The Ninety Percent Problem

Around here we have a problem. And I’m guessing – if you’re a DIYer – you are likely to have this problem too.

We call it the “ninety percent problem”, which is basically this…. You start a project. You are dedicated to getting it done. You work really hard at it for a day/week/month – as long as it takes to get it ALMOST finished. You get it to look and function at nearly 100%, but it isn’t actually done. It’s 90%. You never get to cross it off your list, but you never finish it either.

This is where I live. Anyone nodding their head in agreement?

Here area few of the 90% projects that currently reside in my house…

The master bathroom –

bathroom before and after - 90

We’ve been working on this bathroom for a while, and it’s SO close to being finished – but it’s not. First off, the closet is still pink and needs better functioning shelves. Also, the glue we used to hang the mirror burned through it and left behind five big black spots. One day we will replace it, but right now that doesn’t sound like an exciting project, plus it functions with the spots. This one is likely to be stuck at 90% for a while to come.

reasons the bathroom is 90

The main hallway –

hallway 90

Last fall Adam and I built and some simple shelves to hold all our photos. We painted the hallway as well (though I think it turned out to bright, like a tween girls room) and I collected frames. So why isn’t it finished? Because I don’t have any pictures for the frames. It seems that after Adam and I went digital (like a decade ago) we never printed a single photo, ever. Also, the desk from the guest room is sitting in the hallway because I have no idea what else to do with it (and I refuse to put it back in the guest room).

Next up is something that I LOVE, but haven’t shown you yet because it isn’t 100% complete (though it looks like it is). Meet the new, gorgeous, media center –

sliding door console table

It’s a knock-off of this media center, which costs a whopping $2,795 + $400 shipping, and we found a DIY tutorial here. So why isn’t it finished and on the blog already? Because the DIY sliding door hardware doesn’t work very well and we need to figure out a better way. This media center is seriously my favorite thing ever though, and I can’t wait to show it to y’all when the time comes.

So those are the main 90% projects we have in our house (though there are plenty of smaller ones). It’s not like we only have nearly finished projects in our house though, oh no. We also have 70% projects, 50% projects, 25% projects…and we like to drag them out for years on end. Are you familiar with the term “hot mess”? I think you can safely apply that to our house situation. Here are few other things that we have in the works…

The guest room –

Guest bedroom 2

guest room in progress

This room is at about 30%, but is moving along fairly quickly, considering. The makeover started because we ripped out the old carpet in here, and I got excited and started redoing it before I finished all my other projects. You know how it goes. I’ve already done that floor, walls, and am working on the trim, and here are a few details so you can share in my vision…

guest room accents

The boy’s room – 

boys room before

current 6-15-14

I’ve working on this for a long time (like, years) and it just keeps getting put on the back burner. We really only have two big projects left, bunk beds and a big toy storage system. And some general cowboy decor. And bedding. And the saloon doors for the closet… okay, so maybe we have further to go than I’d like to admit. Let’s call this a 60% project.

The deck –

deck framing

I showed y’all this last post, but it’s in the works and I’m determined to make it a 100% project…my part of course would be nagging Adam to finish it until we reach that glorious, elusive 100%. I’m pretty excited about having a deck, especially since the entire thing is shaded by the house by the late afternoon (and the front porch is a flesh melting oven at that time.)

The shed –

shed before

This rusty old thing is currently sitting at 0%, but I’ll be painting it next week. The project is sponsored and has a deadline, so it will actually be completed and on the blog in the next few weeks. Deadlines…a blessing and a curse.

So that’s a peek at what’s going on at our house, project-wise. Are y’all a hot mess as well or do you always finish a project before moving on? Don’t lie, I know it’s the former. And if it’s not…well….you’re my DIY hero.


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  1. Company and deadlines. Best incentive ever!!
    I so get the 90% thing. I love this post… I could walk around my entire house and do this.
    I have a few, okay.. all the nail holes to fill in the base boards, from when we installed the new floors, last year.
    I am so bad.

    1. Company, yes! Sometimes I invite people over just so I can frantically clean my house. I swear I get more cleaning done in those 20 minutes than I do in any given week.

  2. I’m in the middle of a huge project (that involved moving walls, plumbing, electrical, gas lines, etc.) Most of it I haven’t done much of and my brother comes to help me once in a while. It is not going to be a quick project. And I wasn’t done with some other projects before I started on this one, oh no! :) It’ll all be great though, sometime down the line!

  3. You must have been spying on me. It seems like none of our projects never get past that 90% mark either!! The only thing that REALLY has the power to push us to 100% is moving out of a house. O.O

    1. Oh, I know that when we sell this house we’re going to have our work cut out for us. Then it’s going to look super amazing and we will have wish we would have done it all sooner. Thats just how it goes though, right?

      The link isn’t there to your blog like it normally is….did you shut it down?

      1. Yeah, I did. I’m going to restart it soon with a better domain name, one that reflects what it is, not the obsolete music studio name. BUT, that has to wait till I am a bit more ready to actually write it.

  4. I agree ladies!! When you put your house up for sale ALL the little things that irritated you get fixed for the next person to enjoy…how fair is that! I always compare it to sewing a dress and then not hemming it. But I really have no reason to complain, if my husband had not done all the work himself our house would still be ugly! :)

  5. We put our house on the market last year, so all the stupid piddly detail stuff that we had never gotten around to finishing finally got done. Then we decided not to move after all, so we actually get to admire the 100% stage. :)

    1. We did this same thing in 2013! We decided not to sell after all and are still enjoying the spoils of the pre-move renovations. Everyone should have a move that doesn’t end up happening for this exact reason.

  6. so true! We have some unfinished projects here but they will stay that way since we have sold this house! We are now working on some projects at the new house even though we don’t get possession until the end of August…we are lucky that we purchased this house for another family member and they have agreed to let us start over there. I agree that deadlines help get things done…can’t wait to see your deck!

  7. Yes, yes, yes! We have the same 90% problem. What’s up with that??

    I am loving the new rug in your guest room and can’t wait to see how it looks when you’re done. The media center too. :)

  8. I feel like you were looking at my house. I have so many projects that I need to finish. I love the media center. I have company coming to stay for a few days, which has prompted me to finally finish a lot of things. I guess I just need a motivating factor.

  9. Oh yes … the half finished project. I am knee deep in our master remodel and I am at that stage where it is technically probably 80% done, but it feels more like 20% at this point.

    Love your entertainment center and I am excited about your deck. That bedroom is going to be amazing in 10%. I can just tell! :)

  10. I am very guilty of the 90% problem. Very very guilty. Last year I sold my house of 11 years and spent 3 months running around at top speed finishing that last 10% and man it looked amaze-balls!!!! And sold very quickly. And then I bought a new fixer upper… and I’ve been working my through it one project (or twelve) at a time and generally still leaving things at 90% because by then I’ve lost my umpf. I put all this time and energy in, get it to 90% and then I’m over it. I think I need to put aside a Saturday every 6 weeks or so to just finish the things at 90%. Loved your post :)

  11. You are not alone here! We have so many projects that are 90% done it’s not even funny! But, this does make me feel better – at least we’re not alone! ;) & thanks for mentioning the shed… I’ve now added another item to our list! Our shed is great but, could certainly use an updated paint job!!

  12. A couple of months ago we had our first 100% project! in 10 years of living here! And it was the most dull project ever, so beats me why we did finish this one. What’s so exciting about painting 4 ceilings?? Oh, new light fixtures, that is. So yes, we’re totally on the ninety percent thing. I sold my last house with a bare bulb and without trim. I suspect that will happen again someday… Thank you for keeping it real and love your new mediacenter!

  13. Thank you SOOOO much for this story. I feel less alone and less like a DIY under achiever! You are awesome!

  14. Oh my gosh, yes. We have suffered from 90%itis for 30 years. Only problem is I use it to shame my husband, so I can’t tell him this is a widespread epidemic.

  15. I wouldn’t say I’m stuck at 90%. Maybe 60%? Like the awesome chairs I found. They are sitting in the garage, next to the upholstery fabric & supplies, and have been for almost 6 months. Because I haven’t gotten the paint for the chairs, and now I’m thinking of staining them. Maybe. Or the boys’ rooms, which haven’t been painted yet, though I’ve been promising for like, two years.

    Or the living room. I did the gallery walls, but I despise our hand-me-down furniture, and have yet to paint our 20-foot walls. So, maybe 10% in there? And I might squeeze 85% out of the powder room. I don’t love it, but really, a smidge of storage (a dilemma in a 4-foot wide space) and re-painting the wall where the water line broke. That should do it.

    Or the master. I finally painted the focal wall, but now I want to paint the whole room. I did up an awesome gallery wall above the bed that makes me smile every time I see it, but there are holes for awesome stuff I might find in the distant future. And I haven’t refinished the dresser, or the nightstand, or the vanity I’m using as a nightstand. Oh, and the drapes are brown & bronze, from two bedding sets ago. Sooo, with the wall and bedding, maybe 25% in here?

  16. So I’m not alone. After gutting the bathroom, all’s fine & working except I have no towel bars, toilet paper holder & I never got the cabinet I wanted & now its discontinued. (2 & a half years ago)

    When we re-piped the bathroom (well actually the whole house) we had to cut the bedroom floor to replace the pipes. So New floors were installed but still missing some base boards. (2 years ago)

    The trim around the new door for the upstairs porch was never painted. (< 1 year)

    Refinishing the desk. All's done except the top. (< 6 months)

    Thanks for the reminder. After the summer I'm promosing myself to finish this stuff B4 starting something new.

  17. Unfinished makes me so nuts I get finished. You reminded me of one: a hand carved chess set stored for 15 years with 7 more pieces to carve. Everything else is done though.

    1. Carl, you are awesome. I wish unfinished drove me nuts. Well, it does…but not enough to finish it before I start something new. You win DIY.

  18. Ugh! You just reminded me how much I have to do. It’s funny that you posted this today because I’m sitting at work daydreaming about painting my bathroom and installing the new vanity top when I still have touch up painting to do in the office – cabinet doors to replace in the kitchen- toekick and shoe molding to put on – picture ledges to hang (frames to buy and pictures to print *ahem* to put in frames)….the list goes on and on. But those projects are old and not fun anymore. A bathroom re-do would be fun:)

  19. I so enjoyed this brilliant post. :) I too live on the royal land of “Pending Completion.” I should name all my projects with a never ending ellipsis.

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but do you feel like this?
    At 90% all the big things are taken care of, most of the senses are satisfied enough for us to be emotionally “done” battling a space. The 10% remains because it bothers us, but it really doesn’t bother us THAT much, since what we have works “for now.” Living in a space you’re working on creates the ideas of “for now” and “the back burner” that wouldn’t be there if we had to work on a space or project for someone else that we won’t have access to later, like that firm deadline you talked about.

    If not… then, that’s just my justification for my lack. Haha, I’m working on it, but I’m in no rush. Part of me kind of hopes there will always be projects here for me in our home, though.

    1. “Pending completion”…I love that. I’m totally using it.

      I think your justification is right on the money, especially that part about being emotionally done battling a space. I hate deadlines, but sometimes I’m grateful for them!

  20. You are not alone! Your house sounds so much like mine. I almost finish something or just halfway finish or whatever and am off to the next project. Love your media center by the way! It looks better than the original with the extra chunky middle shelves! Can’t wait to see the post on it.

  21. I’ve written a post exactly like this before :) I called it the 95%…. it’s alwaysss the last finishing touch for me. One of my bathrooms all I need to do is install a sidekick next to the vanity and it’ll be done, my basement stairs are stripped and spackled (for oohhhh 2 years now) but have yet to be sanded and painted…. it goes on! haha. Nice to know we’re not alone :)

  22. I know EXACTLY what you mean…that last 10% of a project gets interupted by a new project, or a new season, or a new year! Can’t wait to see your 100%’s!

  23. Yep -thats me! Sometimes I feel like I never finish anything! My son is 7 months old and his nursery isn’t completely finished LOL. And here’s the bathroom remodel I started in March- – I haven’t done much since the post either! But its functional LOL – Oh, the joys of being a DIYer! Thanks for making me feel like I’m not the only one!

    Shelly @ The Domestic Heart

    1. Yes, I feel you! My boys are four and two and their room has never been finished. Your bathroom remodel is beautiful, 90% or not!

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