July 19, 2012

Getting organized

At work I have more to do than I can manage, so I’m forced to adapt some strategies to keep my head over water.

At home I’m not quite so well organized.

Let’s talk about UFOs. UFOs are Unfinished Objects. There are also other acronyms like WIP (Work in Progress) and PIG (I don’t know that one). Mainly it’s all the same; things you haven’t finished yet for some reason or other.

If you go by me it is because:

  1. A problem I didn’t know how to solve or deal with popped up
  2. There wasn’t enough fabric and I had to wait for more to arrive (3-4 weeks)
  3. Something new and exciting turned up
  4. Project was boring
  5. Project didn’t appeal to me any longer

At first I just put the work aside with the firm intention of getting back to it ASAP.
Now, I’m a rather creative person and easily led astray. Something like a butterfly. Those bright flowers get my attention – NOW. New piles of unfinished objects kept growing everywhere. Everything neatly laid out; just waiting for me to finish it.

Then I started to write lists. Long lists with duties to be done by…It didn’t work.

Then I started on a quilt diary; with to-do lists. Sometimes I wrote, sometimes I didn’t.

Then I put the UFOs in zip bags. The zip bags disappeared somewhere. Every time I pulled one out I didn’t know what I had done and what I needed to do with it. If I needed more fabric I had to dig out the fabrics from somewhere. As a consequence the bags were untouched for very long periods of time.

I made index cards. On these index cards I noted the name of the project, the name and origin of the pattern, fabric line, date of birth and all information about the project I needed. Size, number of blocks, how many already made…
Good start, but I didn’t keep them updated or they grew wings and flew away.

Then I bought 10 small plastic boxes with the firm intention not to start anything new, before one of the boxes was free again. At first it was good. I even put the index cards into these boxes. But then as the projects grew, the boxes got to small to contain a whole project, so the projects got outsourced. Zip bags and piles around the sewing machine. New projects in the boxes before the old ones were finished. Again!

Then suddenly there were 12 small boxes. Don’t ask me how. Just because.

Every time I looked around in my bedroom I saw chaos. I felt really bad, instead of being proud of myself. I was still the creative and friendly person I was before and I did a lot of things, but I kept talking bad in my head about myself in a way I would never talk to another person. Real trash talk and even worse language. I felt like a failure and behaved like a cad, all in my own head! I spent more and more time not sewing.

Then I bought 15 bigger boxes, put my UFOs inside, with all the fabrics, the pattern and the index cards. Everything updated and everything in one place. I even put labels on the outside of the boxes. No, I don’t have 27 UFOs (12 small boxes + 15 bigger ones)
I put in some of the projects I have planned as well as some special fabrics I don’t have a lot of. 

 The boxes are nicely stashed away in one place and they don’t bother me at all. Now I just pull one out when I feel like it. Work for a bit on whatever I want and at the end of the day I stash everything away again and update the index card. It takes less than 2 minutes.
Next morning I start fresh and decide what I want to do. At last I feel at peace with myself.

Just to get my oldest and some of my unloved projects back into rotation I started on something new; a new tune to set my pace.

You know it; it’s called the Lazy Bums. My thought was to show a group of similar minded people my UFOs and get some new inspiration. We are taking pictures of our UFOs and setting our aims for each project. Nothing overwhelming or too ambitious, just a realistic estimation of what we can do besides our normal work.

I haven’t listed everything on my mosaic; only the things I feel good about. If something makes me want to run for the hills it should take a dive in the trash bin. There is no merit in doing things just to get them done. This time next year I’m going to take a look at all my projects and chuck everything away I still feel bad about.

So far we are in the planning stage, but we’ll start the games in about two weeks time. I’m really excited about it and hope it will take care of the last bits of my procrastination and give me an even better feeling about what I’m doing. Sewing is supposed to be fun and not Via Dolorosa.

So, how is your work organized? I’d love to hear your ideas! (and should you want to join the Lazy Bums group there is still plenty of room for you.)


  1. May, I love how the answer to your problems was bigger boxes! Having just bought myself a very large plastic box to (hopefully) organise my stash in, I am keeping my fingers crossed that it works for me too!

  2. Ha ha! I haven't figured out a solution to this problem for myself. But I'll keep checking your comments to see what advice people offer!

  3. Oh my goodness! Your bins look great! You will feel so good as you get things done. I go through my projects and if they don't excite mr anymore, I give them to the thrift shop and only keep the bits of fabric I think I will still use ; )

  4. Love it! Love your attitude, your boxes and your approach to getting things done when you want :)

  5. May, I need to change my UFO card. I put all my binding on one card and that is unrealistic for me. They each need their own card. I don't like binding so I have to take it slow. Also, I changed my mind about my UFOs. I chose some new ones, but instead I need to finish up some old ones. I forgot how to do the mosaic. Where do I go for those instructions again? Help!!!! Jeanne

  6. Your story seems so similar to me... except for the index cards. I've not gone so far, I'm still in the moment of having all those projects in my memory... realizing that the memory can't remember what to do or why the project turned into an UFO. The plastic boxes to keep each one organized is a great idea... if only I had enough room for more boxes in my sewing room.

  7. Lol, PIGS are projects in grocery sacks, so I guess you have PIBs, Projects in boxes! My favourite is PHDs, as it sounds clever. It stands for Projects Half Done! When I get fed up with projects I put them away to "mature" - they don't bother me as I know I'll fall in love ith them again eventually and then I will finish them!

  8. Oh May, you speak my language! That is almost exactly how I operate these days :o) I only work on what is inspiring me!

  9. May, do you mind if I mention my blog? I am having a huge giveaway of fat quarters; about 50 of them and I have so few followers that I was hoping you might send some of your folks my way. I want to give them to people who need fabric. Most of them are coordinates. Then I am also giving away 6 1-yards of fabric of a line of soft flowers. I am cleaning out my sewing studio. Since I'm doing the Lazy Bums, I'm getting organized. You know my blog, so if you want to, you can mention it to get people to comment and win my fabric. Thanks, Jeanne

  10. Thanks for sharing your WIP storage journey. I store mine the same way you do, in clear boxes with labels. Just remember to ask yourself, from time to time, "is this a project I really want to finish?" It is ok to let one go.

  11. I have looked and looked. I know you had link for mosaic can not find could you resend?