How to tackle the unfinished business that weighs you down

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We all have unfinished business hanging out in our homes: things that need to be fixed, sent, taken elsewhere, finished, completed. In fact, I read recently that on average, each of us has 40 hours of unfinished business hanging out in our homes. Nope, that’s not a typo: 40 HOURS. 

No wonder we all feel swamped by having too much to do in too little time.

Your day-to-day existence is full of shuttling kids from school and activities, running errands, making dinner, finding time to take care of yourself and exercise… not to mention that full time job (or part time job that takes as much time as a full time job). And on top of all that, there is a weight constantly hanging over your head: all the to-do list tasks you would do if you could just find the time… all the stuff that doesn’t get done, that hasn’t gotten done for months (or even years).

All of your unfinished business weighs down your psyche. It is a constant reminder of how full your life is--full of things that don’t get done--making you feel inadequate or lazy or simply not like your best self. That is no way to live this life.

I write about time quite a bit: how scarce it feels to so many of us, how it can feel insufficient to the tasks in front of us, how to manage it effectively. I write about time and busy lives not only because I feel the weight of these things myself, but because nearly every client I have EVER worked with feels this rush of time, this inability to hold on to it.

I write about it because the work that I do helps to FREE UP TIME... to remove the distractions... to see more clearly what is important and to consciously spend time on those things that come into focus.

The work does not create more time (that’s impossible), but it does help you appreciate the here and now, so that you can live your life more fully in the present, without so many attachments to the past or fears for the future.

But back to unfinished business. I want to illustrate the issue through my own experience. It goes something like this:

My home office was originally the master bedroom, so it has a decent sized closet--designed for two people’s clothing. This room has been through several iterations, from bedroom, to guest bedroom with office, to full time office.

As it has transitioned, the space itself has undergone a significant transformation as well. The original red-shag carpet (infused with the original owner’s cigarette smoke) turned into playfully painted floors. The teeny red and white floral wallpaper--that filled my mind with static just looking at it--I painstakingly scraped and replaced with a deep chocolate wall color that I simply adore.

That transformation has been slow going. It took me a full 15 months just to prep the walls to be able to start painting, and I was MOTIVATED to get that space whipped into shape.

I wanted so badly a home office where I could simply sit and do my work rather than think about all the unfinished tasks surrounding me.

The amount of time it has taken illustrates how full my life was (with an 8-month baby, her big brother and a bathroom remodel... in addition to "normal" life) and how many other priorities came before my own personal space & well-being. I know you can relate.

In the many different pushes to get the walls scraped clean, I pulled everything out of the main space and loaded up the closet with the room’s non-essential contents so I didn’t ruin them as I sprayed the walls to loosen the adhesive, primed and painted.  

Over the course of those months, I also used Marie Kondo’s method of decluttering (as described in her book: the life-changing magic of tidying up) to surround myself, in my own home, with only my joyful possessions.

After years of organizing and using Feng Shui to create the optimal flow in my clients spaces and my own, I was able to get to the root of the constant clutter: TOO MANY POSSESSIONS.

Much of this stuff not only did not bring me joy, but would trigger little stories and pain points that would actively bring me down (consciously or not).

A year of renovating my home office became, necessarily, a year of working through significant physical and emotional baggage.

As I completed the KonMari process in my home, I came to identify and compile all the unfinished things that were still important enough to me to finish, fix or mail. You can probably guess where all of those things went... Yup, right into my home-office closet.

Being the Feng Shui practitioner that I am, I always look at my spaces through the lens of the Bagua Map. That particular space--my home office--is in my Self Knowledge and Wisdom area of my home (see below). Not only was that area in the midst of a major transformation, but in the process, I was loading my personal wisdom area with all my unfinished business.

At the time, I didn't comprehend how difficult that would make it to clear everything out once and for all.  

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I’ve spent considerable time and energy over the past few years uncovering my authentic self and opening to the insights I have to share with the world.

But like all of us, I still have little unwrapped parcels of hurt and pain stored away--experiences, memories, and stories I wasn’t able to fully process and release at the time. And so I stuck them deep down in the depths to revisit when I had the time and skill-set to go through my “emotional closet.”

It is fitting that my readiness to release those past hurts directly corresponded with my readiness to unload the physical closet in that area of my life.

With each step I took in my office, the space felt better and better. But it still felt stuck, slow to progress (patience is a virtue I do not always come by naturally). The walls were finally stripped. The paint job was so very close to complete (and yet, not finished).

But the closet still felt daunting. I had been through all the categories that lived in the drawers and on the top shelf. It was only the flat surfaces (tops of drawers & the floor) that had collected unfinished business that was holding me back, needing my attention. That shouldn’t be so hard, should it? I tried to clear it out a few times. But it was such a jumble of so many different categories, that I couldn’t even begin to see how to approach it.

I had a mental block around the whole space--it was overwhelming--always too big of a job to tackle.

Do you have an area of your home that feels too big to tackle? The garage? The hall closet, the basement? If so, listen up.

Most of you have probably heard of the Law of Attraction--or the idea that Like Attracts Like. This area of my life and my home was full of all the things that needed my attention, all that unfinished business: from the stuff in the closet to paint and missing baseboards and art I had yet to hang on the walls.

As an entrepreneur--running a course where I coach people through the process of creating spaces they love that are easy to maintain--stuck, unfinished business was not the kind of energy I want to attract in my home office or in my own personal wisdom!

And, not surprisingly, I was also feeling stuck working through personal issues that had been packed away in my emotional being for the past 25 years. As a Feng Shui practitioner, a closet full of unfinished business in the Self Knowledge area is exactly what I would expect to see for someone who is having a hard time letting go of the past. I know this, of course. And yet, I had to be patient enough to allow myself to work through the blocks that would come up--primarily around starting the project.

Starting is often the hardest part.

And here is the kicker. Every time I would walk into that room, I would think: “I need to get to that closet... I need to finish painting and hang artwork... I need to do that 2 minute mending project so I can wear my favorite jeans again... I need to send those baby clothes off to my friend before they don’t fit her baby anymore!Those were the thoughts I would radiate as I walked into my home office.

But the present moment, while you are in the middle of something else, is never the right time to deal with all those things.

So I would think of all the things I had to do (needed to do, wanted to do, still hadn’t done). And my next thought would be how I didn’t have time to do those things NOW.

And it began to create this cyclical existence where I felt like I never had time.

That extended itself into the rest of my life, so that my thought patterns--often subconscious--were all about the lack of time I had for what was important to me. That would then translate into feeling like I never had time for anything else... myself... my space... my marriage... my kids. No time for the important things. That’s how easily the cycle perpetuates itself.

The state of your home reflects the state of your mind.

This is how your life can come to feel so distracted and so busy. All the stuff you own vies for your attention. The more full your space is, the more full your mind is. The more distracted your mind is, the more distracted your life is. I know, because I’ve been there, and some days, I’m still there… in the midst of dealing with the unfinished items stacked up in my closet.

I’m in a place of equilibrium in the majority of my home, where my space is SO MUCH EASIER to maintain than it has ever been before (with 2 young kids in the house, that's really saying something!). It takes me 15 minutes to put things in their place at the end of the day, rather than a full hour (if I chose to pick up at all!). 

I love the things that surround me and, in turn, I lavish more attention and love on them.

We all have those places in our homes that feel overwhelming, where unfinished business piles up. Where are yours?

Go ahead. Take a look at the Bagua Map Guide and figure out what area of your life unfinished business collects in. Do you see parallels in your life? Will the connections you make inspire you to whittle away the hours of unfinished business weighing on your psyche?

Here's to Baby Steps for the Big Payoff,

:) Tenaya

P.S. Sometimes your spaces (whether it’s a closet, a garage, a full room, or an entire house) can feel so overwhelming, that you don’t know where to start, and so you never do. Stay tuned. Later this week, I’ll tell you exactly where to start and how to proceed.