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How to Prioritize Home Design Projects to Save Your Mental Health

Every home renovation is stressful. Full stop.

No matter how well planned, how skilled the professionals, or how much money you throw at it, every project will come with its own snags and pitfalls.

But there are things you can do to save some of the headache by prioritizing projects in a way that makes the most sense for you.

Where to Start a Home Design Project

My go-to starting point for prioritizing home renovations is the first floor--the foyer, living room, dining room, kitchen, powder room, etc. Anything on the main floor, especially if they are rooms that will be seen by guests.

There are two reasons for this.

  1. When you walk into your home and the first thing you see is this gorgeous entryway, it makes you feel good. You want to be there. You want to experience that wonderful feeling of arriving home and feel the stress of the day fall away.

  2. Starting with rooms that guests will see is a huge motivator. When your guests can’t stop complimenting you on your gorgeous home, you’ll be inspired to keep the momentum going.

After the main floor is completed, I like to focus on the master bedroom. You are the King (or Queen) of your castle. You should live like it. You can’t sacrifice all your own comforts for the sake of your guests. That’s not practical or healthy. So make your bedroom a priority over lesser used rooms.

Tackle the guest rooms, guest baths, kids rooms, utility rooms, and any other bonus rooms last.

Other Things to Consider for Home Renovation Projects

Having said that, there are other things to consider when prioritizing home projects, like safety issues, time of year, and any upcoming events.

Safety Issues

Any home improvement project that poses a safety hazard or that may cause more damage if left unattended should come first and be attended to ASAP.

Most of the time you’ll want to call in a professional for these projects.

What Time of Year Should You Renovate?

The time of year can have a huge impact on how well your renovations go. In the summer, contractors are busier so you might have to wait longer to get the work done. But some projects simply can’t be done in cold weather.

Always consult with your contractor regarding start times and how they will affect the project timeline. Make sure you ask about any time off they might need (say around the holidays), if they have other projects that might affect your own, when they anticipate the project will be completed, and what you can do to help keep the project on task.

Getting this information up front will save lots of stress and headaches in the long run.

“Consider your budget honestly. If the room doesn't pose a safety hazard then it can wait."

Consider How Often You Use the Room

The rooms you spend the most time in should get the most attention. While this may seem obvious you should still give this tip some thought. We are often tempted to go for the biggest eyesore first, but that might be a half bath you never use.

Also, if you have more than one of a particular room (for example, two family rooms), choose the one you use the most. Any room you spend a great deal of time in should be a room you can feel good about.

I always save utility rooms, like the laundry room, for last. No matter how beautifully appointed these rooms are, you aren’t going to spend much time in them.

When Do You Need the Room Finished?

Always consider when you need to room finished and usable. If you’re hosting a big event and want to have a project finished beforehand, make sure you’re giving yourself a realistic timeline to get it done.

Some home renovations can be finished in about three months. Others are going to take far longer. Your contractors and designers can help you set realistic goals for completing the project.

And if you’re planning to DIY it, give yourself plenty of extra time. Trust me, it will always take longer than you anticipate.

Below is a room my husband and I took on last year, choosing to do all the work ourselves. We started in August thinking we'd have plenty of time to finish it before the holidays. Three months in and we were still living like this. In the end we worked right down to the wire to get it done.

So however long you think it will take, throw on an extra two months. Otherwise, you’ll spend the whole time stressing out, burning the midnight oil, and still won’t likely get it done. You’ll serve yourself better by simply waiting for a better time or starting earlier than you think you should.

*Side note: As of writing this in mid-2021, the pandemic has severely messed with supply chains. Both DIYers and professionals are struggling to get lumber, furniture, fabric, and other supplies. A realistic timeline for receiving home furnishings right now is 20 weeks or more. Typically, you’d see this being about 12 weeks.

What’s Your Home Renovation Budget?

Lastly, make sure you consider your budget honestly.

We all want to start with the kitchen and bathroom, but these rooms are far more expensive to upgrade. If your budget can’t afford to tackle these projects yet, then save them for last. No matter how outdated they are, as long as they don’t pose a safety hazard then they can wait.

Instead start with the living room, foyer, and bedrooms. These are far less expensive to renovate and decorate. They are also the rooms you’ll use the most often and they are the first to be seen by guests. That’s a win-win because it means you'll feel good in your home and feel good showing it off to your friends.

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