Are you an UNfinisher?!

Confession: My house is messy.  Really messy.  Consistently messy.  And I’ve tried all the advice out there to bring it under control.

But now, although my husband thinks I’m a big of a pessimist, I am pretty sure I have really, truly, found the answer to our messiness problem this time.  (Not like last time.)  (Or the time before.) (Or….)

I also think my latest and greatest (and not exactly original) idea is pretty helpful to just about anyone struggling with that feeling that they just can’t get their “stuff” under control, so I hope you’ll join me, and feel comfortable sharing your own struggles, so we can all help each other.

My incredible idea:  Redefining what it means to FINISH.

Don’t worry, this idea is way more awesome that it looks here.  Just bear with me while I build up to it, okay?

Why is my house always a mess?

Being a fairy creative person, I can explain in depth why my house is always a mess.  I have a million ideas on the topic!

  • I’m a natural perfectionist, which everyone knows leads to procrastination when I’m not sure how to make something perfect.
  • I love stuff of all kinds, and obviously having too much stuff makes it hard to keep a house tidy.
  • I have young children, PLUS two dogs (and a husband) and not one of us seems to have been born with the “tidy” gene.  (Honestly, teaching the golden doodle to put away his toys might be our best bet.)
  • I’m a SAHM with a million project ideas, so everything I’m working on happens right here in the house, and stays here.
  • I don’t see little bits of clutter until it’s become a mountain of clutter which is obviously too paralyzing to deal with.

Basically, I’m extremely well read on all things tidying/decluttering/minimalism/etc.    I’ve also tried pretty much everything.

So what have I been missing?!

The life-changing magic of FINISHING.

Dana Rayburn, an ADHD specialist, wrote this awesome book called Organized for Life!.  On page 133 (Kindle Edition), she writes:

[T]asks don’t get finished when the final step hasn’t been clearly thought through.

Huh? I remember thinking.  How can there be confusion about when a task is finished?

Here are some of Dana’s examples, paraphrased:

  • When have you finished brushing your teeth?  When you spit?  Or when you put away your toothbrush?
  • When have you finished the laundry?  When the clothes go in the dryer?  Or when you fold/hang the clean clothes.?
  • When have you finished paying bills?  When you write the check?  When you stamp and post the envelope?  Or when you file/shred/scan the statement?

Case Study: My baby sister

I happened to read Dana’s book over Easter, while staying with my sister, whose house is always tidy.

Naturally, I decided to channel my inner ninja spy to find out her tidying secrets.

Now, a couple obvious differences between our lives should be addressed.

  1. My sister is a newlywed.  No kids.  Still, since everything from my bedroom growing up to my husband’s and my first pre-kid apartments had always been messy to the point of chaos, the whole kid thing might not be a main problem.
  2. My sister has less stuff.  Too much stuff (clutter or not!) makes it pretty darn near impossible to stay tidy.  Still, since I have “trashed” hotel rooms with only what I brought in a carry-on suitcase, the whole clutter thing might be a contributing problem, but still not quite the core issue.

Here’s what I learned from my sister

After a weekend of studying my sister’s routines, I realized that her “finishing point” is multiple steps beyond mind for pretty much every activity I observed.

When does dinner end?

Me: When we’ve finished eating.
My sister: When we’ve actually cleared the table and washed the dishes, including drying and putting away most of the pots and pans.

When does our shopping trip end?

Me: When I’m home, usually with the bags brought into the house.
My sister: When the bags are brought into the house and the items have been put away.

When are we done watching a movie?:

Me: When we, you know, stop watching.  Get up.  Probably turn off the TV.
My sister: When the TV has been turned off, the remote control replaced, the DVD removed from the player and replaced in its case.

My conclusion: The Two Kinds of People

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of people in this world.


Finishers are people who consider a task finished at a point where that task does not add confusion or mess to their lives.



Unfinishers are people who instinctively consider a task “finished” well before the loose ends (aka, mess) have actually been dealt with.


We are all finishers about some things (for example, I don’t think I have ever “finished” brushing my teeth without rinsing my mouth and putting my toothbrush back in its holder) and unfinishers about others.

But when you’re an unfinisher by nature in most of what you do?  Life gets messy, both figuratively and literally, very quickly.

Can an unfinisher become a finisher?

So the question is, can we actually learn to redefine our “finishing point?”  Can an unfinisher become a finisher?

Well, um, yes, obviously, I am hoping we can.  I don’t think it’s going to be easy, but this blog is intended to be my written record (and hopefully motivation) as I consider all the small finishing points in our everyday lives, and how shifting/clarifying the true finishing point (for me) might just happen to finally be the key to getting my house in order!

(And my husband doesn’t think I’m an optimist….)

Are you an unfinisher?  I hope you’ll feel free to contact me (top menu) or comment below about your own struggles to identify finishing points for the everyday small stuff in our lives.  Just one big rule: please be kind – to me, to others who might comment, and also, to yourself!  Thank you!

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