Monday, September 13, 2010

UFOs -- Can't live with them ... Can't live without them ...

Or can we?

Recently there has been much discussion on managing our UFOs, particularly when they reach the volume that causes undue stress, often immobilizing us by the sheer numbers!  Can we avoid this trauma? never have a UFO? huh? You mean, start a project and actually finish it before starting the next one?  While I know many people who have the ability to do this, I sure can't wrap my head around it, never mind developing the restraint to avoid the next shiny ball that comes through the Internet! but if you get too carried away, your space could look like this!

What to do ... what to do ... Here are some things I've tried in the past:

About 10 or 12 years ago, a friend who is very organized came to my house in Virgina all the way from Michigan.  Her mission -- help me get control.  Did it work?  She was totally awesome!  But it was too traumatic watching things going out the door for donations or tossed somewhere ... Yes, my sewing room was definitely more organized, but I still mourn some of those projects that found new homes hehehe ... Wouldn't do it again!

Another idea that I tried was picking the top 7 projects from my list or piles and make a page for each in a small notebook.  Each day, whatever amount of time I had allotted to working on quilts I would work on the quilt for that day.  So, I started out budgeting an hour a day to sewing.  If I ended up with more available time, I could spend it on that day's project OR I could work on another day's OR I could even choose anything else I wanted to play with -- new or old.  I used this system for a long while -- it gave me freedom to start new things, or focus on something for longer time and I found that things were getting finished and off the UFO list.  It was good, really!  But then somewhere along the way I decided it wasn't "perfect" for my needs, so I haven't used it in a while.

Have you tried the "bobbin method" of project management?  This was my own little idea a while back.  Wind up a bunch of bobbins in colors you might need for various projects.  I happen to use only a selection of neutrals for piecing, so I had white, ecru, grey and black bobbins.  I start with a full bobbin and the first project.  At the end of the bobbin, I switch to the next project.  Keeps me from getting bored hehehe ... and again, frequently by the end of the first bobbin I'm in a zone and keep working on that one project.  But I have given myself options for switching off.  Sometimes I still fall back on this method!

Next I read about someone who assigned dollar values to each of the steps involved in the quilt all the way to finishing.  And she paid herself for her work!  Now, that was a good motivator for me!!  I promptly opened a special savings account and made a list of steps for the UFOs that looked sort of like this:

Assessing the state of the project
Completing the blocks
Putting the top together
Fixing the backing
Attaching the binding

Each step was worth $1 ... then I added some more monies:

Each week I didn't buy fabric was $5
Each quilt that I quilted was $10
Binding was worth $2
Each bobbin was $.25 and each spool of thread was $.50 (cones were more of course!)

There's probably a few other things in there, but it works really nicely!  At the end of each month I tally up what I've done and put that money in my ever-growing little pot.  I'd love to buy a new sewing machine some day with the money ... but I guess I have to finish up some more UFOs before that can happen!!

Today I was entering a list of UFOs into one of my list databases because I wanted to participate in the UFO Challenge for the rest of the year.  Though I stopped at Number 80, I easily could have kept going, and even thought of a couple as I went along (so much for thinking I've got it under control), and of course I didn't include any of the six projects I just printed out over the weekend.  What I did do over the past few days, though, is make some priorities to the projects on my list in the hope of finishing a number of them as Christmas gifts.  My initial intent was to choose the top few, which unfortunately turned into the top "many" but, hey, I can do the best I can do!  I've taken those top projects and broken down the steps I need to complete each one ... then I went one step further and really did cull off the top 5 to work on.  I put these projects on index cards that are now sitting beside my sewing machine along with the projects.  Presto!!  I no longer felt overwhelmed!

The rest of the UFOs are in their tidy little bags in the tidy little closet, and I feel like I can function again.  Here's my after shots of the little closet in my sewing room ... One space done, three to go!


BillieBee (billiemick) said...

I totally enjoyed reading your UFO story ....grin. I don't quite have 80, but then again I'm not counting all the kits I've purchased and the ones yet to be quilted. I'm just counting tops that I've started cutting.

I did put a post it on my wall with about 5 of the ones I would like to finish.


PeggyB said...

Thanks. I appreciate all the strategies

Helen in the UK said...

Congrats on figuring out a system (or number of systems) that work for you. Hope you manage to make inroads on those UFOs for your xmas target date :)
Helen in the UK
fellow Stashbuster

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