Projects easy to start, but fin­ish­ing . . .

Work of­ten goes un­fin­ished when you don’t know what you’re do­ing to be­gin with


I guess it is about time I ad­mit some­thing. I have a prob­lem fin­ish­ing projects. Right now, in my house, I have suc­cess­fully dis­man­tled my lawn mower and the down­stairs pow­der room toi­let.

I’ve pur­chased a com­bined smoke and car­bon monox­ide alarm and have taken it out of the box. It is ready to re­place the old smoke alarm, an alarm that is prob­a­bly as old as the house. It would be nice to have a new one. But where’s that lad­der?

Then there’s the new towel bar I’ve been mean­ing to put up in the master bath­room. I’ve got a beau­ti­ful piece of ma­hogany all cut for it. It’s all mea­sured out. I’ve just got to drill the holes, sand it, stain it, var­nish it and hang it up. But where are those dang drill bits?

And then there’s the dog tie-out. I just picked that up re­cently. Maybe I’ll get to it next week, or next spring if we get an early freeze.

I’m be­gin­ning to feel a bit like Mark Twain, who once said about giv­ing up cigars that quit­ting smok­ing is easy. He’s done it hun­dreds of times.

Start­ing a new project is easy. I’ve done it thou­sands of times. The prob­lem seems to be fin­ish­ing it.

Do you have this prob­lem at home? Do you start nu­mer­ous projects, only to leave them scat­tered about the house in var­i­ous states of near-com­ple­tion? If you do, why is it? I’ve thought about why this is for a long time, fig­ur­ing that if I could de­ter­mine why I’m not fin­ish­ing projects, it would be a big step to­ward fin­ish­ing them. Here’s what I came up with: One of the main rea­sons why I don’t fin­ish some of these home projects is be­cause I re­ally don’t know what I’m do­ing. That’s the main rea­son why the lawn mower is still apart in the garage. I knew I didn’t know what I was do­ing when I started tak­ing it apart, but I fig­ured I would learn on the way. That worked for a while un­til I reached a point where I couldn’t get a fly­wheel off.

I asked my friends at the shop and they gave me a few ideas. And I checked out YouTube, which is a boon for us folks who don’t know what we’re re­ally do­ing, and got a few more ideas.

It fi­nally came down to the fact that I didn’t have the right tools.

Own­ing the right tool for the job seems to be an­other rea­son why I can’t get things done. For ex­am­ple, just when I start saw­ing that big branch off the tree in the front yard, I re­al­ize I need a chain saw. Or right when I start scrub­bing the deck the old-fash­ioned way with a stiff brush and old-fash­ioned el­bow grease, I re­al­ize that I need a power washer.

It seems hav­ing the right tool is the is­sue with the toi­let in the first-floor pow­der room be­cause I just can’t get this one bolt to move.

But even then, the right tool doesn’t al­ways help. Sure, cleaning the deck with a power washer made sense. But how do you get the dang power washer to work? What did my sis­ter, owner of the power washer, do with the in­struc­tions for this thing?

That brings me to the deck. No amount of power wash­ing will change the fact that the boards are rot­ting away. Should I re­place the bad ones? Do I have the right tools to do so? How about if I just tear the whole thing down and put in a re­ally nice pa­tio?

I could buy the stone pavers a pal­let at a time this win­ter and store them in the garage un­til spring. And how hard could it be to dig out the base for the pa­tio by hand? That shouldn’t take too long, right? Do I need any spe­cial tools to level the ground or stamp down those pavers nice and se­cure?

I sup­posed I could just burn the whole place down. What a fin­ish that would be.

I’m be­gin­ning to feel a bit like Mark Twain, who once said about giv­ing up cigars that quit­ting smok­ing is easy. He’s done it hun­dreds of times


Own­ing the right tools and equip­ment can make or break your home-im­prove­ment project. It also helps to have ba­sic mo­ti­va­tion.

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