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Staying organized during a build/re-model

Hello friends!  I have had a similar question pop up a few times so I thought I’d take a minute to answer it today.  Some of you have e-mailed me asking for suggestions on how to stay organized during a build or home re-model.  Well.  Let me tell you.  This has been my toughest organizing challenge EVER!  It is unbelievable the amount of STUFF you have to keep track of when you build a house.  I’m sure going through a major re-model is the same.  I constantly have books, receipts, sketches, and samples all over my house.  Until just last week we had a bathtub sitting in our garage.   :)  It can be a bit overwhelming keeping it all under control!  I’ve shared most of these ideas before, but I thought a post with everything in one place might help.  So!  Here are a few things I’ve done that have helped me stay organized throughout this process…
1) Corral your “inspiration.”  A process like this begins with looking at LOTS and LOTS of inspiration photos.  Pinterest is the best way to organize your inspiration pictures on-line.  If you’re getting ready to build or re-model and don’t have a Pinterest account I would highly recommend getting one!  My architect was amazed at how many photos I had on my computer showing him exactly what I wanted.  It made both of our jobs a lot easier!  My Pinterest boards started out fairly organized (exterior of homes, bathroom, kitchens, etc.) but as the building process became more time consuming I just started dumping all of my pictures onto one happy board titled “Creating my House” which you can see here.  :)
Before I started this process magazines were piling high on every surface!  

I bought this magazine holder from Ballards to keep them all in one place.  I wanted them in a central location that was easy to get to since I was referring to certain pictures so often.  Another alternative is to just buy a big basket to hold all of your magazines.

What to do with all of the pages you are tearing out of magazines?  I went to my happy place (Martha Stewart supply section of Staples) and picked up a binder and a large accordion file.

Then I sorted all of my inspiration pics into piles…

labeled each room…

and filed away!
2)  Use binders and notebooks to organize your sketches and notes.

I bought tabs and organized all of my cabinet and built-in sketches by room. 

 Then I labeled a spot in my time management notepad “new house” so that I have a place to jot down notes and to-do’s as they pop up.

3)  Use file folders/boxes to hold important papers that are house related.

We don’t have drawers in our current house for files so I just bought a simple crate to organize random house related papers.    
Pick up some file folders.  Fun colors are a must.

Then organize away!  I initially started this file box for papers for the kids but lately have added several folders for new house forms as well.  

4)  Have a set location to hold all of your house related items. 

I have our house and landscaping plans in big baskets hidden behind the living room couch.  Find a location that is easily accessible because you will be pulling these out ten times a day!

Next to our plans I have everything else house related.  Files, binder for sketches, plans, paint swatches, etc.  Oh.  And throw in some diapers and wipes for good measure.  :)    

As far as larger samples go, a closet or specific place to house them all would be lovely.  We don’t have room for them.  Or for much of anything which is why we are building.  :)  
For months I had samples all over my living room floor.  

Now that I’ve picked out all of our tile and counter tops I’ve moved most of our samples to the garage.

A few other things that might help:

5)  Keep a bag in your car with a tape measure, a notepad and pen, and a pair of shoes that you don’t care about for hanging out at the job site.  Every time I visit our new house I have these things handy!

6)  organize e-mail folders in your inbox for specific house related e-mails.
I have separate folders titled: 
– cabinets (all of our cabinet sketches and e-mails regarding cabinets)
– design sketches (all of our random design sketches)
– yard (every e-mail about landscaping that I need to save)
– finish work (e-mails on finish work)
– inspiration pictures (e-mails including pictures I’ve sent)
– finances (e-mails pertaining to finances) — although I don’t have much in this folder.  Unfortunately I can’t give you a lot of advice on how to organize the finance component of building because that is Kenny’s job.  He has spreadsheets galore going on to keep track of it all.  While I love the design aspect of this project, the finances are one area I am more than happy to turn over to him!

 Like I said before, this beast has been a hard one to stay on top of.  :)  I hope a few of the things that have helped me stay organized throughout this process helps some of you as well!

xoxo, Erin
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16 thoughts on “Staying organized during a build/re-model

  1. If you haven’t thought of it, I think it would be so cool to frame the main blueprint of your house once it is finished. How awesome would that be since you’ve worked so hard building your dream home from the ground up?! :-)

  2. Great post, something I will have to keep in mind if I ever get the opportunity to build my dream house :)

    Love that we got a peek at your finishes too :)

  3. Thanks everyone! Chris – LOVE that idea! Thank you for suggesting it! So much fun. I’m all over it. :)

    Shari – I have had heart palpitations and sweaty palms for a year and a half now!

  4. Awesome post! I’m building a place at the moment as well, and it certainly can be hard to keep it all organised, especially when my partner loves rifling through the papers and mixing it all up! I use folders to keep it all organised, and stack things such as tiles and bricks in one corner of our loungeroom at the moment. I’m glad I’m not the only one trying to deal with all the additional paperwork that comes with building a place!

  5. I really hope this doesn’t come across as snarky — because that is definitely not my intention. I am genuinely searching for balance in my own life and would love some insight into how Kenny manages a legal practice and can come home for lunch, take spring break, etc. It would be impossible in my legal market and I imagine that the San Diego legal market is more competitive than where I am. My husband and I are both attorneys — I’ve been out 8 years and my husband 11 years so we’re not “newbies.” Maybe a guest post by Kenny?

  6. Hi Amy! Not snarky at all! And I totally understand your question. Kenny only comes home for lunch one day a week (when El has swimming lessons) and he is on the phone the whole time. It wouldn’t work if Kole wasn’t napping during that time. :) As far as spring break and other vacations go, same thing – he is off but not really off! He is always working and his phone is glued to his ear most of the time. SInce he became a partner he has had a little more flexibility in his schedule and can move things around if I need help with the kids, but like I said, he is still working even when he is with us! It’s hard isn’t it!? It’s such a demanding profession. We are always feeling the same way – trying to find a balance.

  7. Hi Erin,
    I ran across your Blog and laugh out loud sometimes, since I have two girls and a boy (although he is the oldes), and can TOTALLY relate! Thanks your inspiring!

    I am thinking of starting a blog, but don’t know where to start; eblog or some other locations such as bluehost however they are not free. Any suggestions? Also do you have someone who helps you with the techy stuff? I am not very techy either is my husband! Thanks

  8. Hi Stacie!

    Thank you! My blog is through blogger (just check out – it’s totally free). As far as the techy stuff, Kenny helped me a little in the beginning when I was just learning and getting started. Now I’ve learned how to do a lot of it on my own. It is something you kind of learn as you go! Just dive in and take it one step at a time. You will love blogging! :)

  9. Hi Erin!

    I have another question in regards to getting others to follow? Is this something that just happens as you blog, or do you do other things outside of just blogging to get your self out there?

    Oh I like how you keep your privacy (last name not known), also is there anyway you keep the “stalkers” away? I am very protective of my family and would like to do the same. Thanks again for your time and inspiration! :-)


  10. Stacie – you can definitely do things to get yourself out there (link up to link parties, etc.) but I don’t do much of that. I think the best way to grow your blog is to just be yourself and post things people will want to see/read about. If you have good photography that always helps too! It’s also a good idea to set up a facebook page for your blog. And yes! Keeping your last name private is a great way to protect your family. I do that and put a watermark on my images (to protect my photos). Hope that helps! :)

  11. This is great! I just discovered your blog and it is very helpful. We are planning a move this summer from New England to the South. Any moving tips? I am overwhelmed already!

  12. Hi. This is so helpful as we begin to organize for our new build. I’ve got a pinterest board. I’ve got albums of photos saved on my phone. I’ve got notes scribbled in a notebook. Now I want to begin organizing it all.

    P.S. I saw you had a folder that said “Scrapbook Room”. I’d love to see what you did in there as I plan to have one also. :-)

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