January is the perfect time of year for planning out the projects you’d like to accomplish around your house. I like to go through the process starting with the big dreams and the deciding on our highest priority items for the year. From there, it’s easier to create a plan of how much time and money we need to budget to make the dreams into reality. We have found time and again that we are much more disciplined saving money for home improvement/decorating when we have a specific goal in mind. Knowing that, I came up with a system for us to track all our home improvement and decorating plans.
I started with the BIG DREAM project list of everything I could think of that I’d love to do in the house. If you missed my MAKING a Home Project List guide, make sure you start there before continuing. It’s got some tips for making your list and making sure you do it in the right frame of mind.
Once you’ve got the list, it’s time to prioritize!
I started by listing out all my project into a blank Google Sheets document (Excel or a piece of notebook paper would also work). I added columns for the priority, time commitment needed, and budget. Then I labeled more columns to list out what I wanted to accomplish in each room.
If they are hard to read in the image, my additional columns are furniture, lighting, rugs, art/decor, woodwork, paint, plumb/elect & other.
With my template made, it was time to start filling in all the blanks!
In order to avoid getting bogged down in specific details, I went with a general high, medium, and low rating for both priority and budget.
For the Budget column, I considered anything I could squeeze into our normal monthly budget as low, things that would take 1-4 months to save for as medium, and the major makeovers as high.
For the time column, it’s a little more vague, but I wanted to quickly see which projects could be done in 1 or 2 days, and which were more involved. On most of the things I know I’ll need a good bit of help from the husband on, I went safe and put a week. He has this pesky job that gets in the way of my projects sometimes, so I like to build extra cushion in to account for his help. I don’t want to push the timeline on him if he’s had a long day. Unless it’s during the One Room Challenge, and then it’s all hands on decks, all hours. Thank God he loves me unconditionally. 🙂 Speaking of the One Room Challenge, that’s why I defaulted to 5 weeks on the larger projects. Those are the rooms we’ll go all out for (like the master closet, pantry, and garage).
Questions to ask yourself when prioritizing:
- If I could only do ONE thing from the list this year, what would it be?
- What space most annoys you due to lack of function or outdated design that doesn’t feel like home to you?
- Is there anything that HAS to be done (the not fun stuff, like leaky roofs, old electrical, plumbing, etc)?
- How much time do you have for home improvements this year?
- Which projects can be done in a weekend for under $100? (See my laundry room as an example!)
- Which rooms can be broken down into smaller projects that you can tackle over time?
- Can you sell the old furniture from a space to expand our budget?
- Are you planning to stay in your current house? If NOT, which improvements will have the best resale value?
- Where can you inject your personality? Having your home reflect you turns into daily joy!
I feel the need to reiterate again that I have NO delusions that we’ll work on all these ideas in 2016, it’s just a comprehensive dream list. I’m certain some of the plans will change before we get to them, some may get crossed off, and more will be added. But now that I have all these crazy plans out of my head, I can make a better decision of what to work on first!
Now that I’ve got the BIG DREAM list done, it’s time to land back in reality about what we want to tackle in 2016. Knowing exactly what we’re saving for helps me actually do the saving, and knowing that other projects aren’t being done because we CHOOSE to focus on something else helps me avoid any pity parties.
First, I’d recommend looking through your list and picking out all the items you put as high priority. For me, I thought about what was REALLY driving me crazy or things I REALLY wanted this year.
The unfinished garage floor, the lack of pulls/knobs in the kitchen, and almost falling apart too-small ottoman in the living room are at the top of my driving me crazy list. And a raised vegetable garden out back is on the top of my REALLY want this year list. Luckily, those items are also all lower budget, so it seems reasonable that I can get all of them done.
After settling on those, I’d recommend everyone select ONE higher budget project that you’ll have to save for. Then start planning out the details, which will give you a more accurate budget goal AND amp up the excitement. Figure out how much you can save each month, and then consider going extra crazy and giving up a current expense or trying to make extra money to put towards your goal. Heck, start getting ready for a garage sale this spring. You’ll be AMAZED at what you can come up with when you know exactly what you are saving for.
If you are having trouble selecting your top big project (like me), spend some time planning out several. As you plan, one space will probably make you more excited than the others.
The medium priority and medium budget items can be the trickiest. There are two different approaches that can totally work for you. One is to just keep the items on the list until you cross off all the high priorities, then re-evaluate and bump some of them up. The second option is to pick one or two of them, and break them into smaller projects that can be tackled over time. Maybe you list out the things you need to make over your medium-priority office and attack them one by one. The danger in this is that if you can distract yourself and your wallet from the BIG project you picked out. On the other hand, maybe you’ll find that some of the projects can be DIY’d really inexpensively and will allow you to keep improving your home while you are saving. There isn’t a right and a wrong, as long as you have a plan!
Whew! Believe it or not, there is still a part 3 of the process, but I promise it will be the most fun! The next step is collecting specific ideas for each project/room on your list and getting them organized.
She does this by sharing easy home organization tips, home decor tutorials, and creative ideas to help readers think outside the box, no matter their budget.
Her work has been featured in print in Better Homes & Gardens and Room to Create Magazine, and online by HGTV, House Beautiful, Buzzfeed, & more.
In 2018 & 2019, Melissa was named as a Style Maker by Better Homes & Gardens. In 2019, Polished Habitat was shortlisted for the Amara Blog Awards Best Interior Styling Blog - International.
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