Complete Your Most Procrastinated Home Projects (Finally!)

New Year's seems to be the time for making resolutions about all sorts of things: dieting, quitting smoking, cleaning, volunteering, taking classes, finding a hobby, etc. How about making some resolutions for what is going to get done around the house? Now is as good a time as any to organize home improvement projects that either need to be done or that you would like to do.

For many of us, the to-do list is so long it is overwhelming -- so much so that we don't know where to start, or we only start a project when it becomes an emergency -- like when the slow leak under the sink turns into a flood in the kitchen. That's when we throw up our hands, thinking we can't win for losing!

My tried and true approach to organizing home improvement projects is based on this philosophy of St. Francis of Assisi: "Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible." With that in mind, I keep a constantly updated set of three lists:

What's Necessary: This list should be filled with things that are top priority -- projects that need to be done just to keep our home in good working condition, or decorative projects you've been wanting to do for a while. The projects you place on this list should generally take around an hour. In fact, I refer to this list as "Under-an-Hour Projects."

Under-an-Hour projects:

  1. Hang border in powder room
  2. Fix leaky faucet
  3. Make duvet from sheets for guest bedroom
  4. Caulk around bathtub
  5. Give old couch a makeover
  6. Tighten loose handles on kitchen cabinet doors
  7. Hang two shelves above desk
  8. Paint wastebasket and picture frames for hall bathroom
  9. Solve problem of sticking door
  10. More easy decorating projects to choose from

Under-an-Hour Projects can vary in number. The goal is to keep this list as short as possible. Most will not take much time or money if tackled immediately. However, the longer your fix-it projects are placed on the back burner the more involved they get. These are the kinds of projects that don't go away. Often, they only get worse, take longer to deal with and cost more money.

What's Possible: The second list should be decorative or moderately priced improvement projects you want to do in the near future. Projects on this list are ones that will take a little more time (the better part of a day or two) and money. I like to refer to this list as "Weekend Projects."

Weekend Projects:

  1. Make over your bedroom
  2. Install wainscoting in dining room
  3. Install ceiling fan and new switch
  4. Replace two wood panels in kitchen cabinet with decorative glass
  5. Install new vanity/sink/faucet in powder room
  6. Purchase and assemble media center
  7. Prime and faux paint bedroom
  8. Make cornices for guest room
  9. Organize foyer closet: install shelving/rods/drawer units
  10. More do-it-yourself fix-ups and weekend decorating projects

Projects on this list are usually more involved -- maybe you've never done them before, and are a little intimidated. Tasks on the Weekend Projects list are generally the type that takes the better part of a weekend -- which requires some planning. They may require some research. Libraries are full of books on most any project you can think of so please -- check them out. Watch fix-it TV shows (including mine!), ask friends and relatives that have done the project for tips, or hop on the Do-It-Yourself message board and chat with other do-it-yourselfers.

Another way to make this process go more smoothly, instill confidence and develop your skills is to practice before you start taking on some of these more difficult projects. For instance, before you start faux painting or tiling, practice on a 4'-by-4' piece of plywood to give yourself a feel for the project. Get the knowledge of the job, figure out the tools you need, set aside plenty of time and before you know it, you will be checking the projects off this list. (By the way, patience while doing your projects is a vital ingredient!)

Note: The biggest time saver for any project is to make a grocery list of tools and products needed for the project and have everything purchased and gathered before even attempting the job. Getting started is the hardest part, especially if it requires a trip to the hardware store first.

Wish List: Projects on this list are things I would really like to do, however, because of price or time needed (a week or more) they may never happen, or might not happen for a long time.

Wish List Projects:

  1. Complete room makeovers
  2. New landscaping
  3. A remodeled bathroom
  4. Giving the kitchen a face lift

You get the idea. I think we all have a wish list or projects we dream about. But please, don't get bogged down or discouraged by your wish list. Whether it's money or time stopping you from these big projects -- you shouldn't let it hold you back from tackling the smaller ones.

What makes the Wish List more realistic for me is breaking down the individual projects so that the impossible can become possible. For example: You want to do a complete room makeover. Start by jotting down all the things you want done in the room, then figure out the order in which the projects need to be done. You'll end up with a few smaller projects instead of one huge project. And, smaller projects mean you won't have to layout all the money (and time) at once. Eventually all the smaller projects will be moved to the "possible" lists and before you know it you will have accomplished the impossible!

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