Monday, March 19, 2012

Projects like ravening wolves

Here’s a block of verses that can be applied in an unexpected way to our efforts to de-clutter:

15 ¶Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matt. 7:15-20)

Firstly, who are the false prophets when we are organizing and de-cluttering? They are the advertisers that tell us we NEED this and we NEED that or we won’t succeed/be worthwhile/be loved. They are the ravening wolves wishing to devour our dollars, wishing to sell us things even if we don’t really need them.

But we can also apply this as we are trying to de-clutter, if we think of “false prophets” as also meaning “false projects.” Let me explain why this can help.

As I have helped a number of people de-clutter, I have observed that they are incredibly creative people. They have a lot of projects that they are working on, projects that are in various stages of completion, with a backlog of materials to use up. And as we go through their stuff, we run across things that could become functional if they were fixed. These people I help say, “Oh, I could do this and this and this to it and then I could use it.” They essentially create another project for themselves in an effort to ensure that they waste nothing. (The problem is, they already are drowning in real projects. They don’t need another project.) This doesn’t happen just once. It happens over and over again in a single de-cluttering session.

Most of the time, those projects are false projects.

This is why we should beware of false projects as well as false prophets. False projects come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. False projects appear to keep you from wasting resources, but really they waste your time and energy, devouring it so it can’t be used on higher priorities.

  • False projects have little or no planning to them. They are taken on impulsively, without consideration for all the other projects in the works and all your other priorities in life.
  • False projects have little if any thought about whom they will benefit and what the real payoff is.
  • False projects are started with little thought of how much effort will be required to complete them. It is simply assumed that it should be easy, and the results will be “so cool.” Cool for who? Why?
  • False projects have few if any resources assigned to them. This means you expect yourself to complete it without spending any money, and without taking any time away from everything else you have to do, and it can’t be delegated to anyone else. AND they are undertaken without tools that are best for the job. (Or the opposite may be true—the false project has so much time, money, and effort given to it far out of proportion to its importance and benefit, to the detriment of more important priorities.)
  • False projects don’t have anyone asking for status updates about when they will be done.
  • False projects have requirements that morph inexplicably over time into something more complicated and time-consuming and soul-sucking than you thought.
  • False projects have a self-coercive quality to them; you feel like you have to do them to prove that you are good/organized/talented/dedicated/important/loving/etc. They are born out of insecurities and they batter us with guilt when we look at them sitting there.

False projects don’t have good fruits. As said before, they may have the appearance of benefitting us, but if examined carefully, it may be unexpectedly hard to explain what that benefit is.

How can you keep from getting pulled into a false project? How can you keep from getting into too many projects?

Here’s a simple practical solution. Make a list of ALL the projects that you have. Then try putting them in order from most important to least important. Pretend your family is a job and you have to explain exactly how each project will benefit you and the family.

Pretend your project is a product you are making to sell. Who will buy it? Who will the finished product benefit? If you can’t think of a customer who would “buy” it, then it is a false project. If you wouldn’t buy it, then why should you even do it?

What is your return on investment? What benefit do you expect from completing it? It has to be a reasonable benefit and it has to be defined.

Do you have a deadline for this project? If there is no deadline, there is no reason to push it forward.

What is the budget for the project? What time and money are you willing to spend on it? Why are you willing to spend on it?

Maybe the project was a good idea at first but circumstances changed and the project no longer fits current needs. Allow yourself to reconsider the project at various points to determine whether it is still viable or not.

Does the project fit with your abilities and interests? If it is something outside your abilities, then the project cost rises because educating yourself and experimenting are little mini-projects that have to be added to your project.

If you have determined that a project is a false project, do not be afraid to let go of it. You will feel better for it.

Life is short and you only have so much time in a day. We need projects that enrich our lives and help us increase our talents and skills so we can help others. We may not get to all we want to do in this life, but I have confidence that in the next life we will have all the opportunities we ever wanted to try new things and build all our skills that we never had time to develop in this life.


Rozy Lass said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I needed to hear this, I have too many false projects and now with your kind permission I will get rid of them.

Jocelyn Christensen said...

This is very helpful...thank you!

Becca said...

Wow! I thought I was doing pretty well (I hate having clutter and I Am always getting rid of stuff and rarely collecting stuff) but those questions you asked made me realize I have more "false projects" sitting around than I need, and that they are keeping me from getting the real projects done.

I am going to go through all my projects with these questions in mind and liberate myself even more!

Barbara said...

So wise!

Je9Jeanine said...

Exactly what I needed to hear right now.

J Vogler said...

You made such a good point about how projects can take over our lives just like clutter. I have gone through my craft stash a few times over the past several years and just gotten rid of projects that I realized I would never get to or finish. And you know what? I NEVER miss them!

Michaela Stephens said...

Yay for Jean! Good for you!

cindyann said...

Just saw your link on Clutter Busting. Great post. I need to look at my unfinished quilting projects and see if I can let some of them go and my craft supplies that I don't really have room for anymore. I do know that having clutter and unfinished projects are draining, so why is it so hard to let go??

Michaela Stephens said...

That's a very good question, cindyann, and there are lots of reasons it is hard to let go.
It might help you to ask yourself what specific feelings and thoughts of yours are keeping you from letting go. Try writing down your thoughts and then examining those thoughts one at a time. Often, it having an amorphous cloud of reasons is harder than confronting them in black-and-white on paper.