The six secrets to organizing a successful DIY project

Many DIY project go off the rails because the person doing the project dives right into doing without any planning. We know it can be hard to restrain yourself in those first heady moments where you’ve decided you’re going to go for it. But for your sake do to keep your project from becoming an albatross – over budget, well past its estimated completion date, and a major source of stress and tension.

No matter what kind of DIY project you are taking on, whether it is a craft or a total bathroom redo, there are six essential steps to ensuring it stays on track. Take your DIY dream and make it a reality by following this blueprint.

1. Take time to properly scope and plan the project.

There is a big difference between tearing a picture from a magazine and having a project blueprint. It’s easy and fun to spend time poring over magazines, books, online articles, and, of course, Pinterest, researching what you want your DIY project to look like when it’s done. But far too many people stop there, when in fact, that’s just the first step in the project scoping process.

Once you have a clear image of the goal, it is time to map out each of the specific work steps you need to take to complete the project. Be as specific as possible. Then divide each item the list into one of 3 areas: foundational work, core work, finishing work. Examples of foundational work include: preparing materials to be used (cutting/sanding), priming walls, dying or cutting fabric, digging or hoeing the earth or adding soil to potters. Examples of core work include: installing, sewing, assembling, and planting. Examples of finishing work include: sanding, painting, arranging, and hanging.

Finally, map out a project schedule and budget. You should literally schedule appointments with yourself for working on each stage of project. It may sound like overkill, but anyone who has lived through a DIY project that has gone wrong knows that once the initial enthusiasm wears off, it can linger in a half-done purgatory for far, far too long.

2. Select Materials Before Heading to the Home Goods Store.

Don’t go to the home goods or home improvement store in the hopes of getting inspired. It’s a surefire way to spend significantly more than you need and to waste time because you’ll inevitably forget a critical item. Instead, make a thorough list of materials and tools you need to complete the project before you ever leave the house. You can start a list using what comes to mind right away, but be sure to eventually use the project plan you created in the first step as a more thorough way to identify all of the tools & materials you need.

Then set your egg timer for 30 minutes and research where to find each of the items on your list. Check prices with online retailers and see if you can find coupons or discounts for what you need. Are you on or under budget? If not, determine what has to change.

3. Consider What You Can Delegate Effectively.

When you do go to purchase the items, you don’t have to go it alone. If you live with someone else, consider dividing up the list by retailers and splitting up the errands. Most projects have work steps that require little skill. Flag those at the outset and then if you have a person who is ready, willing and able to help, assign the flagged tasks to them. It’s a great way to speed up the completion rate and to ensure that everyone you live with has some pride of ownership in the finished project. And if you have parts of a project, like cutting wood, and are wondering if you could delegate the work to Home Depot, here’s an article on their free services that’s worth checking out

4. Acquire New Skills Systematically.

For many, a DIY project stretches them into territory that requires a new skill set. That could be anything from learning how to grout tile to learning how to stitch a quilt piece together. Before you begin, identify what things you will need to learn and at what stage you will need to learn them. Then search for relevant “how-to” tutorials and have them at the ready so that you can come up the curve on them at the right time during your project.

5. Demolition & Foundational Work.

There’s always a surge of excitement once you begin. That’s why it’s particularly important to follow your project plan carefully during this phase of your project. You don’t want to cut corners in haste or forget something that’s absolutely critical. But that’s just the kind of thing that does happen with alarming frequency if you’re flying blind without a plan during these work stages.

6. Core & Finishing Work.

This is where a lot of projects get bogged down and procrastination can set in. Avoid this fate by keeping those appointments you set in the planning stage and by identifying key milestones for this phase of the work. If you get off track and are feeling overwhelmed, set an egg timer for 30 minutes each day after you come home from work and make consistent progress. Celebrate every milestone you complete. If you encounter a problem that throws you for a loop, head online to see if you can find answers. If you don’t trust what you read, call in an expert for their opinion and direction. Yes, it will likely cost you $150-$200, but sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry. {image via: The House of Smiths}

Do you like to DIY? Have you ever been burned on a DIY project? Tell us about it!