Spaces for Life

The ReTouch Home Improvement blog



Spaces for Life: How to prioritize for a big project

By Lance McCarthy

Ever seen the Steve Martin movie The Jerk? It has one of my all time favorite scenes. He has just told his wife he’s leaving, and he doesn’t need her or anything else…except this ash tray…and this lamp…and this chair…and that’s all!…and this remote control…and… That’s a lot like a big home projects. It is so easy to just keep adding things one by one. They are each usually not a big deal. Just this light switch here… and this new door…and this pool…and that’s all!

The clinical term for this is “scope creep”–makes it sound like a disease–and the result can be stressful. If the scope creep happens during the design/planning stage, sometimes it makes you decide there’s just too much and you shouldn’t do the project. It’s like when you let the waiter put pepper on your salad and then you don’t tell him to stop until there’s too much and then you don’t want the salad any more.

If it happens during the actual construction, the result can be much worse because there is no turning back.

Know how the day before a big vacation is, and how you are running around trying to take care of a lot of things at once? Know how easy it is to forget something, or spend too much time on the wrong thing? Same thing with big home projects. There is more information and more decisions than you can imagine, and they can easily start pull you off your original goals.

So, here are my suggestions on how to prioritize:

  1. Understand the WHY.  I wrote about this here, but try to get down to the core issues you are addressing.
  2. Make a list of all the things you think you might want to accomplish and then put them in order of priority.  (Expect this to change.  The process is fluid, and you will learn more information that might change your rankings).
  3. Next to each item, write down the benefits for each one.  You will find sometimes seemingly small actions have really big benefits, and the opposite.
  4. Make changes to the list at each stage of the process.  You will constantly be gaining new information that could change your priorities.  If you don’t take the time to revisit the list, you may end up chasing things you don’t want any more.  
  5. Share this list with your designer and contractor.  They should all be working with you towards the same goals.  

After all that, I’ll tell you a little secret that should make you feel better–and don’t tell my wife I said this, because I’m “BudgetMan” at our house, and this would ruin my reputation–

(come closer, I don’t want her to hear because she’s right next to me as I’m typing this)

Ready? Here’s the secret: No client has ever come back to me after a project and said “I wish we hadn’t decided to add that”. I know, it is hard to believe, but I have yet to have anyone regret adding something even though at the time, the added cost didn’t seem very pleasant.

So, when the stress gets heavy–and it will, these can involve big numbers–just remember why you are doing it, and be thankful that you aren’t wearing Steve Martin’s bath robe!

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