Prioritizing projects around the house

A pro decorator shares tips for tackling those DIY projects

Two years ago, my wife and I bought a home. It was a foreclosure. So, suffice to say, there was a lot of interior and exterior work to address.

From mending a sidewalk that was leaking water into our basement, to renovating the closets and master bathroom, to installing new carpeting and hardwood floors, to painting the walls and trim—we quickly had unfinished projects in various states of completion around the house.

It’s times like those I wish I had a Time Turner device like Hermione from Harry Potter, so I could do multiple things at the exact same time.

So, where to begin? Well, according to Tiffy Harvey, owner of Adorn My Home, a home decorating company located in Hudson, Ohio, there’s a non-magical solution to this problem. It all has to do with prioritization.

“I would definitely make a list of all your projects from big to small, and then complete one project at a time from start to finish,” she said. “Don’t start anything else until you’ve completed the first project or you will have many annoying and frustrating messes all over your house, which will be stressful for you and your family.”

On my to-do list, Harvey cited the leaking sidewalk as one of the bigger, more important red flag projects that we should address immediately.

“Problems with a home’s foundation can lead to dangerous cracking and shifting of the house, so it’s important to repair any structural issues because they could lead to much more severe and costly issues,” she said. “Then I would focus your time and energy on the less time sensitive projects like painting, closets, and the master bath.”

Dealing with money and time

Of course, in every repair or home decorating challenge, cost and time are always a factor. Harvey recommended considering not only the amount of money you’re able to put into a project, but the amount of free time you have set aside to complete it.

“Make it a priority, just like a meeting at work,” she said. “Prioritize what you think is most important, and block out a couple hours on the weekend to complete it.”

And what about those fun, yet time-draining, activities that pop up almost every single weekend?

“Discuss the to-do list with your spouse, then divide and conquer with the kids,” she said. “Your other half will be more than happy to leave for a few hours or even a night knowing that improvements are getting done around the house.”

Time to call in a contractor

As a homeowner and weekend warrior DIYer, I definitely know my limits—and I’m not afraid to admit it. I’m not a big fan of laying tile. If you want me to string electrical line, you’re talking to the wrong person. And, when it comes to woodworking, I’m pretty sure someone else could handle a table saw better than I could.

According to Harvey, sometimes there’s no shame in waving the DIY white flag.

“There will always be times when you need to ask yourself ‘Is this a project where I should hire a professional?’” she said. “If the project is to paint the spindles on your stairway and it’s labor-intensive, maybe it’s worth that extra $150 to hire a painter so you can be with your family and friends on the weekend.”

And, if you have the dough, and don’t have the time for those bigger projects—Harvey recommends calling a contractor or an expert when dealing with plumbing, roof, structural, electrical, or something that’s out of your area of expertise.

Comfort vs. resale

Thinking about installing a pool, converting your garage into a family room, or transforming your extra bedroom into an extended master closet? Before you start swinging that sledgehammer, think twice.

“Many people think that luxury upgrades will add value to their home, but they can actually hurt your resale value,” Harvey said. “You should avoid doing anything that is too trendy and, instead, try to keeping it simple and in sync with the rest of your home.”

Before any huge upgrade, Harvey recommends talking to a contractor or a home decorator. The price for a consultation is pretty reasonable—and it could save you thousands on resale when you finally decide to sell your home.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

A couple weeks ago, we took Harvey’s advice and hired a concrete leveling company to fix the sidewalk that was leaking into the foundation. It was a two-hour, $250 job that would’ve taken two friends and me probably four times that amount of time.

And, although I’ll probably handle most of the closet and master bath renovations, we’ll definitely hire someone to help with the hardwood, carpet, and other woodworking projects around the home.

“Just remember, the key to surviving a DIY project is doing your homework, being patient with your partner, and understanding that home improvements are time consuming and expensive,” Harvey said. “And don’t forget that it’s OK to ask for help if you get overwhelmed.”