Quiz: Are You a Finisher or an Opener?

Every Wednesday is Tip Day, or Quiz Day.

This Wednesday: Are you a Finisher or an Opener?

I love dividing people into categories. Under-buyers and over-buyers. Eeyores and Tiggers. Abstainers and Moderators. Upholders, Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers.

A thoughtful reader and fellow lover of taxonomies, Dianne Volek, suggested a  new system of categories. Let’s call the two types of people  “Finishers and Openers.”

Do you get more satisfaction from…

  • Throwing away a container or bottle after using the very last drop, or
  • Opening a fresh new container

I’m a Finisher; my husband is an Opener. I love to extract the last tiny bit out of a tube of toothpaste, and he loves opening the new tube. True, I do love that first squeeze, and the first dip into a new jar of peanut butter, but I also enjoy using the very last bit of the old stuff. I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I use the last egg in a carton (as I did this morning).

Perhaps this explains the weird satisfaction I feel when something breaks or is worn out. Why do I like to see the worn spots on our sofa? Why do I like getting a hole in a pair of socks? Perhaps it’s my Finisher nature, delighting in the finish.

When I visited my sister a few weeks ago, I noticed that she had about twenty bottles of hair products in her shower. I suspect she’s an Opener.

I wonder if this is related to the distinction between Simplicity Lovers and Abundance Lovers.

Do these categories ring true for you? Are you a Finisher or an Opener?

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  • Brionne Griffin

    I’m definitely a finisher, but never realized it until now. I love using things up and getting rid of them!

  • Joy Palmer

    I’m definitely an opener; I feel positively oppressed by 90% empty containers! I wonder if this relates to the Belbin profiles (e.g. ‘plant’ versus ‘finisher’). I’ve been profiled as a ‘plant,’ good at starting things. Weak on the ‘completer finisher’ side of things. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Team_Role_Inventories

  • Kayla

    Definitely a finisher!

  • rlepkan

    Definitely a finisher. Finishing is neater (tend not to get as much clutter), definitely more economical and less wasteful, and like you, a definite feeling of accomplishment.

  • Lisa Y

    I am a finisher, which is coming in handy in my current stage of life. Instead of feeling sad that my last baby is growing up, I delight in each baby accessory we no longer need!

  • Megan Gordon

    I suspect I’m an opener who thinks she should be a finisher. I regularly resist the urge to open a new bottle or package of something until the old one is spent. I also underestimate how long a dwindling supply will last and buy more too soon, which makes me more eager to finish the original! I will say that I usually do that when I have a coupon for something and then have the opportunity to use the coupon plus an extra percentage off…

  • Eve

    I love finishing my socks, too! I thought I was weird. And it really bugs me when people in my family have holes in their socks but yet don’t regard them as “finished.” I beg them to let me throw them away.

    • gretchenrubin

      Oh, I do that too. As an under-buyer, I keep wearing them far longer than I should.

  • Martina

    Definitely a finisher… I’m always propping my bottles upside down to get the last drop. I will also cut open tubes with scissors if necessary. Packaging that makes it hard to use up products actually really annoys me! I just really want to get my money’s worth, and I also hate having a million bottles of the same thing on the go at once.

  • Jennifer

    An opener, but I love “finishing” socks, and also underwear.

  • Natalie

    I am definitely a finisher as well:) I love using the hotel shampoos my mom collects and then getting rid of all the tiny bottles!
    Also- not on this topic but wanted to thank you for your little corner of the internet that always brightens my day- checking your blog is on my to-do list at work! (Need as many things to look forward to as possible:) I just read “Why we get Fat and what to do about it” after reading your recommendation of it in an earlier post and I feel it has completely changed how I view my body- thank you so much for bringing it to my attention! Hope you are having a fantastic day and thank you for all the thoughtful ideas and recommendations you share and highlight.

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks so much for your kind words. so happy to hear that my work resonates with you.

  • Amy P

    I’m also an opener who wants to be a finisher. I see this a lot in my sewing and home projects – I always have multiple projects on the go because a new one sounds more exciting or seems more important/time-sensitive. But boy do I wish I finished them all! Invariably some sit around for years.

    • gretchenrubin

      This is why I made the resolution to Abandon a Project: those projects can drive you crazy! http://www.gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2010/08/video-abandon-a-fun-project/

    • Penelope Schmitt

      yes, but some are sitting around waiting for the new spurt of inspiration or the arrival of that special skill you didn’t have when you started them! Sure, feel free to swap, cut up, or ditch an unsatisfying UFO (unfinished object) but I have sure experienced some lovely ‘right moments’ for projects that came along later.

  • Penelope Schmitt

    Based on knowing that I once discovered that I had SEVEN opened jars of Dijon mustard in my fridge, could it be that I am an opener? I love to start projects, and don’t mind starting three new ones when I have 15 unfinished ones. Yes, I DO finish things, but I am more of an opener than a finisher. It was a major source of feeling more self esteem and integrity when I learned to complete projects as well as start them. But always, in every way, I will be the person with the cascade of ideas, the willingness to jump into the field of clean snow and make the first footprints, and the person who doesn’t get around to ‘finishing’ all those leftovers in the fridge until they become science projects and have to be thrown away.

  • Tess

    Inveterate opener. I have six half-used bottles of shampoo in my bathroom. Using them up before buying more sounds like the right thing to do, and I can’t quite bring myself to throw the old ones away, but oh the allure of a new bottle! Or a new hobby, or a new project, a new piece of software… And even though I love reading, a book has to be really compelling for me to finish it before moving on to the next!

  • Jen Morris

    Love this! I am for sure a finisher.

  • Ginger

    What a fun concept… I’d never really thought of it this way before, but definitely a finisher!

  • Amy Welborn

    Well, what if you are neither? What if you are middle lover? While there is great satisfaction in both opening something new and finishing the old, is there not also satisfaction in the contentment of being in the middle of the product’s life, when it is now been shaped into your own?

    I love half squeezed toothpaste and I love to squeeze from the middle. It is disorderly. I know it is not the way my mom taught me, but there is some real satisfaction in that half filled tube that has my signature squeeze. It is mine. It is no longer conforming to the mold and it is no longer perfect. When the new container is still perfect, it lacks personality and feels so superior. I prefer a much more creative looking tube that has my stamp of ownership.

    I love the middle of the week when I have just enough eggs left to make my own patterns in the cartoon. Some weeks I even buy brown eggs and white eggs so that int he middle of the week I can mix them in one cartoon.

  • Natalie

    I am an opener! Love the new bottle, the unopened tube, and most especially the blank page waiting for the magic to come.

  • Randee Bulla

    I am a finisher and I think that is because I feel like I can start from scratch when I am done with something.

  • Kristen

    Finisher when it comes to things that come in bottles and containers. Opener for everything else. I have about a thousand projects going, and few ever get
    finished–despite the fact that I love the feeling of being done with
    something instead of having it hanging open over my head. The newness,
    the “open”, of another project is more attractive. But finishing up a
    bottle of shampoo or lotion or peanut butter is really satisfying.

    ….And that actually makes me feel a lot better about myself. Just identifying the dichotomy helped. I always felt guilty for not finishing up one project before starting another, but now I know why. No need to feel guilty anymore.

    • Alecia

      Me too!! I’m so glad there’s someone else in the world like me. I love the physical and mental “space” that comes from eating the last serving of casserole, squeezing the last bit of sunblock out (I can make the bottle surrender 2 full uses after everyone else in the family declares it empty)…but for projects I’m a total opener. I love laying the groundwork, figuring out how to complete it, and overcoming problems…but once I see that the problem is solvable, the project is able to be completed…I totally lose interest. The challenge is gone.

  • Michele Zacks

    Aha! This dichotomy does explain the challenge my partner and I have – ongoing – in combining our households. I was fascinated yet horified by the contents of his condo. several types of oils, numerous vinegar flavors, and even more perplexing, copious breadcrumbs. I couldnt understand why he would not use up one kind before buying a new one. It made me terribly panicky when packing up to move. Where would we keep all these? I had lived a life of considerable simplicity, as a student – frequently moving, small apartments. I cull ruthlessly. I consider purchases carefully, often so much that I do not have what I need at times, causing me regret or stress later on. I knew he was THE KEEPER OF THE THINGS. Family memorabilia, furniture, travel collections! From your blog, I came to realize that he is an abundance person. I have benefited from gravitating a little towards his Boy Scout mentality, even though I still hyperventilate when I open our cabinets. However, the opener personality – all me – is explained by the joy I get from knowing that I finally finished a bottle of makeup and am permitted to try something new! I love thinking about the dichotomies and read them to him, which he either resists, hates, or just doesn’t get.

  • http://www.mygreenandtidylife.co.uk Rachel Papworth

    Oh, I love this distinction!! That is so insightful.

    I am, without doubt, a finisher! I LOVE to use the last drop, shred etc of anything. At the same time, it’s important to me to use things right up (to save waste/environmental impact). So I use towels until they’re more hole than towel, for example.

    I help people all over the world declutter and you’ve just made a penny drop for me. Many of my clients are openers. They love the beginning of things and not the end.

    This is going to be so so helpful to me and my clients as we find ways to help them work with their personalities to manage their stuff more effectively.

    Thank you!

  • chris

    I’m a finisher, in the sense that if I have a bit of an ingredient left over from a recipe, I cannot stand to waste it and will spend $5-$10 on new groceries in order to make a recipe that will use up that 1/4 cup of ricotta, or whatever oddball food is left in my fridge. My very logical husband just laughs and reminds me that I’ve spent more on the new groceries than it would have cost to throw away the remainder of my original ingredient, but I get such satisfaction out of finding a recipe that needs just that amount. And, if I can use up more than one “leftover” – what bliss!

    • Marjorie

      Been there, done that!

  • Brainwavelove

    Wow, what a fresh and original piece, I really enjoyed it. Haven’t thought about this concept in terms of everyday stuff like opening the toothpaste, etc. But in terms of coming up with ideas and leading them through the end, considering this concept is very important. If a group of ‘openers’ come together, they will never be able to put the plan into action and it will all be about brainstorming and coming up with amazing, unique stuff. I think what’s important is that every opener finds their perfect finisher ;)

  • http://amyhagerup.blogspot.com/ Amy Hagerup

    DEfinitely a finisher. Never thought about this before. You brought in a new angle to perspective. I’m going to think on this today. I try to clean out the freezer and things in the cupboard that have been there too long! I cut up my great skin care cream’s tube to get out the last of the gold stuff. Thanks, Amy

  • April

    Oh it is so nice to know I’m not the only finisher! My husband the Opener believes that everyone loves new things, and only finishes off leftovers and old things out of a sense of duty.

  • Kelly

    I love this post! I am absolutely a finisher except in two cases…peanut butter and potato chips. There is something so wonderful about dipping into that unused jar of creamy, peanuty goodness that makes me happy. Don’t get me started on a freshly opened bag of chips. I lose interest after that first handfull and rely on my kids to finish up the bag.

  • Marjorie

    Ha! Based on this post from my blog a number of months ago, I would definitely have to say I’m a finisher (http://www.howisavedmoneytoday.com/2013/01/29/today-i-prevailed-over-the-dreaded-tube/ ). The satisfaction of truly finishing something is compounded by the satisfaction of then getting to open the next one. Double the pleasure, double the fun!

  • TJ

    I am a finisher. Even when cooking, rather than leave all the ingredients on the counter until I’m done, I will put away an ingredient right away if I no longer have need for it, and then continue. It’s the sense of creating order out of chaos that I like. I also wonder if I am a finisher because I tend to think and act linearly. I can’t move on to another project until I finish the last one, or I get too overwhelmed if I start “in the middle” of something or begin something when there are other projects on the go. I call this “amorphous” living (no form, no boundaries, likes the big picture), while I’m definitely very morphous (need boundaries, likes order and small details).

  • Elizabeth Barnes

    Definitely a finisher…finishing a bunch of ingredients by making a roast or a fruit smoothie gives me an extreme amount of satisfaction. Just this morning, I was trying to think of ways that I can finish the hair products I have open. I enjoy finishing out the last drop of something and throwing the container away…much more than opening a new one.

  • PrLeiaFan

    Finishing gives me more pleasure vs opening however I do love the thrill that comes from a fresh start.

  • Erin M. Hartshorn

    I’m totally a finisher. I’d rather wear my clothes out than go buy new ones. In fact, if my kids didn’t outgrow their clothes, I’d make them wear theirs out, too. I want to use up every last bit.

  • Shauna

    Definitely an obsessive opener with guilt.

    Every time I start a new hobby I become utterly infatuated with it, spending way too much time and a little too much money on the equipment. I check out masses of library books and only finish the ones that truly capture my imagination. I have yet to find the perfect shampoo and my vanity is filled with the bottles to prove it.

    I try to temper the guilt two ways; by finding used or free stuff, and massive purges to the charity bins.

  • Marjorie

    A finisher. Your True Rule “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” really resonates with me. (And the writer in me likes the fact that it’s clever and rhymes.)
    However, I might be inclined to slightly reword the rule to “Use it up, throw it out, make it do, or do without.” It still rhymes!

    • gretchenrubin

      Better!

      • Marjorie

        Not meaning to improve on your rule, just tweaking it for me. I have trouble throwing stuff out, even when that’s exactly what I need to do. Throw it out, whether it’s worn out or not. The rule makes it easier to do!

  • http://www.janaleemiller.com/ Jana @333 Days Hand Lettering

    finisher for sure. holding out to purchase an iphone because my other phone has not died yet. I can afford it but I want to use up the other one.

  • CSCarroll1958

    Why the forced dichotomy? I’m some of both, with opening tendencies with some things and finishing tendencies in others. Your pointing out the distinction is clever, but I think we miss opportunities for growth if we only think of ourselves as one or the other.
    Criticism is not intended…. I really did enjoy reading the blog. Thanks,

  • Mel

    I am an opener. I start projects or books and leave them most often unfinished to start something else. Sticky notes are my best friend…always changing the plans (I hope to finish) but always have a to-do list. When too many things are opened I feel overwhelmed at times. Satisfaction comes when I actually finish a task. Odd though, I am the complete opposite when it comes to food. I eat all left-overs before starting fresh. Maybe it is a result from obligation or guilt not to waste food.

  • Mhmmm

    Do these categories apply to sex? If so, I am DEFINITELY a finisher ; )

  • Andrea

    I’m an opener, but I want to be a finisher. I don’t know why that is; maybe some of the people I admire are finishers? Anyway, I do agree that it’s related to simplicity/abundance.

  • Yasmin

    I think this is related to simplicity lovers and abundance lovers. My husband is a simplicity lover and definitely a finisher while I am an abundance lover and an opener. I am always on the look out for something broken down as an excuse to get a new one but he is always searching for ways in which he can use anything till it is absolutely not in a position to be of any use. I follow his trend at times for the fun it gives for I try new uses for stuff for example if the broom stick is left over and the broom brush broken then the stick can be put to another use etc. At times though I feel I am always on the go. I think finishers are more content than openers and am trying to develop some finisher qualities in me. I love these distinctions cause they provide an opportunity not only to explore the self but also understand others and bring about changes for personality improvement and compatibility.

  • Sina Mahmoodi

    The first thought which came to my mind when reading the title, was that I’m an opener, because usually I start something, like a project, but I’m not a finisher because continuing the project is the real problem, and I rather start a new project…

  • HEHink

    I’m a finisher with products. I have trouble throwing away things that still have any use in them, so I enjoy having empty containers that I can throw away guilt-free. (And sometimes I don’t even throw away things like empty peanut butter jars or frosting cans if they can be used to store something else). Just realized this is related to another aspect of my clutter habit – I don’t like to put things away until I am done with them. For instance, if I’ve only had time to mop half of the floor, I’m inclined to leave the mop out until I have time to mop the rest, even if that’s not until two days later. This drives my husband crazy, so I’ve had to develop an “I’m done for now” mentality.

    I think I’m a finisher with projects, too. Although I do sometimes have more than one project going at once (who doesn’t, in the scope of their lives?), there are many times when I won’t want to begin a new project if it looks too big for me to see the end of it. If I don’t think I can finish in a reasonable/satisfactory amount of time (i.e. “I’ll never get it done!”), I won’t start at all. This looks like procrastination, and it probably is, but perhaps this dichotomy helps explain why some of us never “get around to” certain things that may need to be done. It also shows the value of reframing our idea of finishing by breaking something into smaller tasks, and feeling a sense of satisfaction when we finish each step.

  • Teresa C

    finisher!

  • @bethsez

    There are two types of people in the world.
    Those who divide people into two types, and……

    • Marcia Francois

      LOL :)

      I’m clearly in the first batch with my MBTI obsession (ESTJ)

  • Nicole J

    Like you, I’m a finisher and my hubby is an opener. :)

    http://thisislifeatourhome.blogspot.com

  • Anne

    Definitely a finisher, and I cut open tubes so that I can get every last bit out. Has anyone else noticed how the last inch of shampoo/cream etc takes almost as long to use up as the first 95% did?

  • http://www.dont-look-down.com/ Alyssa @ Don’t Look Down

    This post really resonates with me. I am definitely a finisher and love to use up every last drop of things. This also means I have a hard time throwing things away when I haven’t used all of it, but I really dislike the clutter having multiples of one item creates.

  • RiverBlue

    OMG! I’ve never thought about this but just reading through this post made me realize that I’m an opener (like your sister and all her bottles of hair products in the shower)! Sometimes I combine products just so I’ll have a full bottle (that looks new).

  • Marcia Francois

    I’m definitely a finisher too – I love finishing toothpaste, foundation (I have about one or two days’ left in the current jar and I can’t WAIT to finish it :)), food, etc.

  • Kellya

    I’m totally a Finisher. And I also live with an opener, and I think I need it. It gives us better balance. The last story (about your sister bathroom) really learned me something, because I have a lot of problems understanding this kind of people. Now I should be able to think “oh ok, he/she is an Opener, that’s all”, and I will hoppefully be less judgemental. Thanks!

  • Eva

    Definitely a finisher. When I was (much) younger, I stayed at my mother-in-laws for a couple of weeks. I couldn’t stand 4 jars of semi-finished mustard, and very helpfully consolidated them all into one … She was very polite, but I sensed she didn’t like it. It took me years to figure out that she didn’t want old mixed with newer – to me, making one out of 4 was SO satisfying!

  • Keyuiana Schexnayder

    I am a finisher. When I use the last bit of a product (especially beauty items), I feel like I haven’t wasted money on it.

  • Katrina Mitchell

    There’s a third category — people who enjoy the middle part. I find this in project management work quite a bit. I like the strategy work at the beginning and taking something across the finish line is extremely satisfying but the in-between part I have found is best left to someone else. I think there are maintainers, or managers or something in the middle between the openers and finishers.

  • BeccaB

    I am neither a Finisher, nor an Opener, I am a Changer. Here’s what I mean:

    I feel great satisfaction in fully using something up. In fact, I have a strict rule for myself about always finishing leftovers, and feel INTENSE disappointment when I find spoiled food in my fridge, or have to throw away something (especially clothing) that was barely used.
    And like you, I also love peeling off the freshness seal and tearing open the bag. But here’s the clincher–
    As I squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube, I’m thinking to myself,
    “Hooray, I used it all up, without wasting a single bit, and now I get to go pick out some NEW toothpaste!”
    You see, I’m upset if I don’t use things 100% efficiently, but I’m also thrilled at the prospect of going to get a replacement. I love finishing because it means I’m about to open, and I love opening after I’ve efficiently finished. I love that brief, beautiful moment when Finishing and Opening touch.

    Finishing efficiently PREVENTS angst; opening something new BRINGS joy.
    (This juxtaposition of negative reinforcement + positive reinforcement is the BEST feeling.)

    • Suzanne Bergin

      Finisher. Husband is an opener.

    • Kim Pearce

      I am the same.

  • Robin Stanton

    I am definitely a finisher, the evidence is in the bottle of corn syrup I used to make the pecan pie yesterday. It is sitting upside down so that the last little bit can drain to the top and I can pour it in the second bottle I had to open because there was not quite enough in the first. This is my modus: I have to swish the last little bit of shampoo out of the bottle with water or it is not gone, scrape the last bit of batter out of the bowl with a spatula… Yep definitely a finisher.

  • Heidisayle

    I think I’m both… Like using the last of things, so that I can then open up the new.

  • Andrea

    Oh I am such an opener. I am the type of person who will throw away my shower gel when there is a quarter inch left in it just because i simply can’t stand to wait to open a new one. It’s actually one of my really bad habits. I never really finish anything.

  • Lauren

    I think I am an opener myself, and so is my partner, but it really bugs me when he leaves half finished products and opens new things! Perhaps my opener sensibilities are not the trait I am most fond of in myself. I wish I could be a finisher!

  • Vickie Fournier

    Opener here.

  • Diane

    I like new, but I also drain the very last drop of dishwashing detergent, laundry detergent and shampoo before opening a new bottle. Then I rinse the bottle out to make sure I’ve gotten it all. I’m not a finisher when it comes to leftovers though…

  • therufs

    I’m an abundance lover and a Finisher. It gets stressful sometimes. ;)

  • Char

    Funny, I’d say I am a simplicity lover, a finisher, but also a maximiser, and an underbuyer… wonder if this makes sense as a whole, as I see some resemblance between all these!

  • Brittany P

    I believe I am a weird combination of both, but more so a finisher then an opener. For instance, whenever I get something new like shampoo or office supplies or makeup, I HAVE to instantly open and try it, even if I have items that are not completely used. But once I have tried my new otwms, I will still use the old ones because I have to use them entirely. I hate to waste.

  • lannabanana

    That’s funny…I was sure this post was going to be about ideas and projects, not tangible stuff. To my surprise, I’m a Finisher when it comes to stuff. But I’m very much an Opener when it comes to ideas! To the point that I really hate finishing anything or committing it to the concrete because opening something else is so much fun.

    Oddly, “opening” a physical thing like a peanut-butter jar actually causes me anxiety, because it means I can’t choose something else. Apparently that kind of “opening” is also closure.

  • La

    Definitely a finisher! I just love to see the recycle bin fill up on a weekend. It gives me a sense of accomplishment that I’ve processed all that paperwork, finished up this or that product and moved it along on it’s journey to get it out of the house. I judge how much I have accomplished on a weekend by how full that recycle bin is on Sunday night. If my husband comes along and empties that bin to the large one outside before Sunday evening, I feel as though I have to start all over.

  • Megan Gordon

    I am an opener, but only because I get MORE satisfaction from the opening than the finishing. But I rarely open one container before the older one is empty.

    Recently I was going crazy because we had this tube of toothpaste that just would not run out. The tube was flat, it looked like there couldn’t possibly be any more in it, yet there always was. This went on for a week. I wanted so badly to open up the brand new tube that was waiting in the cabinet. But I waited until I could’t get another drop out of the old one. Torture!