UFOs: Learning to Let It Go

Oct 17 2017 Crocheting Knitting Spinning

UFOs: Learning to Let It Go

UFOs - not the flying saucer type. I'm talking about Unfinished Objects. The projects that we start, and for whatever reason, decide we don't want to finish. Except we don't really decide that we don't want to finish them - we let them languish for years, at the bottom of our queues. We turn them into "someday" projects ("Someday I'll finish this"). We hem, and we haw, and we don't really want to work on them, but we can't justify not finishing them. 

And why is that? Why can't we just throw up our hands, say it didn't work out, and be done with it? I think it comes down to two things: 

1. The Sunk-Cost Fallacy

If you're not familiar with the sunk-cost fallacy it basically goes like this:

    • The idea: We make rational decisions based upon the future value of something.
    • The reality: Once we invest in something, we make decisions based upon the value of our investment. 

Basically, this says that we like to think that we make rational decisions about something based upon the outcome of said thing - but in reality, we make (potentially irrational) decisions about something based upon how much we invest into said thing. Meaning that once we start working on something, it becomes harder and harder for us to abandon that thing the more work we put into it. So if we start working on a pair of socks and decide after an hour that we don't really like the pattern, or the pattern doesn't work with the yarn - well, it's only an hour that we lose, right? But say that we don't decide this after an hour. Say that we wait until about 10 hours in, and we're sick of looking at these socks and we hate the way that the yarn looks... we're less likely to abandon the project at that point. Why? Because we've already sunk 10 hours into the project, and we have a hard time justifying losing those 10 hours and starting over. 

And that's just a pair of socks! Think about shawls with intricate beadwork that can take 40 hours or more, or stranded colorwork or intarsia sweaters that can top 100 hours! 

So instead of accepting the 10, 40, or 100 hour loss... the project languishes. It remains unfinished. It drops lower and lower on your "to-do" list. It becomes the "someday" project... if you can stand to even look at it. But the more time that you put off doing it, another problem appears: 

2. Guilt

For a lot of people, there comes a "point of no return". You've let the sunk-cost fallacy get the better of you and you just can't bring yourself to frog that project, and so it sits there... in some cases for years. And the more it sits there, the more you barter with yourself... the more the guilt grows. Guilt for letting beautiful yarn languish and not be used. Guilt for letting the project sit for so long. So you pull out the project and (hopefully) decipher your notes, figure out where you were, and work a row. ...And if we're lucky, we race to turn the UFO into a finished object - only to hate it the entire time. We hate the way it looks, we hate the yarn we used, we hate how finicky the pattern was. Why did we bother finishing it in the first place? Or, if we're unlucky... we never finish, and the project goes back to the bottom of the pile.  

Let. It. Go. 🎵

Ultimately, I think we need to learn to "let go" a little more. So what if we sink 40 hours into a project? If we don't like the way it looks - let it go! Frog that sucker and use the yarn for something else. If you ultimately aren't going to enjoy the end result, and you aren't enjoying the process of making it, let it go! Chalk it up to a lesson learned, or practice at a certain skill. If the pattern is a problem - use a different pattern. If the yarn itself is a problem, find a pattern that works with the yarn, or get rid of the yarn. Maybe you thought that red yarn was pretty, but you find that when it's next to your skin it looks hideous! Or this fiber you're spinning looks beautiful as a braid, but not to your liking when all spun up. There's swap groups and sale groups galore - get rid of it, and get something that you love instead! Don't reach that guilt stage - and be okay with losing time to a project. Not everything is perfect, nor does it have to be. If a few projects end up as duds, let them go! Life is too short to hang onto projects that you need to justify working on and feeling terrible about them all the while.