Completing the cycle

File under: a little self-awareness makes everything better.

I have known for a good long while that when it comes to projects, I am an excellent beginner and halfhearted finisher. I love big ideas, and bog down in the nitty-gritty. I enjoy the process … except when it comes time to tidy up the loose ends.

Of course this applies to big picture scheming and dreaming, but you know what else it applies to? The laundry. The dishes. The mess that is my office.

If being an adult means learning how to clean up after yourself, I am really struggling with this adulthood thing. Still.

When it comes to habits like this, self-awareness is the first step, but where to go next? I’ve never been able to frame a solution in a way that enabled or inspired me to follow through, the goal here to not leave a path of devastation (or general untidiness) in my wake as I move through my home each day. I knew the problem, but couldn’t figure out a good system for doing something about it.

(The personality geek in me wants to explain this in Myers-Briggs terms: as an INFP I need good systems and habits, and can “work” those systems once they’re in place—but have a terrible time creating them.)

But recently I stumbled on an Apartment Therapy post that framed the problem—or rather, the solution—in a way I could grasp.

In it, the author explains that having a home that’s generally tidy is a matter of habit. She called this habit “completing the cycle,” and it means, basically, that you finish what you start. You clean up after yourself. But isn’t “completing the cycle” so much more satisfying to say, if only to yourself?

(Timeout to say: this isn’t about having a perfect home. If that makes you happy, that’s great, but that’s not my goal. This is about having clean, unwrinkled clothes, clear-enough counters, and a level of organization that allows me to actually find my stuff when I need it.)

It’s clear to me that my own frustrations come from not completing the cycle. For an obvious, oft-repeated example: Saturday morning, I started the laundry. An hour later, I dried and folded half the load. Those clothes got put away. Two days later, a bunch of socks and t-shirts are still sitting in the dryer. But the cycle isn’t complete until the dryer is empty and all the clothes are put away.

Earlier this morning, I made breakfast. (Three fried eggs + Trader Joe’s sweet and spicy jalapeños, every morning.) Last week, I would have made breakfast, put the eggs away, left the jalapeños out, and put off washing the skillet till later. Today, I put everything away and cleaned up—because I wanted to complete the breakfast cycle while it was still breakfast time.

I take a lot of pictures for this blog. I usually wait till afternoon—when the light is good—and then I drag everything (books, plants, odds and ends) to a big window and start shooting. Then, more often than not, I leave everything where it is and rush out the door to pick up my kids from school. And later, probably not till tomorrow, I’ll be annoyed with the mess I left behind, because who wants to clean up yesterday’s project, today? That happens when I don’t complete the cycle.

There aren’t any miracle tricks here: I still have to clean up after myself. But I believe in the power of a well-articulated problem, and a corresponding solution. Adulting is hard, but “completing the cycle” sounds so satisfying it just might work. This week, I’m resolving to give it a try.

What systems do you rely on to keep your spaces in a state of non-chaos? Do you talk to yourself about “completing the cycle”? I’d love to hear your answers and your favorite organizing tips and mantras in comments.

P.S. The secret to faking a clean house, and the best book you’ve never heard of on organizing.

a simple brain hack to help you finish what you start


Leave A Comment
  1. kimmie says:

    I just pulled all my t shirts and sweaters and misc. stuff out of my closet cubes. This may have been a Monday Morning Mistake.

  2. Ann Marie says:

    I am so there with you. We have hobbies that a high degree of STUFF attached to them. That STUFF is everywhere in our small apartment. Cleaning the kitchen, folding the laundry immediately, or cleaning the bathroom helps, but I still hate my home at times…
    Completing the cycle will help me find a way to feel more sane.

  3. Andrea says:

    I do this exactly, a little bit, all the time, never completing the cycle. For me, the biggest problem is there is never a chunk of time for me to spend on creative projects. I have 7 kids and when there are solitary moments (so rare!), I can’t bear to spend them washing dishes. I have to grab them! But my all the unfinished messes do make me crazy and frustrate my creative flow. I haven’t found any kind of winning combination for tidy house and creative breathing room.

  4. Kim says:

    I have the same issues. I desperately would love a house that’s tidy enough to open the door and let someone in at any time, but even if things make it to the sink, they sit for awhile. I vacuum the floor, then the vacuum sits out. You know the story. I feel your pain.

  5. Jill says:

    In our home, we have a simple saying: “Take it to the hoop.” All of us are pretty good at getting it NEAR the hoop, but the reward is not until it’s THROUGH the hoop.

  6. Emily DeArdo says:

    Oh gosh, this is SO me. I am TERRIBLE at completing the cycle. This is probably because I live alone. When I share spaces with other people, I just do it. But when it’s me, who CARES if I left dishes in the sink? I mean, I don’t–until it gets to the point it’s at right now, where I’m going to have to do 2 consecutive loads of dishes to get through them.
    I found FlyLady a few years ago and some of it stuck–like weekly zones, and things like that. But I am terrible at completing things, so most of the time there’s just STUFF that needs put away constantly, and thus, I don’t meet my goal of wanting to have people over at anytime, because I can’t. Things are *clean*, yes, but they’re not *tidy.*

  7. Jennifer N. says:

    Gosh, I could have written the early part of this post. I have a laundry basket in my room with probably 3 loads of unfolded, but clean laundry. It’s so annoying but I can’t make myself fold it – probably because there’s so much of it now. I also have several project bags in my house of unfinished creative projects (mostly crochet and cross stitch). If I could just make myself finish this stuff our office closet would be much more tidy. I write it off as “I have small kids, one day I’ll have all the time.” But the reality is I’ve always been this way. I like the idea of “completing the cycle.” I need to start thinking this anytime I start a task or put off finishing something that I know needs to be done.

  8. Carol Ghio says:

    I enjoyed this post so much. Though I am tidy by nature, there re still areas I leave in a mess- my desk area, a few select drawers. This gives me a rebellious feeling of freedom. I do clean up the kitchen as I go, I always finish all the laundry, I make my bed every day, I containerize and therefore limit the amount of junk of many things- magazines and catalogues in particular. When my children were living at home, we had a basket at the bottom of the stairs that would get filled up with items that belonged up. We all knew to take that basket up and down and deal with its contents. This helped tremendously to keep the lower living areas free of debris.

  9. Emily Roach says:

    I actually spend Sundays often completing the cycle. That’s the day I can process those things that were left undone, or at least schedule and prep for a day to finish up. This weekend I took all of my recipes floating around my kitchen and office (I write professional meal plans) and finally edited and sorted everything! It was so refreshing and I’m so excited to have this major task done. I will think about setting up a quarterly edit of my meal planning recipe book so I can avoid the chaos of what was in front of me yesterday.

  10. Monica says:

    I love this idea. I think to an extent I am already doing it but my family is not. My spaces are usually neat and free of clutter but I am fighting a loosing battle with my teenagers. I used to feel like if they got used to a clean house, clean bathroom and organized closets they would eventually start doing it themselves without me having a screaming fit. Ha! I will now encourage them to make a habit of following through, because they have both learned the hard way that being able to find your stuff quickly makes your school and activity life so much easier . I know it might take years but this is one life lesson they will have to learn.

  11. Susan says:

    I only know 1 person who doesn’t have shades of this, and she is a total type-A clean freak. You could drop by her house unexpectedly at any time of day, any day of the year and it would be pristine. I wish I had 25% of her in me. 🙂

    One thing I’ve done that is helpful is that I’ve made my kids responsible for their own stuff. If your kid can use an iPad, they can run the washer and dryer. Not having to keep up with their laundry makes it easier to power through the laundry I do as it doesn’t seem never-ending anymore. Also, they are not allowed to leave their backpacks and all associated papers/mess around the house anymore. They take that to their room.

    I do have a cleaning lady that comes every 2 weeks which is awesome, but it used to be a 3 hour ordeal for me to tidy up before she came. In the last year or so, I’ve gotten much better at maintaining a level of order so that it takes me less than an hour now.

    My problem area is stacks in the corner. Things that either don’t have a designated home or things destined for donation but are cluttering up my life until I get it done. I need to complete that cycle and get those items to my car immediately instead of looking at them for a month or more. I also need to do better about returning items that don’t work immediately. I’ve been stuck with multiple things lately that I decided I didn’t want because I missed the return window by a few days or weeks. Maddening!

  12. Holly Gillum says:

    Like many of the other commenters, I too can relate.
    One of the best tricks I know is to assign a chore per day. Monday is dust and clutter, Tuesday is bathrooms, Wednesday is floors and Thursday restarts the cycle with Sunday being a day off. A load of laundry a day and the dishes always done by the end of each day keeps me caught up. The super-duper trick is, while I’m cooking dinner, I set my oven timer for 30 minutes and wipe out that day’s chore. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 30 minutes when you shift into high gear and start moving. Now.
    I know this, I have done this, and I know it works. Do I currently practice it? Nope. But I’m going to start. Today. As a working wife, I get tired of spending all day Saturday in front of the washer or behind the vacuum. Let’s face it. I “waste” 30 minutes a day on social media. Why not put that time to something that not only needs doing, but makes me feel great to have done it? Wow. I think I’ve talked myself into it!

  13. Katia says:

    “Completing the cycle” is a great phrase and helps to put the situation in clear context.

    I find that I tend to leave the cycle incomplete on the days when I’m too busy, tired, or overwhelmed, handling too many tasks at once and not completing any one of them. I feel accomplished about myself and relaxed in my surroundings when I am able to complete the cycle. Yet, I have also learned that sometimes, it’s best to leave things for a few hours in the interest of making self-care a priority. Sleep always takes priority over a clean home, and I can always catch up tomorrow, and hopefully manage to keep everything tidy for several days at a time. I think slips are inevitable. It’s a practice of balance.

  14. Laura says:

    I have the same issues! (Also an INFP…I had no idea that was a component.) When I was diagnosed with RA shortly after my daughter was born, I realized chronic pain and manic cleaning cycles just weren’t going to be compatible. Better to have daily and weekly systems in place and get 60% of those done, then tire myself out doing everything when it got to be too much (which was my former “system”). I started using a “Home Schedule” in Wunderlist. There are chores that I have repeating daily (such as load the dishwasher, put away any laundry, etc.), weekly and biweekly chores (clean the bathroom, mop, etc.). I have really tried to think of “the list” as existing for me, somewhat like a metronome to help me keep on the beat, versus something that I *must* keep up with and that’s been helpful. After almost a year of this method, many of the chores have simply become habit, plus checking off each item in Wunderlist elicits such a happy little “ding” that it’s pleasurable!

  15. Sarah R says:

    I agree with the suggestions of having a weekly “chore list.” For example, Monday is my laundry day when every single sheet, towel, and article of clothing gets washed, dried, folded, and put away. I set timers so I don’t forget a load in the washer or dryer, and then I watch a tv show while I fold. Every person (4 year old, 8 year old, husband, and me) put away our own clothes. All of our weekly chores have a day assigned.

    We also have daily “clean-up times” where, for 10 minutes, we all work together to pick up the house. It’s amazing what 4 people can get done in 10 minutes!

    I also have a special weekly project list that I make on Sunday. That is a list of things that don’t need to be done every week, but they can creep up if I’m not on top of it. For example, this week’s list is calling for a doctor’s appointment, researching window treatments, and buying a present. My goal is to have that list completed by next week Sunday.

  16. Tara says:

    Oh, wow, speaking of Apartment Therapy…their list of how to clean your home in 30 days was a game-changer! I don’t stick to it religiously, but it certainly helps me feel a little less overwhelmed and I no longer feel this dread about having to tackle the whole house on the weekend, my only time off from work.

  17. Rebecca says:

    When I leave a room, I try to take something out of it that doesn’t belong there. A book that needs to be returned to the shelf, a pair of shoes left by the couch, a towel that needs to be put in the laundry chute… just little bits at a time. Or I will try to put something away in that room that has been left out.

    And in the evening, I try to “close down” rooms as we finish in them. Once the dining room table has been cleared and wiped, I try to restore it to the order that I want to find it in the morning. Cleared surfaces, pushed in chairs, etc. Once the dinner dishes have been washed, I do the same thing in the kitchen: collecting the dirty towels and dishrags and putting out fresh ones, making sure all the counters are clean, etc. The living room is last, once everyone is moving towards bed (being encouraged to take all their stuff with them) I straighten pillows, put away the remotes, gather up any things no one else picked up. This has made a big difference to a great start for the day. The laundry *should* already be in place to start in the morning, the kitchen is clean to begin breakfast, everyone’s shoes *should* be in the proper location. It takes a while to create the habit, but when you do it every night, it isn’t much to keep it up.

    • Susie says:

      I like this!! Having everything ready for the morning, THINKING of it that way, everything in it’s place when will be needed, for maximum efficiency, plus the regular movement of things in or out to where they go—

  18. Renee says:

    Along these same lines, recently Ann Voskamp wrote on her blog about how she and her family have a saying: take five more steps. So whatever you are doing, take 5 more steps and you will probably finish the job. I have been repeating this in my head constantly! It is working and so needed right now as my house is up for sale and keeping up is overwhelming!!

  19. Margie says:

    I love the Mother Teresa quote of a similar vein. “Wash the plate not because it is dirty nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.” I’m loving the person who wants to use that surface, shirt, spatula next, even if that is me.

  20. I love these kinds of posts where you give me a glimpse into the mind of my INFP husband. It seems like it’s an almost a compulsion with him that he can’t finish something. He’ll put away almost all the groceries but leave two items in the last bag. He’ll put away almost all the laundry and then leave the socks at the bottom of the basket. The only thing I can think is that his brain sees the next step (putting away the grocery bag or the laundry basket) as a separate task he doesn’t want to start on. But it drives me up the wall!

    • Dawn says:

      I am an ENFP and right this very moment, there is a grocery bag on my kitchen table with 2 loves of Italian bread in it. I put everything else away, but left the bread. Why? I didn’t feel like doing it. LOL!!

      Honestly, I drive my own self crazy!! I get bored with a task so I stop.

  21. Wendy says:

    The first thing I thought when I started reading this was, “Oh that’s right, she’s an INFP, too!” I’m trying sooo hard to be a better finisher – if for no other reason than to provide a better example for my kids. (Although I think they are going to aim for NOT being like me…)
    Many people mention the half-finished laundry. I’m a huge fan of ‘fluffing’. Don’t get it folded in time? Hey, just throw something slightly wet in with it and fluff those wrinkles away!

  22. Michelle says:

    I’m afflicted with both difficulty in implementing and maintaining patterns and order AND an inability to find peace in disorder. Which one wins out can vary given the day. Generally I do best when things are set up so keeping order is exceptionally easy. This means less stuff, less clutter, less to navigate, less to operate around, less to maintain. It’s a constant balancing act of purging and resisting the urge to put something in a closet or drawer and out of sight (my husband’s preferred MO, a learned behavior from his parents).
    This is much easier now as empty nesters. We clean a room and it stays that way. When the kids were home the approach was significantly different. The emotional energy to work against what simply wasn’t reasonably attainable was too great. Recognizing the season of your life, what works best at the time, what is critical and what can be ignored, is a skill. The details are less important and are different for every family.

  23. Ashley S says:

    I adopted “Jusr Do It Now” specifically for changing the toilet paper. I had a habit of getting a new roll and leaving it on the vanity. It takes 9 seconds to just change it! But I didn’t. I adopted that habit and am slowly spreading it to other things: put the laundry away instead of just shoving the basket in the bedroom. Hang up my coat now instead of draping it 5 feet away over a dining room chair. Just do it now!

  24. Sarah says:

    Just came home from Target, put the bags down where I walked in and did something else. Then I sat down and read your post. Got up, and finished the Target run cycle. Not only did that include putting the things away, but also putting the reusable bags back in my car. Felt really good and now I am changing my thinking about everything I do today. Going to “fluff” the clothes in the dryer, fold, put away, then put the towels that are in the washer in the dryer and finish that cycle too!

  25. Sarah Royal says:

    My brain operates similarly! The Dana White (@A slob comes clean) book helped me establish some routines for what she calls project brain. I absolutely have project brain, so doing laundry once a week as project is so much more satisfying to me than working on it here and there throughout the week. She has a podcast too!

  26. Beth says:

    Several books I have looked at or read over the years that relate to this are The Eight Minute Organizer by Regina Leeds (complete every action you start); The House that Cleans Itself by Mindy Stearns Clark (use baskets and containers where the mess is happening); and Unstuff Your Life! by Andrew J. Mellen. His thoughts: a home for everything and like with like; deal with mail the whole way when it comes in the house; Are you attached to your stuff or to the stories connected with your stuff? The stories are still there even if your stuff leaves; Find a home for your wallet, keys, glasses and put them there right away every time you come home; receipts – part of finishing the shopping cycle is to write down what you spent immediately upon returning home.
    Then this quote: It’s worth noting that we often care only what people think of us just enough to punish ourselves with it, not enough to actually do anything about it. (A.J. Mellen)
    These are things I have read, but don’t always put into practice. 🙂

  27. Ana says:

    Love this, I definitely have the “not following through” problem, and a simple mind-trick will hopefully help. It is so much more satisfying to cross it completely off your list then to have things lingering. Laundry is the biggest problem in this area. I have no problem at all putting the clothes in the washer & dryer and taking them out and bringing them to the right room and then…leaving them there and digging through the basket to get what I need each day!

  28. Nichole says:

    I have lots of tidiness issues and these are the resources that helped me:
    A book called organizing for people with ADD and ADHD (even though I don’t have those issues).
    And the podcast and blog, A Slob Comes Clean.

    Completing the cycle is a great way to think about some of the issues I have.

    • Katy Reeve says:

      Me to a T! I have to make myself finish a task before staring something else. Life runs more smoothly when I complete the cycle – mainly because I can remember what I am doing! When I jump from task to task I find I loose things and can’t remember what I have done with them. I have created some routines that help my kids learn how to complete the cycle – maybe they will do it more naturally when they are older.

  29. Michaela says:

    Oh my gosh. This is LITERALLY 100% me, but I’ve never been able to articulate it this way. It frustrates my (super type-A clean freak( husband to no end, too haha

  30. Grace says:

    What great phrasing! I’m lucky that “completing the cycle” comes naturally to me (though not my husband and that can cause some conflict sometimes, haha). For example, when we make dinner, the pots/pans/utensils are usually washed and sitting in the drying rack by the time all the food is done cooking and has been put on our plates. I LOVE this feeling. I have friends who let their dishes stack up on the counter for days, which is fine for them if they’re okay with it, but I don’t think I could handle it.

    • ~Amy F.~ says:

      My great-aunt ALWAYS has the pots and pans washed by the time we sit down to eat. As a young teen, I remember being incredibly inspired by her example–clean-up goes so much faster after a meal when the dishes are the only things left! Now, I try to do as many of the prep dishes as I can before we eat, and I completely agree with you that it’s a wonderful feeling!

  31. Debi Morton says:

    Anne, this whole post just made me laugh. Not at you, but I hope, with you. I do think this is a function of your personality type, as you said; although, I also think it is a strong function of training and habit. My mom taught us to completely finish a job, and this meant cleanup, as well. Although, she let the kitchen build up dishes and cookware all day, then did a marathon clean each evening. Correction: one of her three daughters did a marathon clean. So I learned to clean up after myself, but also extended it to the kitchen, because I’m tired at night and don’t want to do more than I have to. So all I have to do then (now that my 3 sons are gone) is the supper dishes. I taught the same to my boys. However, they live with wives who do varying degrees of this; and each one has developed the habits of their wives. Only one loads the dishwasher as he goes through the day ?, and one rarely even picks up his clothes! So much for all those years of good training!

  32. I think that, for a seventeen-year-old at least, I am pretty good at “completing the cycle.” It drives me up the wall when I have half-finished things lying around. It truly is easier to do things now rather than later. 🙂

  33. Kari says:

    This reminds me so much of something Gretchen Rubin has talked about lately on The Happier Podcast — be good to your Future Self. When you really don’t want to ‘complete the cycle’ think of your Future Self who will have to do those annoying tasks later and be good to that person by doing them now.

    • Kaia Strand says:

      Kari, I was going to tie this into a Gretchen Rubin hack, too! “Completing the cycle” reminds me of a “try this at home” strategy from her “Happiness” podcast about doing all things in the moment that will take under a minute.
      The phrase “completing the cycle” adds that much more of a visual impact of anticipating the positive impact that tying up loose ends will have in my life. Love it and completely relate!!

  34. Janice Rine says:

    Completing the cycle is a winner. I also find if I have a morning routine (make the bed, wash the breakfast dishes, get dressed) then the rest of the day flows easily from there. It makes me think I’m organized.

  35. Janis says:

    I see ME in this post!! ENFP is my MB personality, and the planning and process are so much fun for me, while I’m not a completer. I do work on developing the habit. Do it now! Put it away! I once ordered a program ( metal box of index cards) called S.H.E. =. Side-tracked Home Executive to help me with housekeeping. I misplaced it!! Thank you for sharing!

  36. Trudie says:

    I like this mantra ” complete the cycle”. I will use it. Another self-talk I have is “touch it once”. How many times do you pick something up in the house only to put it back down or move it to another spot where it doesn’t belong. Mail for example. It comes in and is put down to be dealt with later. Now, I go through it immediately, junk mail gets trashed, bills go to the appropriate spot on the desk ( I’m working on this one…they still get touched at least twice), documents to the to-be-filed in box (ditto above). This mantra helps to keep clutter down.

  37. I saw, but didn’t read, the Apartment Therapy post because, like you, I am not interested in a perfect home. I know a few people who have “perfect” homes, and they are not happy, nor is anybody who enters. Around here, perfection is not a goal. However, I more or less do complete cycles, and our house is more or less orderly and neat, but not perfect, so one can always find a nit to pick. To them, I say, “Leave.”
    My mother, on the other hand, was a perfect example of someone who never, ever finished what she started. At the end of her life, it was because she was old and tired and weak. But younger, I think it was almost calculated–that if she managed to get everything done, she would be expected to pull it off again and again ad infinitum, or that (more likely), by trying to play the perfection game, someone (my dad? my grandma/her MIL?) would say, Aha! You missed that! and nitpick her to pieces. So she didn’t play the game. And the house was a MESS.

  38. Margie says:

    My mental trick is a variation on the cycle theme. I’ve stopped thinking of ever being done with laundry/dishes/cooking/filing. It’s defeating to think you’re ‘done’ when of course you never are. Instead, my focus is ‘do the next step in the cycle’. Empty the dishwasher, take the whites downstairs, empty the fridge before shopping, etc. I stay on top of things and it’s made all these routine tasks more of a zen process.

  39. Theresa says:

    Great phrase that makes complete sense, “complete the cycle.” Never thought of it that way. I guess I am a cleannie and will work until I am bone tired to complete a task. I was taught by my mother not to stop or play until the task was done. So this is my motivation. Get my daily tasks done and then I have the evenings off. Besides it saves me so much time the next day because I have cleaned up after myself and completed the task. My husband is more of a play and take a break kind of guy, so he has introduced a lot of moderation into my life and now I think I am more balanced.

  40. Kim says:

    In my house, we turned this into the mantra, “Touch it, complete it.” I will admit, though, that last load of laundry is the toughest one to do! (Confession time – there is a dried load of laundry in the dryer right now.)

  41. Ruth says:

    This is exactly me! But how do you talk yourself into actually doing the steps to “complete the cycle”? I think of a million reasons (excuses) why I can’t finish it right then.

  42. Melodee says:

    I think how we frame the issue has a huge effect on our ability to follow through! I like “complete the cycle.” I have a friend (who now has six grown children and a few grandchildren) who plays “the laundry game.” The object of the game is to do all the laundry and get it folded and put away before the end of the day. By framing it as a game that she can “win” or “lose,” she motivates herself to complete it. (She also does her ironing in high heels and pearls with a glass of wine. She is the coolest.)

  43. Leyla Meza says:

    I’m not sure if I close the cycles, but as I go through the house in the mornings I leave doors opened or lights on to remind me I have to go back to these places to: pack my cellphone in my purse, to get my eyeglasses, (lights on in the bathroom) for the last look of my face in the mirror before leaving, lights on in my daughter’s room so that she can also take an eagle’s eye-view to check if she’s not leaving anything behind, etc. I also have various Chapstick tubes and one is located by the kitchen window which our last stop before leaving. Apply enough before locking the doors on your way out. I like my system, it hasn’t failed me.

  44. Renee says:

    I am also an INFP and your description is me to a T! I’ve been trying to keep on top of the kitchen (you must start somewhere, right?!) and I love the idea of framing it as Completing the Cycle!

  45. Jamie says:

    This post reminds me of a part of one of Charles Duhigg’s books (not sure if it was Habits or Smarter Faster Better) when he discusses how Febreeze became such a household phenomenon. At first the marketing campaign was all about how Febreeze covered up smells (which is does – a chemistry miracle!) but it wasn’t taking off like the company hoped it would. Then, through some twist of fate or research that I can’t quite recall, the researches realized the test markets that were BOOMING were using Febreeze as a ‘finisher’ for their cleaning routine instead of a ‘cover up’ for bad odors. They realized that people want their cleaning efforts to end with some sort of flourish or reward to reflect how hard they had worked. Thus, Febreeze! When the cleaning was done, the testers would spray Febreeze in the room and it would give them that fresh scent that they knew they ‘deserved’ because of their hard work. It completed the cycle – they cleaned, it was clean, now it actually SMELLED clean.

  46. Hannah Beth Reid says:

    I love this idea/phrasing! I’m working on teaching this habit to my children, especially when cleaning up Legos and the like…you aren’t done until you’ve looked at the whole area, lidded the box and put it back on the shelf. Thank you for sharing this great information!

  47. As a mom of littles, I feel like I spend all of my time putting out fires. But, even if I’m interrupted 1000 times, completing one task sounds so much more gratifying than my current system of attempting 10 half completed chores at a time. I’m going to give this a try, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it might just save my sanity!

  48. Ina Koerner says:

    I am the same way, but didn’t realize that being an INFP personality had anything to do with it. I am 74 and have decided that I have ADD because I go in the other room to get something I need for completing a task and start looking things up on the computer or starting another task. It is especially bad because I recently took up quilting. Cutting and piecing go great, but then the quilt top sits waiting for quilting and the binding. I’ll have to try your method.

  49. Angela says:

    I didn’t realize it, but I do “complete the cycle” in a lot of things, but as an INFP like you, I had to get a system in place. With laundry, I fold as I take the clothes out of the dryer. Then from the dryer, I hand-carry clothes straight into the closet. If I use a laundry basket, the cycle will never be completed. I have a system with dishes, too. But with mail, packages, and things I bought…no system yet! What helps though, is listening to podcasts (like yours!) and audiobooks. Like, this podcast is an hour long, so I have an hour to finish this or complete the cycle.

  50. Erin K says:

    I am very similar to you. I know it’s better to do things immediately, and I often do, but at some point I’m exhausted and start leaving things undone and then the next thing you know the house is a mess. But for the last few days I’ve been thinking of it as “completing the cycle” and you’re so right, it helps! Love it!

  51. Sarah says:

    This is definitely me, too. (Also an INFP!) I think the hardest part for me is that I have 4 kids age 8 and under, and homeschool, so it seems there are always multiple cycles at once. Maybe I could complete one. But all of them??? Anone have any advice? I do want to get better at this!

  52. Babs says:

    I really have a hard time completing the cycle also. It just seems like 1) I never designate enough time for anything and 2) Life is always getting in my way.

  53. Jess says:

    Thanks for sharing! I, too, struggle with completing the cycle – especially when it comes to big ideas and projects. What I’m curious about is whether tasks that are done together with one’s spouse can have this same “completing the cycle” mentality applied. For example, my husband does the laundry and then I *am supposed to* fold it – but sometimes it takes me a few days to get the folding done. So I’ll be off experimenting with and practicing this idea when it comes to group activities/chores!

  54. Mary says:

    I have an Excel spreadsheet with the same 10 things listed for each day under a column for each day of the week (7 columns with 10 things each and leave a little room to write extra to dos in as well as special activities/gatherings), one column for weekly things, one column for monthly things, and a column of blank space that I fill in with extra things to do and notes. This helps me keep track of what I got done because I don’t cross something off until it is completely done. I break down steps to fill the 10 things; for example, I don’t write laundry – I put wash, dry, fold, away. Once I have a habit established, I can put things back as one step if I want. If I am trying to focus on something that isn’t a habit yet, I make sure to include it in my 10 things. My goal each day is to cross off at least 3 of the 10 things which I find to be doable even on a very busy day. Usually, I manage about 7 things being crossed off. This helps me feel positive when I look back at the week when I feel like I got nothing done but can see clearly that I did. It also helps me keep track of what hasn’t been done that month…awareness throughout the month is HUGE.
    Keep fighting the fight! The last 10% is soo hard!

  55. Jen says:

    Im just so relieved that Im not the only full grown adult who leaves a trail behind her constantly. Fellow INFP here so maybe I should try “completing the cycle” also.

  56. Lisa says:

    This post has been the best thing for me! There is something rewarding about ‘completing the cycle’ that isn’t there for ‘clean up the dishes’. I think it is the idea that something is done – even something that will have to be repeated in a few hours. At any rate, I just wanted to thank you for this. It has meant an improvement in just the dishes cycle by at least 50% in the last month! Looking forward to other posts…

  57. kerifei says:

    This is me! Since I’ve had my son who just turned 1, I find that I’m leaving everything half done. The baby food jar is still on the table from dinner and the high chair needs to be wiped down when I’m ready to go to bed. About 2 months ago, I decided I had to start “looping back around” (based on David Allen’s Open Loops in GTD.) It’s still a work in progress, and I like “completing the cycle.” It makes me feel like I’m not redoing, but finishing!

  58. Deb says:

    If you have not yet read it, you need to look at “It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys: The Seven-Step Path to Becoming Truly Organized” by Marilyn Paul. It’s one of those “best books you may never have heard of” types and it talks about this idea. It’s a wonderful book for INFPs.

  59. Libby H says:

    It’s hard to complete the cycle when you have small kids — and then it’s hard to break that habit when they are no longer so small! When my kids are all asking me for things at the same time, I find myself telling them, “I can only do one thing at a time; I am only one person.” So completing the cycle (love this term!) when they are not around is me telling myself, “Finish the thing.”

  60. Rachel Smith says:

    I’ve discovered this for myself lately as well! One thing I’d add: for all of us who have historically had trouble “completing the cycle”, we will also have to adjust our schedule to allow the time for making the change. For instance, I can no longer expect for breakfast in my house to take 20 minutes with 3 small kids. If I want to “complete the cycle”, I have to budget 35 minutes for “breakfast” in order to clean up and wipe tables and counters after. I have to budget more time for everything….meals, laundry, projects, even cleaning out the car is part of “completing the cycle” when we spend a lot of time in it on a given day. There are far fewer minutes available when you decide to always “complete the cycle” (I get much less DONE each day), but what I do get is things actually completely DONE, which feels much more satisfying and peaceful at the end of the day.

  61. nicole says:

    If I am honest with myself, I have trouble completing the cycle because…it’s boring! ha! I have small children and a thousand excuses why I can’t always complete the cycle. But when it comes down to it, I just don’t wanna. It sure feels good when I push myself to though.

  62. Susie says:

    I love reading these articulate and intelligent comments! So different from the usual social media…
    Anyway, I’m not sure I want to “complete the cycle”, at least all the time. I hate housework. After dinner, my husband heads off to the cozy living room with the wood fire, to watch TV. I’m left with the dishes. It defeats me. I just want to walk away and join my hubby. It looks like it will take an hour, even though it won’t. So I tell myself, you don’t have to do it all. Just do some of it. Get that big pot out of the sink, so it can be used, and wash all the plates, so the counter will be clear and ready for breakfast. I think, “I can do that”. And I do, and I feel good, and sometimes more gets done that I negotiated for. It does get done eventually, it just has Part 1, Part 2, and sometimes Part 3! Its never-ending anyway, so what’s the difference!?
    Conversely, other things I’m kind of OCD about—everything I take out to make a meal goes back away the minute I’m finished with it. And the reason for that is that I have extremely small counter space, and it gets very crowded. Everything I put away gives me more work space.
    But, I should experiment with the “complete the cycle” idea. Make myself do it. I feel very undisciplined, my house is definitely not “company ready”.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.