The First Thing You Should Do Before You Take on Any New Home Projects

published Jan 5, 2021
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Apartment Therapy’s January Cure is a free 20-day program all about loving on your home and preparing yourself and your space for the new year. Sign up now to get daily lessons sent straight to your inbox!

Everyone has goals for their home. But unless you’re blessed with unlimited time and money, I’m sorry to say that you probably won’t be able to finish every project you want to do for your space this year.

That’s why it’s so important to step back, zoom out, and make a plan. Without a plan, you might spend your resources doing a bunch of low-lift projects that don’t really have an impact on how good it feels to be at home. And without a bigger picture in mind, you might dedicate all your time and cash to something lovely, but unnecessary, and accidentally neglect several smaller tasks that need attention.

Taryn's Tips

If you’re spontaneous, a home project to-do list is going to keep you accountable. And if you’re more of a planner or perfectionist, a to-do list can help you prioritize and set your sights on moving swiftly and making progress.

So real quick, before you get too far into the year, or into the Cure, you’re going to take an hour or less to craft a roadmap for your home…

Day 2: Create a to-do list.

Grab a pen and paper or your notes app and make a list of the home projects you want to complete in 2021.

You can sit in one spot and make your list, but I think it’s helpful to move around your space, if you can. Take an hour (or whatever time you can today) to travel through every part of your home with your notepad in tow. Make a section for each area—the living room, bedroom, bathroom, outdoors—and jot down anything you’d like to change or fix in that space below each section. You can include some style-related things if you’d like, but try to focus on what’s missing for this first part of the exercise, instead of the solution. It’s going to help you prioritize the year ahead so you make the biggest impact with your efforts.

Here are a few examples of things you might note:

  • Scuffed up walls in the entryway.
  • Overcrowded and dusty bookshelves in the living room.
  • Dining room feels too empty and plain.
  • A blown out light bulb in the bathroom.
  • Loose knobs on a kitchen cabinet.
  • Mismatched, worn out sheets on the bed.

When you’re done with your walkthrough, I’d like you to whittle down the list to just a few things in each room (three to five is a great number to shoot for) that you can work on this year. Circle the handful of things you’re most excited to start on, the things that will be the easiest to handle, or the things that will make the biggest impact on your space—or some combination of all of these things.

When you have the list pared down, re-write it on a fresh page with just your highlighted trouble spots, but re-frame the language so they become solutions you can take on. This is the list you’ll refer back to throughout the year. It’s a master plan of short- and long-term projects to make your space look and feel better.

Here are some examples of solutions for that same list above:

  • Scrub the walls in the entryway, or give it a fresh coat of paint.
  • Sort and donate books, then clear off and clean off the bookshelf.
  • Hang art in the dining room.
  • Replace light bulb in overhead bathroom fixture.
  • Tighten up cabinet knobs.
  • Sign up for sale alerts for new sheets.

As you do this, I have two rules for you: Be kind to yourself and your home, even when it’s hard. And focus on what’s doable and realistic. You might have a full kitchen remodel on your dream wish list, but that might not be in the cards for this year. Instead, focus on something you can get done to make that space feel better for you, like staining the tile grout.

If you feel overwhelmed at any point, keep in mind it doesn’t matter how far you have to go, what matters is that you are getting started! You don’t have to do anything else today except get it all down on paper—we’ll revisit your list next week.

More Ways to Participate in the January Cure: