A couple of months ago I undertook a long term household project to build a large outdoor entertainment area including a deck, pergola and various other niceties. I did not have the all the skills necessary to complete this project all on my own, and had planned to contract out a professional to complete the project tasks that I was unable to.

During the course of the project I made a friend on an online community that possessed the skills required to finish the project, and very kindly offered to help me complete the project for free.

About a month or two ago, we were about half way through the project, but he became busy and had to work on other things. I shelved the project for a while, but a few unfortunate circumstances came up in my own life (financial concerns, time, and career-related duties), and it became clear that I was unable to complete the project. My best course of action, for myself, was to stop the project and sell off all the materials etc that I had acquired. This has now been done.

During this time, I had not spoken to my friend at all, as we were both busy with our lives but recently he has messaged me inquiring about the status of the project and offered to come and help me out again during his spare time.

Obviously, the project no longer exists, and I have not told him as such yet. I'd like to tell him that I've scrapped the project without offending him or have him thinking that I scrapped it because he stopped helping me or because I thought his work was not high quality (on the contrary), and basically tell him I was unable to continue the project due to my own circumstances. I'd also like to come across as thankful for his help and also offer my own help (as he is working on a similar project).

How can I get all of these thoughts into words?

EDIT based on comment:

  • My friend did not help pay for any of the materials.
  • 9
    "... stop the project and sell off all the materials etc that I had acquired." Did your friend help pay for any of these expenses? Apr 24, 2018 at 13:37

2 Answers 2


I believe that you missed an important step right here:

My best course of action, for myself, was to stop the project and sell off all the materials etc that I had acquired. This has now been done.

The best moment to tell your friend was, IMO, just before doing that.

Now that it's gone, you still have a way out. I would just tell the truth. The parts you'll disclose are up to you (such as financial concerns, time, and career-related duties).

Hi "Bob". Thanks for asking, and sorry about the delay and the lack of update. I've been very busy lately, due to [ what you choose to tell Bob and disclose ].

Unfortunately, I had to end the project 1. I don't think I'll work on it again, anytime, anymore. I really appreciate all the help I received and the good moments we shared.

I am unable to continue the project due to my own circumstances. It has nothing to do with you or your work or anything else.

I've enjoyed what we did together, and, if you need and want help from me, I'll be really glad to help you with your own project, when my schedule will allow it.

This way, you really put emphasis on the good parts you shared, and don't put any blame on Bob. And you even offer to help him if you can. In other words (actually, yours, because I mostly just took your true and good arguments from your OP), you just tell him that it's because of you and the circumstances of life. Hey, *** happens :)

1 suggested in comments by @Lot

  • 16
    I like the answer in general, but would change "At this very moment, I think it's best for me to end the project." to "Unfortunately, I had to end the project". Otherwise he might offer to end the project for you, and it will get awkward for you when you have to mention you actually alread got rid of stuff.
    – Lot
    Apr 24, 2018 at 8:29
  • 12
    I would suggest not saying the phrase " It has nothing to do with you or your work or anything else. " Since the friend never asked why did he stop, because he doesn't know yet. In my opinion, saying that could hint him the other way around.
    – Paul Karam
    Apr 24, 2018 at 12:21
  • @PaulKaram : I'm no sure about this actually. People happen to overthink this kind of things, so I realized that it's often better to put soothing balm before it starts hurting :)
    – OldPadawan
    Apr 24, 2018 at 15:18
  • 5
    @OldPadawan "But why are you putting soothing balm on my knee? I'm not hurt! Wait, am I? Oh my god, is my knee broken? What did I do?" Jokes aside, I'm with PaulKaram on this, saying that without any solicitacion will probably do more damage than good imho Apr 24, 2018 at 15:52

Your mindset should be such that you put the worry away first, before formulating anything.

You did what you did. Your route of action seemed to be the best at that point in time, and you acted as you saw fit. The fact that your friend (!) helped you (and the fact that you found a friend through this shared activity) is much more important than the scraps of wood you got rid of.

So, freely and openly tell him that you scrapped it. Avoid any justifications, apologies or whatnot. Take good care so that none of your answer sounds in any form or fashion like it was his fault (something he did or did not do). Then you'll be good.

IMO it is a sign of strength to be able to find a "cutoff" point for projects like this. I'd wish I'd be more able to do such things, I have so many half-finished small projects in my basement that I just don't find the time to abort gracefully. I am very sure that your friend will understand.

Just for reference, things like this happen all the time; a similar case is when you get some present (like that unwieldy fake Ming Vase etc.) that just does not fit into your life. It's no use thinking long about what they could think about the fact you got rid of the vase (or the pergola...). It is done, they will find out the next time they visit you either way, so just tell them.


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