I know – sounds crazy, right? What can a jigsaw puzzle teach anybody? But it did, so stay with me and I'll share everything.

I love puzzles but haven't put one together in quite a while. That's because I know myself, and I know that once I open the box and start spreading out the pieces, I won't do anything else – no working on my business, no housecleaning, no cooking, nothing! So, I've been avoiding the cabinet that houses at least five or six unopened puzzles. (I love Charles Wysocki Americana-style puzzles!)

But one rainy Sunday afternoon, I just couldn't resist any longer. I opened a 1000-piece puzzle. And then it began to unfold its magic for me.

Lesson #1: Puzzles are therapeutic.

As soon as I opened the box, I started to feel more relaxed. I forgot about everything else that had been on my mind. I just focused on the puzzle and all stress and worries melted away.

Lesson #2: Devising and implementing a system solves many problems.

Spreading out 1000 puzzle pieces is a daunting task. So, I had previously made puzzle boards. You can buy some on Amazon, but I cut large cardboard boxes into manageable sizes (less than 2′ x 3′) and hot-glued felt to them. Voila! I now had room to spread out the puzzle pieces so they would not slip off the surface, and they could be stacked as well for ease in accessing.

The next part of my system was to sort individual pieces by placing them on the puzzle board evenly in rows, while separating the edge pieces. This immediately felt so satisfying, like there was truly order in my life!

Puzzle pieces laid on boa

The next step was to complete the border of the puzzle, followed by starting on small sections for which the colors were clearly defined and could be easily seen and selected from the puzzle boards. As I began to look for puzzle pieces that fit, I referred often to the picture of the puzzle, always orienting it the same way as the puzzle frame. (I work on all sides of the puzzle, so I can see things from a different, and closer angle.)

Lesson #3: When you are faced with a problem that seemingly has no applicable solution, leave it alone for a while and come back to it later with a fresh view of the situation.

For instance, many times I was sure that a certain puzzle piece would be so easy to find, either by its distinctive color or shape. But having scanned those puzzle boards several times, it still didn't show up. So – I just moved on to another section of the puzzle and later that specific puzzle piece happened to be right there in front of me! Perhaps, one could call me a procrastinator sometimes, but I prefer to say that I'm “waiting for a vision”!

Lesson #4: When you've exhausted all options to solve a problem, regroup.

After about one-third of the way to puzzle completion, I noticed puzzle pieces were getting harder to find. So, I took a few minutes to re-organize each puzzle board. I put like puzzle pieces together – such as dark green leafy pieces, white sand ones, buildings, and animals. Then I could focus on the specific attribute of the puzzle piece for which I was looking. Worked like a charm! I started seeing the pieces easily. Then, I started consolidating the pieces onto fewer boards to make the search easier.

reorganize puzzle pieces


Lesson #5: Finishing a project is a joy in and of itself!

One (among many) of my shortfalls is excitedly starting many things, only to fizzle out before they are finished. But putting that last piece into the puzzle “sparks joy”, as Marie Kondo would say!

So – the final lesson to my puzzle story is this: when you find yourself stressed out and unable to see the next steps you need to take, stop and complete a jigsaw puzzle. It will make everything clearer!

finished puzzle

By the way, the total of unopened puzzles is up to 1 dozen – yep – 12 unopened puzzles just calling to me!!



This post was originally published September 28, 2019.

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I’m Vicki Peel, former home economics teacher and educational administrator. If you are not receiving my emails, coupons, and freebies, look for the Subscribe block (below right) and submit your contact information. I will not share your information with anyone, and all the content you will receive as part of our community is free. I may occasionally promote someone else’s paid content, offer a product for your consideration or share an item that I think might be of use to you. However, you are under no obligation to purchase anything – ever. So, sign up now so you won’t miss anything during our July through September focus on LIFESTYLE!