How to Be Organized When You Have 29 Unfinished Projects

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Do you have unfinished scrapbook projects? Does it cause you stress? Recently I decided to embrace the fact that I always have a lot of unfinished projects.

Instead of making it a goal to get my projects finished, I decided to reorganize my space to accommodate my madness — or at least what some might consider to be madness. As a result I found that . . .

  • There is a way to feel calm and happy, even with lots of unfinished projects
  • Having a number of unfinished projects has huge benefits!

Since I decided to start projects when I think of them, I learned that the prolific 39-time Best-Selling author, James Patterson, has been known to work on more than five novels at one time! You may love Patterson’s books — you may not love them. I don’t particularly like his style of writing, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is evidence that you can be successful and accomplished with lots of projects bubbling at one time.

So how does he do it? How can you do it? Organization!

But wait! Doesn’t multiple unfinished projects equate to DISORGANIZATION?

No. You still need an organization structure to filter your idea bursts and your project streams. Patterson does it. Having been a corporate CEO, he is known for his exceptional organization skills. When I decided I was going to act on my ideas immediately, rather than add them to a to-do list, I knew I also needed to restructure my scrap space to meet my project needs.

This article tackles storage of unfinished and on-going projects. Here are posts on other organization subjects:

Three Types Of Unfinished Projects

There is an important difference between various unfinished projects . . .

  • Projects you’ve lost interest in
  • Projects on hold – you need to work on something else because of a deadline, or you need a specific item to complete it
  • Intentionally on-going projects

Lost Interest

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How Many – 7
Organization –
If I really feel a project is not all that worthwhile, if I have negative feelings about it along with my lack of interest, or if I feel sure I won’t be finishing it, I salvage any pieces I can use on something else and then throw the rest away. Otherwise, if I think there is some potential in the future but have no interest in touching it any time soon, I put it in the drawer at the bottom of this plastic rolling drawer set, or in the plastic bin on top.

I also have one item here that I haven’t really lost interest in. It’s just not a priority. I had an idea and wanted to start it before I’d forget. If I ever feel like finishing it, it’s in the drawer. If not, no big deal. My idea is an experiment and I’ve already gained one thing by starting, even though it’s unfinished: I learned that the technique I was testing will work!

If I need to add a project here and the drawer is full, I pitch my least interesting project to make room for the new one.

On Hold

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How Many – 14
Organization –
If I am very much interested in finishing a project but need to move it off my work table, and if it doesn’t have a lot of pieces, I set it in a stack on this top shelf. Projects that are only waiting on one quick item, like a photo, are in the front. Projects that will require an hour or more of work are in the back. This front and back system is surprisingly helpful!

  • It keeps stuff off my current workspace.
  • The projects that I can finish with just a couple steps are prioritized in a visible place. This helps me realize how close I am to finishing them. We procrastinate things that seem hard or take multiple steps. Knowing that these items in the front are just a couple steps away from being done is motivating!

Projects that have a lot of parts and pieces, embellishments, papers, etc, go in the white boxes on the two lower shelves. I purchased large 12×15 inch boxes at Ikea. I like that I can have 12×12 papers or pages at one end of the box and scraps and embellishments on the other end. I name the project on the front label of the box in pencil because eventually I’ll rotate a different project into it.

The projects in these boxes are much more involved, so I love that I can have the chaos of all their supplies in nice clean containers. They’re in my sight as a visual reminder, but don’t add clutter to my mind.

Intentionally On-Going

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How Many – 5 active, 1 still in prep, and 2 I haven’t fully committed to yet.
Organization –
On the red shelf above my worktable is an art journal, a writing and ephemera journal, and an altered book about myself. On the same shelf, but farther from my reach are two altered books I’m still contemplating. They will be on-going once they actually get going.

Because I decorate my altered Book About Me with lots of scrapbooking items, I keep the supplies in one of those white boxes on that shelf of on-hold projects.

One of my other on-going projects is a New Year’s book that gets a two-page spread of silly family predictions each year. I keep that in my drawer of completed seasonal mini-books, even though it isn’t really completed. This makes sense for me because I don’t need to reserve specific scrapbook supplies for it, and because I only sit down to work on it two days out of the year.


Projects that I’m very close to finishing: 6

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The Huge & Awesome Benefits

There are times when the ideal thing to work on is a project you’ve already started but never completed!

I often grab an unfinished project when I . . .

  • Have short bursts of time
  • Am attending crops, scrapping while traveling, or working at a coffee shop
  • Want to scrapbook without thinking much

Unfinished projects are ideal in these situations because . . .

  1. The supplies are already all together, or the project is close to being finished and doesn’t need a lot of supplies.
  2. Since you’ve already thought the project out (you know the story, you’ve picked the colors and papers, etc), you’ve already made the hard choices that require more introspection. Now it’s just play time.

Other benefits for having lots of unfinished projects . . .

Do you need to clear some space for unfinished projects? I recommend you first identify clutter and excess you can get rid of — stuff you don’t love and never use. Next, identify the vertical spaces around your home or scrap area where you can add shelves, containers, or drawers. Almost all of us have vertical space we aren’t maximizing. Almost all of us have excessive clutter that isn’t really benefiting us. Free yourself! Free your ideas and turn them into something, even if they’re just the start of something.

Okay, now who’s ready to start some new projects?

I have lots of project ideas to get you playing that I share in video tutorials. Many of those videos also share how I set up my space for certain things, like mini-books, for example!

CLICK HERE for more info on our video tutorials!

  • Von

    Yes, this is very useful. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  • PJ

    Love this. Thanks.

  • Stephavela

    What a wonderful article…so freeing! I think you could follow these
    same steps in many other areas of life. I often feel like I cannot
    go on to another project if I am not completely finished with the one I am working on.
    Thank you!

  • I. LOVE. THIS.

    Thank you! for sharing about how you deal with this. Now I just need to figure out the organizational aspect (and count them up – not sure if I have as many as you, but then again…).

  • Bar2

    Fantastic post. Reaffirms my process! Thank so much.

  • Sue

    it’s comforting to know we ALL have UFOs!!!

  • This is great. I really like the space you have for projects that are just about done. I could really use something like that.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks. Great inspiring article.

  • cropqueen

    I to have used the “madness” of organizing when I am overwhelmed! So good to have “company”. I thought I was the only one so you have given me permission to continue using this “madness” method. Also, Thanks for sharing your method of of putting order to unfinished projects. I have empty boxes that I hadn’t thought to use in this way.

  • TY Noell. This is an excellent and well written article supported by helpful photos. Great job and I can relate! ~ Ali

  • Renea

    Thanks! Yes, this was helpful. My only problem is I think I have about 129 UFOs instead of 29! And it seems that many of mine would take up a whole drawer by themselves. Hmmm, time to get to work! lol

  • Love this kind of posts :) Fortunately, I’m already using those great boxes from Ikea! :) I also have a not too big drawer unit for unfinished projects; I started organizing them at the beginning of the year to not to stress myself too much.

    About a month ago, I FINALLY finished a 4×4 mini I had on hold since who-knows-when, well, the mini is about my cousin’s 1st b-day and she’ll be 6 next Feb 11…

    Just tomorrow I’d like to finish a Halloween mini I started making in a crop on Oct 23rd. I already printed a few of the pics of Oct 31st and I know “it’s now or never”; besides that mini, I’ll be making a 8×8 one with all the pics from that night, which I’ll be picking up in a day or two. The Toil & Trouble Making Memories 8×8 album is gorgeous!!

    Well, next week, I hope I get my hands on my unfinished Xmas albums so I can use the leftovers for this year’s album, I can wait!!

  • Dpelham

    I kinda do all that, except I’m too cheap to go to Ikea. I use pizza boxes. I just bought a new one at CKC. I don’t remember the vendor, but it is a rockin’ box.

  • rocksand

    This was useful. Thanks Noell! You’re ideas have my mind moving! :-)

  • Great write-up! I agree that acting upon your spark of inspiration is a good thing! It makes me happy to act upon those creative feelings and satisfies my need to make something and run with the idea. Even though I also end up with lots of unfinished projects or the lack of planning means I hit upon some kinks or even dead ends at times! But instead of thinking of it all as a project you must complete, I like to think it’s like prototyping. You have to try out those new ideas and then you learn something along the process and will be able to apply it next time around. Not everything has to be a masterpiece!

  • Noell- Thanks so much for this post. I recently have been going through the same thing, although I don’t have quite as many as you. I bought some of those clear Iris snap top boxes on sale at Michaels and have been putting all my projects and related supplies in those – December Daily, mini books in process, etc. It’s been so helpful in getting me organized, and making me able to work on projects downstairs where the rest of the family hangs out!

  • Great article. I think defining the three different types of projects will help alleviate being overwhelmed by the thought that everything has to be done RIGHT NOW! which often results in NOTHING getting done because it’s just too much.

  • Norma Payne

    I don’t like this type of thing. Takes up a lot of room. I make myself finish what has been started before moving along. With me it might never get any further if not finished when started. I have laid projects aside and they have never gotten in an albumn they ended up in the trash.

  • Harrietjt

    I love the reminder of filling in verticle spaces and I do want to remove those piles on my floor.

  • Oooh — prototyping! That is awesome! You’re so right about that!

  • Yeah — often all we need is a little clarifying of the way things should be
    classified! We’re funny that way, I guess.

  • Baileyboys3mom

    I just love all of your organizational ideas Noell. I too have tons of unfinished projects. I especially like how you have some of the smaller items out where you can see them and pick them up to finish as you feel the need. I plan to do some reorganizing this weekend using some of you techniques. One fiasco of a project that I need to figure out is that I have numerous unfinished albums with empty pages, and boxes of finished scrapbooking pages that need to go into a number of these albums. I just haven’t put them together yet. The task seems insurmountable. It’s been needing to be done for so very long, and I am dreading doing it. Any ideas? Also, and please excuse me because this is totally unrelated to the topic at hand, but this evening I was trying to sign up for a class at BPC and remembered the discount through your site, so I came here, but can’t find the area where I need to go in order to get the discount. Can you go over that again for me? Thanks Bunches!


  • Hi, Amy! First things first: Here’s the link to the page that has your
    discount. Please also use our link to get to BPC so we get credit! Thank
    you! :)

    You know what I would do about the album situation? It’s actually what I do,
    though I don’t have as much to deal with as you. Choose one album you’re
    most interested in tackling (maybe the least intimidating one?). Fish
    through all of your finished pages and pull out the ones that go into the
    album you chose. Now deal with just this one album and this pile of pages.
    Slip pages into the gaps, do whatever you need to do to get the pages where
    they go (I don’t stress too much about chronology).

    Later on you can deal with another album!

    I’ve been wanting for a couple of years to do some kind of tutorial
    (article?) on finishing albums — filling in the holes, adding final
    touches, dealing with odd-shaped pages, etc. Good luck!

  • Gab

    I need to do something like this, great ideas, thanks!

  • Baileyboys3mom

    Thanks Noell. I will do that. Would love to see a tutorial on something of that sort! Oh, and I feel stupid, but I still don’t see the link for BPC.

    Amy :)

  • Baileyboys3mom

    Maybe you sent it to my email. I will check.

  • My bad — I forgot to put it in my reply! Here it is:


  • Well, I guess you’re lucky. I also have tons of unfinished projects. Sometimes, you just get blocked and can’t finished it, or have an idea but you need to shape it and start gathering bits and pieces.
    I’ve recently finished a mini I’ve had in a drawer for years, and felt so good! :)

  • Gail/Pookiesmom

    What an awesome article Noell! I love that you have embraced your issue, an issue I think lots of us scrappers have. I need to figure out a system for myself also…very soon I think…maybe over Thanksgiving weekend, since most of my scrapbook room is now sitting in my living room due to a water leak from the ceiling right above my floor to ceiling scrap shelf (YIKES). Hopefully the maint. guy will be done with the repairs on Wednesday so I can spend the weekend getting stuff put back in there and organizing as I go. Thanks for the great inspiration as usual!

  • Yikes!!! Good luck with your room!

  • Gail/Pookiesmom

    Thanks Noell! Have a great Thanksgiving!

  • It’s great organizational system. Thanks for sharing! I’m relieved to see that I’m not the only one with tons of ongoing projects at any given time. I’m not that crazy then! Cheers from France.

  • Debbiea

    Thank you I found this very useful, I also found I am already doing some of these things, juggling both scrapbooking and quilting projects.

  • Hannah Knowles

    Noell thanks so much this is such a great post ~ the change in perspective really helps.  I have a lot of projects started and none completed and my to list was getting depressing as the unfinished items list never changed.  Having a visual go to pile is much more action driven and seeing the supplies get’s me all inspired all over again.  I’m adding this to my planning for my new scrap space (I’m moving out of a messy stack of pizza boxes in the dining room, into a dedicated area).

  • Beverley Leeson

    So Glad to have read this Article. I have a Box under my Desk which has several projects that are unfinished. They are all in Baggies and have all the relevant parts and pieces with them. Usually I always feel a slight twinge of Guilt whilst doing something else knowing they are sitting there. So having read that others do this too, has made me feel a whole lot better. Thanks for the Freedom of Guilt.
    Kind Regards,

  • You’re welcome! I have learned that starting on new ideas as often as possible makes you more creative. So even if you don’t benefit from finishing a project, you’re still benefiting in the most beneficial way: added creativity. I have an article on this too. I’m pretty sure I linked to it from this

  • Catherine Carey

    Thank you for more of your brilliant ideas !

  • Traci Starkweather

    Wow! This is the first article I went to read. It is surely the best detailed article on organization I have ever read! The idea of visually having projects available to reach, far exceeds my list of my other lists! (Blog, Scrapbook, Cards, and Miscellaneous) I can not wait to read another article!

  • Sandi Elizabeth James

    great article that reaffirms the way I have been organizing my unfinished projects. I also group supplies together for projects I may want to work on in the future and revisit those containers from time to time to see if it still will work. Sometimes I have all the supplies ready for a project that I haven’t found the right tutorial for yet (still waiting for the perfect thing to make to showcase the Halloween in Wonderland papers from G45 as well as the Magic of Oz that I have been collecting and hoarding for a few years!)

  • kalexa1

    What a great way to look at it. I can empathise with Beverley on the guilt twinges. However, from hereon I’m taking on your viewpoint and enjoying the flow. I would add it can also help you learn new things/techniques, as it’s great ‘striking whilst the iron is hot’ as my mum says. After all, that’s when I’m most focused and motivated to learn it. :-)

  • I love it : D. I find that working on multiple projects gives the ideas time to percolate, as I remember things I want to put on the page I scribble them on a piece of paper and slide it in the the “project page” of an old top loading journal along with papers, photos and ephemera.

    I’m pulling the rubberstamps and embellishments for the 4th layout I’ve done this way, and I find I’m really enjoying the process a lot more. As you said, Huge & Awesome Benefits!