Personal Posts

I’m A Starter…Not A Finisher

Last Updated on December 25, 2015 by Kristi Linauer

When it comes to projects around the house, do you actually see them through to completion?

I don’t.  And it’s the part of my personality that I hate the most.

I would need a highly trained psychologist to tell me exactly what my problem is, but when I get a home improvement project about 90% complete, there’s something that clicks in my brain, and I lose interest in that project and want to move on to something else.  I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember, and it’s the very reason that I don’t have even one single finished room in my condo.

Remember my bedroom?  I got the closet finished.

But if you look closely, you’ll see that the trim on the walls has dabs of wood filler that isn’t sanded, and the trim is unpainted.  There are no baseboards either.  And the other side of the room?  I started building new closets on either side of the bed…

We won’t even talk about how long it was that I started working on my bedroom.  It’s way too embarrassing.  But these projects remain unfinished to this day.

Remember my hallway and utility closet?

I’m soooo close to having this finished, but there are lots of small projects that need attention.  My diy light needs repair, trim needs to be installed an finished.  I need handles and pulls on the cabinets, and the door to my bedroom needs to be fixed and painted.  Oh, and then there’s the floor, which is still ungrouted.

My kitchen and breakfast room are the same song, different verse.  Unpainted trim, small projects left unfinished.

See?  I get so close to finishing, and then it’s almost as if I lose interest.  I’m sure one of you psychologist types could root around in the DSM-IV and find a clinical name for this mental condition that I obviously have.  😀

When a project gets to that 90% completion mark, at that point I can tell if it’s going to turn out like I envisioned it in my head.  It’s almost like I’m perfectly fine with just the knowledge that the project is going to be fantastic when it’s finished.  Once I know for sure that the potential is there (which happens around the 90% mark), I lose interest and am ready to move on to something else.

It’s my biggest and most irritating personality flaw…and it’s irritating even to me.  I need to either learn how to become a finisher (perhaps with some therapy…LOL) or become best friends with a finisher who loves to do free work for her new best friend.

So are you a starter?  Or are you a finisher?  If you’re like I am, do your projects just remain unfinished, or do you just force yourself to finish them?  And more importantly, is there a support group for people like us?

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 9:24 am

    We have exactly the same problem in our house. We started our stair project about a year and a half ago and it’s not done yet. The nursery Phase 1 is done, but who knows when we will get to Phase 2 and 3. We did finish our downstairs bathroom, but that room is like 3 feet by 4 feet, so it wasn’t too hard to finish!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Oh my gosh, for a second I swore you wrote this post about me! I have that exact same personality flaw and that exact same irritation about said flaw. If you figure out the cure please let me know!

    P.S. If it makes you feel any better, no room in my house is finished either. I need to sand down filler on trim and then paint it in several rooms and the sanding block even sits on the floor right next to the trim, reminding me every day. And every day I walk by it, it’s almost to the point I forget it’s there and not some random decoration. 😉

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I’m a starter, but my husband nags me until I finish, lol. I totally understand though, I get halfway through a project and then get some new fabulous idea and move on. I think it’s just a creative person thing, your not weird!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Tee Jay
      May 29, 2012 at 10:21 am

      Ashley’s post is spot on. You get a fab new idea, and move on…. it’s part of the creative process; albeit an undesireable one, for most people. We get so far into it, but we’ve already been “seeing” the finished product in our heads for quite some time, and we get bored with the materialistic / physical part of it because the “finished idea” has been in our heads for sooo much longer. LOL! It’s a trait of creative people… lots of info online about it. 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Starter definitely. I get all these ideas in my head and then weeks *cough* months later I have a half finished desk waiting to be painted in the garage and a whole lot of embroidery hoops in the basement waiting to be made into a pendant light. Then one day I get mad that they’re all not done and try to do them all at once, which usually ends in disaster.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 10:00 am

    When I unexpectedly found myself needing to move for work, I was SO sorry I had done this in just about every room of my house. There were SO many “small” projects (and a couple recently started, not even close to finished big projects) that it was a LOT of work to get it ready for market. I only got to enjoy 8 weeks of my finished house where all the details were finally done. I’ve said that I will never do that again. I swore that once I get a new house, I’m *definitely* going to make myself finish a project before I start a new one. (I still have permission to leave a project unfinished for as long as I like, but I can’t start a new one.) Just writing it cracks me up because I bet I won’t be in the new place for a month before I’ve already broken the new rule, LOL.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      May 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm

      lol. Lori, I had the same situation happen to me this past fall. Lots of little projects that we kept passing on for the “Big” or “New” ideas. I guess we just got use to them and didn’t see them. Then we decided to sell the house. We had about 3-4 weeks to get the house ready to show, and I can’t tell you how many 2am nights it took to get it ready. When it was all done, we almost didn’t want to leave. We kicked ourselves for not doing the little things so that we could enjoy them and not just the new homeowners. When we got to the new place, we vowed to not make that mistake again. It wasn’t a month before we broke our vow. Storage room still needs to be organized, and almost all the locks on the doors have been changed to new ones – just one remains. What are we waiting for? I have no idea. Thanks for reminding me to get back on track and not continue in this pattern. Gonna get the hubby to change the last lock TONIGHT!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 10:02 am

    My hand is raised! Me too!! Ok I’ll get busy today!! LOL

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 10:41 am

    This resonates SO much with me.

    Maybe it’s because the planning and dreaming is more fun, and the actual implementation to completion isn’t, ESPECIALLY when the last little to-do’s don’t make a huge impact on the end result…

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I’m a supply hoarder / non starter. Full of ideas – thanks to your wonderful blog, I go out buy all the supplies, get ready to go and then kinda forget about the whole thing. I guess I could always open a diy supplies store in the future!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Ellen T
    May 29, 2012 at 11:28 am

    After seeing your blog, I ran across this quote – I think it’s appropriate as I am not a finisher…
    “Facing a sea of infinity, it’s easy to despair, sure that you will never reach dry land, never have the sense of accomplishment of saying, “I’m done.” At the same time, to be finished, done, complete–this is a bit like being dead. The silence and the feeling that maybe that’s all.”

    From Dancing on the edge of finished, by Seth Godin

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 11:32 am

    My husband calls me Bingo! Because I am all over the place! I use to be frustrated by my lack of finishing, now I have embraced it – I think it is having a brain that works faster than the hands! I now make lists, and the everything has to be crossed off, before I can start anything new! That is FRUSTRATING!!!! I am so happy I am not the only one like this! LOL

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Diane Mansil
    May 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Yup…I’ve got the same ‘disease’. Four and a half years in a fixer-upper house and so far, not a single project on my house ias hit the ‘finished’ spot. It’s not even that big a house.

    So today, in honor of your blog, I plan to finish…something.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 1:48 pm


    I saw your DIY closet and fell in love with it. I was wondering what type of material you have and where you bought it. Also that dresser looked amazing. Could you also direct me to where I could find that. Thanks!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Carol-Anne (Use The Good Dishes!)
    May 29, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Apparently I’m in the minority, but I’m a finisher for sure! Except that I don’t ‘start’ unless I’m really prepared to finish. And then I’ll finish at any cost….I could be holding a severed limb on with a twist tie, or missing out on eating meals, but dammit, I’m FINISHING!

    So I’m not sure which is worse, actually.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    It sounds like a lot of people have this ‘affliction’. I think it must be that the most creative people just have so many ideas that they have to get started with the next one before they finsh the last one(s). Usually, I’m pretty good about finishing up a project but as I look around our home, I’m seeing several things that never did get done. sigh.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    You are so NOT alone!!! At least not around these parts. I’m sure a great deal of this fits with the creative personality, that makes a whole lot of sense to me. However in my case it’s only been compounded by life situations. Our 1st home was also a handyman special…only we’re not handymen. So yes, lots of time spent learning to accomplish things on a DIY budget. I know mentally & creatively I move on when things get good enough. Around here that tends to be when things get to the functional (not the pretty or finished) stage. In a cramped 1400 sq ft cape cod with now 6 family members, our priorities were getting things functional & adding long missing storage. We’ve been here for 9 yrs and there are unfinished projects (yes that is multiple). Guess what? Yeah, we’re in the midst of trying to wrap all those up & get it on the market, cuz we’ve outgrown it. Oh joy! Yeah, in my head I’m swearing I’ll never approach things the same way again & I’m trying to currently finish an entire room at a time before moving on to the next. Course my brain is already 4 projects ahead of what we’ve got accomplished & I already am planning out even more that needs finished. Crazy it is for sure, but it’s how things click for me.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Susan (Between Naps on the Porch)
    May 29, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Kristi, I’ve been known to do the same thing. Once I can basically see the project complete, it’s very hard for me to do the finishing work. I’m ready to start something new. I totally get it. I can’t help you…I think I’d be more of an enabler. 😉

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Wow, LOTS of others like me! Maybe we could all form a support group and help motivate each other, lol! I’ve analyzed this one to death and the best reason I could come up with is that I enjoy working on the projects so much, I don’t want them to end…maybe I have a fear that I’d never have the chance to start another one. I guess endings are scary.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Belinda Baggett
    May 29, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Hello Pot, meet Kettle. Supply hoarder and unfinisher here. I can relate to almost every post here. Even the finishers….because there are some projects that I stay up almost all night working on. Then the sewing machine needle breaks, or “I’ll just hem that in the morning” and then….well you know. So we are all the same….now what do we do about it? I am all ears!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Belinda Baggett
    May 29, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    I had actually thought of starting a blog to motivate me to actually finish projects….now all hope is lost.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Diane | An Extraordinary Day
    May 29, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    My dad was not a finisher. In fact often he was not even a starter. He was a researcher and buyer. He’d learn how to do a project, the right way, buy all the right tools, etc. And then…that would often be as far as he got. It drove me crazy as a kid. Now it is rare that I don’t finish something. I almost kill myself trying to get things finished in good time. There is real joy for me in accomplishment. Seeing the completed project. That is my carrot. That might not be your carrot Kristi….but the key is to find your carrot and hold it in front of yourself. It works. It really does. Your incentive to finish just isn’t great enough. You need to find that carrot. 😀

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Barb T.
    May 29, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Starter. Definitely a starter. But I know the cure. For me, it’s called having house guests. Somehow, that always gives me the deadline I need to finish up the details. And actually making a list/writing down the tiny details that need to get “crossed off” the list. That said, I confess that I have a roomfull of unstarted project supplies in my house (jewelry, painting, sewing, felting…the list goes on and on!)

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    Yup, that’s me too. 95% complete and I’m already fantisizing about the next project and eager to get on it. I like John and Sherry’s approach over at Young House Love called Dude Get On It Already where they regularly pick something from their unfinished pile of projects and get ‘er done. I need to adopt that approach. Instead of worrying about all four missing steps, maybe I could do one a weekend and in a month the room weir project would be done, You’ve got lots of company. Ot you take one month and call it the “no spend month” where you got back and finish things you have the materials for which kind of inhibits starting something new.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    I’m so happy to see I am not the only one with this personality flaw… an it carries into ALL aspects of my life… I was a ballet dancer until I was good enough to audition for the Joffrey an decided to take up Highland Dancing… a year from graduating college I changed my major… only a few months to go until that 5-year bonus, and I decided to quit… and don’t even get me started on what happens when you combine THAT issue with a tendency to hoard, issue! Hence… nothing gets done, and the piles have built up to a freakishly scary point! Mom used to fly down a few times a year and help me FINISH THINGS… but she died… and I am really struggling – I have to seriously concentrate and FORCE myself to finish things… what the heck? Tell me… is there a pill for this?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 29, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Kristi, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and all the unfinished projects in my home for posting this. I am most definitely a STARTER. I too hate this aspect of my personality. It is just PAINFUL for me to finish a project. I too would really like to know why this is. I did however make a giant step in a positive direction. I promised myself that I would not begin work on other areas of my home until I had completely finished all the projects I had on my list for my bedroom. I know for me, I have projects going in every room of my home, and I never quite see it to completion. The only exception to the rule is that I do need to spruce up my outdoors, which I have been doing. But I have resisted reupholstering my living room dumpster couch, painting the walls in there which are currently sporting three or four “test” colors, I could go on and on. Try this strategy, don’t allow yourself to work on anything else until you have filled those nail holes in bedroom and completely finished it. It is like going against the grain of our nature, but it feels so good when you finally make yourself do it.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kelly @ Eclectically Vintage
    May 29, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    I’m with you Kristi! It’s so much more fun to start a new project than to do the drudgery that comes with executing all those boring steps!

    My advice – look for a BFF who doesn’t mind doing all that finishing work – you could always bribe her with cocktails!

    The only reason I finished my basement clean out was because of the Mission Possible deadline. Maybe you need to commit on the blog to finishing a project- we can all cheer you on that way!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Barbara @ DIY Home Staging Tips
    May 30, 2012 at 6:50 am

    I am going to be following this thread, because I want the solution to this problem, too. My husband is all about efficiency, so he doesn’t understand why I don’t “wrap things up.”

    I like what Diane said – you have to find your carrot. I’ve found that one thing forces me to wrap things up, my carrot, and that is entertaining. Whether it’s having guests visit for a weekend, throwing a brunch for 20 fellow gardeners, scheduling a meeting at my house, or inviting another couple for dinner, having people (even close friends) over, gets me in gear.

    It’s similar to what happens when you list your home for sale, the way some of your readers have mentioned. I have to laugh at myself because it boils down to, “I don’t deserve to have everything ship shape, decorated, clean, organized, pretty and COMPLETE, but my guests do.”

    That’s crazy-thinking, but it works for me. I’m not sure what the mechanism is exactly. Either I want my guests to be impressed or pampered, or I’m a shallow and vain person, or else it gives me a specific deadline. It changes my focus from Start to Finish, whether it’s an hour-long completion project or a month worth of wrap-up work. It’s not fun, but it does give me permission to start some new projects when everyone leaves, he, he.

    I’m also a big believer in the power of lists and checking off the steps to completion.

    Who can YOU invite? Not me, because I’d be happy just meeting you. No need to impress. I’m already impressed with your creativity and smarts!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 30, 2012 at 8:03 am

    I do think most creatives are starters. I’ve always felt that I’m in the minority as a creative because I feel like I’m more of a finisher. Make that a 99% finisher. We remodeled two bathrooms last year and there are tiny projects in each one that need doing, but I haven’t done them! One is a paint touch up and the other is a light fixture change. Simple stuff, but I haven’t done it. I’m with the others who say you need to find your carrot. Mind is hating clutter. If the paint can and brush were sitting in the upstairs bathroom, I would open that sucker and get ‘er done ‘cuz I’d want to eliminate the unsightly clutter, but since I’d have to go to the basement and FIND the said paint and schlep it upstairs, lazy wins out. I do get a GREAT sense of accomplishment when I finish a project…and I rarely start a new project without finishing the first unless the first REQUIRES a waiting time. I can’t be sitting around waiting for paint to dry, etc. The two sides of my personality are constantly at war with each other. Lately, I’ve been too impatient to sit down and write a list of things that need to be “finished” at my house, but I think I’ll take the time to do it just to see how much I can accomplish and to get that “warm fuzzy” from getting things done. Thanks for the nudge!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sharon @ LilikoiJoy
    May 30, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I so relate to this post! We have so many unfinished projects around the house. Often its the final details like you said, filling the holes and final painting after putting up molding, doing 3/4 of a room of molding but not getting the rest up because we ran out and just never got more, and the list goes on. I think its because there are SO many things I want to do, and not enough time to do them that I get impatient and move on to the next thing. Projects always take longer than I think they will so my mind is already moving on before the current project is actually done. Plus it doesn’t help that I like to change things up, so something I did last year may get a mini-makeover this year. I don’t think I will ever be “done” with my home.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Liz C.
    May 30, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Sadly, I’m also a starter, who finds it extremely difficult to finish a project. Can we spell ADD? I’m always so anxious to get to the next project that I find it difficult to stay focused on the current project. Ugh! I’ve often thought of hiring someone to finish my projects but that would defeat the entire point of doing DIY, right? *SIGH*

    Perhaps we should start our own support group for this kind of problem….

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 30, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    STARTER!!! I feel your pain… when you find that support group, please send me an email, lol.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    [email protected]
    May 30, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Starter, for sure! Just wrote about this very topic because we actually started and finished a whole project for the holiday weekend. A first ever. We’ve been feeling kinda crappy about a bathroom reno started in January and stalled out in April. Yes, it feels great to actually finish something (and in a short amount of time). But it’s OK to be the other way, too. We will have a shower again! Maybe it’s not starter/finisher but faster/slower?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Iron Accents
    May 31, 2012 at 11:29 am

    I can completely understand – it’s so easy to pick up a project but it’s quite another thing to see it out until the end. It can be especially difficult during the most tedious, non-creative parts of the task. I find that it’s helpful to set an end goal date as something to work towards. That, or switch things up a bit. Sometimes the reason you’re not finishing a project is because you’re not headed in the right direction. Taking an alternate course (i.e. a new paint color, a few new decor pieces) can inspire you to reach the end.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    May 31, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    I am so a starter! I get it all the way. I MAKE myself finish. I make a list of what needs to be done and then prioritize the list. . . i.e. put it in order of what needs to happen first or what I’d be willing to work on first. . . usually I pick the smallests projects first. . . gives me a great sense of accomplishment to knock them out. 🙂 Good luck!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 1, 2012 at 9:01 am

    You just opened a revelation for me! You totally pointed out MY FLAW TOO! I got really excited as I was reading your comments, as I realized I am not alone!! What can we do?! I have a bath project I started a couple months ago- had to buy ALL the stuff to do it, and now I need to just finish the trim & the backsplash, but it’s almost like I won’t know how to react if I finish a project, as I never seem to get them done! Maybe you should start a blog so we can check in with each other & call it the 90% finished club! How cool would that be to encourage each other to actually FINISH something! I also think once I start something, and get new/fresh ideas, the current project becomes ‘old’ and I feel the need to move on to something else. I think I need to find a ‘finisher’ so I can start something, and they can finish up!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Make It Happen Monday…Starting Next Week
    June 1, 2012 at 11:54 am

    […] I’m sure that’s come across in my posts this week. On Tuesday I shared with you about my biggest and most irritating personality flaw…the fact that I’m a starter and not a fi…. That is THE reason that not one single room in my home is finished. See that tab up there on my […]

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sherry (BTLover2)
    June 2, 2012 at 7:31 am

    Ahhhh! I’m not alone!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Beki G
    June 3, 2012 at 9:36 am

    I’m definitely a starter that suffers from perpetual procrastination syndrome and my husband is definitely a starter and rarely finishes a project to completion. Needless to say our house hasn’t come very far in the past three years since we’ve bought it. I will agree with another comment about the way to finish a project is too have guests over because in reality that is why we do most projects so we can show them off right? That’s why I usually try to tackle a home project before my daughter’s birthday(any other time is useless) because that is when the whole family visits.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Make It Happen Monday…Let’s Get This Started FINISHED!!
    June 4, 2012 at 9:13 am

    […] about 90% complete (or less), and then lose interest and move on to something else — after I wrote this post last week and realized that there are so many others just like […]

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 7, 2012 at 8:36 am

    I want to join the help group too. I am also a starter and lose interest at 90% completion. I’ve been redecorating my house after a flood and have worked so hard to transform it, but those final few jobs are just beyond me… I’ve tried several things to over come this, including ‘eating my frog’ – you do your worst/most hated task first thing in the day to get it out of the way. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t, so I’m going to join this blog and see if I can’t get a few things finished with your mutual support.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    LOL I guess we now have our support group! 🙂 I too am that way. Not sure why but I liked the way you said it was around the time “it was going to look like you had planned in your head”. I will have to think about that and see if that is why it is for me. Great post. Thanks for sharing!