myself, do I want to do that for me, or because it looks good in someone else's life? What are MY talents and natural leanings? Go with that.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 7:36PM
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When I was younger, I loved to do crafts. Knitting, embroidery, you know, feminine type handicrafts. One year for Christmas I decided to make and embroider bibs for all the new babies in my family. There were nine babies back then! I did get the bibs sewn, but I embroidery slowly and soon fell behind my schedule. Mid-December, when only a few bibs were done, I gathered up the remaining bibs and ALL my embroidery floss (maybe 100 packages) and threw them out. What a relief! So some of the nieces/nephews got store-bought gifts!

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 10:55AM
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Thank you for your responses. I read a poem today about living for today and not to wait to start living until you finished something, or wait until the kids are older, wait until they move out, then wait for retirement, etc. Do this and life passes you by, at least that's how I've led my life. I just keep thinking that if I had one more closet, I wouldn't have this dilemma (out of mind, out of sight until I'm ready to go through all the binders again).

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 10:55PM
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I find this saying comforting:

Sometimes on the way to a dream you get lost and find a better one.

I don't think you lost your dreams you found others. But now it's time to move on from the dreams you did follow. I'm not sure how long you have been a widow but I know I was widowed many years ago and one of the hardest things was realizing the dreams I had from that life were over. I too went back to some thing I had dreamed of before. I think we touch base with who we have been as part of moving forward to who we become.

If the suggestion for storing the data on a computer would work for you it might be worth a try. I don't know how old your children are but they could help you if you are not comfortable with that. I know my daughter is my first computer expert for help.

Take care. You are dealing with big stuff so be kind to yourself.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 7:21PM
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How far back do these dream ideas and research projects go, Marie26?

Maybe you need to change the mindset that these papers identify you. You are who and what you are whether those papers exist or not. And if they came from your mind and your research in the past, they are re-creatable.

Could you throw one project away, write down the date that you did it and then a month later evaluate your feelings about that being gone?

    Bookmark   October 8, 2011 at 9:28AM
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The papers go back as far as twenty years ago. I've been a widow for 1 1/2 years, with DH passing away suddenly at 59 years of age. He was the breadwinner, leaving me with only my job to pay the bills. To be completely honest, the papers represent extra income, as they are either business ideas or books to be completed and published. I put the effort into this work because this was my passion, the same way people who paint feel passion for what they do. DH never supported what I was doing. Now that I need extra income, I haven't found myself turning to these ideas, some of which can bring in extra money. So the questions are: Why am i holding on to them if I'm not using them? Do you think it's because of my new situation and need time or could it be something else?

    Bookmark   October 8, 2011 at 7:33PM
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Marie, I am a proponent of keeping until you are ready to let go. I hate regrets. The internet does not begin to deliver all the information that has been available on paper, and your particular collection of paper no doubt organizes your thoughts and constitutes the shape of a unique way of approaching your ideas.

Also, of not forcing something into fruition that isn't ready. We cannot always understand why we don't do certain things today - it may be something about time and energy, or it may even be seasonal. Some ideas just have more traction in the fall, others in winter. Or something may need to happen politically, legislatively, or what have you in order to make your plans swing into action. Or maybe the vision just isn't quite ready; mature yet.

I have a book in the works that has been in that state for over a decade. I try to start sometimes, or I draft up an outline or a chapter, but it never has quite come together. But one thing I've realized is that what I plan to write keeps getting better, and I keep getting readier. The kids are now older, more of the old house to-do list is checked off, and yes, my husband's and my relationship is better able to handle me taking my time and space to do the writing (yes, they can stop you!). And yes, I have kept accumulating papers to support and shape what I want to say...

Which is why I am also a proponent of off-site storage when you need it. If you can afford a small storage locker, it can be a sanity saver. And it can also be a bit of a test: is this important enough to me to pay for storage? If yes, then that means it's a keeper.

In my case, I have realized that I use my locker in part to buy time. Time until I can use the raw materials (yup, got some craft and sewing stuff!) and time before I have to sort and get rid of, time before I have to make a decision. And as you so rightly call it, time to evaluate dreams and figure out what to do with them. You can keep your dreams in a locker, or you can keep other stuff in the locker and keep your dreams on site. Putting them in the locker can also be a bit of a way-station to getting rid of them. You are more objective about things when they are off-site already.

Maybe it is taking some time for you to realize that you don't have to ask for permission anymore. Freedom can take some getting used to.

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 8, 2011 at 9:37PM
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Hi, I wrote earlier about crafts. How I threw out loads of embroidery floss and gave up that craft forever. I saw a TV show once. A main character had bought a "Paint by Number" oil painting kit. In the show, he did the painting as the episode developed. He spoke of how much fun it was, seeing the colors go on the canvas, come together in patterns until he could see a lake, or a cloud or a mountain. He said he enjoyed the "process" of painting. But paint by numbers does not require any talent, just an ability to follow instructions and apply the paints as directed, and not give up. He spoke of how he had no use for the finished painting, just that he enjoyed the "doing" of it. Maybe that's how we should all look at hobbies and handicrafts, not an expression of real talent, but rather of enjoying the activity of painting, or whatever craft we chooose.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 10:33AM
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I think you probably need the passage of time for your ideas. I know I have held onto things for a while. I just wasn't able to let go at that point. Eventually, something changed and I could let go or morph my project into something else. One big change in my life has been my kids. I simply don't have the time that I used to have. I've had to look at things in a different way. It's no longer feasible for me to sit down and sew up a quilt top in a single day. That doesn't mean I have to give up crafting. I just do smaller projects that I can either finish quickly or store until I have more time. I don't have time or enough creative ideas to do those big craft shows that I thought would be fun. Instead, I do smaller projects like school fundraisers to use my creative talents. These aren't my original plans, but it is something I enjoy. It gives me something to do with these ideas I've been carrying around for years.

I bet your book ideas and other projects have something that you can apply in the future. I'd pull them out of your storage and go through them. They may not trigger any any thoughts of how to apply them right now, but it might get you to thinking about them again and how you could apply them in a way that fits your current lifestyle.

If you need that space for something else, move it. Keep out a little to remind you of what you have. Having more room is nice, but a lot of us creative types need a stack of stuff in order to be creative.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 12:25PM
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I was just cleaning off a long-neglected dresser of its pile of "stuff" and found a note to myself about a book I wanted to buy. I had scribbled it in the car when I heard the author interviewed on the radio a while back. I'm going to get the book - I clearly need it! - and maybe it can help you assess whether you'll get those dreams done too!

Karin L

Here is a link that might be useful: The Follow Through Factor

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 3:26PM
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Marie, you are not alone. My goodness, I have boxes & boxes of dreams & ideas that relate to my passion of Interior Design, Architecture, Photography, Writing...just tons of things that I LOVE & have passion for. My passions have had fits & starts & fits & starts. I look at it as a journey & a pleasure. In a way it DOES define me, & I have this idea that when I die & my kids go through these boxes, that they will REALLY find me & know me...in a deeper way than they have...more as a person than just Mom. And in that, they will see themselves also, as they have pursued some of my passions on their own with no consious encouragement from me. I like that thought very much. I have things that go back to my teenage years. (I have things from my parents, grandparents, & great grandparents & great great grandparents.)

It's been a great evolvement. My life has been very difficult with many losses & trauma & drama. But I have no regrets. How can I regret a journey that produced 2 wonderful, productive, responsible kids & grandkids??? I just can't regret. It is what it is, & it is WONDERFUL.

I am very recently semi-retired due to fibromyalgia & arthritis & definitely in a stage of transition - trying to define the rest of my life - as best I can. I think the future will be as interesting as my past. Hopefully easier than it has been, of course, but you know, I'll take whatever comes just as I always have, cause sometimes life events are out of your control. The only thing you can control is yourself.

You will never be able to live with contentment without your passion in your life - even if they stay in boxes to visit. I could never give up all those papers & pages - to touch & feel & remember. Never. I imagine that one glorious day with the house all to myself, I will drag out all those boxes again to sort through & hopefully organize a little better to create a better road of the journey. I've only had the opportunity to do that a couple times over the years, & another visit is definitely overdue.

So Marie, keep your passion & your dreams & perhaps in time, your journey will incorporate all that you are & have been.

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward" - Soren Kierkengaard

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 3:48PM
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When we moved into our house 30 years ago (yes, 1981) I decided I wanted one craft item in each room. An embroidered sampler, a knitted afghan, something I had made with my own hands. Now I look around and find I haven't fulfilled that goal, tho I do have a few things scattered around my house. I think I'll look at my "stash" of old crafts and see if I can find something to pick up.
My hands feel like making something.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 8:30AM
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So I have bought and mostly read The Follow Through Factor (I needed it this week!) and must say that I can highly recommend it. Marie, I think it speaks to what you are going through from at least one or two angles, and it speaks to my obstacles as well. So I would recommend you read it before you toss anything.

It's by Gene Hayden, as of course the link will tell you, as in just past "Hay", something easy to remember the next time you find yourself in a bookstore.

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 7:14PM
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Karin, thank you for the review of the book. I will definitely try to find it. Besides, I like reading self help books.

InteriotStylist, your words held so mich meaning for me. It felt good to know that I'm not alone. You're going through quite a lot right now and yet you seem to have such a positive attitude.

I am grateful for everyone's input. The people in this forum have always been there when I've needed help.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 8:18PM
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Karin, I wanted to let you know that I bought the book after work today. There was only 1 copy left (maybe they only had 1 copy) so I was happy to get it. I've only read part of the introduction but already it sounds like something that I can relate to. Thank you for suggesting it.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 9:36PM
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Karin, I wanted to let you know that I bought the book after work today. There was only 1 copy left (maybe they only had 1 copy) so I was happy to get it. I've only read part of the introduction but already it sounds like something that I can relate to. Thank you for suggesting it.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 9:39PM
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Karin, I wanted to let you know that I bought the book after work today. There was only 1 copy left (maybe they only had 1 copy) so I was happy to get it. I've only read part of the introduction but already it sounds like something that I can relate to. Thank you for suggesting it.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 9:42PM
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I'm glad to hear it; I hope you find it as useful as I do. I'm rereading it thoroughly after my initial race-through - there is a passage where she describes me to a T, which has the dual effect of making me feel somewhat normal (Hallelujah, there are others out there like me!) and recognizing the self-defeating aspect of the behaviour at the same time.

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 10:31PM
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Marie, you're on your way to creating your future. I think that you know that you're ready to take some steps.

I bet you're an AMAZING woman!!!


    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 11:00PM
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I'm glad too to see that my comment posted, but I see why you inadvertently posted three times, Marie. The site said there had been an error when I hit "submit" but having seen your multiple postings I thought I'd wait and see before trying again.

Just a warning for others...

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 1:06AM
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Marie, what about setting aside some time each week to "work" your creative stuff? At the very least it will keep this stuff at your fingertips so you won't forget about it. And even if you end up working on other stuff, it will keep the process flowing.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 9:19PM
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