Sanity Saver

How to Avoid Scope Creep in Your Home Project Management (And 3 Tips for When It Happens Anyway)

You know those home projects that start off with a quick and simple goal, but somehow escalate into a many-layered onion of unplanned issues and sub-projects that you just have to deal with right now?

That’s called Scope Creep, and if you’ve been following along on Instagram, you know we’re deep in the middle of some of it right now.

What started as some simple grass seed has evolved into a full backyard renovation project, and the layers of this onion just keep coming.

Allow our stinky onion to be your gain, however, as we break down how you can stay on top of your home project management better than we did, plus three reasonable tips for what to do when things go off course.

Bonus Preliminary Tip:

Before you do anything, document your starting point. This one is not just for us Instagrammers & Bloggers. You’ll appreciate your progress when you can really see how far you’ve come, and those old pictures really come in handy when you’re wondering where that old post/wire/thingamabob used to be.

I’m also really looking forward to the day the kids are old enough to look back at all these pictures and say, “That’s what this used to look like?!”

Keep Your Home Project Management on Track From the Start

Project Scope Creep can derail your budget, your timeline, and your sanity. The best way to avoid this common home renovation pitfall is to do the exact opposite of what we did for our backyard project : get your act together before you start, so you can hold firmer boundaries when your scope starts to veer off course.

Plan Your “Why,” Not Just Your “What”

Your goal is not just the tasks at hand; it’s what you want to feel or experience when the job is done. Get clear on “Why” you’re taking this project on, and literally write it down somewhere so that you can go back to it if you need to make on-the-fly decisions when things go awry.

Organize Your Home Project into Reasonable Chunks

You probably have a good idea of where you want your project to end up. Now, break it down into smaller, more manageable stages. What preliminary tasks need to be handled? And what comes next? And so forth and so on…

Overwhelm is real, so it’s important to remember that things like prep work, measuring alllll the things, and gathering/ordering your supplies all take time. Think about what essential tasks should be done before you dive into the big stuff. And for the love of all things holy, don’t forget to plan for the cleanup, too (I’m looking at you, Jim.)

Research & Honor Your DIY Limits

It’s ok – nay, normal – to not know everything about what you’re getting into. Take a page outta Jim’s book and delve into some online articles and YouTube videos to wrap your head around what needs to be done.

But more importantly, use those resources to determine if there are parts of your project that are out of your comfort level or safety skillset. Not every job is a DIY, and some projects make have parts that you need to hire out or bring in a trusted, knowledgeable friend. Bonus points if you can pay them in beer or baked goods.

Review Your Home Project Budget

Remember when you broke down your plan into reasonable chunks? Review each of those for cost, and make sure the total for all your jobs is within your project budget. Whatever you think you’ll need to spend, be sure you have at least 10% more than that to work with.

If you can’t make it all the way to the finish just yet, good planning will mean that you may still be able to “future-proof” for where you want things to end up in the long run. Jim and I have so many hidden projects around Charlotte House that have been set up to add on to in the future, and we’ve made sure to allow for those add-ons and expansions once our time and budget allow.

Even with the best laid plans, it’s a good idea to expect the unexpected when it comes to managing your DIY home projects. When things go off the rails and over the budget, try to zoom out and follow these tips. We promise, you will get to the end of this project at some point. Sometimes it’s just better to be flexible and bend, than to be rigid with your plans and break.

What to Do When Scope Creep Infiltrates Your Home Project Management

No. 1 – Keep the End Goal in Mind

Things will go wrong, especially when you‘re working with an older house like we are. When you are faced with an unexpected decision about the scope of your project, refer back to your original plan first. Then, ask yourself a few things:

  • Is it absolutely necessary (or way easier) to do this now?
  • Does it fit in the budget?
  • Can we make it work with our timeline?
  • Will it get us closer to achieving “Why” we took on this project?

If you can answer Yes to at least three of these questions, I’d recommend you strongly consider adding on to your project scope and adjusting your timeline.

In my experience, I’d rather something take longer so it can be done the way I’d really like it, as opposed to saying, “I wish we did that…” over and over again later. Sometimes being flexible can make things even better in the long run, and I absolutely hate undoing anything that I already spent money on previously.

No. 2 – Don’t Forget to Exhale When Things Change

Tip No. 1 can be a lot easier said than done, as extended timelines and budget overages can be extremely stressful and mentally exhausting. We’re only human after all. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a big breath and a long break if you need one.

Go back to the “Why” part of your plan you wrote down before you started. Imagine what your space will feel like when the work is done, and why that goal was worth it to you from the start. These changes may not have been part of the original plan, but once all the work (and spending!) is behind you, the feeling of enjoying an end goal you’ve worked so hard to get to is unmatched.

No. 3 – Enjoy the (Entire) Process

The end of a project (whenever you get there!) feels great, but don’t forget to take moments throughout your project to enjoy yourself. Listen to great music while you work. Invite a friend to help you or just hang and chat while you tackle some dirty work. Have a little fun and joke with your husband when he’s trying to drive you crazy about sprinkler heads. End each day with a dirty martini and some leg compression sleeves.

And don’t forget to take more pictures, look back at your “Befores,” and document the daylights out of all that hard work you’re doing.

Necessary(-ish) Things This Week

A few picks for making your personal home project management a little easier (and dare we say, cuter?) to keep that scope creep at bay

A complete home management binder to hold all that stuff you don’t know what to do with

80 pages including graph paper for floor plans, contractor & info organizers, & more

No Frills, All Business, it’s got six sections to keep your expenses, notes, & home to-dos all in one place



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