Autumn is here. Look around the house. Does your temperature rise when you see stained carpets, smudged switch plates and faded window coverings?
With Christmas on the horizon, it's tempting to dive right in to a long list of home improvements. Stop! Wait! Biting off more than you can chew on the home front is a sure-fire recipe for holiday stress.
How to avoid going overboard with pre-holiday home improvements? Try this Holiday Home Spruce-Up exercise. It'll cut the chore list to the seasonal sweet spot: those do-able, achievable projects that will give the house a seasonal lift--without making you lose your mind.
Holiday Home Spruce-Up Exercise
Today's the day! We're planning a holiday home spruce-up ... with a twist. Print two copies of today's form, grab your holiday notebook and come with me. It's important that you follow instructions exactly!
Start outside the front door with one copy of the Home Spruce-Up Worksheet. Scribbling quickly, write down every item of maintenance, cleaning, or decorating that comes to your mind. "Remove cobwebs from entryway," "buy porch bench," "wash windows"--whatever your mind tells you should be done.
Come inside. Move through the public rooms of your home: entryway, living room, dining room, kitchen, family room, guest bath. Don't worry about bedrooms or closets. Just go through the rooms that a guest would see during a party or visit to your home. Write it down, write it all down: "Buy new sofa," "replace burned-out light bulbs,", "clean carpets." Don't spend more than five minutes per room--just hit the high points, fast and furious.
Now for the fun. Sit down with your list. Ready?
One. Cross off all items requiring the purchase of new furniture. Unless you need something available at the Box and Import Store, it's too late to order new furniture! Why strain your budget, your patience and your sanity? Resolve that you'll make do with what's served your family throughout the year.
Two. Cross off all home decor projects requiring more than four hours. No repainting. No sewing of drapes. Yes, you may toss a scarf over the top of your present window treatments, but no sewing, no painting, no sponging or glazing, no new flooring.
Why? Because you haven't time, that's why! Taking on more than an afternoon's worth of home decor projects is heading into the holiday season under a cloud. The effort will make you tense and grouchy and the result won't be improvement enough to justify the time. Save the ambitious plans for the long and empty days of February!
Three. What's left? Mostly cleaning and maintenance items, right? A few "buy-mes?" For these, you are allowed to designate 10% of them as "A" priorities, 20% as "B" priorities, and the remaining 70% as "C" priorities.
Scan your list, and find those one-in-ten "A" items. Missing light bulbs and dirty entryways--those are good "A" items. "Buy new guest room towels," "clean carpets," and "wash windows" come in as "B" items. "Repair holes in window molding," "touch up paint in hallway," and "scrub utility room floor" are worthy members of the "C" category.
Four. Cross all "C" items off the list.
Five. Look at all "B" items. Can you delegate any item to family members, or afford pay an outsider to take care of one or two? Can't delegate or hire it out? Cross it off the list. If it's a "buy-me", can you purchase the item out of your usual weekly budget? If so, it stays--but if it requires a budget adjustment or a credit card, cross it off.
Six. Write the items that remain on a fresh copy of the Seasonal Spruce-Up list. Take a good hard look at your list.
What's left? Three or four most important spruce-up tasks: your personal "A" list, together with a short list of jobs you're going to delegate. A very few new items for your home, none of which will bust the budget.
Seven. Call any paid helpers and schedule the work. Don't wait even one more week--the holiday carpet cleaning crush begins the second week of November!
Eight. Post the new list on the refrigerator, and track delegated jobs. Keep the evidence before your eyes, and you'll help yourself finish the job.
"Cynthia," I hear you say, "this seems so arbitrary!" Exactly right, and so perceptive of you! What we have just done is apply a well-known organizing principle: the 80-20 rule.
Eighty percent of any job can be done using twenty percent of the available effort--and the remaining twenty percent of the work? It's going to gobble up eighty percent of your time and your money. The goal of this procedure is to prune, prune, prune: to get your dream fix-up list closest to that magic 80-20 figure.
Look at your second list. There should be only about twenty percent of the items from the first list.
They're the most important items. They're the most manageable items. They're the items that you can realistically achieve with twenty percent of your energy and resources--yet they're the important eighty percent of the Spruce-Up process.
The 80-20 rule. Learn it. Know it. Use it . . . to get organized!