The Non-Consumer Advocate’s Last 10% Challenge

by Katy on January 9, 2013 · 41 comments

10 Challenge

Have you ever noticed that the first 90% of a project takes 90% of your time and that the last 10% takes another 90%?

Yup. It’s true.

And for those of us who live in fixer-upper homes, that last 10% actually takes another 110%! (At this point I totally understand if mathematical types need to switch off their computers. I won’t be offended.)

Living in an in-process home drives me a bit crazy, as pretty much every room in the house has a least two to three projects that are 90% completed. For example:

  • The trim around the fireplace is missing in one spot.
  • The vent above the stove was never installed.
  • The shingles around the back door never got installed.

I could go on and on, (and on) but I know you’ll have to get on with your lives at some point. Keep in mind that we bought our house in 1996, so having enough time is off the table as an excuse.

I’ve recently been making a concerted effort to attack that last 10%, which has often gone unfinished because my husband and I are unsure of how to proceed. Either we don’t possess the skill or can’t decide on the design or simply don’t have the money to spare. However, that last 10% is often unfinished because it’s become invisible, part of the landscape of our busy lives.

I am proposing a Last 10% Challenge, where you and I attack all those unfinished projects that litter our homes. Your 10% will be different from my 10%, and it’s totally okay if it veers 180° from mine. And I totally give you permission to abandon any projects you’ve moved beyond. Just make sure to get them out of sight.

So, are you in? Do want the extra kick in the arse motivation to demolish your to-do list?

Write your 10% projects in the comments section below and together we can live our lives without a million unfinished projects crushing our spirits.

90% yours,

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Tammy/psmflowerlady January 9, 2013 at 4:27 am

So. IN. I knit for charity and currently have a BOXload of finished goods. SOME need the ends of the yarn woven in, but they’ve all been washed and just need those few ends woven and tagged with size, etc. info and shipped. People are cold and Need my woolen goodies. They’re made for goodness sake – I just need the wee bit to get them shipped. Duh. Also – 2 blankets for local homeless – only one has about 4 ends to weave in and deliver. Also – put away flower pots – it’s winter – duh! I am so finishing-challenged that I really need an intervention. But I’ll start with what I’ve listed (starting I’m good at!).


Hannah January 9, 2013 at 5:08 am

I got this awesome antique stand-alone kitchen cupboard from my grandmother’s house. It was a HUGE ordeal to rescue it from her just-shy-of-hoarder’s kitchen: she lives a long way away, I had to find a truck that would fit it, I had to clean it out of all of the STUFF that was stashed in it. But it will fit perfectly in my kitchen, and I will be the fifth generation of women in my family to have had it. So the hardest part is done! Since then, it’s been sitting in my garage, waiting for me to scrub it down (my grandmother smokes and the cupboard is seriously dingy). I am going to GET IT DONE by the end of this month!!! Murphy’s Oil Soap, here I come…


Katy January 9, 2013 at 6:48 am

I was impressed with how Magic erasers and vinegar transformed this dresser:



Hannah January 9, 2013 at 7:09 am

Do you think that would work for nicotine-stained white paint?


Katy January 9, 2013 at 7:18 am

Hmm . . . not sure if the vinegar would mess up the paint.



Sherry January 9, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Katy, my impression is that the vinegar was only used in the drawers to remove the musty smell, not on the outside surface with the Magic Eraser.

Elaine in Ark January 9, 2013 at 1:30 pm

I agree with Sherry. That’s what I got from the blog post.

I’m keeping it in mind, too. My sister has some old wood pieces that were my parents, and I KNOW she hasn’t cleaned them, ever.

Katy January 9, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Ack, you’re right! The vinegar was only used on the inside.


Emily January 9, 2013 at 5:15 am

This has been my goal for this month – I just didn’t know what to call it! I painted my kids’ bedrooms last year but both have some little projects before they are officially complete. Yesterday I made a hidey-hole reading nook under my 8 year old’s table. Today I will finally assemble the pendant lamp and paint the type trays that we bought last summer. The 10% I’m dreading is cutting and painting a few pieces of floor trim. I installed a new floor and baseboards in the kitchen in 2011 so I do really need to get on that!


Tamara January 9, 2013 at 7:11 am


I will actually get our car out on the lawn to sell it. I’ve cleaned it, gotten a few items repaired, gotten our other car in driving condition, and even gathered the materials to make signage. Now to just do it! Sheesh!


Jenne January 9, 2013 at 8:15 am

Oh my god. I couldn’t begin to list my unfinished projects here—it would take over your blog! Like you, I have a million old house-related bits to finish, but the other bad areas are art projects and sewing. Maybe if I try to do one of each every month? I’d like to be able to finish something on each list every week, but that doesn’t seem likely.


Renee CA January 9, 2013 at 8:31 am

OMGoodness! You hit the nail on the head. Just before Christmas I told myself that I absolutely HAD to finish several crochet projects that have been stashed for years. Like Tammy above, I just bog down when it comes to finishing. Happy to say I have finished one afghan.

Another huge (for me) project this year is to go through about 40 years of photographs. I have a plan to:

(a) pull out all the photos that are meaningful to me and put them in pretty much date order by year,

(b) let the kids go though the rest and

(c) toss what is left over.

It has taken me a couple of years to be ok with the tossing. Several bloggers have helped me with that decision. I have a table set up for the project and plan on dealing with one box at a time.


Mauren January 9, 2013 at 9:21 am

Started our closet re-do project in October. I moved everything out of the walk in closet to our daughter’s room and painted it. Then I put the shelving up and cleaned out the dressers and put everything onto the shelves. In the meantime, I had taken all the summer clothes and put them in ugly mis-matched boxes and plastic containers and stuck them in my daughters old room. On Dec. 31, I took all the un-used clothes to Goodwill (task #1). My next step is to match all the boxes by putting contact paper on them and labeling them with pretty labels. This way the closet will look like an expensive redo when all it really was was paint, shelves and some contact paper. But putting the contact paper on the boxes is a big pain, and I haven’t wanted to start. Well hubby is out of town and I did take 3 boxes into the TV room to work on them last night while I watched TV. Hubby will be back on Saturday, so I have to have more than 3 boxes done by then. I mean it has been since October!!!

I will finish within a month because I’d like to get the rest of the trash out of my daughter’s room so hubby can have his own space — daughter has been out of the house for 4 years already!


Renee CA January 9, 2013 at 9:28 am

Love, love apple boxes for storage. I had a friend that painted them to make them all match. Never tried it. Good for you and contact paper….I bet it will look lovely.


Katy January 9, 2013 at 9:30 am

We painted crates when I was a kid, and I still use two of them in my house.



Mauren January 9, 2013 at 6:36 pm

These are old copier paper boxes. I must have a dozen or so. I’m hoping my closet will look prett and expensive even though it wasn’t. Hubby doesn’t really care other than he doesn’t have to fumble to pull clothes out of the drawers.


Sue January 9, 2013 at 10:06 am

2013 is the year! I will finally unpack ALL my boxes from my last move (Dec 2011). I will no longer live in a space that looks like a storage locker (after 15+ years of that practice!! Holy moley.). I’m down to the last 10% — time to get it done!
That means:
– unpacking and purging paper files (and starting to scan those that need back up or can keep as e instead of paper)
– Making final decisions for that last box of unpacked books – keep or sell!
– Gather up all my decor items and knick knacks, decide keep vs purge and box up anything I won’t use in my current [temporary] rental and put it in storage (max one box).
– Review and purge craft supplies (fabric and yarn, yarn, yarn – it multiplies when you’re not looking!)
– However, I give myself permission to ignore the large box of photos until the very end of the process because that’s a super time suck and absolute momentum killer! That’ll be its own project separate from everything else.

Even though this apartment is a temporary home until I achieve my dream of owning (soon I hope!), doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be nice. Time to treat my home with respect so I feel comfortable and relaxed there.


Katy January 9, 2013 at 10:29 am

Sounds great, good luck! And yes, I agree that going through photos is a time suck.



Renee CA January 9, 2013 at 4:02 pm

I wish everyone felt that way about their rented home. We certainly did when we rented. Now we own rental property and appreciate so much when people treat their temporary home, no matter how long they are there, with care.


Barb @ 1SentenceDiary January 9, 2013 at 11:44 am

Photos are a serious time suck, however, that’s the biggest of my projects. I have two partly finished shutterfly albums that my mom is waiting for. Those are high on the list.

Also on the list, finishing the “estate planning.” Not that we have much of an “estate” but we need the official paperwork and documentation. We’ve made all the decisions (which is the hard part) and we need to finish it with the lawyer and sign the papers.

Although I have a million more things on my 10% list, I’m going to stop there and just GET THOSE DONE!

Thanks for the kick in the arse. 🙂


Elaine in Ark January 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Ok, you didn’t specifically say “Elaine in Ark, I’m talking to you!”, but I know that’s what you meant.

I began painting my kitchen about 4 months ago. It looks great! However, I stopped when I got to the “hard part” – the cupboards above the stove, and the refrigerator area. I know it’s going to be difficult to paint above those cupboards because they’re deeper than the others, and I don’t have anyone to help me move the fridge, so that’s hard, too.

I accept your challenge and vow to have my kitchen painting finished by Valentine’s Day. Or Easter. One of those days…


emmer January 9, 2013 at 3:35 pm

sigh, i have 28 UFOs. that would be 28 UnFinshed Objects–sewing projects, much of it quilting projects–that remain undone. some i ran into a problem. some i decided i didn’t like the colors. some the reason for making evaporated. so, i would like to finish some, not all. maybe one i don’t like for a sewing guild charity project, and one that would finish a garment for me, and one from the mending basket for dh. and one of the small projects for the bay window seat hat have been in limbo for at least a year.this month. it could happen. 🙂


Barb January 9, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Emmer…last year I pulled out a ton of quilting and sewing projects along with fabric I knew that I would never use and gave them ALL away. I ran an ad on Craig’s List and described the stash that I offered free to a good home. Within minutes a mom / daughter combo asked for them and they were thrilled with the 5 or 6 grocery sacks of goodies I handed over. It turns out they make quilts for charity so I felt doubly good about my purge. I have to say that I haven’t regretted getting rid of anything and now I am just left with projects that I really want to finish. I encourage you to cast a critical eye on your UFOs and see if they are deserving of your time and energy!


Megan January 9, 2013 at 4:01 pm

I have a lot of those and I’ve just realized how many because we’re scurrying around trying to get the house updated for an appraisal. My list includes:
replace missing quarter round trim
scrape accumulated paint off the textured window in the bathroom
poly the windows in the upstairs bedroom
paint the upstairs bedrooms
These are tasks left over from when we bought our house two years ago that just didn’t get done. (We had 1 month to fix up our fixer upper and to move in.) It’d be nice to see these accomplished this year.


Rachel C January 9, 2013 at 4:33 pm

“In” in Wisconsin. I have too many projects to list here, but this is the year to get some of them done!


Alison January 9, 2013 at 5:57 pm

I ‘m in too, and I have a time crunch! Want to put the house on the market March 1. So better get busy. We moved in here eight years ago, and although we have a new kitchen, two new bathrooms and a new laundry room, there is always more to do! Paint touch ups, mouldings needing replaced or painted, floors needing refinished (thanks to the dog), etc. Not to mention going thru the boxes of miscellaneous papers from the LAST move, that I refuse to move again. Good luck everyone!


Lois January 9, 2013 at 6:02 pm

I’m in. I keep getting more things to work on and have been moving from one thing to the next. I have 2 items in almost done stage, one not yet started and some cross stitch to finish. I’m accepting your challenge to see how much I can get finished by the end of the month. Thanks for the kick in the a**


Cluttered Mama @ The Cluttered House January 9, 2013 at 8:07 pm

We’ve just moved (6 months ago) into a fixer, but our last house was full of 90% projects. Being in the new house, we are not without our 90% projects. That is part of why I started Organize-a-palooza on my blog. Kitchen. Not enough cabinets, poorly put together, and I still have like 5 unpacked boxes. TAckling those. Then the office… half unpacked, and then stuff shoved into places it doesn’t belong. Teaching files that I have been meaning to weed through and scan or file. The linen closets where yet another round of boxes needs to be unpacked and stuff needs to be put to rights…
And I need to get my sweet “new” O’Keefe & Merritt stove moved into my kitchen. Did what Hannah did with her cabinet- all the work to get it and haul it home, and then just left it sitting in a storage shed.


Katy January 9, 2013 at 8:11 pm

I am suffering from some serious stove-envy.



Cluttered Mama @ The Cluttered House January 9, 2013 at 8:15 pm

And I got it for $50. And it isn’t trashed or anything. It is awesome.


Cluttered Mama @ The Cluttered House January 9, 2013 at 8:18 pm

And I got it for $50. And it isn’t trashed or anything. It is awesome.


Joanna January 10, 2013 at 7:45 am

I’m in, too! 2 projects – photos and furniture! I have to finish uploading photos to our family’s shared photo blog (stalled in 2011, restarted and got through to July 2012, then stalled again). And by the end of this weekend I am going to reclaim my dining room – the new (antique) cabinet will be brought in from the garage, it will be cleaned a la YHL, and all the china that is currently parked on my dining room table will be returned to a proper home in a proper breakfront!


Jaime January 10, 2013 at 8:30 am

I have a boat load of stuff need to do but I’ve going to focus my energy on my house. Every room is only partially decorated!! I’m going to get on that!!


Rebekka Boysen Taylor January 10, 2013 at 9:07 am

We have saved money for passports, now we need to go get them!
Also on our list- declutter ALL of our closets, regrout the tub, meet with a banker about general family finance, and write an updated will.
You can see why these are our last 10%!


Katy January 10, 2013 at 9:14 am

That’s a big 10% list. Just hit everything one at a time.



Lisa January 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Count me in too! My two biggest things are specific paperwork tasks and scheduling some testing and getting some bids. I’ve put off the paperwork because I need to go through the foot high stack on the desk and several boxes to find all the pieces; there are about 10 different paperwork tasks that need to be completed. The scheduling of testing and bids requires other people be available and coordinate schedules; some of these are unpleasant emotionally and require everyone to buck up, not easy. However, I will commit to getting ALL the paperwork done (go through the stack just once) and at least getting all the testing/bids appointments scheduled.


Shannon January 10, 2013 at 2:00 pm

My downstairs bathroom has never been painted even though the rest of the downstairs has been painted twice. I spackled dings in the wall two years ago, then basically stopped. I have spare paint, I’m gonna do it!


patti January 11, 2013 at 7:44 am

Since you posted this, I have been trying to do 100% to begin with… ie: after writing and mailing the bills, filing the leftover papers. I used to just stack them in a box for “some other time”. I am going to continue to finish what I start and strive to finish up one of my UFOs every week. Thanks for the inspiration!!


Katy January 11, 2013 at 8:51 am

I think it’s Peter Walsh who says to “Complete the cycle.”



Joellyn March 16, 2013 at 7:33 am

My friend Emily W. just told me about this challenge because I just posted on my blog about my own 10% list. We are remodeling our entire house room by room, so our 10% list is a mile-and-a-half! Writing it down (and color-coding it by who’s responsible) definitely helps it feel less overwhelming. I just checked off one of my husbands items by doing it myself. Ha ha. 🙂


Katy March 16, 2013 at 8:42 am

Welcome, and I think your husband owes you a favor now.



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