Working on That Last 10%

by Katy on October 1, 2011 · 16 comments

90% of a project is always doable, it’s the last 10% that will menace you for years to come. Perhaps there’s a part you don’t know how to complete, or maybe there’s simply a supply you don’t have. Either way, it’s easy to leave projects unfinished and yes, 90% completed.

I’m normally not a proponent of feng shui, (I’m too cynical to believe in the power of magical thinking) but there’s something to be said about having places in one’s home that unconsciously make you feel bad.

It takes energy to mask the thoughts of “Crap, I need to deal with that” every time you pass by an unfinished project. This is why I am loving my current focus on finishing up household projects.

So far I have:

  • Touched up the paint on the kitchen cupboards, which was badly chipping.
  • Painted the trim at the top of the stairs. My husband had primed some of it, and then stopped for some reason.
  • Took down the leaded glass doors of our built-in buffet and then scraped/scrubbed off the paint from the glass. And I even put them back up again!
  • Finally installed the drawer pulls on the built-in’s drawers. I bought these on eBay, oh . . . around ten years ago.
  • Refinished my bedside table.
  • Repainted one of the walls in the living room. The couch used to back up to this particular wall, and as result, it was horribly grubby. (Adorable, yet filthy hands do not improve one’s paint finish.)

None of these projects are anything that anyone else would notice as improved, but to me they are a huge release from feeling crappy about the myriad of 90% spaces in my home.

No longer will I walk through my living room and have thoughts about the filthy wall, and when I cook I no longer will be staring at a hole in the wall. And perhaps, maybe perhaps I can convert that 10% of annoyed mental energy into something positive, like ushering in world peace or setting fire to the piles of paperwork that plague my dining room.

Hey, I never said I was perfect.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

AnnDenee October 1, 2011 at 8:09 am

OH MY GOSH… I can soooo relate to this!! I have a whole drawer in my sewing/craft room devoted to “I’ll just finish this tomorrow”. And yes, it’s driving me nuts. I am devoting October to completing or tossing them all. Wish me luck! 😀


Dogs or Dollars October 1, 2011 at 8:09 am

I am a master of the last 10%. For some reason it’s the little things that I find the most gratifying. Just looking at your lists of accomplishments makes me look around for things I can strike of the Saturday small tasks list.

The huge project though, I hate.

This is quite fortunate in our household, because The Husband is a master of the 90%. He will do anything, and do it wonderfully and quickly, until its 90% done. Then its 6 months of me pleading for the remaining 10%. But, I never forget that 10%.

Nice work!


Megyn @Minimalist Mommi October 1, 2011 at 8:28 am

YES! I wrote about how amazing minute accomplishments are! We still have quite a few big projects that need to be done, but even getting a few of the smaller things done made quite a difference in my mood! I say what makes YOU feel better is what REALLY matters in life!


Sharon October 1, 2011 at 8:43 am

I love that feeling of finally dealing with something that’s been nagging at you for waaaay too long. It lets you take a deep breath. Congrats on knocking a few off the list. …Having said that, can I now ADD something to your list? (she says with slightly pained expression)…Would you move your kitchen fire extinguisher? It’s placement above your stove isn’t the best idea. If something’s on fire on top of the stove you’re not going to be able to reach the extinguisher. It’s great that you’ve got it where it’s visible every day but moving it away from the potential source of a fire makes it more usuable in an emergency.

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


Katy October 1, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Dang, you are so very right.



Adventures in Thrift Land October 1, 2011 at 11:32 am

In my Etsy business, I’m always bringing in stuff to list. I pull out the most interesting items from the boxes, but then, after a while, dregs settle to the bottom of my storage boxes. They’re things I don’t actually want to pitch, can’t really donate, but don’t get around to listing for one reason or another (cookie press disks for an unknown brand of cookie press, for instance). Oh, it takes so much energy to deal with the dregs, but when I do, it feels so good!


Jinger October 1, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Kudos! I was looking at my neglected porch tonight and your post inspired me to finish it! I’m ordering a lounge chair and finding a plant to fill the pot with dead wisps in it. Then on to spiffing up a shabby chair and finding the perfect outdoor rug and I’ll be all set. So, thanks!


Lucy October 1, 2011 at 5:59 pm

LOL, how did you know about our baseboards? Must be mystical powers after all….


Shannon Breen October 1, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Oh, that blasted 10%. I know exactly what you’re talking about. I should make a list of all not-quite-finished tasks and devote one day to completing them. I bet I’d feel 10 years younger…


Practical Parsimony October 1, 2011 at 8:43 pm

If a fire inspector came to your home, she would tell you to take the fire extinguisher from behind the stove. If you have a fire at the stove and want to use the fire extinguisher on cabinets or walls, you will not be able to reach the fire extinguisher. I think the recommendation is to have it near an exit to the room. You don’t want to be anywhere in the kitchen trying to use the fire extinguisher and not be able to back off and out immediately. I hope this is not taken as criticism. Your child might be the one trying to reach over flames to get the extinguisher.


Practical Parsimony October 1, 2011 at 8:44 pm

Oh, I see someone mentioned the extinguisher.


Shelley October 2, 2011 at 12:52 am

I’m in awe. Sadly, I don’t have that capacity to see things and be nagged by the sight – I was born without that bone. I have instead the capacity to see something out of place for only a short while and then it gets normalized somehow – until we have company. Then I see every single speck of what’s wrong and freak out about it. I did have an epiphany a few weeks ago, when Bill informed me the gas man would shortly arrive and that he would be checking the radiators IN EVERY ROOM, not just the relatively well groomed public spaces. I got up, threw on some clothes and left the house. I took a long walk and had a talk with myself about growing up (at 55). Since then, I’ve spent far less time online and loads more time at good old housework. The really weird thing is, the more I do it, the more I’m enjoying it. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to that last 10% – I’d define your projects as the .09% at the top of the pinnacle from where I’m standing – but I can see it would be incredibly satisfying. Thanks for the inspiration.


Alison October 3, 2011 at 5:35 am

I completely share your sense of how things that are out of order become normal. I waffle between knowing that it won’t take much to set things straight and feeling that a little disorder isn’t the worst thing. I could really use a kick in the pants!


Kimberly at Rubber Chicken Madness October 2, 2011 at 5:13 am

I figured out a while ago that procrastination is the greatest cause of stress in my life. Now, I just need to figure out how to stop doing it! Guess the answer is Just. Do. It. Right?


Molly October 2, 2011 at 9:01 am

I’m right there with you on the crappy feelings. We remodeled our house 5 years ago. We thought we were being so smart by making a punch list (AKA, the last 10%) and posting it on the refrigerator. It sat there until last year- I did a few items on the list and threw it away!


Margaret October 2, 2011 at 9:19 am

Thanks for the inspiration! We are struggling with this very topic right now. Just thinking about your freshly painted wall, trim and touched up cabinets motivates me to address our household projects.


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