How to Plan a Year’s Worth of Home Improvements

With the start of a new year, most people like to make resolutions to improve themselves, but as a decorator, I admit that my resolutions often tend to be home-improvement oriented. Rather than sign up for sessions with a personal trainer or commit to five servings of veggies a day, I pull out my trusty clipboard and take stock of what still needs to be done to transform our house into the home of my dreams.

As all of the seemingly little Around the House projects mentally mount up, the amount of time, effort, and money needed to create that dream home can sometimes feel insurmountable. In order to break it down into more manageable (and affordable!) bites, I plan out my home improvement goals at the beginning of each year, estimating each project’s cost, time commitment, and whether I can attempt it myself or need to hire a pro.   Putting it all on paper and working out how much time and materials are needed to accomplish each project helps me to prioritize, group similar projects together, and make sure it all happens as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

I typically begin by sectioning a piece of paper into four quadrants and heading each with one of the following labels: Time Consuming DIY, Minimal Time DIY, Hire a Pro, and Expensive.  I consider a Time Consuming DIY project to be something that requires more than a full day’s work and a Minimal Time DIY project to be one that I can complete in a day or less.  Then I walk through each room in my home, opening closets and drawers as I go, and jotting down all of the things I’d like to fix, organize, or decorate, placing each improvement in its corresponding quadrant.  My lists include everything from finally cleaning out the guest room closet to painting the powder room to finding and installing a new lantern for the front door.

Once I’ve completed my list, I can clearly see how many home improvements are things I can do myself and how many I will need to hire a professional to complete. In my line of work, I’m especially sensitive to how my home looks, but I don’t always have the budget to achieve the custom looks I create for clients.  As a result, many of my home improvement goals end up in the DIY category.

The author’s first DIY project of the year: A fresh coat of paint and new hardware gave this dingy cabinet a worthy facelift, as seen in the first photo above.In order to tackle all these DIY projects in a time-effective manner, next to each one I list the time, materials and tools, stores I’ll need to visit, and costs associated with it.   Then I get the calendar and block out days or weekends I can devote to each project before it becomes too filled with other obligations.  I also save a ton of time by stocking up on all the materials I’ll need for a year’s worth of improvements in one weekend of errands, rather than wasting valuable time running to the paint store, the hardware store, and the craft store every weekend for each and every project.  Plus, I have a complete list of necessary materials ready to go if there’s a big sale or coupon I can take advantage of.

If, like me, you have far too many improvements on your list to complete in a single year or the expense of doing it all is too much – or both! – consider which improvements will have the biggest impact on your everyday life.  Perhaps taking care of several small things, like fixing a dripping showerhead and installing organizers in all the closets, will actually bring you greater joy than the new marble countertops you’ve been lusting after.  You may also decide that rather than hiring a pro to do some projects, such as painting the laundry room, you’d prefer to paint it yourself and put the money saved towards a new sofa.

I kicked off 2017 by making over an outdated cabinet with a pretty coat of peacock blue paint and new brass hardware.  It’s the perfect height for our TV, but more important, it stores mass quantities of toys!  It’s not only added a punch of color to our living room, it makes my nightly cleanup much less of a chore.  One improvement down, only 51 to go!  What will your first home improvement be?

Kitty Burruss is a decorator, writer, wife, and mother to a very busy four-year-old. Her list of home improvement goals runs four full pages. Follow her progress at

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About the Author: Kitty Burruss