Getting Back To Reality

by Josh on June 9, 2009 · 5 comments

in Bedroom,Ideas,Projects

Reality.  We can waste a lot of time and energy trying to avoid it, but eventually, unfailingly, reality catches up with us.

So what’s the reality that I’ve been trying to avoid?  Simply this: my upstairs bedroom project will not be finished by the end of the summer if I insist on doing the work myself.

Thanks in large measure to the gentle cajolling of Ms. Bungalow, I finally stopped fighting reality and met yesterday afternoon with a contractor to help with my project.  It was an excellent meeting.  I’ve seen this builder’s work in person– in his own home, no less– and know he shares my preference for making green home improvements while retaining historic character.

Because of the amount of planning and demolition work I’ve already done, this contractor has agreed to work with me on an hourly basis as needed to keep the project moving forward.  I’ll research and hire the additional help I need with insulation and wiring, and I can continue to work on the project myself as my schedule and inclination allow.

This is exactly what I needed.  By serving as my own general contractor and contributing labor (including the significant work I’ve already put in) I am saving some serious money, but I don’t have to give up all my precious summer weekends with my kids in order to ensure my attic is insulated before this winter.

I feel so relieved and energized that I can’t help asking myself why it took so long to take the obvious step of hiring help.  Clearly, I have a gift for avoiding reality.  Therefore, in the spirit of  “do as I say, not as I do” advice, I offer the following tips for keeping your projects firmly grounded and moving forward:

Tips for Reality-Based Home Projects

  • Determine the actual scope of the work to be performed.  This means researching and evaluating your options and then sticking to a plan.  Good planning in the beginning of a project can help minimize distractions later on.
  • Consider the resources (time, money, labor) actually available for the project.  It is safe to assume your project will need more time and money than you initially estimate.  Plus, who wouldn’t rather be ahead of schedule and under budget than late and over budget?
  • List potential complications and consider alternatives for responding.  You probably can’t account for every possible surprise, but in reality things don’t always go according to plan.  Thinking through how to respond to challenges can help keep minor issues from becomming major delays.
  • Set and keep deadlines for milestones and completion.  External deadlines are best, but however you set the dates this should help with staging work and avoiding procrastination.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Will June 10, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Good idea! We’re having that same meeting this afternoon 🙂 I’ve been working for this contractor evenings and weekends, now they’re turning around and giving me the hours I put in (for free) back to me. I’m pretty psyched to have some learn-by-doing experience. We’re still leaving the plumbing up to the pros though.


Josh June 18, 2009 at 1:18 am

Sounds like an excellent arrangement for you, Will. I think the slower economy has contractors more willing to work alongside homeowners.


Jeff June 18, 2009 at 6:49 am

Yeah I agree with you Josh, more and more people are willing to dirty their hands these days to save some $.

It’s cheaper to do your own work plus it’s more rewarding emotionally. But assess your DIY skills first before embarking on a major DIY project. You might be losing more time and money if you just hired a contractor.


Stephanie June 23, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Oh my gosh – talk to my husband PLEASE! We have had this discussion over and over – enlisting help is so much better than sacrificing every single weekend. Good for you! 🙂


Josh June 24, 2009 at 11:39 am

Stephanie, after reaching the conclusion that we could afford to hire help, a big motivator for me was the realization that I had become the stereotype of an over-ambitious, under-prepared DIYer too proud to admit he was in over his head. At that point, hiring help was less humiliating (and much better for my marriage!) than remaining “that guy.”


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