How Young House Love is Helping Me to Complete That Last 10%

by Katy on November 30, 2012 · 45 comments

Living in a 1914 fixer-upper home is at once both satisfying and a special kind of hell. Yes, you get so much more house than if you’d bought a suburban turnkey property, but the never ending-ness of it all can be emotionally exhausting.

For me, the many 90% completed projects never seem to fade into the background, but my husband can somehow walk past that last 10% without batting an eye. He’s talented that way.

There are a number of tasks that are within my skill set, (Painting, organizing, etc.) but the carpentry, plumbing and construction jobs are far beyond what I can accomplish on my own.  As you might expect, my husband’s honey-do list is long enough to stretch from Constantinople to Timbuktu. Hiring these jobs out is a no-go, as my husband hates to hire other people to do what he could do for himself. But the poor guy works 44 hours per week, plus he coaches multiple soccer teams and sits on the board of two (maybe three?) different non-profit boards, so his free time is precious.

We tend to work on the house in fits and spurts, mostly motivated by deadlines of houseguests and television filming. I touched up paint, cleaned and organized when TLC filmed at the house, and I somehow magically convinced my husband that The Today Show would require pantry shelf installation.

The memories of appearing on The Today Show will fade with time, but those pantry shelves will last forever . . . .

We re-did our bathroom in 2004, installing a new tile floor, sink, lighting, medicine cabinet and paint. It looks great, but we somehow never installed the trim tiles that hide the space between the floor and the drywall. Even thought those specially purchased tiles are sitting ever-so patiently in our basement. (See above photo.)

However, I have a lovely looming deadline, which is that John and Sherry Petersik from Young House Love will be coming to Portland in January as part of their book tour and have said they would like to House Crash my home. (This is a feature where they go to people’s fixed up homes, take pictures and them share them on their popular blog.) I love a deadline, and am using this particular one to motivate some last-10% action.

I know that their schedule could change at any time, thus removing the Portland leg of their tour. But frankly that’s not even part of my mindset, as it’s the deadline that’s lighting a much needed fire under my complacent tuchus.

Young House Love + Photographing my house = Perfect Motivation.

So I’ll be borrowing a tile cutter from a co-worker, assembling the needed supplies and hauling the box of tiles up from the basement. Then it’s just a matter of locking my husband in the bathroom until he can prove that he’s completed the tile job.

Now, don’t you wish you were married to me?

Do you have an issue with the last 10% of household projects? Please share your stories in the comments section below, as I know I can’t be the only one who struggles this way.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa November 30, 2012 at 11:36 am

You’re a clever woman! My hat’s off to you! I’m going to give my husband fair warning that I’ll be inviting people with cameras to our house. Rather than 90/10, our house is more like 60/40.


Katy November 30, 2012 at 11:52 am

The 90/10 ratio is positive thinking at its best. 🙂 My husband says it’s 80/20.



Another Rebecca November 30, 2012 at 3:06 pm

YES! My husband also has the 80/20 selective vision. He is also a perfectionist and so tends to put off doing things he feels like he can’t “do” right. Even when his version of “wrong” is still way better than most people would do, and no one other than him or a construction specialist would ever notice.

I told him my goal for this year and next is to finish the projects we have started, not start any new ones if we don’t want, just finish the ones in progress.


Hannah November 30, 2012 at 11:41 am

You can do it, Katy! Best of luck!!! I look forward to seeing Casa Wolk-Stanley on Young House Love.


Megyn @Unstuffed November 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm

YES! We were at the 10% phase for almost 2 years of our not even 3 years of owning our house. But then my husband got a job two states away, so we had to complete EVERYTHING in two months. I still have no clue how we did it all, including replacing all of the baseboard, all interior doors, two custom tub surrounds, paint, small projects, etc. Once we got through everything, we just commented on how lazy we (ahem, my husband who was frequently nagged by yours truly) were on getting things done. And now we can not enjoy the fruits of our labor as it is now a rental. *facepalm*


kris November 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Yes, I waited for 11 months to have my husband grout the floors after laying ceramic tile and the motivation I used was I didn’t want all of our family coming over for our daughters 1st birthday party to see it unfinished. That worked.

He also built me a wonderful island for my kitchen. Of course I’m still waiting on him to laminate the countertop. 8 months & counting! Luckily I have 2 huge granite cutting boards that I work on so other than it just looking not so attractive, I manage to make it work.

But I love my ever so procrastinating husband of almost 21 years to death, so I just deal…honestly, I could have worse problems, lol.


Katy November 30, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I know. It’s a minor annoyance, nothing more.

But I just wonder what it would be like to not be mildly annoyed all the time.



kris November 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Right? Especially since my husband is a carpenter! Shouldn’t I be on the top of the list? lol


Chrissy November 30, 2012 at 9:04 pm

The cobbler’s children have no shoes!


Stephanie November 30, 2012 at 12:34 pm

My husband says he loses his love for the project at the last 5%. It’s pretty irritating for sure. We apparently don’t have enough important deadlines to motivate “us” to finish. Does young house love want to visit us in the suburbs of KC?


patti November 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I am cleaning out for a yard sale tomorrow and bemoaning all the “projects” I have waiting on me. It is enough to take YEARS to complete, but my New Year’s Resolution is to make a project list and start somewhere. You are motivating me to set some deadlines so I can’t make any excuses.


Elaine in Ark December 3, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Patti, start with some easy ones that you can complete quickly. That feeling of accomplishment will help you with the others (says the woman whose kitchen is 3/4 painted and has no husband, ergo no one to blame). However, I have found this tactic to be helpful in the past.


Kim November 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Well, this is very embarrassing to admit, but I had new tile put in my bathroom, along with a new sink and floor about 16 years ago. I scraped some grout into the holes and slapped some primer on the walls, but never got around to painting them until the fall of 2011. It looked awful, nothing matched, and I hated to have guests over. What finally motivated me to finish was a visit from my daughter’s long-time penpal from the United Kingdom.

Think about it; my daughter was in 4th grade when we started that bathroom and she was two years out of college when we finished. And now we need a new floor again… If I start now maybe I can get it done before I turn 75.


Diane November 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm

We always joke about the two percent– the remaining two percent of a project we just never got around to completing. As on of our new year’s resolutions we said we’d get better about it. Only one of the projects was able to be fully crossed off.

Good luck!! Can’t wait to read about the house crashing!


Martha November 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Don’t get me started… I am trying not to be bitter, we have remodeled this house since 1984(another century ago) and now are finishing up all the 10% projects so we can move out.


Nicole November 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm

My husband sees the last 10% (or 20%, 30%) which I am oblivious to. I try hard but never hard enough.


Kristen | The Frugal Girl November 30, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Ooh, how exciting, Katy! That will be so fun.

This is sort of like how having company over motivates me to clean up my house to a degree I don’t normally. Amazing how well that works.


greenstrivings November 30, 2012 at 11:35 pm

It works so well that sometimes I look at the messy house and then pick up the phone and invite friends to dinner so that we will be forced to clean!


Katy December 1, 2012 at 9:32 am

I love that, I think I’ll try it myself!



Elaine in Ark December 3, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Me, too!!

I invited 4 people over for Sunday dinner after church next week, and I want to have all my Christmas decorations up, the meal prepared on Saturday (no idea what to make, though), and the whole house cleaned by then. I hope that the dazzling decorations and fabulous food will distract them from the unpainted 1/4 of my kitchen.


Trish November 30, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Thank goodness there are others like me. We ripped out all the carpet on our second floor in 2002. We still haven’t decided what to replace it with – we have 4 dogs who have scratched our cypress floors in the living room, so I am looking for a dog proof solution. But I also have to strip baseboards of ugly crackling paint in 2 bedrooms before floors can go down. and I have no motivation to do so.


Lori November 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Okay – good to know I’m not the only one….My son started college this fall after having gone his entire K-12 years in a bedroom with no baseboards. Now I *almost* feel bad – if I completed this now he would wonder why I was so lame for all those years…!


Elinor November 30, 2012 at 3:39 pm

My dad is like that with selective project vision. My parents redid/expanded the kitchen in their 1850s farmhouse a couple years ago, which my dad did nearly single-handedly – down to framing/drywalling the extension inside and out and building all the cabinets. It was truly awe-inspiring. But several years later he still hasn’t installed final pieces of trim and there are still drywall spots that look funky. They just don’t bother him, but make my mom crazy!

Can’t wait to see your house crashed! Hope it’s fun!


Erin November 30, 2012 at 4:04 pm

My two favorite blogs colliding!!!!! This is so exciting!


charli November 30, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Yes your poor husband seems a little like mine. We lived in the same house 14 years and it was so full of incomplete jobs. I lived without front stairs for 7 years. We had kids and they never knew there even was a front door as it had been locked for the 1st 5 or more years of their lives! I didn’t have a toilet roll holder next to our only toilet for years either as my husband would not drill into asbestos. We eventually moved house. I was so thrilled with the little things in the new house like being able to have a proper toilet roll holder on the wall and doors on the kitchen cupboards. I hear your frustration! It does make you all the more thankful with each little completion though.


Steph November 30, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I follow but usually don’t post but I just HAD to when I read this. We’ve lived in a 1912 house for the last 7 years and every single room has 80% projects. We have no storage in the bathroom,everything balances on pedestal sinks, the toilet paper roll fell down in 2008, so the toilet paper roll now resides on the towel ring (too high, of course, for my 4 yr old to reach from the toilet). The ceiling tiles in the “finished” basement just never got put in (some tiles are there .. Others are not … and are mostly where tall people can at stick their heads) and on and on and on.
I’m so glad I’m not the only one! (And I am type A super finisher)

I am seriously wondering if this is supposed to teach me a lesson I haven’t learned. Unending patience.


Jo H. November 30, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Hanging my head in shame – I am the one who starts projects and never finishes them – until a deadline. Thank god for those, is all I can say 🙂


Chrissy November 30, 2012 at 9:10 pm

This is way more motivating than playing Martha Stewart is coming over! Love YHL. Looking forward to this.


Katy November 30, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Glad to see you’ve memorized all my blog posts. 😉



pat December 1, 2012 at 3:32 am

I’ve been waiting 23 YEARS for my husband to finish the tile surround on our fireplace. When he started it we even paid ‘rush’ fees to get the tiles quicker and yet 23 years later they still sit in our basement waiting for installation. I figure they won’t go up until we move to a retirement home. I have hired out other jobs that I’ve grown weary of waiting on over the years. If I hire someone for the fireplace though I think I’d go with different tiles now, those ones seem so dated and out of style now.


Anne Weber-Falk December 1, 2012 at 6:01 am

Crack myself up! I looked at that picture twice trying to figure out what was wrong with it and didn’t see it. That is because my bathroom looks just like yours! I am like your husband in that if I think we should be able to do it ourselves then I won’t hire out. Of course my kitchen and bathroom and master bedroom all look like your bathroom. Someday my 10%will get done too. First it’s time to repaint the downstairs.


Rachel in Portland December 1, 2012 at 7:45 am

About ten years ago, when we painted our house, my husband decided to save money by painting the third color for the accent trim himself. He finished the front, started the north side, and then put the paint brush in the freezer so he could take a break. I kept that frozen paint brush for years and would occasionally wave it at him. He would just laugh. As I am now. That said, it’s time to paint the house again and I think I will budget for the third color.


Jennifer @ Little Blog in the Big Woods December 1, 2012 at 8:01 am

Ha! I guess that is good motivation to get busy! I mean I get a bit crazy cleaning and organizing just for company, but if cameras were coming into my house. Whoa, let’s just say there would be a frenzy of work!!


Jen December 1, 2012 at 8:45 am

Oh yes, us two. Added on 5 years ago–the trim still isn’t finished, nor the stairs. I HATE finish carpentry and am lousy at it but there’s no $$$ in the budget for hiring and I’m tired of nagging so will be putting my nose to the grindstone after the holidays.


Jacquelyn December 1, 2012 at 8:55 am

Omg, yes! I had to read parts of this out loud to my husband, because it’s like you are describing us! I am glad we aren’t the only ones. I’ve recently told him he is not allowed to start any new projects until he finishes the ones that have been sitting at 90% for years. We’ll see how this goes…


Betty Winslow December 1, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Gutted and completely replumbed bathroom, necessating using the neighbor’s shower for weeks and a 5 gallon bucket for a toilet for months, with the results dumped into the septic tank regularly; an extra shelf in my glasses cabinet took two yrs to make; however, I’m just as bad – started a jeans quilt for younger son when he was about 10 – he’s 28 now, still not done. Wouldn’t trade Mr. 10% for anything….. 40 yrs and counting and worth every minute!


emmer December 1, 2012 at 4:17 pm

so, i hope you have more than one bathroom–if dh is going to be locked into the only…i forsee new problems. 🙂
the best thing about UFOs (unfinished objects) is that a small amount of concentrated effort can produce a whole lotta finished projects quickly. you have already done most of the work and you already have the materials and tools to finish.
aren’t deadlines wonderful? i cook supper every wednesday eve for a rotating group of friends. in part, it helps make sure the house is picked up weekly and a large quantity of food is cooked so that there are leftovers for later in the week.


Joyce December 1, 2012 at 6:49 pm

It’s exactly the same in my house. My house is just as old. And that base board problem is in my kitchen. It’s a good thing we love them.


Rosa December 2, 2012 at 1:29 am

My projects end up, like, 50% done, so it’s hard to snark on the husband…but he “finishes” things that are not actually finished, and wipes them out of his mind. We had unattached paneling on the kitchen wall for a YEAR after he finished the plumbing in that wall.

So, I give him a deadline. The idea of hiring someone gives him such pain, I put a date on the 10% after which I will hire someone. So far that’s caused every one of those projects to get done – for the kitchen wall I really did hire an out of work friend, but mostly the idea of someone else installing our linoleum or whatever makes him finish the thing. (We have tile behind our stove now, too! After Christmas we may install the ceiling in the kitchen…going on 4 years for this remodel.)


Amy W December 2, 2012 at 1:52 pm

My husband also works a very stresssful job as a firefighter/first responder/EMT, 54 hours per week. I may ocasionally ask my husband if he can help me with some small things, but have made a very conscious choice not to ever create a “honey-do” list. By default, my husband takes on a lot of projects in our 1937 house, but it is his choice. I would much rather work extra hours and hire someone than monopolize his time with “projects.” Though my husband still does a tremendous amount of work around the house, he has now found time to take on new hobbies like building furniture and scandanavian wood carving. Balance is the key and frugality should not trump over the quiet enjoyment that hobbies bring or a lazy day in front of the fire watching football and eating take-out from a great deli.


Gretchen December 3, 2012 at 3:55 am

We have a saying at our house:
The first 90% of a project takes 90% of your time. The last 10% takes another 90%.
This is particularly true of moving and home improvement. (We move frequently so we do very little home improvement.)


Katy December 3, 2012 at 10:14 am

“The first 90% of a project takes 90% of your time. The last 10% takes another 90%?”

I love, love, love that!



Vicki December 3, 2012 at 8:29 pm

AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! Best day ever! My two favorite blogs – together at last!
Did you buy their book? I keep hoping my library will get it, so I can at least preview it before committing the cash and the space.


Dawn-elle Paul December 12, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Mama needs new undies


Betty Winslow January 5, 2013 at 7:49 am

How is it that a shelf can take two years to do, but a platform for the too-short Xmas tree we bought takes 30 minutes the same day? Oh, well, my own resolution this year is to do the remaining 10% on all the projects I have laying around, or else get rid of them. Wish me luck!


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