Home Improvement

Who else is completely paralyzed by the scope of what needs to be done?

By May 18, 2019 40 Comments

Lived in house for 30 years. Can’t seem to get the ball rolling again to get anything more done. Redoing previous mistakes, both mine and contractors.

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  • SpaceForce2016 says:

    Big time. List keeps growing

  • lyre34 says:

    Start small, and work your way up. Don’t look at everything all at once.

    I’m moving into a new home this summer with a boat load of work to be done, I’m just going to take it one project at a time.

  • distantreplay says:

    It’s easier once you accept that there will always be more that needs doing.

  • Triabolical_ says:

    Did a bathroom reno a while back and used a Kanban board.

    Put up some poster board in a useful place. Put up column labels; “backlog”, “ready”, “in progress”, “done” using post-its. Then write down everything you need to do for the project on individual post its. Might be a specific thing to do, might be something you need to research or something to buy.


    Put them all up in backlog column, find items that you can do now, and move them to ready in an order that makes sense. Pull an item off of ready, put it in “in progress”, do it, then move it to done. Repeat until you’re done.

  • CatastropheJohn says:

    Ayup. The house I’m in now is 170 years old, and the entire top floor is original. Downstairs got a cosmetic overhaul in the 50s. Except for the indoor plumbing and aluminum wiring they installed about 100 years ago, nothing is ‘updated’. Wavy-glassed windows and all.

    It’s manageable if you have a plan of attack. Spend a whole day really thinking about a plan of action, walking around making notes. It’ll save you any doubt and uncertainty, and some time/money too.

  • DescretoBurrito says:

    Try picking something on the small and simple side. One where you see results fairly quickly. Power through it and just get it done. At the end take a step back and admire your work. Use that as motivation for the next project.

    Bite sized chunks make the task seem less daunting. When I go pull weeds in my yard, I don’t grab a big black trash bag. I grab a small plastic grocery bag. I stay out there until that bag is full. Really only takes 30 min or so. I try to do that every day until I can’t fill one of those bag anymore because there aren’t enough weeds left. Going out and picking all the weeds at once sound awful. But just filling a relatively small bag, that’s simple and easy.

  • MisterItcher says:

    Make a list in one central place. For each item on the list, break that into smaller and smaller tasks. Check off each small task as you get it done. This is the key to getting things done.

    I like Trello.com as a pretty good free project board.

  • smallwordsbig says:

    For the moment I will, “PTDPD”, and do it. Put The Damn Phone Down, and do it! Great to hear from others strategies and struggles.

  • dalejiw25 says:

    At the house or within our government ???

  • iSeize says:

    Owned my house for two years. Afraid to start most things

  • Chefitutide says:

    150 year old former contractors home. If I made a list, I’d have to make a list to make the list.

    Pick something small. Like stupid small. Something you can do in one afternoon, 2-3 hrs tops. Clear your schedule and do it.

    Next weekend, do another..and again…and again.

    Make this the summer of stupid small stuff. Next summer, pick something bigger. Read books and watch every youtube video on it over the winter.

    have fun!

  • fluffygryphon says:

    Scope, no. Funds, yes. I can do it all, especially with my wife at by back, but when the money’s short, it really hurts.

  • lostprevention says:

    That sentence sums up my life.

  • Dr_Pukebags says:

    Yeah, I’m completely overwhelmed. My house is such a shitshow I sometimes wonder if I should just burn it down and start over.

  • H_I_McDunnough says:

    I have a room full of cabinets that need painted and the 700 sq ft flooring package coming on Wednesday. I know your pain.

  • enraged768 says:

    Just surrender to the fact that it’s never ending and just doing one thing at a time

  • arizona-lad says:

    I do it a bit differently. I follow the “one hour rule”. Obviously, you really don’t want to do home improvement work after coming home from work, but you know that if you don’t do this, it’s not going to get done.

    So I break up the tasks into one hour blocks. Today I’m going to take down a wall, replace two compromised studs, and clean up the work area.

    Tomorrow I will stop by the store on my way home and pick up the plumbing supplies I need.

    Next day the pipes will be soldered.

    The day after they will be leak checked, and the wall insulated.

    Ect, etc, etc. By doing this the jobs get time in a fairly timely fashion. The Big Boss (Arizona-Lass) sees progress, and life is good…….

  • Wolverlog says:

    Same boat here, been in our house for about 9 years and only planned to be here for 5 so initially we didn’t want to renovate, but now we want to update some flooring and fix random problems because we’ll be here at least another 2-3 years. To say the least we’re way behind.

    Getting a decent contractor to do the work is difficult to find, tons of back and forth. Many say, oh the jobs too small to be worthwhile or they throw an insane quote at us because they don’t want to bother.

    Finally about to get some flooring done and kitchen counters are next, but the effort to figure out which contract, what materials to use and getting a quote takes forever.

  • berelentless1126 says:

    Yeah I had that same problem when I started my remodel a year ago. My wife and I decided to move out until everything is finished. Our house needs to be completely redone and I find it nearly impossible to live there during construction. Maybe if we didn’t have a baby and dogs we would just rough it together but it’s different with family. Plus it’s no fun making do without a toilet and shower. That’s just the situation with our house though.

  • martiandreamer says:

    Coming from a software development background, we adopt what’s called an “Agile Methodology” with regard to defining and breaking down a large project (think “implement a payment management service”) into small, easily consumable tasks which can be done in a days’ time.

    My best advice to you is to follow a simple scheme:

    – define a very high level “what is the desired end result?” goal (i.e. “install a dishwasher”)
    – List as many smaller tasks related to that (“remove cabinetry”, “extend plumbing”, “run an electrical line”, “hookup”, “pick a good dishwasher soap”, “teach the kids how to load it properly” etc)
    – with one of those tasks, break it further down until those individual sub-tasks can’t get any smaller (“buy a reciprocating saw”, “mask off the cabinetry cuts you’ll make”, “make a single cut”, “make another cut”, “vacuum and clean up the mess”)
    – repeat until your top level tasks are all broken down.
    – define the order they _must_ be done in.

    Now, do one sub-task. Then do another.

    Pretty soon you’ll find yourself flying through them. But make sure to revel in your accomplishments! Part of project completion is gaining confidence in doing the work, before you even start. Making the individual sub-tasks so small that a child could do them helps immensely.

  • digdilem says:

    Recognise it won’t get done today. It won’t all get done tomorrow.

    But one day, most of it will be done.

  • troublesomefaux says:

    Yes! My old house had a yard that was an endless jungle. I spent 15 years trying to stay on top of it but there was never time to improve it or do anything fun, and if you faltered for a minute it was overgrown again. We had a tree fall so we had the cleanup company do a big clean for us…it took 8 guys ALL day not counting getting the tree out. I felt so much better about myself after that: it really was just too much work for 1-2 people.

  • FrankSobotkaRIP says:

    All the big things I want to do would best be done after I upgrade my 90 yo electrical system, so I’ve been just ruminating over my situation for years.

  • HotAtNightim says:

    Advice for anything in life: break it down to smaller tasks. Anything big is just a series of small tasks. Being paralyzed by the scope of a task has been a big issue for me at several points in my life so this is something im quite familiar with. Don’t even plan all the way to the end, just the next (or next few) steps ahead. Especially if you have any projects that work as standalone and dont intersect with other projects; just do the one thing and be proud that you did, enjoy it, and have one less thing on the big to-do list.


    A book isn’t written by writing a book, its written by writing a single word a bunch of times till you have enough of them all together.

  • walkswithwolfies says:

    Look at this way: on the day you die, something will still need to be done.

    Some people look at this fact and despair. Others keep working at it right until the end.

  • ultimatefighting says:

    I appreciate this thread and the supportive comments.

  • ExPostRedemptore says:

    I sympthathize. Had to tackle a complete rebuild of the home we bought once the contractor turned out to be a criminal.

    Best advice I can give you is what worked for me:

    1. Make a running list of what has to be done. I used Excel because it was handy and I could have columns for things like the description, estimated date of completion, notes, etc. Some folks prefer online tools, some prefer pen and paper. But making a list is important.

    2. To get started tackle one item on the list. It can be an easy one or a hard one, but do this item completely before starting another one. It will give you a sense of accomplishment and it will help you understand that you have to eat the elephant one bite at a time.

    3. As you make progress consider working on multiple items at the same time. This can be as simple as buying material for two or three items on the list at the same time.

    4. Take a break from it occasionally. Burnout sucks.

  • bill_tampa says:

    “Never do today that which can be put off until tomorrow.” — somebody’s motto. And the corollary is also helpful: “Tomorrow never comes.”

  • tackstackstacks says:

    What will give you the most return or satisfaction for the effort? Do that first, it may motivate you to do the next one or at least keep you happy that you did it. If you spend a bunch of time working on something that you don’t really care about and don’t get anything out of, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t want to keep doing projects.

  • sharpfork says:

    Make a Kanban board with a prioritized list and limit your work in progress.

  • hautboishippie says:

    Reading so many good ideas already posted as I sit and stare at the plywood covered box that used to be our sunroom out of a 1980’s hotel lobby. Got the roof on this morning, but a storm is coming and there wasn’t enough time to get windows in. Next week…

    A former boss told me to “Think Salami” when it came to overwhelming projects. Cut them into small pieces and it all becomes manageable.

  • itqitc says:

    My list has 206 small, medium, and large items on it, it makes me want to nap.

  • zcohenld says:

    I use Trello to manage my home maintenance and to do list. I have it sorted by maitenance, repairs, upgrades, and major renovations/additions. I then label it by “Do this now” “you should do this soon” “Do this when you can” “Do this whenever” and one more for the upcoming season of ‘here is what I want to accomplish this season. I’ve found it to be extremely helpful in trying to organize what the heck I’m trying to do.

    This is a [screenshot](https://imgur.com/1MEe0MN) of mine, so you can see what I mean.

    Edit: To the side where you cant see is my done list. I never archive anything I complete. I just move it to an ever growing list. That way when I feel like there is so much to do, I can just look at that and see how big it is, and that makes everything better.

  • roofstomp says:

    I bought a 209 year old house last year. It needs everything but a roof.

    So yeah. I feel you. In 8 months I’ve finished zero spaces. But I HAVE made a ton of progress, and I can almost see the kitchen’s finish up ahead. I try to get at least 15 minutes closer to the finish line every day. And ten or twenty hours on most weekends.

    Do at least one thing every day. It’s more than most people do. We’ll get there someday.

  • drcigg says:

    I am also in that club. I need a roof, gutters, water heater, kitchen, bathroom, shed, new fence and maybe put walls up and finish the basement.

    Everyone that said oh we will help you when I bought the house have since backed out on that statement. Doing everything alone sucks when you have no idea what you are doing and no motivation to do it.

  • Cwilly111 says:

    Remember it’s only a fancy cave.

  • St_Tree says:

    Just getting started is the key. I planned my deck for 6 months. Then I finally just started. Got it done in 8 days.

    I had paralysis by analysis.

    Once I did the deck, I then remodeled 80% of my house in 10 months. That one completed project gave me the drive and confidence to do everything else.

    I just had to say “f-it” and get started.

    I made mistakes, but I’m the only one that sees them. Everyone else are amazed at the results.

    You got this.

  • pogofwar says:

    Navy seal line: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

  • Cmen6636 says:

    You can do what I did and accidentally clog and flood an upstairs toilet which spilled into the downstairs all night while you stay soundly asleep, blissfully unaware.

    That got the ball rolling pretty quick.

  • Cereal_n_Milk22 says:

    My rule is I need to do one thing a day. No matter how big or small.

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