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Organizing Home Improvement Projects

What did people do during quarantine? It’s likely that some home improvement projects got checked off the list. How do we approach these projects in a way that doesn’t break the bank or stress us out? Is there a method to the madness?

The principles of organization can absolutely apply to planning out and executing a home improvement project! Whether you’re going the DIY route or bringing in the pros, here are some tips to make the process and experience a smooth one.

1. Make a project list

project list

From the time we moved into our home over 7 years ago, I’ve had a home improvement list. It has evolved over the years, as new priorities come up, and others get checked off. But, it has been a very helpful tool to identify priorities, save, and plan for what’s next. And, keeping a record of updates that were made, when, and how much they cost is helpful if you ever wanted to list your home.

The list is simply a spreadsheet containing projects that each have an assigned priority of 1, 2, or 3, along with an estimated cost. Subscribe at the bottom of this post to receive a project prioritization template!

2. Prioritize your projects

Why is this necessary? Well, it’s helpful because of the pull between time and money. If you have the money, you still can do only so many things at once. And, if you have the time, but not the money for everything, you can focus on making deliberate progress towards accomplishing something from your list.

Be realistic about how much you can do at once. Try to evenly spread out priorities so everything doesn’t get a priority 1.

3. Do some research

Luckily, there’s youtube! And, lots of other online resources to equip you with the knowledge you need for those DIY projects. It’s also great to get a referral from someone you know and trust, so ask around.

Look for reviews, and prioritize quality. If a price seems too good to be true, the quality might not be there. And, if you need supplies or plan to hire some or all of the work out, here are some questions you could ask.

  1. What is the leadtime on X product?
  2. Do you carry X in stock or is it special order?
  3. What is your availability?
  4. Do you offer free estimates?

4. Make a supply list

List everything you need. But, don’t go to the store yet! Check to see what you have, so you don’t rebuy a 4th tube of caulk.

5. Estimate costs

Once you’ve completed your research step and have selected the materials and/or professional you’ll be using, add up all your projected costs. Be thorough! If you need to purchase 12 foot long boards that don’t fit in your car, include the cost of delivery, or renting a truck.

6. Estimate timing

There’s two different components to this. One is how long it takes to actually do the job (how much work is entailed). The other is where you apply some realism, knowing you’re fitting the job into real life. I recommend doubling your initial estimate!

You can also go down your entire list, putting ballpark timing to everything on the list, by quarter, season, or month. Then, as you finish a job, you can tackle the next thing on the list, and fine tune your timing for that project, per above.

7. Finish what you start

home improvement

Doing this is the single biggest way to stay organized in the midst of projects. We have a tendency to get inspired, have grand plans, get started, then get distracted, or move onto something else when we get tired. We leave a wake of tools and other clutter in our rear view mirror. I recommend tackling something small enough that you can and will finish what you start. Then, move on to the next thing. Having no more than 1 in-process project at a time is a good rule of thumb.

8. Reconcile your list

When a project is completed, I like to go back to my list, and update costs to replace estimates with actuals. Over time, you’ll get better and better at estimating.

It’s amazing the home improvement projects people can tackle. No need to be intimidated – with so many resources at our fingertips, and a little planning, you can do it, too!